We had the good fortune of connecting with Ellise Uyema and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ellise, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
In a past life my mom owned a long term care home, so she always encouraged my sister and I to go into business for ourselves. It just so happened that I had started a new job and I heard something from the General Manager that I didn’t agree with – she told us that she had to miss her children’s first day of school because “mommy had to make money.” I don’t currently have kids, but I didn’t want to be put in a scenario where I had to choose between my future kid’s milestones and going to mandatory work meetings.
I decided to look around my house for problems that needed solutions. I found a bunch of used candle jars that I had intended on repurposing but never had, so I cleaned them out, bought some plants, and started to assemble succulent arrangements. It was so much fun that I thought, “How cool would it be to create a DIY gift box that people could use for multiple purposes?” I took $500 from my checking account (all I had left) and purchased a domain name, bought supplies for research and development, and jumped into the deep end on trying to figure out how to put this business together.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
After graduating from the University of Washington, I moved back to Hawaii for 6 months trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was so lost that I ended up working 3 jobs in 3 completely different industries. I decided to go into the fashion industry and ended up moving back to Seattle where there was more job opportunities. I spent 3 years working my way up the salesfloor ladder to an Assistant Manager and got stuck in that position, not being able to advance into corporate because I was “too quiet.” Thankfully my former manager was working for an eCommerce company and graciously referred me to a role on his team. I honestly don’t know how I would have been able to break into the tech world without his reference, and I am eternally grateful for our friendship,
Fast-forward 8 years later, I’ve worked for some of the largest companies in the world and for the most part have loved my experiences with them. However, the one hurdle I’ve always had was that I came across as shy, quiet, and reserved. Historically, I think that Asians are categorized as meek or docile, and unfortunately I fell into that grouping at all the companies I’ve worked for. That’s why the idea of owning my own business was so intriguing to me, to know that I’m my own boss and that I can set my own standards and goals. I wasn’t measured by how loud or outspoken I was, but instead was measured by the effort I put into my business.
One of the lessons I’ve learned while working in corporate America but also running my business, is that it’s important to uplift and support others on their own journey. While it may look like I’m “self-made” I don’t believe that’s an accurate portrayal. Yes, I run this company by myself, but I’m also supported by a network of family, friends, and people who are going through a similar journey as me. There are days when I don’t want to pack orders, or days when I think my business is failing. That’s when I tap into my network for moral support and laughter! I’ve found that it’s important to surround yourself with positive influences, there ain’t no time for negativity!
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?
I would start at the iconic Pike Place Market and walk around the vendor stalls, grab a bunch of flowers and possibly a coffee from the first Starbucks. Seeing the gum wall is a MUST and if they’re into selfies, the Seattle Selfie Museum is a fun place to take pictures and have a laugh!
We would venture our way into West Seattle where I live and walk around Alki Beach Park, making sure to stop by Luna point to take a picture of the famous Seattle skyline. From there we’d grab brunch from Luna Park Cafe and a quick espresso from Hotwire Coffee. Boutique shops like WEND Jewelry and Alair Gift Shop will satisfy your shopping needs with tasteful jewelry and quirky gifts.
After the city life calls for some nature exploration, so we’d hop in the car and drive up to Bellingham for some sightseeing and shopping! Whatcom Falls Park is beautifully maintained and there are many trails to walk through. We’d grab lunch at Bantom (Chicken and Waffles are delicious!), do some shopping at Adorn Boutique and Eleventh St Goods, and end the evening with a Crab dinner on the San Juan Cruises.
Heading south, we would take a detour to Whidbey Island via Deception Pass (hope you’re not afraid of heights!) and stop by Cranberry Lake to go standup paddle boarding. Driving down the island we’d stop by Fort Ebey to hike the trails, and then Coupeville where there’s a cute waterfront bistro called Front Street Grill. Don’t forget to pass through Langley where we’d do some last minute shopping and pick up bagels to go at Whidbey Island Bagel Factory!
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 like to dedicate this to my parents who have always encouraged me to carve my own path and never settle. I was born in South Korea and adopted at 4 months old, and they provided me a life that I could have never even dreamed up. My “why” in building this business is so that I can take care of my family, and as my parents are aging I want to be able to take care of them not only financially but also give them my time.
Other: Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/livelongandplant/_created/ Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LiveLongandPlant
Devin Larson, Backcountry Bohemians