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Christy Baird, Founder of LOHO Bride

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Christy Baird, Founder of LOHO Bride

City: San Francisco, California 

Passion: Genuine Experience

Website: LOHOBride.com

Six months after deciding to “bite the bullet,” Christy Baird made the first part of her dream a reality. Eager to create a carefully curated experience for brides, who think outside the "traditional" box, the mobile advertising account manager is set to open her first boho-chic bridal boutique in San Francisco this fall.

Having never designed a dress before, Christy launched vintage bridal line, Daughters of Simone, with one of her best friends three years ago, as they noticed there was very little in the wedding dress market for free-spirited personalities.

As they began to grow in popularity, Christy realized her heart was in the finer details of the experience. She sold her stake in the fashion line and began to re-imagine every aspect of the bridal shopping process; from the moment they first step into the fitting room, right up until they unzip the dress at the end of their special day.

Christy's passion project has almost come full circle. She successfully hosted her first pop-up store, featuring designers including Daughters of Simone, Stone Cold Fox, Samantha Sleeper, Sweet & Spark, Bo & Luca, Litter, with bridesmaid trends from Bella Bridesmaid, in downtown San Francisco in March 2014 and is opening her first LOHO Bride store later this year.

ON PASSION

My former partner and I started Daughters of Simone when we were 24 and, that particular year, I think I had been to 9 weddings. We were joking, ‘Where would we go for our dress if we got engaged?’ because we had watched so many friends struggle to find dresses that fit their personalities.
We began taking vintage bridal gowns, reconstructing them and selling them online, and then eventually came out with our own made to order line. Through that process I fell in love with meeting brides because I would host them in my little studio.
Soon after we parted ways, another really great tech opportunity came up and in the back of my head I was just freaking out. Then I met with the owner of Bella Bridesmaid, through a friend of ours who used to work there, in a coffee shop and we couldn’t stop talking for three hours. That’s when it just clicked, we were driving home and I realized I needed to start LOHO Bride.
There is a certain type of bridal fitting that exists right now, and there’s obviously a market for that, but I feel like there isn’t a genuine experience that would feel right for me and my girlfriends.

ON MASTERY

I took an SBA (Small Business Association) class and most of them are free; SEO, how to organize yourself, legal help to become an LLC. When I did do an actual course it was only about $150 and the resources were all there. We also bought a bunch of For Dummies books on Amazon; I have no shame in that.
When you have or want a small business, you have to bite the bullet. It’s all trial and error, fake it till you make-it and then hopefully you get to your sweet spot. There’s going to be a lot of makeovers before that point.
I would do things after work but my weekends were my sanctuary to focus on planning LOHO Bride. Luckily after Daughters of Simone, it was easier to get designers to trust me. I’m really fortunate that I had that foundation because it got me focused.

ON TRANSITION

I think you can take something from every job. I feel like every little job, down to my first ice-skating job, I can you tell you something I learned or some value that I picked up from it.
I started in finance and moved to mobile advertising in tech. The professionalism I learned, even email etiquette or being good at Excel, skills like that really do transfer and I feel fortunate that I have them. I have more business maturity, confidence and I’m definitely gutsier. I’ve worked with clients in different realms, I’ve gotten to do fashion, but I’ve also gotten to do business deals, so things can really intertwine. I’m really grateful for that and can’t imagine not being able to build off that.
I’ve met a lot of people who are working on other things until they get their passion sorted and for me that was my best route, and that’s what the pop-up was to me; a little bit of test before I put a bunch of money into the brick and mortar store.

ON FAILURE

There are so many points where I’ve felt like I’m failing, but I don’t know anyone who starts a business and thinks they are doing everything correctly. Even with the pop-up, I was initially worried whether I’d be able to get everything into the space and have it feel aesthetically the way I wanted.
I remember someone telling me, ‘You have to accept your friendships are going to suffer and if they’re really your friends, they’re going to be excited for you and not take it personally,’ and hopefully that’s true, but it’s still tough to be MIA. One thing I would love to work on this year, is to try to be able to be more present with friends and family, because it’s hard to manage everything.
I’m hard on myself because I’m building a brand but I try to focus on, ‘What can I achieve today that will take me one inch closer to the overall big picture?’ My boyfriend is a little bit like my silent partner because he is very number orientated and he’s very big picture, whereas I focus on details. We offset each other and I think it’s important to have people around that compliment your work style.

