We had the good fortune of connecting with Akasha Greff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Akasha, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Don’t ever let anyone who didn’t tell you that you can’t. When it comes to accomplishing your goals, it is very important not to get discouraged along the way by naysayers and people who’d rather give you a list of reasons why you won’t be able to accomplish whatever you are setting out to do. Many people only see obstacles rather than opportunities. Be careful who you seek advice from along the way. It doesn’t matter where you start in life, it’s where you end up. We each have the ability to captain our own ship and that’s where risk taking comes into play. I have taken numerous risks to get where I am today both in my personal life and my career and I continue to take new risks all the time. That being said, I like to think I try to take calculated risks- ones where the only person you are betting on is yourself. That way you are singly responsible for both your successes and failures and you don’t have to rely on other people.
As I’m sure you already know, things won’t always turn out as you hope, you are sure to encounter obstacles, and things will probably get messy along the way, but, failure is always an opportunity for growth, both in your personal life and when it comes to starting a business. With limited resources to start with, I always tried to begin with smaller risks where the mistakes would be on a smaller scale and I could fine tune things better for next time.
I grew up with a single mom who always did her best for us while life threw her a fair share of curveballs. We grew up poor but she always told me to dress for the job I wanted rather than the one I had. If you want something better, you can’t just do the bare minimum, you have to go above and beyond. From the time I was a little girl growing up in the small town of Paso Robles, CA, I had plans to be the first in my family to pursue a college education, start a business, and see the world! I wanted to give my children a better chance than the one I had-which is something I think most of us can relate to.
In my opinion, the biggest risk you can take in life is not taking any risk at all. In life and in business, it’s a journey where you learn and grow along the way and you are inevitably going to make mistakes! It is all a part of the process and a crucial one at that. I think the biggest mistake you can make is letting naysayers, and fear hold you back. You are the only person standing in your way and when it comes to accomplishing your goals and building the life you desire, personally, I would rather try and fail than to risk not trying at all. I knew as a little girl that I had big plans for my life and it was going to require hard work and I would need to be willing to risk failure in order to create opportunities to better my life. In the face of obstacles, I always try to look for solutions rather than dwelling on problems. I’d say that is one of my biggest strengths that has led me on the path I am on now and contributed to my successes so far.
I will be 25 next month and I have graduated from UCSB with a Cultural Anthropology degree and started my own business importing handmade home decor and vintage rugs from artisans around the world.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Sandy Chique specializes in one-of-a-kind, home decor that is made with love and meant to last. We work directly with small artisans in Thailand, Turkey, Bali and Morocco to bring our customers special pieces for their home. We have a curated collection of vintage Turkish rugs, an assortment of pillow covers and Moroccan floor poufs, as well as baskets and pendant lighting handmade by artisans all across Africa. As a company, I am most proud of our commitment to offering handmade home decor at accessible prices while helping to support small artisans and preserving craft traditions around the globe. In a society where we are constantly replacing “things” I wanted to help my customers carefully select meaningful, one-of-a-kind pieces for their home that are made with love and meant to be passed down for generations.
To get to this point, I would not say it was a smooth road by any means and there are still days where I am overwhelmed with questions and riddled with uncertainty but I think that’s all part of the process. I think turning an idea into a business is the ultimate risk because the only person you are betting on is yourself. Every failure and every success is based entirely on you. What started out as a passion project slowly took shape over time with tons of googling how to do things. I started out importing Turkish towels to sell at local markets and now I import textiles and home decor from many different countries around the world, including Bali, Turkey, Thailand, and Morocco.
Since I am the type of person that learns best by doing, I just jumped in one day, knowing I was sure to make mistakes along the way! It took a while to evolve my business to where it is today and I still find myself googling how to do things and comparing notes with other business owners. There are some days where I really feel confident I know what I’m doing and other days, I feel like I have no idea! I think the biggest lesson I have learned so far is not to get discouraged along the way. Failures are an opportunity for growth and there are always things to be improved. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Along my journey I have encountered many incredible mentors who have collectively contributed to my success. From teachers, to family members, fellow business owners, and even complete strangers, there are so many people that I am grateful to that deserve a shoutout but I’ll try to name a few. Before I begin, I’d also like to thank the naysayers I have encountered, the ones who roll their eyes and chuckle when you tell them your big ideas…I think we all know a few…I want to say thank you for fueling my burning desire even more to accomplish my dreams. When the world tells you the odds are stacked against you, just know that you can take that as an opportunity to prove the world wrong.
First off, I’d like to thank my Mom for always believing in me and teaching me to be resilient in the face of adversity. I’d also like to thank my older sister for looking out for me and exposing me to creatives and entrepreneurs when I was a little girl growing up in a small town. I want to say thank you to my neighbors, Dave and Allison for helping me get my first business license when I was 16! I also want to thank my friend’s mom Patti for helping me apply to colleges and taking me to tour UCSB where I ended up pursuing a 4 year bachelors degree. Then there was the lady at the gym who told me, “If you don’t do it someone else will.” I also want to thank a woman named Caroline from San Luis Obispo, who took me to my first trade show in Las Vegas when I was in high school. The numerous community organizations in my home town who awarded me a scholarship to help pay for college also deserve an extra special thank you.
Then there is Victoria Strong, one of the most inspiring people I have met on my journey. She is a mother, an advocate, and an entrepreneur who gracefully runs a non profit (The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation) while also juggling motherhood. While I attended University in Santa Barbara I was a nanny to her daughters and she always rooted me on in my entrepreneurial endeavors. So to Victoria Strong, thank you for inspiring me on my journey.
Most recently, I’d like to thank a stranger named Patrick that I met at a flea market while selling Turkish Rugs. He has since bought a house full of Turkish Rugs from me and even put some of my rugs on the set of Ozark! With his support and the support of my online customers, I have been able to open two showrooms in the last few months that I am very proud of. I could not do what I do without the support of people like Patrick and others who support my small business, along with my family, friends, and others who have been rooting me on along the way, including the naysayers who reminded me that nothing worth accomplishing is ever going to be easy.
Iliana Coronado Photography