Girl Talk: Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

If you’ve been following here for any amount of time you know Caroline, my bestie, and My Kind of Lovely, our store. We’ve had quite the journey together and Caroline and I are literally lifelong best friends. We grew up next door neighbors, stayed friends through high school, college, and beyond and 4 years ago started My Kind of Lovely. It started as a traveling trunk show boutique and has now evolved into 2 stores and an online business. It’s been quite the journey and I couldn’t wait to have Caroline as my co-business owner and best friend here for the Girl Talk series! Also she’s our first boutique owner of the series!

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

Meet Caroline of My Kind of Lovely…

How did MKL get started and how did the dream come to become something more that just a dream?

Real long story short:: about 5 years ago, Katie and I were both working in corporate jobs feeling unsatisfied in our roles and wanting something more. Katie had been blogging for a little over a year I believe, and she was beginning to talk about taking a leap of faith and moving to NYC to pursue that and find a job in fashion.  Katie and I have basically done everything together all of our lives, and as soon as she begin applying for jobs there, I knew this could very well potentially happen and I was determined to keep her here.  I remember texting with her one night in December being like- we can create our dreams jobs. I don’t know what they are- but we can do it, and we should do it!! I’m definitely a little bit more of a dreamer than Katie, and often times she goes along with my crazy ideas while always offering that little more realistic point of view… lol.  Although neither of us had one ounce of retail experience, I began tossing out ideas of us opening a prom shop… mainly bc that was the next big thing I could think of that people would begin shopping for in a big way.  We kinda laughed about this possibility, but just the idea of us running our own business was really exciting. A few weeks later, although we weren’t really sharing this with too many other people, we hired a branding company to really help us hone in on what it was we wanted to do.  We pictured our dream job, in our dream location, with our dream customers. Everything was happening quickly, and soon we were at our first market in Atlanta like two fish out of water.  Just two small town girls with a big dream- ha!! We were clueless. We walked in thinking we’d just look around and get an idea for how everything worked and boy did we! We quickly learned that if we wanted to open any time soon, we were already months behind the eight ball.  We went back to our hotel room that night, looked through lookbooks and line sheets… and we were definitely a bit overwhelmed and discouraged.  The next day, I remember driving over to market and Katie’s dad, an entrepreneur himself, called to check on us. I vividly remember pulling into that parking garage and her dad saying- girls, you’e gotta spend money to make money!! It was the push we needed and that afternoon we made our first purchases and on that drive home we made plans for our first big event: ‘Madisonville’s First Trunkshow”. Bc we were still working on our name with the branding company, this was the best way we knew how to get the word out and hopefully create some excitement! Although Madisonville, our hometown, wasn’t part of the “dream” we were journaling about, we had gotten a lot of feedback and support instantly from our hometown family and friends, and so this made the most sense to kind of get us off and running.  Over the next two months, we worked our 8-5 jobs and met almost every single night for hours working on our branding (details like deciding on the exact shade of pink we liked, or how we wanted our name to make people feel) and planning all the details of our first event.  I kid you not, but ‘Madisonville’s First Trunkshow’ was going to go down in a family friend’s recently “renovated” dairy barn. Yes. You read that right.  Our hopes and dreams and our first shot of making this big dream come true was all coming down to a trunk show in our small hometown in a friend’s dairy barn in their backyard!!! It wasn’t quite what we had always pictured, but it made sense, and we were excited.  The day before our event, we decided on our business name, and we debuted it on a chalkboard the very next day.  My Kind of Lovely was officially born on a spring-like day March 15, 2014. We had everything set and ready to go, and ten minutes before it was supposed to start, cars were pulling in.  What happened in the next few hours, I’ll never ever forget for the rest of my life.  People we had known our entire lives, complete strangers, friends from other cities all came to show their support and we sold out of everything. At the end of the two-day event, we were literally on cloud nine as we popped the bubbly and cheersed to what we had no idea was only the beginning.