ON FEAR

When you’re starting a business, you’re really trying to solve a problem. For me I still feel like there is this missing niche market in San Francisco and, of all places, it’s confusing to me because when I think of this city, I think bohemian bride. I think a lot of brides are okay buying online because they don’t have an option. I’m hoping that I can solve that problem, even for a small group of women, because the day you get your wedding dress is such a special day and if you want your mom there, you should get to have your mom there, if you don’t want it to be a more buttoned-up experience, you shouldn’t have to go through that. I really hope it is received well and that is my biggest fear. It’s either going to be my biggest reward or haunt me as my biggest failure.

ON MONEY

I’ve made a lot of lifestyle changes. Now I have this thing that I need to save for, all the music festivals and traveling are cut out, I’m packing my lunch more, taking the bus more, all those little things. It’s funny because I’ve never had more savings in my life, all from doing that. It’s like a fun game now for me. I’m so serious about where this is going, so I’m just more focused about the way I’m living my life. It’s really about becoming a little bit of a hermit and only going to the absolutely necessary things.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some people contact me about investing and, if that works, it would be great to have some extra padding, but I’m pretty much self-funding it. I think it makes all of those years of working jobs, I never felt quite fit me, worth it because I was able to save.

ON SELF-LOVE

In the past year, I’ve really focused on how I can come back down to a peaceful place. I like the term ‘you time,’ anything that can shut me off from the chaotic things that are going on. I think without re-centering you can spiral out of control pretty quickly. It’s so easy to let the noise get in and take you somewhere else.
Music helps me to switch off. Aretha Franklin is very soothing, or Sam Cooke. I need that shut off time, whether it’s meditating or doing a yoga podcast at home.

ON INSPIRATION

My best friends, my babe club, hands down inspired the need for this business and so many of them really made this possible. I am lucky to have a lot of creative friends that could help, like photographers, people to put things together etc., so it did happen very quickly.
My boyfriend was able to put all of my initial insecurities to rest and it took knowing me to be able to do that. He’s a huge reason why I took the plunge. I think I really needed someone to nudge me a little bit, and he’s been a great supporter of our lifestyle changes.
My parents also both know me to this deeper raw level that is so hard to really get to, even with your best friends, and were able to knock down all of the walls that I was putting up, give me confidence and tell me I was going to kick ass.

ON SUPPORT

The founder of Bella Bridesmaid, Bridget Brown, is my mentor. She actually moved to the UK right after I met her so we’ve been just emailing back and forth. She’s amazing and was a huge part of this because our beginnings have a lot of parallels and similarities. I’ve been able to share and celebrate little victories with her, and she really understands how much they mean. She’s been rooting me on and I’m very grateful to her.

ADVICE TO THE COMMUNITY

Speak to people who are doing what you’re doing, what you want to do, or are even in the same realm of what you want to do. I think any small business is going through the same things, whether it’s the same product or not, and it’s important to surround yourself with people who can give you information. People are so much more responsive than you give them credit for it, especially when they’re in your world and you’re trying to be in it and you can mutually benefit each other. Put yourself out there, be vulnerable and talk to your friends, who are also looking to pursue their passions.



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J.J. O'Brien, Creator at Hem/\Haus

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J.J. O'Brien, Creator at Hem/\Haus

City: San Francisco, California

Passion: Engaging People

Websitewww.hemhaus.com // glow.hemhaus.com

 

Before I even moved to the US to attend Stanford, I was receiving emails from a so-called JJ O'Brien who was planning a 100 people-he-did-not-know-yet trip to Colombia. Ask anyone who knows JJ through his different walks of life, and they will tell you a similar story. Bottom line is that he is the fire that engages and brings communities together. He does it with passion, and everything he creates is epic. Including his latest venture Hem / \ Haus, which he recently successfully crowd funded. We visited JJ's colorful home in Lower Pacific Heights, and dove into the piles of fabulous fabric swirling around. We watched him sew his latest collection and screen print the t-shirt collection already on sale while he narrated some of his unique life moments with utmost sincerity. 

On Passion

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I create things to engage people. I always go back to writing my application for Stanford’s MBA program and the question ‘What matters most to me and why?’ It was an interesting experience, pairing my answer to that with questions about what I wanted to do with my career. I had never thought of the two things as aligned or tied together at all. All of sudden, I wondered, should I be pursuing a career that is tied to what matters most to me? The whole process took months of pretty deep reflection, but once I had my answer, the essay came together in a matter of hours. What mattered most to me back then: Escaping boredom through interacting with others. Does it still today? Hell yes. I enjoy meeting new people, it spurs my creative process. Everything I do on a creative level is motivated by interacting with other people. I aim to create stuff that purposefully engages people. It motivates me.
When I create a new item for hem/\haus I always ask the question: what attire is most engaging for the social setting I am about to enter? I have always found myself looking for new ways to engage people. Even when I think back, I have always had a very randomly assorted group of friends. Before school I planned a 280 people company meeting for my firm and I loved it; in business school, I started organizing various trips for upwards of 100+ people. Everything was completely new but many of these have become my legacy.

