HON Celebrates Two Years!

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Celebrating TWO YEARS

What We Learned in Our First Two Years, Starting our own Business

Today HON marks TWO years of business and to celebrate, HON communications manager, Bethany Starin, sat down with Kell and Berk to reminisce a bit. The goal is to give followers and the community an inside scoop into the lessons we learned, the obstacles we overcame in these first months and the path to where we are now.

Q: How do you feel looking back over two years as HON?

Berk: “I still can’t believe it! I couldn’t be happier with the how the last two years have gone! From starting the company in my living room to growing a team, getting a studio, having our first pop-up and traveling for the company — it’s been a dream.”

Kell: “Honestly, we were really lucky! We knew it was going to go somewhere but we didn’t have any idea how quickly. Berk and I worked really hard for this and everything has brought us to this point. Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined all of this happening and now I cannot imagine my life without HON.”

Q: What have you accomplished in the last two years?

Berk: “Back to when we first started, we had all these ideas of things we wanted to do and said someday we are going to do this and someday we are going to have a studio and someday we are going to be published and travel and source — and have a team. All these things we set as goals to work towards and we can’t believe we were able to pull them off in our first year!”

Q: When did it all start?

Berk: “We met in August 2015 in Restoration Hardware where Kell was designing at the time — and instantly hit it off talking about South Africa. Kell and Brad had just gotten back and Diek and I were about to leave. Before we knew it, we had plans to go to Good Food on Montford and Brad and Diek had to drag us out of the restaurant — we could have talked for hours more.”

Kell: “We were practically neighbors at the time and we started talking about our dream to start a company where we could travel and be creative. We were getting excited, brainstorming about what company we could start. And all the sudden it was actually happening! The reality was we took matters into our own hands. We wanted to do what we loved and be passionate about what we are doing. So we started HON.”

Q: How long was it until the House of Nomad LLC was yours?

Kell: “Berk and I met and two months later we were starting our LLC!”

Berk: “It was endless hours of research for us both, creating a business plan, designing a logo and website and saying could this really work? Could we quit our jobs?”

Q: Was it a nerve wracking to make the jump?

Kell: “Yes. There nights where I was really nervous about taking the leap. I made sure I felt like it was really going to happen. For me I knew it was the right thing! At the end of the day, we both stuck to our gut and I’m so happy that we did.”

Berk: “Absolutely but with the support of our husbands, friends and family we felt like we could really pull this off. It basically took two of us working off a strong connection that showed that this is what we are meant to do somehow. It was really scary and we did a lot of calculated risk taking but in the end it was something we just really went with!”


Q: What was the startup cost?

Berk: “From a monetary perspective, it had a low start up cost. It’s $300 for an LLC! Later on, we launched the website and HON branding and that cost us about $1,000.”

Kell: “But from the personal side, it was really all about the sweat equity.”

Q: What were those first few months like?

Kell: “The reality is when you first start any business you are it all. We were the marketing team, design team, customer service team, install team, social media team -- for a full year and a half we wore all the hats. While it may not have been the best idea, it was the only option for us financially. And by the time we were hiring people we had learned from our mistakes to teach them.”

Q: What type of rhythm do your work days have?

Kell: “There is one word — urgency.” Kell laughs. 

Berk: “We truly love the hustle and get really energized by the design process. Kell and I are so similar that we are lock and step and run on all cylinders when we are together, working off each other’s energy.”

Q: What’s your relationship like?

Berk: “Sometimes best friends start a business and it doesnt work — but Kell and I became friends as we started the business and became best friends through that process, so somehow it just works! Our business coach had us a take personality tests and we tested identical in every aspect except one thing. The odds of that are one in a million!” Berk laughs.

Kell: “The friendship grew as the business grew. Our personalities are so similar. We spend all of all of our time together. We go to dinner on the weekends with our husbands and we still party together! We are friends and business owners.”

Q: What were some of your first risks after you launched HON?

Berk: “Things took off so quickly and so we started taking more risks. We signed the lease for this studio — and we bought tickets to Mexico — just several months we were hiring a team! We went to Mexico with a budget of a few hundred, just to see if sourcing works. We had a pop-up when we came back and instantly sold more than half of our sourced goods.”

Kell: “It was good to test the waters small — with lots of trial and error. One of our first trials was shipping back Thai fishing baskets and I will never forget this day. We showed up to the Thai post office with an actual refrigerator box full of baskets… lots of trial and error! After that, we felt like we could actually make this sourcing thing work and be another extention of HON. And we are headed to Bali and Morocco this summer!”