(note: I just reread that for proofreading and I’m crying and laughing and covered in chills. dreams do come true, y’all!!)

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

What’s one of your favorite MKL memories?

Ok, well besides opening day, my favorite memory was our “MKL Turns One” first birthday event. After our successful first trunkshow, we continued shows over the next few months, before I eventually went part-time at work as we opened our Pop-Up Shop in you guessed it- our sweet, small hometown, Madisonville, Tenn! Two months later, we both quit our jobs and we opened our store full-time just in time for the holidays.  We had ups and downs and learned oh-so-much in that first year, so once March 15 was rolling around again, we knew we wanted to celebrate in a big way. We begin planning a huge bash at the store, complete with swag bags and flower crowns and photo booths. I remember standing there again minutes before we opened the door to our event, and our team, which had grown to four, all recapped our game plan.  Nervously, I remember opening the door, which at the time was a solid door that you couldn’t even see out of, and so I had no idea what was on the other side. Within seconds, the line that had been wrapped around the building (ahhh!!) filled our store as we stood there once again in complete shock. It was the most exciting fun-filled day as everyone truly helped us celebrate our first year in business like we only could’ve dreamed.  After the event, we hosted a small dinner at a family friend’s house for our friends, families and our small MKL Dream Team.  We were surrounded by our favorite people all day long.  It was literally perfect.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

Starting a business is hard. What’s one of your biggest tips for people wanting to start a business or people who are just starting out?

You said that right! I think my biggest piece of advice is to go into it willing to ask questions and learn from the ones that have already been there and done that.  Although it’s nerve-wracking and definitely humbling, putting yourself out there and being open to the idea of “community not competition” will be the best thing you can ever do.  We’ve met with other business owners so many times, and not only do you learn from them, you’ll also leave feeling inspired and motivated!! Surround yourself with like-minded business owners.  These people are the only ones who will ever truly understand all the work that you do, day in and day out.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

What’s your favorite and least favorite work tasks?

I’m a big planner, so working on events is probably my favorite thing we do. Our events are one of the ways we are able to set ourselves apart, and so we take a lot of pride in creating events that are unique and fun for our customers and friends! I enjoy the brainstorming of these, and promoting it!! Social media is basically our only form of advertisement, so taking to Facebook & Instagram to share about our upcoming events and creating that hype is something I live for.

Ugh.. I’m so messy, and being organized isn’t my strong suit. And as we continue to grow, so does my to-do list each and every day. Staying on top of a tidy backroom is crucial, and definitely something that overwhelms me at times.  Plus, my inbox.  My inbox would be a close second.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

We’ve added a new member to the MKL Girl Gang! How has transitioning back to work with Lottie been for you?

Yay!! First of all, as crazy as it sounds because the thought of children for me was way off in the future, when we were first working with that branding company and talking about “the dream”, I remember thinking about creating a space that would equally allow me to be a hands-on parent one day. Like, I honestly remember even writing down how great it would be to slap a note on the door to say- gone to my child’s school play!! be back soon!” HA!! But I do feel incredibly blessed for the flexibility that owning my own business provides me.  Yes, we work what feels like 24/7, but having the option to bring Lottie to work with me, or honestly even knowing that I can put that note on the door to say be back in five, is another aspect of a dream come true for me. I feel lucky to have this opportunity, to have the best business parter in the world in Katie, and the best husband and support system to help me care for Lottie while I am at work each day.

With that said.. it’s been extremely easy and challenging all at the same time.  Easy because I do have that flexibility and support system, and so going back to work, or even working from home, was pretty seamless even a month after birth. But challenging bc I have a hard time of turning work “off”.  So much of our business is done via email or text messages or social media, or direct messages, etc., etc., so it’s hard to escape it. I forget that texting about work at 10:00 at night isn’t normal, or when you get a DM on Instagram “after hours” that you don’t have to answer it immediately! I deal with a lot of anxiety or guilt, worrying that I’m working when I need to be soaking in these moments as a mom. Finding that work/life balance is something I’m definitely working on 🙂

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

What’s a few of your all time favorite MKL products?

