We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Lotherington and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, what role has risk played in your life or career?
What makes risk risky is the unknown. As Carmine Falcone once said to Batman: “You always fear what you don’t understand.” But during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a popular opinion led many to abandon their old jobs (some by choice; others not) and venture into the unknown to start their own small business: the opinion being that it is often riskier to stay where you are and never attempt to fulfull your dreams. This can be true for two reasons: (1) staying where you are isn’t always as stable as you think and (2) you might have regrets at the end of your life if you don’t take a risk.
In college, I ran for External Vice-President of associated student government of my university. The risk at the time wasn’t so much winning or losing; it was more a question of whether or not I would be able to think of anything to say. Already a member of the student government, the suddenly-open position of External Vice-President called for an impromptu speech among the student government body for one of the members to step up and fill the recently-vacated role. I raised my hand with a minute to prepare, stood in front of the group and gave a heartfelt speech on why I would be excellent at filling the role, backed by examples of my initiative, trustworthiness and teamwork thus far. A byproduct of my impromtu risk was winning the vote that day and I went on to head a three-day Womyn of Color Conference hosted on our campus for the empowerment of minority and under-represented women.
Five years after graduating college, I started a new career in the tech industry. I took classes for two years to learn skills I never tried before. The risk was stress and late nights. The reward was being able to design and create my own website and help others to manage theirs. Having anonymity over my own business or affairs, aided by the power of technology, truly allows me a newfound sense of ability and freedom.
In 2021, I started a microevents business based on my love for a good themed party – the classy soireé kind. The risk was being too busy on weekends and working in the sun. But the reward was the expression of my creative machinations into something beautiful and useful for others: declarations of love (proposals), gifts too big to hide under wrapping paper (surprise parties), and emblems of support for an entrance into married life (bridal showers and microweddings).
The role risk has played in my life has been that of strengthening. Each time I learned what I was capable of. Each risk involved some strategy and a lot of effort. Each one consisted of a period of unknown, during which there was no way to go but forward, and one step at a time. Breaking things down into bite-sized pieces is how missions became manageable. And each risk has become a resume-builder for the next challenge I want to conquer in life. Because I can look back and see how far I’ve come, and regard this as a demonstration as to why choosing to continue to move forward is and will continue to be worth it.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
In addition to the secret sauce that having my parents’ input provide, I am proud to say that I am enormously passionate about this work. There is something about an intentionally-curated design that evokes a feeling and makes my heart soar. I do the fresh and dried florals for all of my events, and on more than one occasion while preparing them, have been overcome with emotion in anticipation of a beautiful microwedding, bridal shower or proposal that I know is going to hold so much love and joy, and be life-changing for someone. The goal of my work, after all, is to set the stage for genuine moments of connection in the world and to create space for love to abound.
Business-wise, I did not know everything before starting. But there is something so amazing at being able to learn from others and to value different points of view. In managing teams in my prior job, I learned that diversity is essential in business. I welcome differing opinions, many from those closest to me. I find that when I consider the other point of view, I am covering even a broader basis of thought than I could do on my own. This broader thought now includes the life experiences of others and being open to and giving thoughtful consideration of it has always proven a benefit to my business by allowing me to serve a broader range of customers with equal care and quality.
It doesn’t work unless you do — that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in business. Every single day from inception to the present I could choose to close my business, but every day I get up and choose to work at it. And this is true for every single business out there. It’s a different feeling from working a salaried job, where you may have a set schedule and at times “live for the weekend”. Someone else achieved a large enough business to hire you, which is a glorious thing. But owning your own business is a unique feeling of adventure, problem-solving and decision-making, where no one is making you do it, consistency is key and loving what you do is of utmost importance.
Your mindset is everything. Wellness is a huge focus for me this year, and that includes mental toughness. The ability to remain calm under pressure comes from the principles of meditation, a state where you can observe what is happening around you and not simply react but remain in control. Hot yoga is my principal way of staying in shape and de-stressing. But these practices trickle down into everything, including business. I can never go too long without taking time for self-care, as personal growth becomes necessary for business growth.
Work-life balance. In our first year in business, we basically achieved what I call a proof of concept. In our second year in business, I am focusing on scaling to the next level of production, as able. In betwixt all that, I have to make choices as to how and where to spend my time. There are a few non-negotiables… important family events, weddings, and monthly girls’ brunches. These are the items that keep me feeling like I have a personal life and that sustain me when all I see is a mountain of work in front of me.
My story is one not much different than others in aiming to do something I love: but it is one that matters to me because I am on a journey of my choosing, taking each new project as an opportunity for growth, and supporting other small businesses that I adore in and around my community. I hope to inspire others by creating a life that benefits myself and others, characterized by beauty, creativity and endless amounts of hard work. For that I am so appreciative to everyone who supports Life’s Short. Picnic! Each event is truly unique and personally handcrafted with love and attention. We hope that you will picnic and party with us in the near future, and we can’t wait to take on whatever it is you have in mind!
