"Meet The Creative" Interview on A Not So Model Life June 24, 2015 16:18
I met Priscilla a couple of months ago the old fashioned way - online. Ok, maybe not so old fashioned. Her company, Applepear Jewelry, was growing quickly and she needed to grow her team along with it. Since then I have worked with Priscilla on a number of projects, and I have had an opportunity to get to know her a bit in the process.
Priscilla juggles a career in engineering, a thriving creative business, and a family. Her entrepreneurship, dedication, management skills, and creativity are so inspiring. Oddly enough I also know a couple amazing photographers who transitioned from working as engineers. So, what is the deal with you engineers being so creative?? I couldn't wait to ask Priscilla some questions and dig into the winding career path she's on!
What is your education and work background?
I majored in Chemical Engineering at Cornell University. I've worked in finance, scheduling, manufacturing, and now project management.
What made you decide on engineering?
I went into engineering because it was something I was good at, and I loved math.
Was there ever a time while you were at school that you felt maybe you weren't on the right path?
College was really hard for me. I didn't get great grades, but I really imagined myself working on a manufacturing floor. By senior year I was burnt out on engineering, took a fashion design course, and was actually on the path to being a buyer at Macy's (though that didn't pan out)!
What have you learned throughout your engineering career that is serving you now in your jewelry business?
My engineering background has such a positive impact on all aspects of my life. It's taught me how to problem solve and analyze situations. Working in the engineering world has given me a lot of discipline in organization, timelines, attention to detail, and professionalism. I'm extremely good at budgeting and analyzing numbers, which is a huge part of business - even a creative business.
When did you start making jewelry, and how did you get interested in it? At what point did it strike you that it could become a business venture?
I've made jewelry since I was a little girl. I sold lanyard necklaces out of my Lisa Frank art box at grade school! I started making jewelry again about ten years ago. I bought some sterling silver and Swarovski crystals to make earrings for myself. With the extra materials I made another pair of earrings and sold them on Ebay to someone in Hawaii. The thought of someone wearing my creation in Hawaii got me giddy, and that feeling was addicting. I started taking the business seriously about two years ago when my husband encouraged me to.
What effect does your family have on your endeavors?
I'm really lucky that my husband is so supportive supportive of my business. He takes the girls on daddy outings sometimes so I can get work done. On the weekends I usually only work when the girls are napping/sleeping. Making sure I have quality time with both my kids and husband definitely makes me limit how much time I spend working, which is a good thing! When running a business you never run out of things to do, so sometimes you just have to cut yourself off and say, "that's good for now."
Is work/life balance something that's really attainable?
To me, family is number one. Work is inserted. However, in my mind, my business isn't just work. It is fun, my passion, and a part of who I am.
What inspires you?
Everything inspires me! If I had a choice, I would just be crafting and creating all day every day. I see an empty bottle and I want to decorate it. I see a piece of paper and I want to make a card. I see a flower and I want to paint it.
How would you describe your personal style?
Casual, comfortable, and usually simple.
What are your favorite books?
My all time favorite books are Brave New World, and Joy Luck Club.
Do you have a personal motto, or mantra?
I've been trying to go by "I am capable. I can do this. It will get done." Easier said than done!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Just one thing? I'd probably change a lot! But the top one would be "not getting so easily frustrated." With all the things I want to do, I feel like I'm thinking and moving at warp speed all the time. Hitting road bumps just really throws me off!
I love that you have very intelligently organically grown your company from a small hobby into a larger business flourishing online and in boutiques. Can you describe how your thought process has had to evolve with the scope of the company?
I always knew I eventually wanted to have my jewelry in major stores and all over the world, but I didn't really know how I was going to do it. I took some classes, got some advice from a friend, and started making a plan. Mapping out long term goals and daily goals in calendars helped a lot. It made the tasks feel more doable.
Starting a new venture does require a lot of learning as you go. Looking back on the process of starting Applepear, what would you have prioritized differently if you knew what you know now?
Starting my business came with some costly mistakes. The costliest was hiring a web designer, which went terribly. I ended up scrapping that whole website and going with Squarespace, which was cheap and easy. I also went through a period where I was just buying up lots of pretty raw materials, without any plans on what I was going to do with them. In general though, I started small and set bigger and bigger goals. It was a good strategy for me since I had a limited amount of time to work on my business - with my young family and other full time job.
What is your design process like?
My design process goes in spurts. I'll often start with a color, stone, or shape for inspiration. The collection will morph as I make pieces. Not all the pieces make it into the collection!
How would you describe your brand? Do you believe it's an extension of you personally, or is it a design concept?
I like to think of my brand as quality, beautiful, and caring. I think my personality definitely extends into my brand. I personally love making people special, so that is what I hope my jewelry does.