A CONVERSATION WITH JENNIE AT HER HOME STUDIO:
Tom Clothes & Goods: Can you give a little rundown of how MoonPi got started?
Jennie: Well, it was always kind of a hobby. Like all the different components were hobbies in different ways. So my dad was a machinist, and I learned definitely a handful of basics and fundamentals growing up around that. And then, later just applied them in a different way on a much smaller scale.
And I always had a very large gemstone collection, as a kid. I was weird about rocks and archaeology, all that kind of stuff. And just grew up in a very artsy house - if you could make it yourself, you just did. If you could look at something and kind of break it all back down, like the same way you draw, then you could make it. So there was a lot of crafts. Every type of crafts and every type of medium that you wanted to play around with - it was there. That was something that was always available at our disposable, at any given time.
So I think just kind of a combination of that and then spending a lot of time up north [in Washington], you go to pawn shops a lot and with the Native American tribes up there, there's a heavy influence of turquoise and stuff that just kind of blows around. It's not just the Southwest, it's all over. Seeing all of that and the different styles, or going 'Wow this would be really great, but it needs to be smaller,' or 'If I take all of this out or if I tweak this' kind of set me up for that thought process...for doing it for myself.
And then you flash forward to years and years later, and having a big life transition and having it always be something that you liked and wanted to play around with but didn't really look at as a profession necessarily, but kind of a hobby that you haven't gotten around to, and finally being able to scratch that itch. And then really having a lot of things change in your life, where you're like 'If I'm gonna make a go at this, I'm gonna make a go at it now.' This is my opportunity before I get comfortable again and pick up another 9 to 5, and then you go back into it being something in the back of your mind.
So it sort of started during a period of transition?
Absolutely. Which I feel like that's probably the case for most people, where you're like 'Wow, this has always been something I wanted to do and now I have...'
Why not do it now?
Exactly. And that's how that came about. But just a love of gemstones and learning how to make things yourself and do these things yourself. It all definitely stemmed from that, and probably curiosity too.
Just from a curiosity into research and then...
And then, you're like 'Wait a minute, this isn't as big and scary as I thought it was. This doesn't have to be.' It can be certainly complex and big and scary, but nobody starts off like that. Like nobody jumps into that and goes...all in. All in mentally, but you have to kind of-
Ease yourself in.
You gotta crawl before you can walk.
So what year did [MoonPi] start? How old were you?
I was 28. So that was 4 years ago. I bought the domain and all of that kind of stuff in late summer 2014. And I didn't actually launch the website until mid-November, like right around my birthday. I had done a craft fair before and started to feel out what it was. I knew what I wanted it to be as far as a brand at that point, but I hadn't quite put it all together so it was more about researching how I wanted a website to look. Things I just didn't think about, because as much as I would create and make stuff, I never...you never think about those types of things, until you get to a place where you're like, 'Oh, now I need to look at websites to know how to make it look like, and how I want my website to work' and all of that. Just cause I'm not inclined to work in a digital format. I need to touch things and hold them, and how do you do that with a website?
It's all the aspects of a business [where] no one knows every part of how to run a business. No one's born knowing that. No one engages in that way, but then to actually run a business, you have to teach yourself that stuff and figure a way out to do it.
Yeah, or you have to be willing to ask for help [and learn] and seek out the people that you know in your life that are good at that. Fortunately, I have a handful of friends that because of where we live, you have every type of career that you could possibly imagine probably within a mile radius of you. There's somebody who does all of that, and I think that made it a lot easier than if you lived remotely somewhere, just because you had the convenience of networking a little bit easier [here], so that certainly streamlined things. So the website launched in November of 2014. And it's ebbed and flowed since.
What's been the coolest part of having your own business?
Well for one, it's terrifying and scary to be in control and have your success and failure be totally determined by what you do. Like it really is. And that's scary, but there's something really cool about that and really empowering that I think is wonderful. So that I would definitely say is a bonus - I don't have to check in or request days off or whatever. But you definitely end up working more for sure.
Yeah, you're probably working every day.
It's always so touching, even just how we met. Like it's super amazing to have people come back to you or remember you because of something that you made like four years ago, or have it be something that they treasure - that blows my mind.
I haven't taken my [MoonPi ring] off since I got it [three years ago].
It blows my mind. That is like the biggest form of flattery. Because it's amazing. You're like, 'You love it that much?!' I love it too, but you just don't assume that everyone's gonna have that same reaction to it. So that's awesome. It's always really nice when you run into people, just in your regular life -
Yeah, that's happened a couple of times where I'm like, 'Oh I made that!' and we're like in line at Whole Foods or something. I mean, I met a woman and ended up making her wedding and engagement rings because we met randomly at the same aisle in Whole Foods, and she just recognized me and she was like, "I want you to make my rings." That's so flattering! I never would have thought about that, those things never crossed my mind when I started this.
