Archive for ‘INTERVIEWS’

October 27, 2014

I Love the United States : Kris Nations Interview

krisnation_interview

Aside from blogging my own stories; I really love to interview small business, designers, people pursuing and sharing their passion. For my birthday 2 years ago Bowerbird gave me “The United States” necklace by Kris Nations, it was supposed to help keep me focused on my dream. And look now, I’ve made/making that dream a reality. The chain on the necklace broke about a year ago, and a month before the trip I sent it back to Kris Nations to be fixed. They were great about the repair, and even answered the list of question I sent along with the request. I’ve worn my United States necklace every day with out fail, I’m not a huge selfie person, but if you see a glint of gold on my neck on Instagram that’s the necklace.

Interview with Kim of Kris Nations

Kris Nations is run and created by two sisters, Kim and Kris. With my own sister, my strengths are her weaknesses and vice-versa. Do you find that in your own partnership? Is Kim stronger at one aspect of the business, and Kris stronger at another?

KIM: Kris started the business on the side while we were both living and working in SF. Kris was the real risk-taker, giving up her “real job” first. I’m more conservative so our personalities balance each other out in a lot of aspects of our business.

What was the first piece of jewelry you ever made? Was it for yourself, or did you give it to someone else?

KIM: Kris is the jewelry maker. She used to make jewelry for herself and then make some for friends once they saw what she was wearing.

I found my Kris Nation piece at Letters From LA located in Eagle Rock, CA. Did Kris Nation start as an etsy or online store first, and then grow to retailers? Or was it a simultaneous effort?

KIM: We had our website first and then grew the wholesale side of the business. My background is in web design so I designed and programmed our first website.

Running your own business has ups and down, plus there is more emotional investment. For other small business owners, what advice can you give for pushing through the self doubt?

KIM: As long as you remain passionate about your work, the highs outweigh the lows. But the lows can be low. It’s usually about money, and lack of it! Just hang in there, work smarter, stay focused on your long-term goals.

Your jewelry is well made, stylish, adorable! It’s no surprise it’s received great press. Does Kris Nation work with a PR group or has it all been in house hustle and flow?

KIM: We have a PR firm based out of SF. We also work closely with the firm. When we have ideas, we share and ask them to follow up on our ideas. You need to work closely with a PR firm, the more effort you can put in, the better. It’s hard when you are always putting out fires, but it’s important.

My dream is to have an epic road trip across the country. It’s why I was given the United States necklace as a gift. Do you have a great sisterly road trip or vacation memory you can share with us?

KIM: OMG! Yes! Kris and I used to travel from San Francisco to Las Vegas for our very first few trade shows. I’m not sure why we didn’t fly? Probably because we had a quite elaborate booth setup that needed to be hauled there. On one trip, we ran out of gas (duh?!) and spent a few hours waiting for AAA to save us. It was dark and we passed the time guessing flavors of Jelly Belly’s. I’m remarkably horrible at guessing flavors. We have fond memories of visiting our Aunt and Uncle about half way to Vegas. They are the sweetest couple ever. Our uncle passed away over a year ago and we have very fond memories of our visits and their encouragement during this very early stage of our business.

KrisNaions_selfie

Our country is really beautiful, and filled with good hearts and talented people. Thankfully I had the opportunity to experience a sliver of the it this month. If it wasn’t for my lack of clothing options and unpredictable sleeping accommodations, I might stay on the road forever. Make meeting new people and visiting new places a regular routine.

I’ll be going home with a confident direction, new ideas, an outline of a plan, and a need to write a lot of emails. People like the woman of Kris Nations inspire me to commit to myself, take a gamble on myself. I hope these interviews encourage others to trust in themselves to be able to achieve anything they desire.

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September 2, 2014

SPOTLIGHT ON T-WE TEA : Interview with owner Chris Coccagna


T We Tea Interview

T-We Tea is a fun tea company based out of San Francisco, they’ve set up booths at Renegade Craft Fair, Patchwork, and even have a store font in the bay area. This is not your grandmother’s afternoon tea, and their loose leaf teas have whimsical and sometimes cheeky names like Grumpy Dinosaur a spearmint, peppermint vanilla bean tea or Scandalous Man Friend a Darjeeling tea with spearmint, clove and peppercorn. I reached out to the founder and owner of T-We Tea, Christopher Coccagna to find out more about this highly creative and delicious tea maker. My favorite is Chai Hard, it’s a blend of two black teas, spices, crushed coffee bean, and chili; it’s my late night kick in the pants.