Oh gosh, that’s so hard!! Off the top of my head, I’d say our Show me Your Mumu sweaters, specially the Fireside Sweater with the Bullhead. I love it so much, I have it in two colors and wear them both all. winter. long. I also loved when we offered the Bourbon & Boweties xx Moon and Lola bangles. I created the perfect little stack, complete with a peach they customized for me! Everyone loved these and I often times still seeing our customers wearing these even from years ago. Oh! And our Babes Support Babes tees.  This t-shirt line was so empowering and I loved everything it represented! Celebrate the babes, friends!!

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

How has starting a business and owning/running a business changed you?

Well, basically in every way possible. LOL. Before My Kind of Lovely, I didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted out of life.  I think I was doing things, or pursing career ideas based on what I thought I was supposed to do, versus what would really make me happy.  So now, in owning my own business, I’ve become a much more confident individual.  I know this is what I’m meant to be doing, and I’m willing to fight like hell to make sure it happens. I’ve realized through that how hard-working and determined I am. Not that I didn’t give it my all in prior jobs, but now that it’s my own, I’m obsessed with my work and I take it very seriously.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

What’s one of your big, crazy dreams?

Lordy, I can come up with some doozies! Right now at this very moment, I miggghhttt just be dreaming of creating a little baby shoppe that might just turn into something bigger. My Kind of Lottie… that has a pretty good ring to it, dontcha think?! 😉

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

What’s your favorite and least favorite parts of being a business owner? 

Favorite: my favorite part of owning My Kind of Lovely is that I do so with my very best friend in the world.  Like how many people can say that get to live out their dream with their childhood best friend?! Least favorite: how overwhelming it can be at times. There are alot of moving parts, and I often times feel like I’m running around like a chicken w/ it’s head cut off from task to task.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

How do you get and stay inspired?

I love getting out of the shoppe from time to time to reenergize myself.  Something small like working from a coffee shop for the day, can really boost my mood. Or chatting with other business owners really fuels me. Any time Katie and I need to make big plans, we try to meet at new spots downtown to get inspired.  Or this summer, we took a mini field trip to Nashville to visit one of our favorite stores for inspo & girl time meeting and chatting with the owner there.  We’re currently dreaming of a trip to Austin to hang with our friends at Packed Party. Nothing like a new city like Austin, Texas to help you feel ready to take things up a notch, am I right?!

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

{Road trip to see Maggie from Magpies & Magpies Girl and she’s literally the sweetest person ever}

What’s one your favorite recent purchases? 

Yesterday, I bought a new bronzer and I feel like my life has been changed. It’s pricey, but no one likes a pale face, and a little goes a long way.  Invest in the bronze my friends.  No regrets. {shop it here}

5 things you can’t live without?

  1. dry shampoo
  2. my new o-venture key ring from MKL (had it one week and I don’t remember life prior)
  3. bath time
  4. my barefoot dreams robe
  5. comfy, pretty pjs (I became pj obsessed while pregnant. I feel like a nice pair of pjs is all you need to feel pretty & comfy in my 30s and while being a tired new mom- ha!) currently eyeing these and think I’m about to pull the trigger. I die for pink + red and polka dots.

What motivates you?

Today, Lottie. I want to be the best version of me possible all for her. It’s crazy how becoming a parent changes you and immediately puts things into perspective.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

Champagne or Cocktails?

Beach or Desert?
beach, even though you’ll find me at da pool

Fries or Pizza?
hmmm that’s a tough-y, but going with pizza. peach and I love a good dijourno

Cats or Dogs?
dogs all day. love my little Lucy & Lola

Sweet or Salty?

Summer or Winter?
summer, but fall is really my jam.

Caroline Gillem of My Kind of Lovely

You can follow Caroline on instagram here and you can follow us at My Kind of Lovely on instagram here!