Hi Lorina! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the story behind grâce belle?
I have always been creative and was always around business people, but it wasn’t until my 3rd or 4th year of college that I realized I wanted to pursue business. I think I secretly knew it because while pursuing Architecture I was doing craft fairs on the side and freelance work from photography to sewing to building websites. I was always passionate and had plans, but at the same time I was flexible to God’s plans for me.
After finishing my Associates degree I was suppose to transfer to an architecture school but plans fell through. For a few months I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Fast forward a bit and I found myself at Cal Poly Pomona pursuing business in fashion. I had new goals to open a clothing store called “Grace Belle”, in fact here is my presentation for one of my projects. My vision for the store was a beautiful brand, but more so I imagined having workshops and events after the store closed.
During this time I was also studying everything I could about business online and continuously heard advice to just start a blog first to narrow down the audience before launching a shop. So I got together with a good friend and as we were planning it we realized we didn’t actually need a store. We can start community online. We can start hosting events and we could do it now.
One day I was crazy enough to quit my job and not enroll for the next quarter of school and pursue Grace Belle 100%. It’s been a rollercoaster since, but I can truly say I am doing what makes my heart beat. Meeting so many wonderful women, adventuring and living life more intentionally, all of it.
Was building something like grâce belle always the dream for you, or did you plan on pursuing something else?
I had other dreams along the way. I remember wanting to be an Architect and designing unique orphanages, or wanting to be a travel photographer. I think my dreams seem to change a lot. I love Grace Belle because it lets me include many passions into one company and it is as flexible as I want it to be. If tomorrow I want to open a shop with it, well, it wouldn’t really come as a surprise. I can take the company in any direction I choose which is what makes it so exciting.
I remember always having one dream though; to work at a table along with other creatives. I think my heart always craved for a community of passionate people, no matter what the job would be. I am humbled to say that this summer was the first time we had a team at grace belle. We started doing internships and the next round of them are starting up soon. At the end of the day it’s the people that make this company so fun.
What’s been a highlight from the journey so far?
I think every event we do has been a highlight for me. I LOVE seeing it all come together, the adventures we have and meeting new people. One of my favorite events has been our Big Sur Roadtrip where we basically went with 15 girls on a camping trip at Big Sur. Keep in mind we never met most of these girls until the day we left! It was insane yet SO MUCH FUN! Every event has been amazing. I also love working with different sponsors or local restaurants. Oh! And one of the best highlights was the first meeting we had with our interns. I remember I cried happy tears that day. My heart was so full of joy to see others believe in Grace Belle like I did and for them to volunteer their time to help grow it.
You’re a total girl boss and it’s been a treat seeing you embrace it more and more over recent times. Who are some of your inspirations or role models?
One of my first inspirations was Elsie from A Beautiful Mess. I remember purchasing her Blog Business plan and was so excited to pursue something out of the ordinary. She was one of my first role models on the creative side of things.
Another one is Dale Partridge from StartupCamp. I took his online business class and it really helped me take the jump from a regular job to entrepreneurship. He really inspired me and gave me the tools for it.
Lastly I look up to the Bloguettes girls, Sakura and Lorena! I am so impressed by what they have built and in such a short time. They are always on top of social media and probably the best at putting on events in our business. I adore them!
What’s one gem you’ve learned along the way?
You have to be fearless and believe in yourself. Our first event I had a vision but no money, barely any followers, and big ideas. And guess what? It worked out and was beautiful!
How? You have to reach out.
I reached out to different companies and asked if they would be willing to sponsor us. I explained my vision and heart for why I do things and that although we didn’t have a lot of followers, I wanted to create something beautiful. I was surprised by how many said yes. From then on I started asking more and also started asking ladies off Instagram if they wanted to meet for coffee. Before you know it, we were growing as a community and opportunities were opening up. If I can give you some advice it would be to go, ask, be brave.
How would you describe a typical day? (If that’s possible, haha)
Ha, yes this would be difficult. My days look different all the time but in general I’m working on my laptop at a new coffee shop or in my new home office. I am trying to wake up early (5am) and tackle the bigger projects first then connect with others towards the afternoon. I always have new ideas for the company and endless to-do lists so it changes pretty often.
We love how grâce belle is about breaking the cycle of simply doing life, and instead living life beautifully. What are some ways we can intentionally seek to live that in our lives?
I’m happy you asked this question, it is the core of what we do. In fact, this is why we have our 4 Personas; the Creative, the Adventurer, the Sweetheart and the Fashionista. Each one is meant to inspire you to live life:
- The Creative is there to inspire you to try new things, to learn to express yourself in different outlets. You might think you are not creative but everyone is in one way or another. We want you to randomly go and take a sculpture class or pull out an old watercolor set and give it a try with a new perspective.
- Through the Adventurer we want to inspire you to explore, from your own city corners to other parts of the world. Sometimes a spontaneous trip to a new part of town can be an adventure in itself. Bring your camera along and have a scavenger hunt to see new things, this will force you to really look.
- Through the Sweetheart persona we encourage love. To create gatherings with loved ones or even new friends and intentionally make time for relationships.
- And lastly through the Fashionista we inspire you to chase your passions. The fashionista revolves around entrepreneurship and launching a brand and business. We find many times that people have a dream to do something but are held back due to fears of failing. But the secret is, failure is part of success. You will fail many times but you will learn things that will help you move forward until you find something that truly clicks for you.
What is your hope for the future of grâce belle? Any exciting plans on the horizon?
We have so many ideas to expand and we’re constantly dreaming of a physical location where we can bring together community. I believe that will happen one day but I also believe there’s a season for everything and we are so joyful in this season.
We do have some exciting plans happening right now though! Today we launched our online store in which we curate items for each persona! You’ll be able to shop (from companies we love) in each category; Creative, Adventurer, Sweetheart and Fashionista. We’re so excited to work with other small shops to make this possible. We’ll also start doing video interviews with small shops to spread their stories. It’s another part of our community aspect and maybe one step closer to launching a physical store ;)
We are also currently interviewing people for 6 internship positions and then launching an extended team program! This is new and exciting for us.
And lastly we’re always trying to figure out ways to connect our community on a more personal level and so recently launched an online forum for everyone to connect on.
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