Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Stacie Van Treese Stricker & Séverine Piller, the co-founders of Atelier Boemia, an online marketplace for interior decor from all over the world. The two women talk about their passions for design, travel and making one’s home their own.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career. How did you get started?
atelierBOEMIA was born of a couple of bottles of champagne and a love of scented candles. No but seriously, Séverine and I are both interior designers and we were great friends, so we decided we wanted to start a project that worked with our love of entertaining and sharing with our people, creating beautiful spaces and traveling. We decided to create something we both love and a living will come out of our genuine passion for the project.
2. Describe a typical work day.
As Sév lives in Milan part of the time, her rhythm is to start a bit later than I do. When you look up “Swiss Guy“ in the dictionary, there is a picture of my husband so he makes sure I get up early and get to work! I start with social media and coffee, forwarding orders to our logistics manager in the US, then get to more creative stuff. I try to knock out admin stuff I hate early before I lose my motivation. Sév manages our website and does all of our product styling not to mention being a mean Excel mastah! We are online together via Skype chat all day, so we can ask each other questions, send ideas and we chat often. We are together at least a couple of times a month in Zurich, Milan or in our travels. We divide the work and we both have our strong suits, so we work really brilliantly together. It can be hard to do a project on your own, and I know we both agree we could not keep pushing forward without having each other as a partner! Working from home can be a challenge sometimes as there are distractions and there may be a day or two a week when we don’t shower until we leave the house for Happy Hour. Ha!
3. Your company only sources products that are handmade and support small communities. How often do you both travel and what is your favorite part of sourcing goods?
Of course, we are trying to create our dream reality and traveling is a big part of that for both of us. We LOVE seeing new things and meeting new people! Watching these artisans in developing countries do what they do is SO inspiring and helps us get through the less glamorous elements of our jobs; and rest assured there are plenty of those! I think the biggest driver is that we REALLY believe in what we are doing as being a win for everyone involved. One of our biggest communication challenges is in helping our clients understand what goes in to making these products and that providing the opportunity to these communities is essential to their ability to be self sufficient while providing things that are just amazing in terms of craftsmanship.
4. What is the process for finding such artisans and products?
We couldn’t do it without a few key locals we work with to help us find the right balance between the products we want and the quality we insist upon. We also have made some great connections via social media as you find your tribe of like minded business people, it is so great and fulfilling. I think the way people do business is changing based on these sorts of connections and I think it is for the better.[pullquote] We really believe in supporting other women in business and will go out of our way, even if it does not mean we are going to profit from it, to work with others. We like to build up, not tear down![/pullquote]
5. Do you both have a particular aesthetic that you gravitate towards personally? Why?
Séverine is probably more modern than I am and she loves red which is my least favorite color, though she has turned me on to lots of great stuff! She got me to start using red and I got her to start using gold. We seriously NEVER disagree about anything which makes things way easier. She likes graphic prints and has spent a lot of time in Japan which I think drives her aesthetic as well. Being European, she is great at space management, as we have way less of it here than Americans are used to. I am more of a boho at heart and like an eclectic mix of different styles and colors, but my Euro husband reels me in in our own spaces so that there is not funky textile draped on everything! When I get a shipment of stuff from Morocco form my local interior design clients he is always freaking out that our flat “smells like a Souk“. Ha! I have had a theory since moving to Europe 10 years ago that people here like their furnishings more modern because they are surrounded by so much “old stuff“ whereas that aesthetic is less popular in the US. Americans put a lot more value on antique pieces than their European compadres. Séverine and I are both trying to take these handmade products and give them a more modern twist by developing our own product lines with artisans in Africa starting with our new baskets and ceramics we are excited to launch this fall. We love a Scandi feel, where things are mod but natural.
6. Do you ever get emotionally attached to your creations?
Absolutely! If Séverine and I had our way, both of our flats would look like I Dream of Jeannie’s bottle….we LOVE every carpet we look at when we are with our favorite textile dealer in Marrakesh. We love to dig through textiles and get covered in camel funk….ha! The one of a kind pieces are always something we love ourselves, so of course hard to let it go, but we are happy when it is adopted by a loving client!
7. What is your most successful form of marketing?
People really like our Newsletters because we try to give people travel and entertaining Tips in each issue as well as a fun playlist. We are a young company, so we are exploring all the avenues and really enjoy interacting on Instagram but word of mouth is always the best marketing!
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully with our MacBooks on a beach somewhere, at least a good part of the time! We want to see where the journey takes us and we are open to whatever this morphs into, we are getting a good number of wholesale inquiries and are trying to set ourselves up in that department while continuing to focus on products that we love and feel strongly others will also find value in. [pullquote]A home should reflect the people who live in it, so we will continue to search the globe for amazing and functional stuff people can love and live with for the long haul.[/pullquote]
9. When you’re not working what do you enjoy doing most?
Séverine loves to walk and explore the streets of Milan and I love to sit. No, I also love going to the mountains which works out well in Switzerland, though I am happiest in flip flops where you can go out to check your mail without getting bundled! We both love cooking and entertaining our peeps, laughing with our family and the family we choose: our friends. Travel is obviously a big passion and experiencing new cultures for real, not the tourist version is always a treat. Anytime we can hook up with a local, we are in!
10. Do you have any advice for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Patience is a virtue and have lots of wine on hand! It takes time. My dad is from Texas and has lots of good sayings and one of those is “Quitters never win!“. Having a Swiss German partner is key when you need someone to kick your procrastinating ass to move forward! Laughing hard is also a key element….we both got pretty silly one night after a long day in the Souks as we remembered HAVING to buy a giant vase in Thailand that we were SURE we would sell in a second. Yeah, we still have it. You have to be a basic optimist to even make the jump and you can’t take your failures to seriously, get back to it. If you are not okay with having serious setback, you should stick with working for someone else who will give you a pay check, so find an industry you like and do what you are passionate about, whether for someone else or for yourself, but love what you do because the ride is short.