Q: What stand out as your main lessons from that first year?

Kell: “Mistakes are going to happen and they have to happen for us to grow -- but that was really hard. We would beat ourselves up and we would allow clients to set the rules because we did not have the processes in place.”

Berk: “A lot of it went back to establishing processes so we felt empowered and more confident. We were making it up as we went and a business has to evolve — but that was a bit painful at times. Once you put the stake in the ground and get your processes in place then you can treat it as a legit business.”

Kell: “There are so many learnings in that first year starting a business — even personal learnings that you find out about yourself that you didn’t even realize. For example, Berk and I had no idea how hard it is to build a team and to find the right people. We have been so lucky!”

Berk: “The first year is all about trial and error. We both had to get less hung up on things and let things go if it wasn’t working well. It is really not easy to say this isn’t working and we need to rework it from the beginning. Another personal learning is learning how to actually let go — especially when you are used to wearing all the hats. When you start a business it is really all encompassing but you have to learn how to turn it off.”

Q: What is the secret do your success?

Kell: “We are offering something different and we are finding that people are really drawn to an eclectic and global feel in their home that we feel really confident delivering. Berk and I work together on every project and we feel like that really sets us apart.”

Berk: “We are working really hard to make design approachable and to offer something very creative and unique to Charlotte are and beyond.”

Q: How does travel play into your business model?

Berk: “Travel is what really got our friendship going and bonded us in the first place! Now travel is part of our business model because we are incorporating our finds into our designs, we are selling them through local pop-ups, studio sales, our online shop and by appointment at our studio.”

Kell: “I think that’s one of the things that set us apart. It is definitely what makes us House of Nomad and the way we see the company growing is still applying that whole travel idea to whatever it is we are doing.”

Q: How do you keep your sanity day to day as entrepreneurs?
Kell:
“For me, it’s yoga and treating ourselves. We love to celebrate after a big install.”

Berk: “It’s really hard — haha — having those trips planned ahead of time! It’s like the monkey bar where we know we are reaching out for the next thing. And also, lots of wine!”

Kell: “We are both innately driven but having those trips booked pushes us harder because we know we know we won’t be able to source anything once we get there if we don’t have the budget. That’s a motivator.”

Q: What are your goals for the next two years?

Berk: “A lot of our goals we met, which is a dream come true! I’m so excited for what next two years have in store! Let’s keep the business growing, pushing design boundaries creatively through global finds and hopefully one day traveling as a team!”

Kell: “I’m hoping HON becomes a go-to source for people who are building new homes. I’d love for people in Charlotte to come into our studio and learn what we are passionate about and for us to share that.” 

Finding Your Style

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More often than not, when couples sit down in our studio for a design consultation — we quickly discover they have different styles. And most often, their design styles aren’t just distinct but they are opposite, like a West-Coast Cali-vibe lover married to someone set on Southern charm. 

But we love this. It’s always a fun design challenge to not just create a cohesive design but one that reflects dual personalities. We start by finding the common denominator — what’s something they both love and agree on? And then, we find what they are each drawn to and how we can incorporate must-have aspects from both clients.

This design process means we get to know the clients really well, which we love, and we do so by taking them through a number of exercises. Pinterest is where we start, showing them galleries of images based on what spaces we’re designing. We watch for what they are each drawn to — and what they are not drawn to. This helps establish patterns for each person and we can find where they intersect. Almost always a color emerges that they both love. We also show them examples of our previous work and ask them what they like — and what they don’t. Is this kitchen way to modern? Dining space too traditional? 

Once we start to find their style — we start the compromise game. We may have discovered they both love blue, for example, so the designs reflect that vibe as the foundation. If he’s set on a leather couch with modern wood accents, maybe we jump for that piece but then soften the design with textiles and pillows that reflect her personality. 

Another trick we’ve found so unifying for most couples is to include an unexpected element in the design. If it’s a one-of-a-kind light fixture — for example — often both clients are thrilled and drawn to it, and bond over that being in their space.

Check out this dining space, as an example (shown above)! During the design presentation, immediately they both intrigued by this light fixture. The layered glass was unique and they both loved that they’d never seen it before. As for the rest of the space, we touched on his style with the modern, streamline table and chairs. We also incorporated a wallpaper that she loved, making the space welcoming and a room that reflects them both.

