Category Archives: spotlight on
Since having Lawson, I’ve found a few resources that have helped me navigate this thing we call motherhood. One of the best is Modern Milk, a community wellness center located in Scottsdale whose mission it is to “educate, encourage and empower today’s modern mom.” With breastfeeding support, pre- and post-natal education and fitness classes, Modern Milk has something for every stage no matter where you are on the parenthood journey. Lawson and I have taken their Mommy and Me yoga class (so chaotic and fun!) and we attended their Halloween party this fall. Modern Milk also has an on-site naturopathic pediatrician that has helped Sybil with her reflux and gas pains. Not to mention, they have the cutest boutique of must have items!
Every time I check out their site, I find another class I want to take. I honestly could not rave about Modern Milk more. All of this makes me so excited to welcome Modern Milk’s owner, Stephanie Nguyen, to the next installment of my spotlight on local creatives and businesses here in the Phoenix area. I admire Stephanie’s honesty about all aspects of parenthood. Read on for a Q&A with her!
Me: What is your background? What inspired you to create and open Modern Milk?
Stephanie: My background is as a labor and delivery nurse and women’s health nurse practitioner. I’ve worked in women’s health for over 13 years. After I had my own kids I really became passionate about breast-feeding and realized there wasn’t a lot of help out there for moms who struggled. That’s what inspired me to start Modern Milk.
Me: What is a typical day like for you?
Stephanie: A typical day for me is off and running from the get-go! I try to wake up between 5 and 5:30 to check emails and get some work done before the kids wake up. On a good day I will shower and be ready before they wake up, too. Once the kids wake up it’s get ready for school time – ahhhh!! This involves breakfast, get dressed, brush hair and teeth, shoes and making lunches. And of course the kids usually move at a snail’s pace, so I usually have to wake them up pretty early to make sure we are on time (which usually means right on the dot without a minute to spare!) My husband or I will drop my oldest daughter off at kindergarten at 8 AM and and my youngest goes to preschool two mornings a week. When both the kids are in school, I try to utilize that time to see patients for breastfeeding at Modern Milk. On the days that I have my youngest with me, I either work from home or bring her to Modern Milk with me and put her in our childcare area. Usually when I’m at Modern Milk I’m either seeing patients or teaching classes. The rest of the time I try to work from home as much as I can just because it’s easier with the kids. We don’t have regular childcare, so between my husband and I, we juggle the kids and have to do what we can to make it work! Luckily we have a great staff at Modern Milk who fills in a lot of the gaps for us. They help us keep the store running smoothly even when we aren’t there. In the afternoon I’m lucky if my youngest will nap for me, but usually if she does I have to wake her up to go pick up her sister from school at 3:00. Then we head home, maybe do a homework worksheet, start getting dinner ready so we can hopefully eat an early dinner and do bath and bedtime. I would love to say my kids go to bed at 7:30 but I’m lucky if that ever happens! By the time we do bath, get ready for bed, read books it’s usually between 8 and 8:30 before anyone is actually in bed. The afternoon with the kids always seems super busy to me, I can rarely get much work done! Sometimes I’ll see patients in the afternoon and my husband will do the afternoon with the kids. It all just depends on the day and how many moms we have scheduled for consults. Once everyone is asleep I work a bit, return any remaining emails from the day, read or maybe watch something on Netflix with my hubby. Then we go to sleep and wait for someone to climb in our bed for some middle-of-the-night snuggles :-)
Me: How do you balance your business and family?
Stephanie: Ha! This is the never ending struggle for moms. It’s hard. And I definitely don’t feel like there’s ever a true balance. When I’m with my kids I’m still thinking about work and when I’m at work I’m thinking about my kids. One thing that I have found helpful is getting up early and getting a head start on the day, so then a lot of the busywork and technology aspect of work can be done before the kids are awake. I also find it helpful to write things down. If I get a task or an idea out of my head and onto paper, it helps me relax more and feel more organized. On that note, I definitely am not the most organized person. However, I have noticed when I put more time and effort into organizing my day and my week in advance, things run a lot smoother at home and at work. For example, if I meal plan and grocery shop on the weekends, the weeks are sooo much better and I’m not making a million runs to the grocery store. When you are a business owner and a mom, there’s always going to be a never ending to do list. You’re always going to go to bed thinking that there’s still more work to be done. It’s just part of the deal and I’m ok with that!
Me: What’s the biggest challenge in owning your own business?
Stephanie: The biggest challenge is that you are always working. There’s no clocking in and clocking out and having a day off. Work will always be there and will always need your attention. Luckily, my husband and I run the business together, so between the two of us and our staff, we manage to get most of our tasks accomplished. However, this also means that we are constantly talking about Modern Milk and what needs to be done! At dinner time, at bedtime, at family gatherings… You name it!
Me: Modern Milk has grown quickly and recently underwent an expansion to add new classrooms and a space for childcare. What’s next for Modern Milk?
Stephanie: This is the topic of many conversations between my husband and I. We definitely have our hearts set on opening another store, where and when are yet to be determined. In the meantime, we are always looking to add new classes to our schedule and hope to add more lactation consultants in the future as well.