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.
The Edison (Downtown LA) — A roaring 20’s themed bar set in the center of a restored power plant. Descend from the ceiling down into the center of this historic building via staircase and discover little nooks of vintage lounge furniture creating an intimate ambiance, from which you can grab a cocktail off a bar cart passing by or be mesmerized by silent films playing projected onto the wall.
Malibu Farm (Malibu Pier) — The rustic farm-to-table restaurant with rattan hanging lanterns at the end of the Malibu Pier is a refreshing oasis against the mountainous coastline. After a wine-tasting adventure in the sun the previous day, a refreshing kale smoothie and surfer’s rancheros or a wet lobster burrito while gazing at the horizon will slowly ease you back into reality.
Hotel Erwin Rooftop (Venice Beach) — Go for the drinks, stay for the views. This is the spot to meet friends and acquaintances for a little rest and relaxation before sundown. Find your spot at the slim counter space along the outdoor railing to enjoy your Lavender Sunset cocktail.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my parents for being the secret sauce to all of my success in life. Where my experience comes from managing teams of people in new stores openings for a popular retail company and working on the leadership skills and behaviors needed to excel in a business setting, my parents offer the kinds of life experiences and nuggets of wisdom that I haven’t had the opportunity yet to discover on my own.
When I decided to start my picnic/microevents business, I knew it had to be aesthetically pleasing and intentionally-designed. But my parents had the final say in the level of comfort at my picnics, being the reason for the 24” diameter cushions we always use and the fan-favorite pouf seating per person option we offer. By user-testing my setups, we were able to elevate our microevents for our customers and achieve a next-level comfort to rival any others.
This is one of the reasons Kim B. said of our picnics “Everyone needs to do this at least once in their life! Everything from the color scheme to the bottle of wine was taken care of, you really don’t need to do anything but pick a date and location, and it was all SO PERFECT! The charcuterie board, the cake, the place settings, it was all beautiful and delicious. Add on the pouf seating, it’s so worth it. Highly highly recommend!”
If you have attended one of our picnics, then you have likely received the fresh floral centerpiece in a to-go bowl or wrapped in brown paper at the end of your picnic. This was a suggestion from my parents, who are passionate about over-delivering and heightening the sense of magic in our lives. Growing up, our family and grandparents would go to an authentic French restaurant, the Maitre D’ in La Jolla, every holiday season, and try the Beef Wellington and Chocolate Soufflé. Quite memorable was at the end of the evening, they would hand out a single orchid in a water tube to each of us, and it felt like we were taking a bit of that fairy dust from the magical evening home with us. This is the feeling that my parents and I decided to try and recreate for our guests.
Through thoughtfulness such as this, we hope to continue to leave our guests feeling just like Charis W. who writes: “Sarah and Life’s Short. Picnic! created a magical evening for our 50th birthday celebration. Every detail was creative perfection. Her picnic masterpieces are truly inspired, and the memories are priceless.”
Respecting the space and leaving it better than it was when we arrived is also something my parents are passionate about, as am I. We honor nature through our picnics through the use of fresh florals that we pair with our boho pampas installations, and we respect and value any space that we picnic in, whether public or private. We use tarps under our rugs not only to protect our guests from moisture but to simultaneously protect the land from wear. We throw away any trash discovered in the space before and after our events, even if it was not ours, for the benefit of our guests and our venues. We care about creating aesthetically pleasing designs within beautiful natural settings, and always do our part to treat the surroundings as the artistic backdrops that they are.
Kaite K. says of her winery location event: “We used Life’s Short. Picnic! to help us celebrate our friend’s bachelorette! Everything was gorgeous! Every detail was executed to perfection. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something so beautifully Instagram-worthy before. 12/10 would recommend!”
While these are only a few examples of how my parents influence so many of the innumerable decisions and behaviors that are part of my business as a whole, I hope that it demonstrates the core of my value system and where it originated from. And I hope that it speaks to the uncompromising level of quality, service and aesthetics that I aim to achieve and to impart to each and every one of my guests, vendors and partners alike.
Because all I want in life is to hear more comments like this from Francesca E.: “My cousin said ‘I had things checked off in my bucket list I didn’t know I had’ lmao”.
We here at Life’s Short. Picnic! cannot wait to host you and your friends and family in the near future! Let us know how we can take the stress out of setting up your celebratory occasion and make the magic happen!
Portrait Photo, Neutrals + Sage picnic https://www.instagram.com/sweetmphotography/ Proposal by the ocean https://www.instagram.com/kristenpritchardphotography/