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Across CLT, we designed another dining space (shown above and below) where he was drawn to a textured light fixture and she — a bold wall color. He compromised on the bright paint for her, and she went for the light fixture and a rug he liked. The space sings to both of their styles.

For the design of Kell’s house in NoDA, Kell and her husband Brad (who designs furniture!) worked together to create cohesive spaces. While Kell is drawn to modern and eclectic, if it was up to Brad — everything would have a mid-century modern vibe.

They worked together in this dining space with chairs that have a nod to mid-century with the caps — but then incorporate Kell’s personality with the hide and curved bucket seats. They both loved the light fixture and across the space, incorporated a mid-century piece from Atomic Furnishings in Asheville.

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Their bedroom also reflects a unified design with them both loving the moody feel of the deep-toned walls. Off this vibe, the duo picked a mid-century piece that Brad had his eyes on with Kell’s pick: a velvet headboard and textiles that reflect her eclectic eye. It’s a pure mix of them both.

Happy Valentine’s Eve! And cheers to all the couples who have pushed our designs to the next level with your distinct personalities and love for your homes!

Travel Tips from Thailand

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I just returned from Thailand, which is hands-down my favorite place on earth! While I’m still unpacking my bags and it’s fresh on my mind — here’s my best travel tips, and Berk chimed in here, too! Here goes our do’s and don’t’s of international travel — with some favorite Thailand shots thrown in.

1. Before You Leave

  • Grab your passport and check the expiration date. If needed, apply for a renewal - ASAP!

  • A passport holder is a fun way to keep track of your important documents!

  • Once your flight is booked, check your airline and download their app. Sign up for flight status notifications. Create the wallet option on your smart phone so you’re not juggling passports and tickets and boarding passes.

  • Research the converter you will need! Before you hit the airport, make sure your phone is charged so you aren’t in line worried about showing your boarding pass before your phone dies.

  • Apply for TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry! We think the $85 membership fee for five years is WELL worth it — it’s a lifesaver, especially for the trip home! Keep in mind you have to apply in plenty of time prior to leaving on your trip but it saves (ALOT!) of time in customs and security lines both going and coming.

  • Download 3-4 movies, a few podcasts and a book on your Kindle! Last trip, I stood in the airport trying to get my movie to download and it never did. Make sure you go board ready with some fun media to look forward to!

  • Search “sleep” on Spotify and download a sleep playlist. It’s so worth it!

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2. Pack in These Bags

  • And what I mean by “bags” is BAG! Berk and I never check a bag — unless it’s an EMPTY duffel to bring back full of goodies for our shop! This is a favorite suitcase!

  • Pack light! Just fill your carry on what you love! This not only cuts down on travel prep but strangely cuts down on stress during the trip. While in Thailand, I had less options to chose between day to day. Your favorites are always enough. Five days prior to leaving, lay everything out that you might bring. Set the items in your guest room bed, perhaps, so that you can walk in and out a few times a day and start removing things you’re not thrilled about bringing.

  • This Calpak laptop bag is tried and true and we’ve found nothing safer or easier to carry for our computers! It’s a backpack and stylish, too.

3. Tuck these in your carry on

  • Nothing is worse then chapped lips on a plane! We never leave the house without this!

  • Travel-size dry shampoo is your best friend while en-route and all trip long.

  • This (travel size) facial spray is magic for when you start to feel like you need a mid-flight refresh.

  • These no-leak containers are perfect for toiletries.

  • Berk and I both are suckers for a travel uniform, meaning our favorite joggers, a T-shirt, lightweight and comfy sneakers (perfect for when we have to sprint to our gate!) — and most of all, soft socks. Sounds ridiculous but it makes the hours and hours on a flight that much more comfortable.

  • Tiger Balm is magic — it’s a tiny container, perfect for your carry on and takes away headaches and neck/muscle tension quickly.

  • I love having these Colgate Whisps on hand to freshen my breath in between flights.

  • Neck pillow — this one is perfect, Berk and I have both used it every trip we’ve taken! It inflates/deflates so doesn’t take up too much space, and truly I can’t sleep without it!

  • Benadryl — take it 20 minutes prior to being ready to go to sleep and turn on your sleep playlist!

  • Investing in these noise-canceling headphones is a no-brainer. They dramatically changed my experience on flights! They’re incredible.

