BELONG: Tell us a little about yourself

http://rachelhavel.com

MIKA: I’m a southern girl at heart, living in beautiful Denver, Colorado. A few of my loves: my family—husband Drew + new baby boy Austin (9 months!)—cups & cups of coffee (because #newmom), red wine, and traveling to new places.

 

BELONG: What did you do before Aspen Lane?

MIKA: For the first 8 years of my career post-college, I actually worked within the organization that was the foundation for Women of Faith. I began my career in the live events industry, working all aspects of the business including product development, event management and planning, on-site management, and sponsorship sales and activation. I began working for myself about 5 years ago and haven’t looked back throughout my various entrepreneurial adventures.

BELONG: How do you define Aspen Lane?

MIKA: Fresh + modern goods for every season of life. We create products and gifts that fill all kinds of gifting needs—personalized products, wedding, baby, seasonal, and home items.

http://rachelhavel.com

BELONG: What made you think, “Hey, I could curate this awesome line of pretty products… ”?

MIKA: I saw a need in the marketplace for fresh product lines, especially in the space that serves small retailers and boutiques. The market is dominated by large, well established (and well funded!) product manufacturers. I wanted to be a face bringing fresh products, with most of them being manufactured and created right here in the United States.

BELONG: What attracted you to the idea in the first place?

MIKA: As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve always had about 3-5 business plans locked-and-loaded in an excel spreadsheet somewhere. When I relocated to Denver three years ago for my husband’s job, I found myself at a crossroads. My consulting career had me traveling a lot and I was ready to try something new. I was living in a beautiful new state, and wanted to be home more to establish roots. I decided to start a product web store on the side manufacturing custom products and all of a sudden I had a growing business fairly quickly. My futuristic strength (see Strengths Finder) kicked in and I dreamed of bringing these goods to the masses and to retailers. 2 years later, we operate direct to consumer with our e-commerce site shopaspenlane.com, and are in over 125+ retailers (and counting!) nationwide.

BELONG: Where does your stuff come from?

MIKA: Most of our product is made in America—right here in Denver. Some of our gift lines, such as our drinkware and coffee mugs, we do import and then customize and print them here in the US.

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BELONG: What is/was your biggest challenge?

MIKA: Figuring out this whole “balance” thing as a working mother.  And let me be clear—I don’t like using the word “balance.” I had a baby nine months ago and so my first “baby,” Aspen Lane, is now in second place to sweet Austin.  I used to work A LOT (and still do), but that looks very different in my current season of life. I’ve accepted that this season will still require a lot of work, it will be messy, will require being flexible, and will require a lot of help!  Now, I say “no or maybe later” to a lot of opportunities, take longer to answer emails, and have had to scale back on accelerated growth. I think we have to realize what things we DO want and define our own “balance”.

This quote from Rebekah Lyons says it better than I can: “Some women uncover their talents before having kids and then shelve them while raising their children. They’ve experienced a sense of fulfillment in living out their purpose but believe they must set aside their pursuits for the sake of motherhood. They’ve bought into the belief that their gifts and child rearing are disparate parts, unable to coexist. Instead of fighting to figure out the balance, they stuff their dreams into a box marked ‘motherhood’.”

BELONG: What has been the biggest surprise (good or bad) about your experience?

MIKA: I am always humbled when I think that people actually buy products from us! I know that sounds cheesy, but is really warms our heart when get pictures from customer of their newborn baby in our personalized collection—or share a picture of a pillow in their new home. We help put smiles on people’s faces and get to take part in many milestones in our customers’ lives. I realize that success isn’t guaranteed just because I work hard, but I’m grateful that we are able to continue to do this on a daily basis.

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BELONG: How has this experienced changed your life?

MIKA: It has made me redefine what “success” is for me and my family. Success has meant different things in different seasons—sometimes it was defined in things that are not financially measurable (flexibility, extra time for vacations)—things that are well worth the sacrifice and responsibility of being an entrepreneur.

BELONG: If I had to do it over, I would …

MIKA: I would have hired more team members sooner. I have an amazing, and growing, team working alongside of me in Denver and around the country. It takes faith to invest financial resources in people, but that is the only way you will grow and scale as a business. At first I tried to do everything myself—and for a while I had to, before the consistent revenue was there. I’m learning to plan my next position “hire” and figure out a way to financially make it work.  As one of my favorite authors says, ““We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to”

BELONG: What would you tell the woman who is thinking about starting a new venture.

MIKA: Say YES and do things scared! I face decisions and planning that flat out SCARE me on a weekly basis. If I said no to opportunities or didn’t dream big because I was scared, I would not be where I am today. Work through the fear, but don’t let it paralyze you.  Also as Jon Acuff says: “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Comparison is poison.”

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