Inspiring Mom: Audrey Woollen of Urbanic
We’re pretty excited about the next mama in our Inspiring Mom series. She’s our dear friend, Audrey Woollen of Urbanic, and she’s pretty much one of the best things about living in LA. We’re so thankful we were able to snag a bit of her time to gather her thoughts on being a mom, wife, and business owner.
Business name: Urbanic Paper Boutique
Year started: August 2006
Where do you work?
In our shop Urbanic, some days out of my home office, and other times from places where there is wifi and good coffee. Our shop is on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA.
What was the inspiration or impetus to start your business?
I came from a background of working in the fashion industry for many years and was traveling quite a bit. I loved it, but eventually got to a place were I wanted to be home more and present in my life. In my spare time when not working the shows, I designed a small stationery line as a creative outlet which we called Urbanic. I sold my paper goods at street fairs and to some local shops as well. This eventually led to designing wedding invitations and I began to see that I had a market. I’ve always loved good design, beautiful stationery, and the evolution of style. Those passions paired with my lifetime desire to open a shop led to a literal A-HA moment, that owning a curated stationery boutique was exactly what I wanted to do.
How does your business inspire your family, or your family inspire your business?
Our business hugely inspires our family and has become a significant part of the culture of our lifestyle.
The people we’ve met through Urbanic and the relationships we’ve built along the way is a constant flow of inspiration and has changed our lives considerably. We found out that I was pregnant with our first son very early on, – the day after signing the lease on the store. It was crazy! I worked while pregnant up until I had him, and after, I worked with him wrapped around me in a sling at the shop. Our regular customers have known our kids from before they were born and have watched them grow. They are always commenting on “how big they are getting”. It feels good to be such a solid part of our neighborhood and to have built relationships with so many amazing people, both big (and little!).
Being surrounded by so much design and innovation in our work life is also inspirational in our family life. We keep the flow of creative energy within the walls of our home and try to be intentional about family creative time together and ‘making ideas happen’. Additionally we encourage the boys to send out their own cards to friends and family. It makes me so happy that they are starting to understand the enjoyment of sending and receiving mail!
How has it changed or evolved as your children have grown?
All 4 of us consider Urbanic ‘our family shop’ and the boys are very much a part of it. As they have grown, they have become less a part of the front end and more a part of the back end. When they were babies it was easy to keep them around the shop, but as they are older, they really want to be involved in what is happening, which is great, (and challenging!).
When they do come in, they help “re-merchandise” in their own little way, scan things with the scanner, stomp down boxes, and give out dog treats. They usually end up getting to each pick out a favorite card to bring home. Both of our sons have an entrepreneurial spirit. In the past, we’ve set them up with lemonade stands in the summer in front of the shop and also helped them put on an eggnog stand for charity this past winter that was super adorable. They love having their own little micro businesses within what we do. Now that they are older, the boys have a better understanding of the lifestyle of running a family business (both the good and the tough). They see us working on projects, throwing events, and brainstorming ideas, and they want to be involved. Their view on life is wide open and it makes us smile to hear them talking about their own (genius) creative ideas.
Do you find it challenging or refreshing to work for yourself, as a mom? And/or are there particular places or people that you rely on for support as a creative business owner and a mom?
I find it equally as challenging as I do refreshing to work for myself as a mom. I love having the freedom to be involved in some of the most special parts of their growing lives. I also love that I am doing something that I am genuinely passionate about. The challenging part is turning off work and turning on ‘mom’ when I’m with them. As a business owner, it sometimes feels impossible to fully turn off the work mind-set. I am best when I can focus and be fully present with them and this is SO hard to do when there are work thoughts racing through my mind. I rely on many people for support to keep our lives in order. My husband plays a huge role in the business and with the children. Our staff at the shop is amazing. They understand what I handle in a day and are efficient and proactive at keeping the ball rolling. My friendships with other mommas here in LA (who also work for themselves) are invaluable to me. Finally, I have a cleaning lady who helps me out with laundry and housekeeping once a month. This keeps me from going insane!
How do you figure out the balance of time with your children and time to work?
It’s a juggle that I’m still figuring out. As my kids grow they have different needs, and as the store grows it also needs more of my time. Things are always shifting with every phase and season. I don’t think anyone in the world has the secret. I think you just work with what you have and continually re-organize things as you go. Now that the boys are in school, things are a little easier, but school also brings on a whole new slew of projects, homework and involvement.
My days start quite early and usually end very late. There are times I feel like I have it all together and other days I feel like my life is chaos. My boys will always come first before anything and that will always be the case. I’ve had to turn down some amazing opportunities because of this. I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy, because it’s not, … but if you asked me if I thought it was worth it, and if I was happy, my answer would be yes.
*Thank you SO much Audrey! It’s so refreshing to hear another mama’s take on the whole work/life/family balance aspect of motherhood that we’re all trying to figure out. Muah!
All photos by Joanne Pio