We had the good fortune of connecting with Andie Cohen-Healy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My story is an odd one, to say the least! I’m one of the few people who can honestly say that chickens changed the direction of my life. I basically went from the corporate world of television to being a headpiece artisan and vintage hat curator….definitely not your typical entrepreneurial path! There wasn’t an exact linear thought process of how and when I started my business. It developed organically over time through a series of odd circumstances and I followed my heart. The “short” version is that I moved to Los Angeles from New York City, where I had been the Director of Transmission (Satellite and Fiber Optics) at MTV Networks, to be with my (then) fiancé, who is now my husband. When we bought our house, we were inexplicably gifted 2 baby chickens by the sellers. As a New Yorker, I had no earthly idea what to do with chickens. But I fell madly in love with them and they became an important part of my life. When it was time to get married, I knew, since I was a “later-in-life” bride, that I had no interest in a poufy-foofy generic bridal veil. I wanted something that represented my personality and confidence, something with a bit of whimsy but also very elegant. I burst out laughing when I saw a bridal magazine picture of a woman walking down the aisle with a chicken under her arm…that was more or less my “AHA” moment! I decided to incorporate our chickens lovely, naturally-molted feathers into my bridal headpiece when we got married in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. I crafted a unique and beautiful fascinator comprised of organza petals, pearl sprays and my chickens’ feathers…and people went crazy over it. Requests for others like it started coming in. I decided to launch ‘The Feathered Head’ as a small business and e-commerce site offering elegant one-of-a-kind and hand-crafted bridal and cocktail headpieces incorporating feathers, vintage jewelry and unusual elements. I eventually added vintage hats that I thought to be special to the collection, and they complemented the fascinators, headbands, clips, combs and veils. It was mostly as an artistic distraction from my day job in which I was quite unhappy (though still in the satellite business, I was no longer at MTV at this point). But I was also serious about seeing what I could do with this bizarre concept, and inherently knew there were other women who would want something as personal to them as my chicken feather fascinator was to me. So, recognizing the current backyard chicken craze, feather-mania and headpiece resurgence due to Kate Middleton, timing was perfect. One vintage hat restoration even made it to The Today Show during the (first) Royal Wedding week and was worn on a Kathie Lee & Hoda segment — it became the turning point.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The Feathered Head is my small business built on passion and personalized attention. Regardless of whether I am custom-designing a bridal fascinator, crafting a commissioned feather heapiece for a burlesque performer or re-selling a lovingly restored vintage hat to a vintage-lover, I want every one of my clients to have their own version of my “chicken feather headpiece”. What I mean by that is, I know what it feels like to have the perfect piece on your head. It’s critical to me that they have that feeling, too. I know what an expression of individuality that is and how utterly happy it makes people. It’s only a hat or headpiece, I know, but some of my clients agonize because they think they could never pull off a certain style — perhaps through insecurity or self-doubt. What makes my businesses unusual is that I have the ability and desire to listen to what my clients are actually saying they want. I listen to not only the words they are using but what I think lies just beyond them. That helps me to work personally with them, one-on-one, to suggest the style that I think they will love. Maybe it’s something they never thought of (common with brides). Believe it or not, I’ve seen women burst into tears when I find the perfect piece for them…it’s as if they’re giving themselves permission to have fun and step outside their style-box! If you read some of the testimonials on my website, that’s probably what I’m proudest of. The biggest professional risk was…um…everything! I left an industry (satellite and fiber optic transmission of live TV events) where I was well-known, had a great reputation, made good money and loved the people I was working with (particularly at MTV). I turned all of my attention to an super-niche product (headpieces and hats), where there wasn’t a perceived need. To voluntarily remove myself from the corporate merry-go-round for an unusual tiny business might sound insane to some (they’re probably right) but passion has a way of compelling you forward. In a million years I couldn’t have guessed that I would end up doing what I’m doing, nor could the stakes have been any higher. But I am deeply grateful for all the oddball things fate has thrown my way, and thankful that I had the confidence to take smart and bold risks. It was, and still is, worth it!!! And as for lessons I’ve learned along the way, too many to mention! Life is short and I’ve learned that you have to take chances, regardless of the outcome. True knowledge comes from the journey of exploration of self. I’ve learned that you can have a career born of passion, and that your passions are not random. They are your calling and must be paid attention to in some way that gives you meaning. I’ve learned that my worst day now, as my own boss, is better than the best day in my old job. What I do now makes me feel alive, authentic and vibrant. I deeply care about what I’m doing and the people I’m doing it for…that is true happiness and success to me. My lifestyle is healthier because my entire outlook on “work” became one of joy, curiosity and excitement; What more could you ask for? Plus I get to hang out with my chickens in my studio!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
With Covid rampaging at the moment, it’s difficult to plan a great itinerary and visit places. Obviously creativity is called for and safety is of the utmost importance. So if my best friend was visiting, the best time ever might consist of us sitting in my backyard drinking a ton of wine, making a kick-ass meal from scratch, drinking more wine and then watching a great movie! If it were a different time, I would want to show them things that are not obvious tourist traps in LA. I would recommend things that are off the beaten path, such as hiking to the Hollywood sign, taking advantage of free museum days, heading to Catalina Island, browsing Grand Central Market, taking a walking tour of downtown LA (Bradbury Building a must-see, walking the Downtown Art Walk) and picking various ethnic areas in the city and taking advantage of wonderful local, authentic cuisine. Mostly it would depend on my friend’s interests but I would involve as much support of local businesses and restaurants as possible!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m giving a big old shoutout to my Mom, who in addition to her ongoing encouragement and love, also carved out her own business when she was in her 40s. With zero training, she grew her business and was selling vintage jewelry to some of the most prestigious fashion boutiques. I saw that while I was growing up, not realizing seeds were being planted. She has a natural ease with people and I think I’ve inherited that same trait. She was a great role model!
1) SwingDoor Studio 2) Tatum Kathleen Photography