Carolyne Kontomitras : shop bijou bhm

I met Carloyne years ago when we had the pleasure of shooting her wedding and rehearsal dinner. We instantly fell in love with her and her family. The elegance she had that day is one she carries daily. Her style is effortless and ever so chic. Whether she is donning a fun black dress to a wedding or wearing her favorite lulu’s, her trademark is to always be wearing a fabulous piece of jewelry to top it all off. Her love for accessories most recently became a small side business that is continually growing for people like me who are constantly asking, “where did you get that?” I was thrilled when Carolyne allowed me to come shoot some of her goods in her gorgeous home in which she designed herself. She is one with many talents and am honored to feature Shop Bijou here.

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CONVERSATIONS WITH CAROLYN

LETS TALK BUSINESS…

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR SHOP BIJOU COME ABOUT?

My mom and I have always thought selling fun, trendy accessories would be such a fun thing to do - to sell items that do not cost a total fortune and to still be able to keep up with the trends. We have always loved fashion and being in the know about the new trends. We would go to market in Atlanta and come home with fun new accessories for us and my sister. My extended family, friends and neighbors all wanted in on it too. I started to purchase 1 or 2 extra of something that I thought was  really cute and fashionable. I would then sell to friends and neighbors at my house after work - friends of friends would come over and “shop” at my kitchen table. It became so popular that I decided to make an instagram account to post pictures on instead of having people constantly in and out of my house after work and on the weekends. I have to give most of the credit to my mom for encouraging me to take the risk and do it! “Bijou” means jewel in french. I have to give my cousin credit for coming up with the name.

HOW DID YOUR PASSION FOR FASHION FLOURISH INTO A FULL-FLEDGE CAREER?

Funny thing is - I still have a full-time job and Shop Bijou is just my “side hustle”. I am very passionate about my full-time job. I am the Customer Support Manager for a medical software company, Vincari, based here in Birmingham. I have been with the company since I graduated college in May of 2015. I give my all to Vincari during normal work hours and Shop Bijou at night when I get home from work. My husband likes to say “when is my wife getting home!” Having this “side hustle” has given me a great appreciation for those who have started their own company or work two jobs. Often, there are nights I stay up way too late pondering new ideas and filling orders, but so far it has been worth the lack of sleep. Watching Shop Bijou grow has been an incredible journey that has taught me to be extra patient in order to ensure the customer is satisfied and to take risks. If you do not take risks, you will not get anywhere in your journey. The worst that happens is that you learn from your mistake and move forward being grateful that you can move on and learn from the mistake. Trial and error is key. You cannot perfect anything in the first try.

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WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF HAVING YOUR OWN START-UP BUSINESS?

Nowadays, ordering online, we expect everything to be shipped and at our doorstep within two days of purchase. The biggest challenge I have faced thus far starting Shop Bijou is keeping up with all of the orders in a timely manner. I used to post on instagram and have people comment “SOLD” with their venmo account. I would go through and direct message each person on instagram, ask for their address and then venmo charge them for the product + shipping if need be. Doing this manually was a challenge as I would fall behind and misplace an order here and there on accident. I was frustrated with the fact that people assumed it would be at their house within two days, but I had to realize that is what people expect now. Quickly realizing that instagram comments were not going to work long term as I continued to grow, I decided it was time to create a website that would help save time and ship orders faster. Creating the website has changed my life! I can post a picture on instagram and attach the link to my website there - this has been a total game changer. I am able to quickly package the order and deliver it in a timely manner. I am still struggling with the inventory aspect. I do not want to be drowning in a lot of inventory so I am careful about how much I purchase at one time. I have made plenty of mistakes and taken plenty of risks but I continue to push forward and learn in order to grow Shop Bijou.

HAVE YOU RECEIVED A PIECE OF BUSINESS ADVICE YOU SWEAR BY?

I try and absorb everything I hear and read. I like to listen to what others have to say - friends, family, experts, etc. My husband is a huge Tim Ferriss fan and is constantly giving me advice from his podcasts. I love the quote that Tim said, “Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small.” Easier said than done, but I like to forget the reasons that it will not work and believe in the one reason that it will.

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ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?

Simple. I try not to over do it. I do LOVE a good pair of sneakers! I would rather wear a simple outfit and put on some fun jewelry with it. I try and stay in style but I do not break the bank trying to keep up with the latest and greatest. I am pretty good at finding the knockoffs - I will thank my mom for that talent.

WHAT ARE THREE PIECES OF FASHION YOU DEEM STAPLES?

Comfortable sneakers ( by that I mean cute / fashionable sneakers ) not running shoes, a good pair of workout leggings - I prefer lululemon and a good pair of jeans that you feel great in.

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WHAT IS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

To truly put God first in my life. In order to do that, I have to let go of what others think and follow my heart. When I put God first, I give myself a voice that expresses myself in a way that is true to me. No one can bring you down and stop you from dreaming big except yourself.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR 18 YEAR OLD SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Be confident in everything. Age doesn’t matter - an open and creative mind does matter.

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ON HOME LIFE…

READ OR HEAR ANYTHING LATELY THAT YOU LOVED?

