One Kings Lane Celebrates International Women’s Day

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At One Kings Lane, a female-founded and -led company, we jump at any opportunity to lift up the women in our lives. So in honor of International Women’s Day, says One Kings Lane president Debbie Propst, “we’re celebrating a few of the talented ladies behind our brand,” including One Kings Lane colleagues and female vendor partners. Each shares what International Women’s Day means to her—and how sisterly support can help all women succeed.

Hana Getachew

Hana is the founder and creative director of Bolé Road Textiles, one of our favorite artisanal brands. Born in Ethiopia and now based in Brooklyn, Hana launched her company by combining two of her greatest passions: her Ethiopian heritage and her background in design. Bolé Road works directly with weaving collectives and small women-run businesses in Ethiopia to help revitalize the country’s economy and supports initiatives aiming to make education more accessible to all Ethiopians.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
For me International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of women in our communities. It’s also an opportunity to acknowledge that in all aspects of life and throughout the world, women do not have equal footing. It is a time to take part in correcting this and create a path for gender equality.

How has the support of other women helped you get to where you are?
Interior design and textile design are fields where women are well represented.  Most of my mentors and peers are fellow women business owners who have guided me throughout this journey of entrepreneurship. My go-to gals are my classmates from the Tory Burch Foundation education program, an all-women program that I graduated from last year. I’m in touch with them regularly, and having their support has been incredibly helpful through this past year.

What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned as a business owner?
To be comfortable with uncertainty. Uncertainty is the last thing you want as a business owner, but unfortunately it’s the norm. No matter how well you plan out your projects or operations, things often go off-course. It’s hard to be at peace with that, since as a designer, I always want things to be perfect. When things do go according to plan, it’s cause for a celebration!

What advice would you give other women who aspire to launch their own companies?
Learn and plan and research as much as you can, then when it’s time, go all in and don’t look back.

Joanna Buchanan

After more than 20 years working for major players in the fashion retail business, Joanna Buchanan launched her eponymous line of jewellike tableware and accents in 2014. She resides in New York City and Connecticut with her husband and two children but draws on her extensive travels—she spent part of her childhood in Hong Kong, lived in Europe as an adult, and makes regular trips to India—to inspire her creations.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s a wonderful day to step back and reflect on all the wonderful women around you. And to “hold hands” with the women in your life—be it in business or on a personal level—and remember that we are here to support each other. I work with women all over the world, and we do share common goals, which is such an inspiring concept.

How has the support of other women helped you get to where you are?
My female peers have been the most amazing support system as I started my journey on building a business. I have found them to be an extremely giving and encouraging group of women. I think because we are in the same industry, they can see the struggles and the wins more clearly than anyone else.

How do you hope to inspire other women through your work?
I am trying to build my business in a collaborative way and by treating people well and honestly. I don’t believe you have to be ruthless or dictatorial to be successful. I really value other people’s opinions, and whilst I have my own, I do like to hear all angles.

I also have a daughter who I hope is learning from what she sees… that you find a passion, and you can pursue it with all your heart and energy. And she can also see the way my husband supports and guides me, so I think she can see the importance of having people around you who love and encourage you. And that being a woman is never something that could hold you back. I don’t view myself as a woman-owned business—I just run a business.

I also hope that by being utterly flexible in regard to other women’s needs—from home, from children, from life—that I am setting up a company where it’s okay to multitask, to work around what the day holds… I know that it will get done. I am true to myself—sometimes too transparent, I am told!—but I feel that being authentic and honest is the path I am most comfortable with.

What advice would you give other women who aspire to launch their own companies?
You will never be more fulfilled, and you will never be more stressed out! There is nothing like seeing a business grow, but if you don’t really believe in what you are doing and are not really following a passion, I think it would be very hard to carry on in the tough times. You sacrifice a lot to be your own boss, and self-discipline is critical. So if you know yourself and can really give it everything you have, go for it!

Paula Minnis

After taking a step back from her career as a fashion consultant in 2009, Paula began volunteering with refugees resettled in the Dallas area. Realizing she could draw on her background in fashion to help empower refugee women, Paula launched an artisanal accessories line and named it Gaia, after the Greek goddess of the earth, for its connotations of female strength. By providing a living wage and continued training and mentoring for its artisans, Gaia promotes financial independence for them and their families.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s a day when we get to shout from the rooftops that women are worthy, resilient, and capable of achieving greatness. It brings to mind the Chinese proverb “Women hold up half the sky.” But I think we can all agree that it’s more than half!

How has the support of other women helped you get to where you are?
Gaia would not be where we are today without the incredible women in our community, whom I have leaned on every step of the way! Fellow entrepreneurs, volunteers, refugee advocates… so much of our growth and success has been a result of ideas I’ve “crowd-sourced” through them. I love the magic that happens when women unite, bringing their gifts together in the service of others.

How do you aim to empower women through your work?
Our mission at Gaia is to help refugee women rebuild their lives in the U.S. through dignified, living-wage employment. We want to welcome refugee women to our community with open and loving arms, with the hope that their confidence is restored, their dignity regained… and that the resulting sense of empowerment has a ripple effect for their daughters, and their daughters’ daughters, and so on!