Do you remember your first cup of tea?

Chris C: My first cups of tea in life started with my mother.  We had a peppermint patch in the backyard and part of our nightly ritual before bed was for me to pick peppermint leaves while she heated water and together we shared tea.  From those moments, tea has always held a really special place in my heart for community and warmth.

You hear of wine specialist, and Starbucks baristas are trained to be coffee specialist, but when did you decide to be a certified tea specialist and what is that like?

Chris C: I always knew that my life needed to be in the culinary arts and always loved cooking, eating, drinking, and creating unique experiences around food.  After college I did some soul searching while living in New Zealand and fell in love with the culture surrounding tea, and thought to myself “We need this back home.”  From then I pursued tea professionally and sought out the Specialty Tea Institute’s Certified Tea Specialist program.  I’m a regular old business administration bachelor’s degree from college, but to then focus my studies on something I am so passionate about was life changing.  I took what I learned about tea and reapplied it in the world of natural tea blending.  Most tea blends use flavoring additives, and I took a unique stance of zero flavorings in our teas but using real ingredients.

T We Tea and Whiskey

How long did the process of opening T-We Tea take? Do you remember where you were when you made the commitment to see your tea dream through?

Chris C: T-WE TEA started as a little doodle 2006 in a journal titled Renaissance man (my personal journal focused on career, art, and culinary pursuits).  Surrounding the words T-WE was written “Community” and “With no tea in him, a man is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”  Those were my three guiding principles in setting everything up:  Truth, Beauty, and Community.  It took some time and preparation of everything but T-WE launched in Dec 2010 after an amazing sleepless month fueled by creative tea caffeine.

Was T-We Tea an online store, before an actual brick and motor location?

Chris C: Before even online and brick & mortar, T-WE began as a mobile traveling setup at artisan handmade markets.  We found our inspiration in artists and makers (since they create beauty in this world), so the fit was natural to be together in a selling event setting.  We started small then grew to markets outside of San Francisco, and you will now find us at bi-annual shows in SFO, LA, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Austin, Chicago, and Brooklyn.  So our company was completely mobile until we opened a more permanent store in San Francisco in Feb 2013.  We expanded that location in Feb 2014 to include a tea store with tea bar and in-store tea blending where we now manufacture everything by hand for our community to witness.

There is an obvious LGBT friendly spin on your teas. Has anyone ever loved an Earl Cray Cray and then condemned Bicurious George? I imagine your response is as silly as the tea names?

Chris C: T-WE is proudly gay owned and operated and we love to celebrate and support the community.  Being from San Francisco, I love how our company fits so easily into what is culturally San Franciscan (creative and sarcastic).   I love how our product can create a special moment between friends (Imagine giving your bestie Lesbi Friends or Scandalous ManFriend).  In the tea world, I have encountered a lot of tea smug when it comes to knowledge about tea and a lot of “I only drink …(insert fanciest tea name here)…. syndrome”.  I wanted to cut through the smug with some genuine sarcasm and whimsy to brighten this world and make tea a special moment in one’s day.

We have our subtle ways of handling a customer who doesn’t want to say SEXPOT tea, but the only formal complaint came from someone from Dallas (a member of the LGBT community, too!).  We actually created a tea blend for them in response called Precious Angel Kitten to subtly be more PG and say “Bless Your Heart.”  It has become one of our top sellers too.

T We Tea San Francisco

Speaking of tea names, have you taken a name suggestion yet? Your website encourages people to submit their idea. 

Chris C: Lesbi Friends (Apple jasmine oolong), Bad Bromance (hangover herbal tisane), Ghetto Fab (roasted green tea with cacao), and a couple others have come from our customers.  We have accumulated quite the list and pair the name with the best flavor profile in a tea.  Most of the other tea names come from common conversation that you will hear between team T-WE.  You would be amazed how many things we say daily that would make an excellent tea name.  The key is not to think too hard and maybe add bourbon.

Personally I’m a lazy brewer, I don’t time my steep or check the temperature. Are there cardinal tea rules one should never break?