I am a big fan of all (literally all) of Elin Hilderbrand’s books. My favorite this year has been “The Perfect Couple.” I am a sucker for a fun, flirty novel.  

I have also been listening to a podcast series from the WSJ called, “Secret’s of Wealthy Women.” It is really cool to hear successful women speak on their stories and hearing that they started in the same place as I did. I find it inspiring seeing that they too have had challenges in getting to where they are now.

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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPACE OF YOUR HOME AND WHY?

Depends on the season, our screen porch basically becomes our den when the weather cooperates. In the cold winter months, I would have to say my favorite area is our den off of the kitchen. My sweet husband is normally the one who cooks dinner so I can be in the den and still have conversation with him while he cooks.

FAVORITE COCKTAIL?

A good mint mojito is my all time favorite cocktail. They are so refreshing - my favorite place to drink one is on the beach from The Great Southern Restaurant in Seaside.   

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IMAGINE YOU HAD A WHOLE DAY-OFF WITH NO WORK TO THINK OF, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND THE DAY?

Without a doubt I would spend the day at the beach reading. When I am down there, I feel like there is no worry in the world and I do not have to be on any time constraints. I normally sit down on the sand until the sun goes down. Watching the he sunset is my favorite part of the day.

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SINCE I AM CURRENTLY ON MY OWN INTENTIONS KICK, WHAT IS YOUR 2019 INTENTION {GOAL} FOR THE YEAR AND ONE ACTION YOU ARE TAKING TO GET THERE?

Hmmmm! I am not going to publicly announce my main goal for 2019 as of yet, but I will say that I hope you will soon see Shop Bijou other places than Instagram and Facebook!

Follow Carolyne on her shop IG, here. Also be sure to visit the fabulous Shop Bijou, here.

YES

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This image, although odd, represents so much to me. This image is me taking a chance on myself. This image is me daring to dream bigger. This image is me saying yes, even though at times I feel not enough. This is me mailing paperwork to make my love of making homes beautiful a reality. This is me taking a step towards becoming an interiors business. I have continually debated if this is my so called calling. It has kept me anxious and second guessing for years. I did not get my hand writing in the sky, but I had some beautiful opportunities come my way that I simply said yes to. The more I said yes, the more I felt my place being mapped out. In hindsight I wonder if that is all God wants us to do? To say yes to the small little gifts He put inside us and take the journey with Him and watch it bloom. Over the last decade I have gone into design and have always found myself stepping back whether due to fear or the circumstances that surround. Every time I am in the midst of creating a home for others I feel like my best self. I come alive. I have had a decade plus of honing in on my process, my aesthetic, and learning what I love about the interiors business and what I don’t. This business will fit who I am and I hope in turn it will attract the similar. As the month progresses you will see a few changes here to my site, but Two Ellie will remain the same. The place where we share me-too moments, stay inspired, and the best place for me to ramble. Maybe this new journey of mine will flourish. Maybe it won’t. Either way I said yes and am going to see where it leads.

Have any areas in your life where you just need to say yes?

Morgan Mondy : mae studio

I have known Morgan since our early 20’s. She is one of those people who can light up a room with a simple smile. No matter how long in between we go in between seeing each other we pick up without skipping a beat. Morgan inspires not only me, but many with her drive to make people feel beautiful inside and out. She has a presence that instantly makes you feel comfortable and welcome. I have had the honor of watching not only her business grow, but her family also. She began Morgan Ashley Salon in 2001 and most recently opened Mae Studio in downtown Birmingham. She is a wife and mother to three of the cutest littles. Here Morgan shares a bit about business, motherhood and life at home. She is full of wisdom and was kind enough to share it here on Two Ellie.

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CONVERSATIONS WITH MORGAN MONDY

LETS TALK BUSINESS…

HOW DID YOUR PASSION FOR HAIR AND BEAUTY FLOURISH INTO A FULL-FLEDGED CAREER?

I read this book by Simon Sinek, Find your Why, a couple years ago that helped me figure out why I do what I do and why I love it. In the book he talks you through the journey of taking yourself back to childhood and through to adulthood. In this process you take note of experiences/memories that stick out to you--like defining moments-- and as I did this I realized there were many times as a little girl I was picked on for being really pale, chubby, and awkward. Now, while this is super sad, I realize that I never wanted anyone else to feel that way. I also have memories of my dad reaffirming that I was beautiful and speaking words of love over me and remember how good that made me feel. These experiences really awakened a passion to help others feel beautiful. When you are the ugly duckling, so to speak, you know how crummy it feels to be bullied.  I think it is such a cool thing that I now get to help people feel beautiful not only outside, but inside too and I am pretty passionate about it because of my own experience.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE WHEN IT COMES TO OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

I think the one of the biggest challenges I have faced in owning a business has been keeping boundaries. I can struggle with staying up all night problem solving or researching, or checking my email after hours, or letting a work situation that is not going well ruin time with my family. It sounds like such an obvious thing, but I do struggle to keep home at home and work at work.  

