In addition to being your resource for practical and inspiring lifestyle content, Mon Amye is your friend, your sounding-board, your motivator. She’s the one you turn to for advice and to share your successes, and that’s just what the Founders + Friends series does each month. [Plus, I love hearing from entrepreneurs and now I have a reason to ask after my favorite success stories!]
Today we’re talking to Christiana and Aimee, the childhood friends behind Hygge & West. You may have seen their gorgeous wallpaper, favored by many designers, on jealousy-inducing house tours and swoon-worthy before + after reveals. Read on to learn more about the co-founders behind designer wallpaper company Hygge & West:
[Amye] The Basics: Tell us about Hygge & West. What do you offer? Who are your customers?
[Christiana and Aimee] Hygge & West is a designer wallpaper company that collaborates with artists, designers and illustrators, to create one-of-a-kind collections of high quality, luxe wallpaper. Using a hand screen-printed technique, our wallpapers feel hand painted. Our company is founded upon the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) which doesn’t have a direct English equivalent. In a word, it roughly translates to cozy, but it means so much more than that. It is about finding simple, joy-filled moment in the everyday, living with gratitude, and surrounding oneself with the people and things that they love. Every wallpaper collection we created is rooted in this joyful aesthetic.
The BFFs: How did you originally meet and become friends?
We became friends in second grade when we started going to the same ballet class. By 4th grade we were best friends, meeting up at the swimming pool in our neighborhood, bonding over our mutual love of Michael J. Fox. We also choreographed a pretty stellar Charleston dance number called Hello Mr. Watson in our Pinon Elementary’s Glee Club play, I Heard it Through the Grapevine. We even made the local paper – our first PR success!
The Startup Phase: How did you first decide to go into business together?
Christiana was desperate to stop being a lawyer and Aimee was desperate to buy some cool wallpaper. That was the starting point. It took about a year from first talking about the idea of working together to actually starting Hygge & West. We were motivated by excitement about the idea of making something great and working together on something creative. I think the major impetus was when Christiana used Julia’s Daydream wallpaper as a custom application in her kitchen. Once we saw how gorgeous it was we thought it simply had to be turned into wallpaper rolls and put out into the world.
The Now: Briefly describe Hygge & West as it stands today. Who manages what aspects of the business? Has that evolved as time passes?
We’ve seen quite a bit of growth the last few years and are about to take the leap into adding a textile collection which we are really excited about. Aimee manages the production / back end of the house side of the things and Christiana manages the front end aspects of the business like customer service and website maintenance. We both share responsibility for marketing, PR and social media. Our responsibilities have ebbed and flowed over time depending on where we’re at in our lives. For some periods of time, Aimee had a full time job, for example, and at one point Christiana traveled overseas for awhile and couldn’t take on as much. We’ve hit a point now though where we both work full time on the business and there’s so much more to do, so we’ve outlined our roles more clearly to make sure we don’t miss anything!
The Hard Stuff: What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while in business?
We launched our company in 2008 about month before the economy collapsed. After having both personally invested money into the start up as well as racked up business credit card debt, recovering from that situation was definitely challenging. We both ended up finding other work to see us through and treated the company not as a hobby, but more as a part time endeavor, and bit by bit we recovered.
The Network: Everyone, and every business, relies on a network. Who do you turn to for support?
Christiana: My family and close friends from law school have all been exceptionally supportive. I’ve definitely had to rely on them and ask for their help from time to time. I also have a couple good friends in San Francisco that both own their own businesses, Rachel at Eden and Eden and Chris at Yellow Owl Workshop. They’ve both been incredible to bounce ideas off of, lend an ear or just let off steam with over happy hour(s).
Aimee: My father was a very successful entrepreneur and I constantly turn to him for advice. My husband has always encouraged me to do whatever I want, and never doubts that what I choose to do will be successful. It’s very liberating to have that kind of support. Minneapolis has a phenomenal community of creatives and small business owners, and I am constantly encountering people who are doing something unique like we are. It’s always great to connect, share tips and tricks, and just to know that you’re not alone in taking on this sort of venture.
The Wins: How do you celebrate your successes?
For a most recent success, we bought ourselves some Le Labo fig candles that smell incredible as a little treat to mark hitting a milestone. Candles are a huge part of living cozy so we thought it was a fitting way to celebrate.
We usually just have cocktails though when we get together and then proceed gush to each other about how awesome we think our company is. Since no one else would probably want to listen to that for too long our “victory parties” are generally a party of two unless Aimee’s poor husband happens to get caught up in one… We celebrate the little victories with lots of ironic hashtags and emoticons via text.
Voila! Practical inspiration for your own big dreams, delivered to mes amies.
A huge thanks to Christiana and Aimee for sharing their journey with us. I, for one, am so glad they persevered through those early startup days during the recession, holding onto their dream despite tough times. Creative businesses often struggle during periods of economic hardship, but ultimately the world needs more beauty – and more cozy! – and I’m so glad Hygge and West is here to share it.
Be sure to check out their gorgeous designer wallpapers, available at Hygge & West. As mentioned, a line of textiles is set to make its debut this summer. I can’t wait!
And stay tuned for more hygge around The Rowhouse soon! After hours spent perusing all of the gorgeous Hygge & West wallpapers I finally chose one that will be gracing the walls of our home later this summer…
Let me know if you’re inspired by the Hygge & West designers too!
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