Chris C: Water temperature is pretty crucial in a good cup of tea.  Too hot (like for green tea) or too cool (like for black tea) will definitely affect your end cup.  My tricks are sight and smell.  I always follow the color of the brew and I kind of know when my cup is done because it hits my favorite color for that tea.  I also use my nose and follow the scent, you can kind of tell if it is ready by the fragrance (too soft or too strong).

In October you’re hosting a DIY Tea Blending Class at Workshop in San Francisco. What will that be like? Are people going to learn how to break open their existing tea bags and mix different flavors, or save dried rose petals to kick up their afternoon cup?

Chris C: DIY Tea Blending Class happens monthly in the T-WE TEA store and it is one of my favorite creative classes I teach.  In the class we learn all about tea (tea types, how it’s made, etc), then I teach attendees how to properly cup and taste teas and how subtle nuances will affect a tea blend, then I let them go nuts with all the T-WE ingredients to try their hand at their very own tea blend.

Lastly, what tea ritual do you like better, Japanese Tea House or English Afternoon Tea? 

Chris C: I prefer to be a part of the sacred ritual in an Asian inspired tea ceremony, but who doesn’t love to gorge themselves on scones and sweet treats?  I am morally opposed to loud hats though (but that is just for myself as I would never impose a hat restriction on others).

Even if you are not a tea drinker you should still visit T-We Tea website just to see all the fun names and blends. Pass it along to your favorite tea drinking friend or buy a box of loose leaf tea for yourself and begin your tea journey. Teas range from $10- $15 dollars but are extremely delicious. Tell me your favorite type of tea and if you try and T-We teas.

Basically until next time…. Blow the tea before sipping, burned tongues blow.

 

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August 29, 2014

FLASHBACK FRIDAY – THE PITY PARTY

Photobucket

originally posted on My Favorite MAOI – December 10, 2010

Name: Julie Edwards

Nickname: Heisenflei

Sign: Libra

Favorite:

Fruit: Avocado

Book: Post Office, Bukowsky

Place: White Sands, New Mexico

Q1. Most wild and crazy thing you have done thus far in your life?

A1. And this is your business because…

Q2. Whats the most interesting thing you found lying on the street/sidewalk/ground/random place?

A2. A wet t-shirt with “fuck it” scrawled across the front in sharpee

 

 

 

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August 15, 2014

FLASHBACK FRIDAY : Artist Glenn Arthur

 

First published on My Favorite MAOI – 6/5/2009

Name: Glenn Arthur
Nickname: Glenny
Sign: Aquarius

Favorite:
Ice Cream: Strawberry
Book: The kind I can color in.
Color: Black (but only until they come out with something darker)

Q1. What animal is your spirit guide?
A1.Not sure. I hope it’s a hummingbird…and if it’s not then I’ll just lie and say it is 😉

Q2. If you had a parrot what would you teach it to say?
A2.”Get off my lawn!”

Q3. What superhero would you make your sidekick?
A3.Wonder Woman for sure. But only if i get to fly the invisible jet!

Q4. What do you admire in a person?
A4.Intelligent vulgarity.

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August 8, 2014

Flashback Friday : Sarah Negahdari of The Happy Hallows

Sarah Negahdari Happy Hallows

First  published on My Favorite MAOI – 8/27/2009

Name: Sarah Negahdari

Nickname: Kitty, Negs, Nega

Sign: Pisces

Favorite:

Food. Sushi

Book. Inspiration Sandwich by Sark

Season. Autumn!

Q1.How many times have you been pulled over? And why?

A1.Just once. I didn’t do a full stop at a stop sign. I started crying! and the policeman let me go ticket free!

Q2.What animal if your spirit guide?

A2I Looooooveee your questions! ahhhh! So refreshing!!!!! mine is a black panther. I have had many dreams that were incredibly vivid, mystical, involving a female black panther, roaring at me to toughen up! She shows me how to be A REAL WOMAN! 🙂

Q3. What’s your vice?

A3.Oh gaaaaawwwddd, my indecisiveness!!! no wait, maybe it’s my day dreaminess, no wait, it’s my…just kidding…yeah, my vice is definitely that I have such a hard time making up my mind.

Q4.If you could live in a movie for a day, which movie would it be? Would you be yourself or another character?

A4.wow,, such a fabulous question!!! I would be in Labyrinth and I would be David Bowie’s character!!!!

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