I would say the other challenge is managing so many different types of people, this is my favorite and probably most challenging part. My staff have incredibly valuable insights which I love hearing, but sometimes all of the perspectives can get me spinning. Also, I am a very high feeler and try to empathize with every perspective, this is  good, but it can be an overwhelming thing. I am trying to find balance in that.


AFTER MANY SUCCESSFUL YEARS OWNING MORGAN ASHLEY SALON, HOW DID THE IDEA FOR MAE STUDIO COME ABOUT?

The idea for Mae has been brewing for several years. A few years back I kept thinking about opening a smaller salon more towards downtown Birmingham to be a part of the revitalization. As I was thinking and praying I really did not feel like it was time yet. My children were small and I had not yet developed the vision for it. Over the last 3 years though, I felt like the timing was right and I also gained more vision as to my “why.”

I started seeing myself and my business in an area that was diverse as well as gaining energy for revitalization. I wanted Mae to be more than a business, but really a part of a community that lifts each other up.

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HOW HAS THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY CHANGED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR OWN SALON AND DO YOU SEE AND SHIFTS IN THE FUTURE?

Wow, the beauty industry has changed so much since I started in 2001. I think a huge factor in that is social media and youtube and the accessibility to education for not only the stylist, but also the client. I think this is good in so many ways because it really does require hairstylists to up their quality and education.

The ways I see it changing in the future is that I think there will probably be a more disconnected experience in the salon--it  may become more of an independent experience--I honestly hope not, but I could see this happening.

WHAT IS THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

The best business advice I ever received was in conjunction with my challenges of keeping work at work and home at home. The advice I got was to be present wherever I am. Pretty simple advice, but I feel like this crosses to all areas of life, being present is so rewarding and actually lowers my stress so much.

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ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR UNIFORM OR PERSONAL STYLE?

As much as I try to do a uniform, I start getting bored/antsy for different. But I would describe my style as feminine tomboy. I love a unique piece that is maybe from a thrift store or market, but then I will always have my go to madewell or levi jeans as an almost everyday piece. Some days I feel extremely minimalistic, and some days I add some flare, so much of this depends on my creative energy that day/where I am going. I also wear what feels right and comfortable and as Marie Kondo would say, “sparks joy.”

WHAT PRODUCT OR PRODUCTS ARE IN YOUR ROUTINE THAT YOU SWEAR BY?

Kevin Murphy Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner, Full Again, and  Bedroom Hair.

Bumble and bumble Go Big Treatment for volume.

Honestly though, I love trying all of our products, so I may change my faves every few months.

{all products can be found in her shops}

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HOW DO YOU STAY INSPIRED?

I stay inspired by new experiences and trying new things/places/meeting new people. I love that in every conversation there is a possibility to expand my perspectives and learn something new. I love to try different types of food and read about different cultures. I think that experiences inspire me the most and learning new things do too. I love a good brainstorming session with creative people and I love to take action together. Haha, I get inspired through a lot of outlets.

WHAT IS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

The best life advice I ever received has been probably from reading Brene Brown. She puts a high value on being authentic, actually she puts all the value on being authentic. I sometimes will ignore what I think or what I know just to make a situation more comfortable, but I am learning that being authentically myself is so freeing and it helps others to do the same. And people can choose to like me or not, but it is based on who I actually am, not what I am trying to perceive they want me to be.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR 18 YEAR OLD SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Advice to my 18 year old self would be to enjoy each season and don't wish it away or try to get to the next one too fast. I love all the experiences I have gotten to have in life so far, and I struggle to slow down, but I feel like finally at 36 I am starting to get it.

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ON HOME LIFE…

IMAGINE YOU HAD ONE DAY OFF WITH NO WORK TO THINK OF, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND THE DAY?

I may spend part of  the day with self care like a pedicure and exercise and then a family adventure like hiking or some other adventure.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPACE AT HOME AND WHY?

Favorite space in my home is my den right off the kitchen. We bought a fixer in August, so many things are not “pretty” yet, but even in that state its so cozy. There’s a fireplace and sectional and usually a cuddly child that keeps me company in that room. Its the place we read, watch movies, play games and have dance parties.

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST LESSONS OR VALUES YOU HOPE TO PASS ON TO YOUR CHILDREN?

I want my children to know that they are incredibly valuable and made with intention. This seems counterintuitive, but I want them to also know that when you choose to lose your life for the sake of others, you gain it. The best things in life are often what you choose to give.

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SINCE I AM CURRENTLY ON MY OWN INTENTIONS KICK, WHAT IS YOUR 2019 INTENTION {GOAL} FOR THE YEAR AND ONE ACTION YOU ARE TAKING TO GET THERE?

My intentions for 2019 are to have rhythms that feel right. I feel like I am always evaluating the balance in my life, there will always be a tension as long as I am a mom, wife and business owner, but those aren’t changing anytime soon, so finding a rhythm with it is my goal.

The way I do this is trying new patterns for when I do things--finding my work rhythm and home rhythm is tricky, but knowing I am productive at certain times of day and what times I  actually need to play and be more mindless is something I am finding is valuable.

Follow Morgan on her personal IG, here. Both her IG’s for Morgan Ashley and Mae Studio are full of daily inspiration too.