We had the good fortune of connecting with Ayanna Listenbee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ayanna, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I am inspired by so many things! If I had to name two things that inspire me I would say nature + travel. Nature is one of the things I am most inspired by. The colors of leaves, the sound of a grassy field blowing in the wind, the many colors of a sunset or sunrise. All of these things are inspiring to me because they give me a feeling. I then take that feeling and use it to guide my designs. Travel is another big inspiration for me. I have a constant case of wanderlust and am always looking to change my surroundings. I love to visit new places, see how people dress, what they are eating, what their habits and customs are, that is inspiring to me as well, because it often gives me ideas of ways to do things differently. Photo
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a handbag/accessories designer. I started out designing clothes during college and creating custom work for clients. At the time I was working for Liz Claiborne in their swimwear division. While working there I learned a lot about what to do and more about what not to do in business. I began designing handbags in 2005 when I was pregnant with my son and wanted a cool diaper bag. That is when Ayanna Listenbee Collection was born. Since then I have designed handbags, clothing and home decor items. I’m blessed to be able to do what I love everyday, which is design, but it has definitely been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs. Over the years I’ve lost shipments, dealt with family illnesses, birthed babies and struggled financially with my company. There were many days when I questioned if I should keep going and many days where I didn’t feel like I should keep going, but there’s always been something deep inside me that will not let me quit. I’m thankful for that tenacity, and for the support and encouragement of my family to keep going. Today my business is doing better and gaining more exposure than it ever has. I feel blessed to be here, and blessed by the customers who buy my brand and tell their friends about it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It seems so long since I have been out visiting my favorite restaurants and checking out interesting places, but I would probably tell my friend to stay at the Pasea Hotel in Huntington Beach where we could rent a cabana and hang out by the pool for a day. During her visit I would suggest lunch at my favorite Thai Food restaurant, Torung, in Hollywood. The crab fried rice and shrimp cakes are amazing. We would definitely take a drive up the coast to Santa Barbara, do a little shopping, and eat lunch at my favorite restaurant, Carlito’s. The empanadas are wonderful.
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?
I would give my shoutout to Twyla Grider of Stellar Creative Collective. I met Twyla a few years ago through a good friend who is also a handbag designer. Twyla is a fashion designer and creative coach and has a wealth of knowledge about the industry. She has really helped me to develop my ideas and round out my collections in an authentic way. I consider her to be a mentor, and a friend. She is excellent at what she does, and her goal is to help you and your business succeed. Stellar Creative Collective has really been a blessing to my business.