  • Eye Masks really help get your zzz’s in on a flight!

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4. Airport Tips

  • When you have long layovers, find the closest lounge to pay to get into and use their shower! Definitely worth the fee!

  • Buy some healthy snacks ahead of time or in the airport shop — they always have a nice selection and will help you feel better during your flight.

  • Buy a large bottle of water prior to boarding your flight — and try to get some steps in. We walk our terminal at least twice, just trying to prep for a long time staying seated.

5. Once You Arrive

  • When you get into the international airport, make sure to stop at the kiosk and swap out SIM card on your phone! All international airports have numbers of places to do this — and even better, it is really economical!

  • On every trip, we also rent a hot spot so we can work remote — and stream music/vidoes while we travel on the bus/subway!

Next month, expect a Guide for Thailand to be released and a summertime Guide to Tulum! In the meantime check out our Guide to Marrakech and Guide to Sayulita.

Cheers to a new year full of travel!

Introducing Our Guide to Sayulita!

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If you’re looking for an epic way to clear the winter blues, consider jet setting straight for Sayulita. It’s surprisingly affordable (check out this poolside VRBO villa!), a short flight away not to mention incredibly beautiful and full of creativity that forever changed our perspective on handmade goods.

We’ve created a downloadable Guide to Sayulita to make the trip enjoyable at every turn — best places to stay, eat, shop and enjoy a drink. Here’s our inside scoop to Sayulita with stories from favorite moments, items we brought back — and a recipe to our go-to best Mexican cocktail (no matter the weather!).

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Quickly, we learned the Sayulita artisans are not only talented — but endlessly patient. These gorgeous macrame masks had a high price point because they can take more than a WEEK to craft. Each stitch is handmade and the entire mask is covered in intricate, gorgeous designs.

We snapped these photos outside the local shop, Evoke the Spirit, and wished we had time to sign up for a class — next time, we’ll work that into our agenda. Also — invest in a mask! Every time we think of this day, we regret not bringing back more and they’re stunning art pieces!

A highlight of our trip was the Saturday market in the center of downtown Sayulita! Be sure to plan the trip around shopping this expansive market, it’s where we found all of our best handcrafted items. Artisans come from all over Mexico to sell their work at this market — from pom pom strands to otomi (traditional Mexican embroidery) to straw masks.

No joke, we immediately bought up 60 strands of pompoms from white to bright, multicolored strands to turquoise and brown — we fell in love with them. Just to give you a glimpse: we were dying laughing trying to make a path in our hotel room — we had so many bags of pompoms we could barely walk through our space.

We’ve loved working these pieces into clients home such as this little girl’s bedroom in Davidson, where our last multicolor strand was just the think to make her window more playful. The straw mask added some personality to the open shelving in a client’s Uptown apartment — it was so him and the perfect finishing touch.

We don’t just love the items in client’s designs — but we designed our personal spaces with these items in mind! In Kell’s living room, you can see that this corner includes a hammock handmade in Sayulita, a bright cactus planter we picked up at the Saturday market — and a mask handmade in Sayulita. Not only do these pieces add personality, but they give Kell a reminder of our adventures, and to keep a global, creative perspective. Our spaces are curated with things we love and items that evoke inspiration.

A BEST memory of Sayulita was the hammock. Kell landed in Sayulita with the goal of finding a black hammock for this corner and NO LIE — every local artisan we talked to told us that there was not a single strand of black string left in the town! We didn’t give up. By the end of our days in Sayulita, EVERYONE at the market knew who House of Nomad was because we were the blonde duo who kept asking for the black hammock. On the last day, one of the vendors met us with a black hammock they had just woven. So — she is extra special piece!

A trip to Mexico would never be complete without some mezcal! We stumbled upon Cava, where we did a trio mezcal tasting — and that’s when our love affair with mezcal got deep. There are days we will just dream of these modern bar stools, the warm Sayulita wind pouring into the restaurant and the kick in our favorite mezcal cocktail.

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It’s absolutely delicious and they even passed along our favorite pineapple mezcal recipe from the trip! It is not only refreshing but has a good kick to it! If you can’t fit in a trip to Sayulita, at least make this drink for a wintry Charlotte day and help you dream of warmer days. Cheers!!

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Pineapple on Fire

  • Mashed pineapple

  • Chilli Serrano (2 slices)

  • Coriander

  • Lime

  • Salt

  • 1 shot mezcal

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