SHANNON / DESIGNER & SHOP OWNER OF YOWIE / PHILADELPHIA PA
Meet Shannon. We met at a really cool mentor circle and I was drawn to her work ethic, meticulousness, and quirky sense of humor. I knew immediately that I was in the presence of the ultimate magical Bloom woman. Shannon left her long-term career as a fashion designer and moved back to Philly, her hometown that she adores, to pursue her dream of opening an online home goods and concept shop called Yowie. Her design aesthetic is of the time and her playful creations are what the industry has been missing. She most recently hosted a successful pop up shop and curated a one of a kind collection, and at present, spends her days working literally non-stop to breathe life into drab homes across the world with her beautiful designs and magical personality. And oh my gosh, you guessed it, she’s Blooming.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ONLINE SHOP, YOWIE?
About four months ago, I started an online shop called Yowie. We’re a home goods and lifestyle concept based around creating collections featuring independent designers. Last month we held our first pop-up event in partnership with a vintage store that’s in a beautiful former gallery space in the art district of Philly. I walked into the shop one day and mentioned to the owner that I would love to do a pop-up there — and she said, “Okay!”. The event was a shop-in-shop installation that took place over three days. It went really well so we're hosting our second pop-up event in November.
WOW! SO THIS WILL BE THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU HAVE CUSTOMERS TOUCH YOUR PRODUCT BECAUSE YOUR SHOP IS TYPICALLY 100% ONLINE, CORRECT?
Yes. It was incredible to see everyone interacting with the products and asking questions about the designers in real time. I'm very proud of the product photography on our site but it felt important to bring our collections offline and merchandise them in our way in a complimentary space. It was particularly special to do this because almost all of the items are handmade or hand-processed. Every piece is very special to me, so it felt surreal to receive such a positive response.
WHERE DID THIS BUSINESS IDEA COME FROM, AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
I wanted to own my own shop for years. When you work in design, people always ask if you want to start your own line. For me, I had actually always enjoyed working for bigger companies and being behind the scenes — but I had always wanted to run my own store.
About a year ago, I started mapping out this business. I became more inspired by home, lifestyle, how we fill our homes, and how we figure out what our spaces mean to us. I started making Pinterest boards and décor boards while I was still at my corporate job, and then I eventually started to hit a wall creatively and professionally. I had this pull where I needed to do something professionally for myself; I knew that I needed to pivot.
I started planning Yowie; I was staying up until 1-2 a.m. making collages of the stores and logos that inspired me. I created vision maps. I sketched my fixtures. Finally, last October, I started reaching out to people. Some said no, but some said yes — and it started to build from there.
SO HOW WILL YOU BLOOM IN THE NEXT YEAR?
Currently, I’m outside of my comfort zone, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m a type A, sensitive Cancer. I like to be in my little box in which everything is ticked and tied up. Leaving a full-time job, moving back to Philly after 12 years, starting this business, and putting myself out there has been a lot — but I feel more like myself than ever. Starting a business forces me to do things I probably wouldn’t normally do.
I will Bloom by embracing the crazy and the roller coaster and seeing what happens. I’m into it, as scary as it is.
I'd lived in Philly my whole life until 2004, so moving back after so much time has passed really feels like starting over. I'm looking forward to making new friends as an adult, which is such an odd experience. I want to feel comfortable with the new people in my life. I’m 33 now. I am who I am for the most part. While I’m changing in some ways, I want to be comfortable presenting this natural version of me. When I lived in New York, I felt a lot of pressure to be or act a certain way. I couldn’t tell if it was New York, or me acting to New York. In Philly, I’ve felt that I can be me in a way that I didn’t feel like I could in New York. I will Bloom by being myself. I am too old not to be myself at this point.
YOU’VE TOUCHED UPON IT BRIEFLY BUT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL OBSTACLE YOU HAVE OVERCOME?
One professional obstacle that I overcome was knowing that you could reach a certain point and realize that what you thought that you wanted was not really what you wanted. I had always been very ambitious; when I was ten, I said that I would move to New York. And I did. I was in New York, and I got to a point in my career where these dreams I once had were all in front of me, and I kept telling myself that this was what I wanted. But it wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t creative or challenging in the ways that I wanted to be challenged.
I think that it’s okay to stop and say, “I thought this was what I wanted but it’s not what I wanted, so how do I find the new version of what I want; how do I make this work in a different way?” It’s challenging, because you don’t want to go against what you thought were your goals. We can build up these dreams in our minds, and maybe they’re not everything they are cracked up to be. I think that was really hard for me to admit.