I was like, 'I wanna make stuff that I like, that I wanna wear at a price point that is realistic, you know?' [Where] I can still live, but is not so unattainable that the average person that works a regular 9 to 5 job can't afford. I want it to be stuff that you can wear and you can wear with everything and that's built to last a lifetime, that you can pass down. Like, I wore this for thirty years and now it's going to your granddaughter. I just never thought that that would happen, I just never thought that that would be real. So, that stuff blows my mind.
Well, just having someone want their engagement and their wedding rings and rings they're gonna wear for life-
It's bananas! Yeah, it's so crazy.
I feel like usually personal businesses and small businesses start out where everyone's first tester market for that is usually themselves. It comes out of a desire from what they want that they see the gap in the market for. But how is it having yourself as the first audience for it and then seeing it reach a wider audience?
Kind of the same thing. It's interesting to see the stuff that I think I would wear everyday that doesn't necessarily apply, or the other way around. I'm always surprised, which is cool and keeps me on my toes a little bit. If it were always so predictable, that would be no fun. And you have to have those bad months to have your brain work a different way, to go 'Okay, I really have to sit down and figure this out.' You don't want to necessarily change to cater a market, you want to still keep it consistent obviously with who you are and what you like. But like, 'What is it about this one thing I keep selling a bunch of and I can't get this other thing to move?' Is it just because it's something that doesn't translate the same in person, or is it a weight thing? You run the gamut with it and through that process, it kind of forces you to do that with yourself which is always kind of cool.
What is a normal day for you like?
Well, I'm not an early bird. Usually I'm up and moving around by 8:45/9, feed the little mister [her dog Winston], make some coffee, check in with my emails or see just generally what I'm at. I always try to set myself up the night before so you don't spend the first two hours of your day doing that and then social media, and the next thing you know, there's half the day. So I usually already have kind of a to-do list or know what I need to get started with and then I try to take it from there. Most days will start off with some form of benchwork, and then they usually end off with packaging things or prepping stuff for the next day or tumbling something, it kind of depends on what phase you're at.
Tumbling, like polishing it all out before you set a bunch of stones. Because usually I'll do them in big sets. So I'll set up like I'm gonna make these 4 or 5 rings and then I'll do that for the day and will tumble. And then depending on where I'm at, I may set them the next morning and pack 'em, or set 'em the night before and then pack 'em the next day. It all kind of flies out. I'll take a break for lunch, maybe walk the little dude [Winnie], get back to it. And throw in some social media something or other during the mix of that, if I can, which is not my favorite but y'know. And then I'll work till about 5 or 6 and see how it goes. Sometimes I cut a little early cause of yoga, and then I'll work a little later. It just depends. But that's a pretty typical day.
And then you have your garden here. That's nice to come out to.
Yeah, and then the garden. Of course depending on the time of the year, it requires more or less time. And my little garden assistant over here [Winnie] who loves to eat the tomatoes.
I'm sure. They're so good!
I feel pretty lucky to be able to - y'know, I certainly need to get a certain amount of work done in a week, but to be able to pick and choose how that is delegated is super...I feel very fortunate to be able to do that.
And what are some of the ways in which you make sure your quality of life is what you want it to be?
I think it's sort of revisiting yourself and also not having crazy expectations. I think that whole, where you want to be at in a certain amount of years is kind of nonsense. Maybe as far as a business, you feel like you need to hit a certain marker at a certain point, but even that is different. As far as personal, I think it's just important to check in with yourself and to be realistic with yourself as much as you can. We all have something we gloss over about ourselves or pretend doesn't exist, but to be honest with yourself. I think that's just part of being an adult and checking in with yourself and eating right and taking care. I could always say I never see my friends enough, and I think that's something I'd love to put on the list of things that you want to be able to do more, but you also have to be realistic. You're running your own business, how much time are you gonna be able to set aside for things that are not business-related? Be smart with how you delegate your time and not beating yourself up if you can't get everything done all of the time. Set goals that are hard to reach but don't set them so unattainably that you're just gonna beat yourself down because that defeats the purpose.
It's good to have those goals I think too, but it's also good to understand that they change throughout time.
Yeah, you have to change with things.
You adapt with them.
You see so many brands that started off making coffee and now they make incense and you're like 'How did that happen?' Just one part became more dominant than the other, and I think that's part of being any kind of small business owner. You have to embrace the fact that there's a longevity for what you're doing and you're gonna either have to embrace the change at some point or you're gonna go down whatever other road you're gonna go down. You gotta be real with it.
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