What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned as a business owner?
Be humble, be authentic, and don’t worry about being the smartest in the room!

What advice would you give other women who aspire to launch their own companies?
You should definitely have a passion for your endeavor. A start-up will occupy most of your waking hours, so it really should feed your soul in a special way to be sustainable. Also, I love the Teddy Roosevelt quote “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I love the magic that happens when women unite, bringing their gifts together in the service of others.

— Paula Minnis, founder of Gaia

Suki LaBarre

Longtime OKL’er Suki has played a role in shaping many aspects of the One Kings Lane brand and is currently our director of retail operations.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is an exciting opportunity to recognize women and their contribution to society and more specifically to celebrate their achievements in the workplace. I feel so fortunate to work at a company that has a women majority, who inspire me daily with their intelligence, wit, intuition, enthusiasm, and drive.

How has the support of other women helped you get to where you are?
I feel so lucky to have worked for such amazing, smart, talented, and powerful women throughout my career. There are so many women who have played such critical roles in my life, but when I met [One Kings Lane co-founder] Susan Feldman, I knew instantly she was someone who would meaningfully shape my career and my outlook on women leaders in the industry. Her enthusiasm, exceptional business sense, and unwavering belief in the brand that she built has inspired me throughout my career. She also introduced me to several other extraordinary women along the way who I am proud to call mentors and friends.

What advice would you give other women who are just starting out in the retail business?
Find a brand or a person who inspires you and lead with that. A job is only as good as the company/culture it is a part of and the determination of the team that leads it. The current retail landscape is more exciting than ever—there are new brands and lifestyles and business models popping up left and right, so don’t shy away from start-ups or new ideas. That’s how you get inspired and learn!

Eileen Behnke

Creative manager Eileen, another longtime One Kings Lane staffer, leads our talented team of photo art directors. (She also created the gorgeous International Women’s Day illustration above.)

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I think it’s really important to know that women are supported and can thrive, especially in business. An ideal situation is to be able to just walk into work and not even have to think about gender equality and balance and be able to do your job and do it well. I think this day—which should be every day!—is important to not only recognize how far women have come since the day’s inception in 1911 but also to understand where we still need to go in terms of gender equality in the world.

How has the support of other women helped you get to where you are?
I’ve always had very supportive women in my life, from my mom encouraging me to draw and make art with her when I was child to my group of friends from school and all the women I work with every day. I was very lucky to have a female creative director early on who was very kind but direct, who pushed me to always do more, and who showed me that if there’s an opportunity, take it. I also have men in my life who have always supported my career in the arts. I remember going to work with my dad on the first Take Your Daughter to Work Day in 1993 and ending up in the photo studio thinking that was the coolest part of the job. Today the photo studio is one of my favorite places at work!

What advice would you give other women who aspire to a creative career?
I’m incredibly lucky to work as a creative and be able to do the work that I do. For me it is important to stay true to who I am as a person and to speak my mind. My mom always said that the squeaky wheel gets oiled, so don’t ever sit back and wait for anything to happen. Seek out creative projects within your current job and show that your skills can really change the way a business sees creativity. I had a part-time job in retail in graduate school where I realized that my skills could be best used under the visual merchandising team, which led to me becoming a stylist—and now I’m a lead art director at One Kings Lane. And it’s really about working hard and continuing to find passion in what you do!

Becca Roderick

Becca is the director of One Kings Lane Interior Design, our in-house team of professional designers (check out some of their projects here!). 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Anytime there is a global event that celebrates a singular group, I think it’s a good time to think about what that group has in common when you peel away the socioeconomic and cultural divides that exist on a daily basis. When you start to consider what women all over the world share, the thing that stands out to me is the fight for equality: equal pay, equal decision-making power, equal opportunity to shape the world around us. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to reflect on this journey for equality—to celebrate how far we’ve come, to consider a vision for the future, and to accept the hard work that it’s going to take to get there.

How has the support of other women helped you get to where you are?
I believe deeply in the concept of Shine Theory, coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. It’s the simple idea of “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” There isn’t a finite amount of success or happiness in this world, and the only clear path to accomplishment is one of mutual support. I could not have gotten where I am now without the support of the women around me—those paving the way as well as those on the ground working with me every day. I think it’s also tremendously important to recognize the men in the world who choose to lift women up and shepherd their success.

What advice would you give other women who aspire to a career in interior design?
Interior design is an incredibly challenging but equally fulfilling career. There are two important muscles to develop as a designer: the technical muscle and the aesthetic muscle. As a first step, I’d recommend that someone who is interested in working in this field get some kind of education. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to design school. An education could mean completing design coursework, or it could mean working with a mentor who is willing to help train you from the ground up. You’ll want to establish acute technical skills, and getting an education will help you develop that technical skill set.

As far as aesthetics, the best advice I can give aspiring designers is to immerse themselves in the world of design—read magazines, go to well-designed hotels and restaurants, travel to new places, attend design events. See anything you can that will expose you to new ways of thinking about design and help develop that creative eye.

There isn’t a finite amount of success or happiness in this world, and the only clear path to accomplishment is one of mutual support.

— Becca Roderick, director of One Kings Lane Interior Design

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