I've got a lot of irons in the fire lately but it hasn't kept me from being super excited to share a project I've slowly been building on called “We Are Western.” Which is series of photoshoots highlighting Creative Entrepreneurs in the Western Industry who I am getting to meet/photograph in my travels as a Wedding and Ranch-Lifestyle photographer.
Recently when I was in California I had the privilege of working with Hailey of Western & Co! And from the moment I met her there was is no doubt in my mind that this powerhouse behind Western & Co is kind of woman that kicks-ass and makes things happen. Hailey is moving and shaking in western chic fashion industry with her killer graphic tee’s that sell like hotcakes and ability to hunt down some of the most drool-worthy Native American squashes and jewelry I have ever seen!
And I mean EVER.
She is an powerful example of what grit and creativity can get you when you aim for the skies. And today on the blog she is sharing with us some of her the struggles, dreams and inspirations that are a driving force behind her business.
AND she also gives us a great tip to keep in mind when you are looking for a quality squash blossom!
Name: Hailey Nelson
Location: Northern California
Business Name: Western & Co.
What do you do as a creative entrepreneur?
My business is a dynamic duo of a couple things that speak loudly to my soul – First, my self-taught ability to design and create accessories and graphic tees. The other is my crazy obsession for Native American and turquoise jewelry. Some refer to me as the ‘squash blossom queen’ in my industry. I hunt down the biggest, most badass, unique squash blossoms and Native American vintage jewelry I can get my hands on.
How long have you been in business?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the power of accessories and clothing. I remember making and selling beaded lanyards for the nurses at my mother’s work and designing each one unique. Now, I’m always adding my own flair to clothing and accessories, whether it’s a concho to a hatband or some patches to a denim jacket. After teaching myself the art of designing and making jewelry, one of my designs was worn by Miranda Lambert. This was a career defining moment and pushed me to take my creative outlet to the next level, while still pursuing my graphic design day job. A few business failures later, I quickly learned juggling my side hustle, my career, and being a momma of two hell raising little boys was off balance. So, I decided to take that leap of faith that all business owners talk about, and quit my full time graphic design job to grow my business. In short, I’ve had my big girl panties on for around 5 years, but have been a dreamer ever since I was a little girl and it feels damn good chasing that dream.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
I absolutely love seeing my clients light up after receiving a squash blossom I sold them or wearing a tee I designed. Weather it’s on social media, in person, or by word of mouth, seeing and hearing about my t-shirts and accessories out in action gets me incredibly excited. Tell the hardest things you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are today? Well being a creative entrepreneur is not easy. There are many successes and many failures. I started my business getting wrapped up into what everyone else wanted me to create rather then putting out things that I love. I was producing things I wouldn’t wear myself, and became burnt out and ultimately my business took a downward spiral. It wasn’t until after my second child and decided to give it one more attempt. I grabbed ahold of what really drove me, what really got me excited and started to create and sell what I loved. If I could give any advice, it would be to never give up and understand that everyone has failed a time or two. Your business will always evolve. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “The only failure is quitting; everything else is just gathering information.”
Where do you hope to be with your business in 5 years?
I hope to grow my business into different avenues. I have a few new projects that I’m working on currently and they are revealing areas I would have never envisioned tapping into.
What do you feel is key to attracting customers/clients to your brands or product?
First off, you have to really believe in what you’re making or doing. Pour every ounce of what you have into it. Once you do that, keep working hard allowing others to see what you’re offering and become interested. It will be just a matter of time that someone sees your work through the grapevine and wants to buy it. Second, would be figure out your target market and know it well. You’ll soon find what works and what doesn’t within that market. And, don’t get discouraged if not everyone likes your stuff. Different strokes for different folks. Third would be the power of social media -- use it and learn to use it well. I have connected with so many customers I wouldn’t have dreamed of meeting without that presence.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Ha, so a few months ago, I got an email from Kacey Musgraves, a county music singer, asking if she could ship me one of her squash blossoms that needed to be restrung. She mentioned prior to sending it to not judge her on the way she wrapped the package, so I thought nothing about it. When I received her package, it had a hand written tag on the top and inside I found her pricey ass squash blossom wrapped up in an old crinkled up Walgreen’s shopping bag. Zero bubble wrap, zero packing material, zero packing peanuts. It wasn’t until then that I realized this chick is so friggin’ down to earth, gives zero shits, and is downright cool. It put things into perspective that just because you’re a country music star with millions of fans and live this high profile life, doesn’t mean you’re not just an ordinary human being.
Who are the top 3 people you draw inspiration from and how have they impacted your business?
Ah, that’s a hard one. I pull inspiration from everywhere really. I sort of eat, sleep and breathe western fashion. I’m obsessed with retro vintage and western edgy. I would say there are some iconic brands that have taken their businesses on another level like Tasha Polizzi and Double D Ranchwear, both brands really speak to me. But no particular person comes to mind, other random people and places deeply influence what I do such as the old desert west, deranged vintage signs, old rock and country stars, and edgy models like Brigitte Bardot are crazy inspiring to me.
What are tips for looking for a quality squash blossom?
Some advice I would give is to not depend so highly of an artist mark or stamp on the backside of the squash. Many associate that stamp with being authentic or “real,” but many don’t understand or know about Old Pawn or true vintage jewelry. It wasn’t until the tourist trade really took effect in the 1970s, causing artists to start marking their work. Prior to this, artists made jewelry to wear for themselves not needing to mark it because it wasn’t anticipated for them to ever sell it. So all in all, you may find a kickass squash blossom with a ton of history without any marking or stamp.
Facebook: Western and Co.
Graphic Tee Model: Lauren Trantham, The Womens Photographer