We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Quimby and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karen, what role has risk played in your life or career?

My life has always been full of risks. Though I’m an A type personality and typically like a plan and a lot of organization, I have always taken risks with my career. I have a passion for real estate as well and those endeavors have always been risky but almost always rewarding. I never think about failure. It really doesn’t cross my mind. Passion enters the picture and takes over and erases any fear or apprehension. I always had a positive role model in my grandfather, who ran a very successful small business. I know that’s not true for everyone and small business often has many more failures than successes. I’ve owed retail clothing stores since I was 23. I took an 18 year break and literally fell into the cosmetic industry where I climbed the ladder quickly and became a Vice President in Product Development for companies like Urban Decay and Smashbox. The risks I took in that career were big ones as well. Despite the advice of all of my peers, I went to work for a company that had experienced a huge decline in sales, after their initial launch. I didn’t listen, went to work for that company and watched sales go from 1.5 million to 80 million in 6 short years. That company was Smashbox and is now a leader in the beauty world. I am proud to know my products still remain best-sellers in the line. Ultimately, my risks have always been positive in one way or another. Some don’t feel positive at first, but there is always an outcome that felt very “meant to be”. I think that positivity is what makes risk taking easier for me. It may blind me from seeing the reality of certain situations, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I sat to write this and thought about what it is I really do, I selected “artist/creative” over “business” because when I opened Twig & Willow, it was purely for passionate and creative reasons. I wanted a creative outlet where I had full creative rights without clients and bosses sharing their opinions. I had a vision to open up a neighborhood shop that was easy for people to run into when they needed a gift or a little treat for themselves. I really focused on people’s everyday lives and wanted to create a lifestyle shop that was practical but really special at the same time. I pictured a well curated space full of special things and things people could use and wear again and again. It would become an extension of my closet and filled with all of my favorite things. I always had retail in my blood. My grandfather owned a furniture store and my Grandmother was a buyer for a small clothing boutique chain. I also worked in retail starting at age 16 and owned my first boutique in SF when I was 23. I learned a lot of life and business lessons that first go-round and always wanted to have another shop again someday. I had always told my husband that if this corner shop by our house ever became available, I would take it! One day I saw the sign go up and so it began. When we opened, I was also running my own LA based Product Development and Branding firm, in the beauty industry. My neighbor Billie, agreed to be my business partner, to handle all the things I don’t enjoy doing (i.e. business, operations, HR, etc). So it seemed taking on another project was possible and it was a perfect fit! I enjoyed doing all the things I loved like buying, merchandising, marketing and branding. As the years went on and a second location was opened, Twig & Willow became more successful. It also became more work and I had trouble managing it all. About 8 years into the business, Billie decided that she needed her full attention on her family and two small girls and I chose to continue on solo,with shops. I made a decision to leave my 23 year long career in beauty and focus only on the business. 11 years later, Twig & Willow is a household name in Long Beach and I couldn’t be more proud. We’ve expanded our website presence (with a little help from something called Covid!) and now we’ve been able to really share our brand all over the country. Everyday, we get orders from all over the US. When I sit and think about what makes Twig & Willow so special, it’s really the vision I go back to 11 years ago and that initial desire to create a place where people can go to buy special gifts for friends and family. It’s also a place that’s filled with affordable clothing and accessories that complimented people’s daily lives. I always hear our customers raving about how many times they wear the clothing they buy here and how they keep it for years and years, because it’s comfortable, practical and effortlessly stylish.

I don’t think you ever stop learning in business. Right when you think everything’s running well, something flips your world upside down. I think when most people dream about starting a business, they have no idea how challenging it is. It’s the hardest thing you can probably choose as a profession, for the least amount of money (in my opinion!). You do it because you love it, not because you think you will earn a lot. The creativity is only 1/6th of what I do. Most days I’m putting out fires, babysitting suppliers, and managing people and processes. Especially now with Billie gone, I am forced to do a lot of things that don’t bring me joy. But at the end of the day, I’m proud and I’m grateful and blessed. We survived a recession, a pandemic, riots and the everyday challenges that present themselves. It’s never boring! I think the best advise I could ever give to anyone wanting to start a business, is go work for one first. Learn on someone else’s dime and witness every single thing. If you can picture yourself there, then go for it! You’ve got to have a strong work ethic, be extremely diligent and forward thinking, have strong problem solving and relationship skills and most of all, passion! If you don’t have these qualities I’d say, think twice.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
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.

I always try to do things that center around the Southern California Lifestyle, when I have guests in town. If I can get them on a paddle board or in a duffy boat, the water and shoreline are one of my favorite things to share. We would walk on Retro Row to shop all the special vintage stores and top it off with lunch or happy hour on the patio at Restauration. For dinner’s, we’d hit up Lola’s, Nicks and Saint & Second. I’d take a bike ride through the canals on Naples Island and stop off at Michael’s roof top for a glass of wine and a lovely charcuterie plate. I also enjoy breakfast at the Starling diner and brunching mornings at The Boat House on their massive, sunny deck. I think one of the things my guests enjoy most is just walking around Belmont Heights and Shore, looking at all the unique homes and neighborhood finds. It’s such a cute and eclectic city that feels like a town.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My grandparents, my step father and my mother are my hero’s. I watched them struggle, rise and always come out on top. they taught me a strong work ethic and always supported me, without reservation. It’s also hard to be the mate of a business owner so I thank my husband for his patience and support (financially and mentally!).

Website: www.twigandwillow.com
Instagram: @twigandwillow
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/twigandwillow and https://www.facebook.com/TwigandWillowBK
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/twig-and-willow-long-beach
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgobKwE5chP7HVD9Qt-OrUw
Other: Two locations: Belmont Heights – 3740 E. 4th Street Long Beach, CA 90814 Bixby Knolls – 4130 Atlantic Avenue Long Beach, CA 90814 Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/twigandwillow/_shop/

Image Credits
underhillphoto@gmail.com Thomas Underhill

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.