On Mastery

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I started my passion with making costumes for Burning Man and other events. I would talk with friends, people at fabric stores and others to help me hone my skills. I chose specific events to make various pieces for. Having a deadline for the event itself helped me stay focused and get various pieces done in a timely fashion. I always tried to build upon the last piece I made, to challenge myself in a new and interesting way. It helped me develop my skills while keeping a 9-5 job and constantly test various ideas out.

On Transition

 

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When I first left business school, I wanted to start an entertainment venue on Market Street in San Francisco. It was an incredibly ambitious plan and never got off the ground. After that didn’t pan out I took a job in the Innovation Lab at Capital One: a job that, on paper, was good for my career and rationally, it was the right next move. I needed a paycheck. I did not have the time and flexibility to organize large events like I had in business school. Instead I organized parties and found different ways to engage people. I planned a Burning Man camp, which was a huge creative outlet, but it took so much out of me, I found myself retracting back to not exercising the creative muscle like I wanted to. That is what led to a bigger uptick in my sewing. It was an easy way to test myself creatively on the side. A couple of hours here, couple of hours there.

On Failure

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You have to be open to failure happening early and often. I’ve made a ton of pieces that I thought were going to be a huge hit, invested a ton of time in them, and have had them end up a complete and utter flop. My entertainment endeavor was a big personal failure and really taught me a lot about keeping things small to start, learning from small risks and taking bigger ones on top of those. When I left work, I sold stuff for Burning Man and I thought I was going to sell a lot more. I had massive production issues and missed deadlines, but it taught me a lot about where I wanted to take my business and how to reach my goals. I try a lot of different things and I know I will strike out more often than not. I have learnt not to harp on it, I have learned to treat it as a learning experience. Two fold learning: learning not to fail as badly.

On Fear

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My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to align my passion with my career. I overcome my fears by just staying focused, relishing the small wins and having faith in myself.

On Money

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I used to live abroad and travel a ton. I have not been out of the country for the past two years. Even with the job, I was cautious with spending, knowing in the back of my head I would want to venture on my own at some point. . I tell myself a lot of this is temporary, that I am working towards a larger life alignment and the “sacrifice” is worth it. I would rather an alignment of my professional life and passions than be unaligned but take two weeks every year to travel. I try and give myself small breaks after major sprints. A midweek trip to Tahoe, a trip to NYC to visit friends - things I can afford but also enjoy - catch up with friends, relax, etc. And if I have to go back to a job? I hope this investment of time and money will be worth it and I will be more aligned in whatever job I may go forth onto next.

On Self-Love

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I work out a lot now, a lot more than I ever used to. One hour to one hour and a half to go to the gym. I try not to get down on myself for not having a productive day. You need break time to be efficient. I try to make sure to catch my friends for lunch and dinner as often as I can.

On Inspiration

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I find inspiration from lots of different people. I find a ton of inspiration from my friends - I am really fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing group of people who are doing amazing things: personally, professionally, artistically. I’m also very inspired by creative folks who are constantly pushing the boundaries of society. Those who set their own boundaries - not those set my society.

On Support

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You have to find people who are real with you and push you: friends, family, everybody. You need more than just cheerleaders - you need people who will push back with you, and most importantly - whose criticism you don’t just push aside. You may decide to disagree, but having that discourse and debate will make you feel more confident in your decisions and help you avoid dumb mistakes.

Advice to the Community

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Start small. The best advice I ever received was, ‘What if you raised 400,000 and you need 40 million, what would you do?’ Do the small things. Hit those small milestones and build onwards from there. It makes passion more authentic and allows you to fill out what it is about it that excites you. You also start finding the people that support you. Start a blog if you want to write a book. Do it on the side, then try it out, then look towards your friends. Ask for favors. Fake it ‘til you make it. 80 / 20 rule is a better way to do it.

The Passion Co. is here to help you find and pursue your passion. Find out more about our upcoming programs here

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Photo Credit: Celeste Noche Photography

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