I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, from both sides, and I’ve always felt this pressure to do everything right and do exactly what my family wants me to do. To then stop and say that I didn’t want that any more… I had to take that leap. I think it’s possible to land in a place that’s better than where you were.
BUT HOW WOULD YOU EVER KNOW THAT YOUR LEAP OF FAITH WOULD GET YOU TO A BETTER PLACE, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK?
Since I’m in a creative field, I often know that I’m on the right track when people who don’t know you are appreciative what you do. Your friends and your family are always going to be supportive, but when it’s someone who knows nothing about you, who owes you nothing — that’s a huge compliment.
As a shop owner, I still get excited every time I get a new order. Especially when it’s someone I don’t know, because I feel very lucky to know that they chose my shop and products that I love. It’s super rewarding and tells me that I’m doing the right thing.
STARTING A BUSINESS IS HARD BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME (MANY) DAYS THAT YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WANT TO GIVE UP. HOW DO YOU PUSH THROUGH THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
My business is new so have a freelance design job during the week. It allows me to have some funding while we grow and dream up new projects and events for the brand. There are very few hours a day that are devoted to myself but Yowie is the closest thing I have to a child so I feel happy about giving up all of my time to help it grow. On the hardest days I try to find creative ways to get our name out there and focus on the next steps. I co-own a food truck with my family and my sister came up with this idea to make press kits to send to local publications. We collaborated on this goody bag with info on our brands to send to the editor and they turned out great. In the process of doing all of this, and working my day job, I probably slept four hours a day for that entire week but it felt worth it.
STOP! WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME WHEN YOU NEED TO BE SLEEPING?!
Because I felt instantly connected to you and because know that it’s important to share my story. It’s also important to keep going. I woke up this morning feeling emotionally and physically drained. I felt like I wasn’t giving anything 100 percent because I have been so stretched. I always feel that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything. The thing about starting a business is that there are really high highs and really low lows. You have to keep telling yourself, “It will be okay, as long as I keep going.” I have a lot positive self-talk (I live alone) and I can reach out to my most supportive friend, and fellow entrepreneur, Katie, to ask for advice on challenges. I know at my worst I can always call my mom who will essentially tell me that the sun shines out of my ass and that everything is gonna be great! You have those bad days, but you have to focus on the end goal.
WHAT IS YOUR END GOAL FOR YOWIE? WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SO BADLY THAT KEEPS YOU RUNNING ON NO SLEEP?
There is a feeling that I’ve had since starting Yowie. There is no other way to describe it aside from calling it magical. Things keep happening that are very serendipitous. I’m not religious or spiritual, but I believe in change, luck, timing, things happening for a reason. These things just keep happening. I run into someone who tells me to talk to someone else who has a friend who has seen my site.
Philly has a great vibe, it has this close knit-fiber which makes it special. I don’t know... but it’s magical. Something good is coming.
YOU MENTIONED YOUR FAMILY’S BUSINESS AND YOUR GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SISTER AND MOTHER. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THESE RELATIONSHIPS AND WHERE YOUR FEMINISM COMES FROM?
I am the oldest daughter of a single mom. [Where my feminism comes from is] seeing my mom work our whole lives to give us everything, and not knowing until I was older just how little we had because we were never able to tell. My mom was working around the clock to make sure that we were happy and knew nothing better. She has been such a strong force in my life. I have always been surrounded by strong women, and now that my sister is older, she is such an amazing mom. I am and have always been surrounded by strong women and have had strong friendships with women who make me want to support other women. I see what good it does.
Teaching kids, especially boys, how women should be treated will reduce gender inequality. Between media, video games, movies, we become desensitized. I have a younger brother and he’s a great guy, and I think it’s because he was surrounded by great women every day of his life who were there to explain how to treat women with respect and the types of things we shouldn’t say. I think men need that.
We need to keep teaching boys that it’s okay to be both sensitive and to be a man. There is such a machismo — this hyper-masculinity that has taken over in our culture. It’s not necessary all the time. You can be soft.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Gosh, thinking of what I want to be remembered for makes it sound like I’m about to die! When people think of me, I want them to think that I’m positive, a good friend, helpful… and I think we all want to be remembered as a good person.
I work hard to maintain all of my relationships — business, friends and otherwise — because it’s important to me that people know that I care about them. Professionally, the end goal is ever changing, but I would love to partner with a hotel or larger entity to create a shop within a shop. The best things I have in my apartment are things that I have bought on vacation or while traveling. I love the idea of curating a shop where people from afar can look back on these Yowie items and remember a moment or a time they spent in Philly.