A YEAR IN REVIEW
December of last year, I started to seriously consider founding LES Collection. I was painting and selling my work through Instagram and a gallery, but I knew I wanted something else. Highlighting other artists was more rewarding than talking about my work, and I wanted to incorporate vintage and antiques. My real passion has always been collecting, so I started to think about turning that into a business.
I had so many questions. Where would I start? Would any artists sign on to work with me? How could I make LES different than a typical gallery? But before that, I needed to decide if starting a business would fit into my life. I played the scenarios over and over in my head. I kept coming up against a tidal wave of responsibilities: two young kids (7 months and 2.5 years), managing our homes, my art and commissions, exercise, and trying to find time for self-care and sleep. At the time, I was still breastfeeding 4-5 times a day. I wasn’t sure how I would do it. I know myself, and I can’t do anything halfway. I spent a lot of time talking to my husband. He also runs his own business. He assured me that he would step up and take on a lot of responsibilities at home and with the kids. He encouraged me endlessly. I took my time deciding, carefully mulling it over for months.
I NEVER CAME TO THAT MOMENT OF CLARITY WHERE I KNEW I COULD MANAGE EVERYTHING; I REALIZED THAT I JUST NEEDED TO TRY.
Finally, by January 2021, I was close to a decision, and I dove in by early February. We were still deep in the pandemic, and most people weren’t vaccinated. It was clear that the world was becoming more digital, so I knew that was where I had to start. I wanted a website that reflected my aesthetic, that felt like an inspiring place to discover, learn, and shop. I brought on a consultant to help find a firm for our branding and website. Over the next few months, we interviewed many companies, big and small. Some came prepared with impressive presentations and really seemed to understand the vision but had an enormous price tag; others, more budget-friendly, didn’t seem to get it. There were a lot of questions to be answered; what platform would we build on? How much customization would we have? What kind of functionality was I looking for? I had almost zero experience with any of this, but as an avid online shopper, I was clear on the type of experience I was hoping to achieve. I needed a partner that would guide me in these decisions. For a long time, I wondered if I was ever going to find the right fit or if I would have to compromise somewhere, could I really have everything I wanted?
The answer is yes and no. We found the perfect partner for our branding and website, Jane Made; they are a small but mighty firm that immediately got the vision. We started on the site in March, hoping for a June launch. The Jane Made team helped me navigate each decision, deciding where to invest and what features I could let go of or grow into overtime.
I DID MAKE COMPROMISES ALONG THE WAY BUT LOOKING BACK ON IT; WE ENDED UP RIGHT WHERE WE NEEDED TO BE.
Together with building the website, Jane Made set to work creating our branding package, choosing colors, fonts, packaging, and a logo that would embody my vision. I am incredibly meticulous, and we went through many iterations, but the result was perfect. I fell in love with branding during this process. Collaborating with Jane Made fed my creativity, energy, and excitement for the project. Jane Made created a branding package I could run with and easily adapt to any digital or physical platform. I am so thankful for the relationship and excited for what we will create together in the future.
Simultaneously, I also had another big question to answer. What would I sell? I had such a strong vision, and I knew I could do things differently, but I still feared it would be hard to find artists. So I made a wish list and began reaching out and pitching my vision. Some of the artists I reached out to I had been collecting for years, many others I “cold-called.” Some never replied; some who I pitched decided not to come on, but many artists excitedly joined our roster, to my surprise. These pitch meetings were a joy. I got to refine my vision while also connecting with incredibly talented creatives. It was not a one-way pitch; I wanted to hear from the artists what they were looking for in a gallery, how I could do things differently, where they wanted their careers to go, what were their major pain points? These conversations were eye-opening. I view all my artists as partners who helped mold LES Collection.
As Spring wore on, it became clear that a June launch was utterly unrealistic. There was much to do, and I continued to add on projects. We hired our first employee, the incredibly talented Tatum Harrison, now our operations manager. In June, we began selling vintage through our Instagram. This was a great learning process. It was wonderful to connect with every customer directly; we got experience with shipping and started to get a handle on what people were looking for. The vintage community on Instagram is an extraordinary place full of talented and supportive creatives. I knew once we launched, I wouldn’t be able to physically source each piece of vintage myself, so I reached out to dealers around the world, building my network. I can only curate such a unique collection because of this network. Occasionally I have time to scourge an antique mall or find that perfect piece at auction, but often I rely on other dealers to find pieces that embody the LES aesthetic.
As we got closer to our official launch, other opportunities popped up; we decided to create volume 1 of our printed journal and partnered with Brooklyn Home Company for a pop-up in Brooklyn. I felt confident in our ability to sell vintage on Instagram but worried that the customers might not support our fine art focus on our website. So, with nerves at an all-time high, we launched the website on September 15th. The support was astounding.
It has been a wild ride since September. I have learned so much and have so much left to learn. I am constantly in awe of what we have created and simultaneously disappointed in what we haven’t gotten to yet. I have had to make compromises, I have made mistakes, I haven’t been able to give my full attention to every detail, the truth is there is so much to do and not enough time in the day. But, slowly, we are getting better at what we do, learning how and what to prioritize, discovering how we can be the best for our artists, customers, and everyone that collaborates with LES.
I have so many goals for the new year. Finding some balance in my life is a top priority. Others include highlighting our artists in new and creative ways, finding fresh art and vintage for the collection, the second volume of our printed journal focusing on this community we are creating, and much more. So if you get to the bottom of this long and rambling letter, I am so grateful for you. Whether you consume our content, sell your art with us, shop the collection, support our artists, or work with us to bring the vision to life, I could not have done this without you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart!