We had the good fortune of connecting with Angie Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angie, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I started my company 14 years ago I basically worked nonstop. People would ask me “how do you get so much done?!” and my answer was always “when I’m not sleeping, I’m working”, and it wasn’t really an exaggeration. I fit in a bit of socializing (I was only 27 after all) but in general, work took priority. After about 5 years of that though I realized this wasn’t sustainable, both for my health and my relationships. I was always hoping I would “catch up” on work, that something would somehow magically change to allow me to have more time. But increasing sales and making more money did not automatically equal more time off. Slowly I realized nothing was going to change on its own. So I started by taking Sundays off, without fail. The only exception I allowed was if there was some sort of weekend selling event, and then I would force myself to take a weekday off to make up for it. Eventually I worked up to taking weekends off, and currently I’m working on taking evenings off. Buying a house that needed renovations gave me another passion to focus on, so it’s become a lot easier to leave work when I have something else to work on that excites me. I recently opened a brick and mortar shop though, which has me working a lot of Saturdays again getting everything set up. The work I put in years ago though on creating boundaries for myself has made the whole process much easier though. The key to it all was realizing no one was ever going to set those boundaries for me, I had to do it myself.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The path of my business has been a winding one, so the thing I’m most proud of has been my ability to pivot. When I first started Norwegian Wood it was a very “Etsy” focused business. I literally sold bolster pillows that looked like logs (I was the first one to make those, way back in 2007!) and Owl plush toys. Literally the most “Etsy” type products you could imagine. Once I got my bearings selling online I started focusing on my passion (and what I have a degree in) Fashion Design. This was right at the point where fashion blogging was taking off, and I was lucky enough to connect with many bloggers, thus launching Norwegian Wood as a fashion brand. We were picked up by Topshop, Anthropologie, Free People, as well as many wonderful indie boutiques. I continued as a fashion brand from 2008-2015, at which point I had met my (now) husband, who is American, and we had decided to make the move from Canada to California. I felt I had said what I wanted to say with fashion, and the move was a good time to rethink everything. I’m very proud that I listened to my gut and made this switch, a big decision that I thought long and hard about. In many ways pivots can sometimes feel way too much like a failure, so they’re hard to do. But I think holding on too tight to something that doesn’t feel right anymore is just a much slower version of failing.
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.
When you’re a Canadian who moves to California you have a LOT of houseguests from January through April, so I have a list of places I like to take friends: For the people who’ve never been to California before: – Malibu/Venice/Santa Monica: It’s a moral obligation to see the beaches. I love to try to do a beach day and take them to all three in one day. It’s interesting to compare the different vibes one after another. – Joshua Tree/Palm Springs/Idyllwild For the friends who’ve been here before: – My favourite out of the way thrift stores – Stony Point Park: A bouldering park in Chatsworth (where I live) that’s a relatively easy climb to an incredible view of the Valley – Botanica restaurant in Silver Lake – Chateau Marmont for cocktails and dinner – Yamashiro Restaurant, for the vibe
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents! They instilled in me an incredible work ethic, they’re now in their 60s and still put me to shame with how much they get done in a day. I was raised in a small town of around 400ppl in Canada, across the road from the farm where my father grew up. A very strong sense of community, a sense of civic responsibility, doing the right thing, helping your neighbours, pulling together in tough times, DIY out of necessity. All of these values serve me very well as a business owner, and it’s all thanks to them and the way they raised me and my siblings.