Me: The products you’ve curated for your retail space seem to be the best of the best. How do you decide what products to carry? Do you have a #1 best seller?
Stephanie: We choose our products very carefully because we want our customers to have access to only the best products. Good products go a long way and can last you through several kids. Most of our products are items that myself, our instructors, and our friends have used and loved. My husband and I also go to baby product conventions yearly and keep an eye out for the latest and greatest products. I would say our number one best seller is the Ollie Swaddle.
Me: I had difficulty breastfeeding both of my children beginning with painful, cracked nipples in the hospital. What advice do you have for mothers getting ready to embark on their breastfeeding journey?
Stephanie: Take a breastfeeding class before baby arrives and don’t wait too long before seeking help. I’ve had moms suffer through cracked nipples for two months before reaching out for help! This is unfortunate because it’s usually something we can fix in one visit. Imagine being able to avoid those two months of painful nursing just by scheduling one consultation. If you are struggling with breast-feeding, it truly is worth it to schedule lactation consult. It is one of the number one predictors for breastfeeding success.
Me: You launched a new series, Happy Mom School, in January. Can you tell us more about it?
Stephanie: Yes! I am so excited about this new project. The Happy Mom School was created to empower and support new moms through this amazing experience we call motherhood! This 8-week group meets once a week and is designed with the new mom in mind. Not only will moms learn current, expert information each week from our panel of amazing experts, but they will also bond with their baby and make new friends along the way. We want to do as much as we can to help moms ROCK this new mom gig!
Me: Last question….what’s the favorite vacation you’ve been on?
Stephanie: Without kids: honeymoon in Italy. Positano was my favorite town. With kids: definitely Disneyland at Christmas time!
Thank you for sharing Stephanie!
All photos courtesy of Modern Milk
I first met Jillian, the artist behind Lafayette Avenue Ceramics, at the AZ Share That You Care market earlier this year. I was immediately drawn to her gorgeous pottery and mission to create pieces for the kitchen that will last a lifetime. That day I purchased a kitchen sponge holder. I love having such a pretty piece to store our kitchen sponge. I’ve since added a squeeze mug to my collection and have my eye on her new dinnerware collection (more on that below). Today I’m excited to welcome Jillian to the next installment of my spotlight on local creatives and businesses here in Phoenix. And for you Phoenix locals, Jillian is co-hosting a dinner next Thursday, November 10th with Standard Wax. More details can be found here.
Me: What is your background? How did you get into pottery and ceramics?
Jillian: Art has always been part of my life. In grade school, I was never interested in sitting still so I gravitated towards the art room – I was especially interested in ceramics, woodworking and all the noise, smells and motion. In 2008, I moved from Philadelphia to Tempe to study ceramics at ASU. I fell in love with the endless possibilities of working with clay, as well as the weather and attitude of the southwest. After graduating, I apprenticed for a ceramic artist in Laguna Beach, CA. Seeing the life of an artist up close and learning how interesting and rewarding that lifestyle can be helped me make the decision to start my own business.
Me: Where do you find inspiration?
Jillian: For me, inspiration comes in the simple things. A thunderstorm, fresh produce, sunrise at the beach, a bright color. I love making things that don’t need to be explained. My products should speak for themselves – and my hope is that the user relates to them in his or her own way.
Me: Your products focus on the kitchen. Is cooking a passion for you? Do you have a favorite recipe?
Jillian: Speaking of inspiration…. Family connection, wholesome nutrition and sustainable living are the founding ideas of Lafayette Avenue Ceramics.
My line is designed to be practical and utilitarian while still being beautiful. They can be used to cook, prepare, and serve your favorite dishes. Since meal times and celebrations are such a big part of what brings family together, I wanted to make my work durable so it would last generations. I love the idea of passing a favorite mug or cherished berry bowl on to kids and grandkids. I have fond memories of cooking with my friends and family; my mother taught me about gardening and eating healthy – I really wanted that to shine through in my line of work.
I like to say “We cook with our hands and our hearts and that is exactly the way I make my pottery.”
My favorite recipe has to be my mothers pesto sauce. She used to make a big batch and put it on everything and it was delicious! I’m also obsessed with the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and love experimenting with baking.
Me: What is a typical day like for you?
Jillian: Everyday is different and that’s what makes my job so fun! I try to get up early and get a workout in. Then it’s usually off to the studio. I start by making a list of items I need completed and any deadlines. Then, I spend a few hours throwing items on the pottery wheel. For example – throwing 50 mugs or 100 spoon rests. While those dry, I do miscellaneous tasks like make glaze, organize inventory, check social media, Etsy and emails. In the afternoon, I alter the thrown forms and refine as needed. So, if I made mugs in the morning, I would attach handles before I left for the day. Sometimes, I spend all day glazing and firing kilns, or taking a trip to the ceramics supply store to pick up materials. In the evening, I research and brainstorm ideas for new product, new marketing ideas and look into current fashion and interior design trends. There’s no shortage of tasks to be done!
Me: What’s the biggest challenge in owning your own business?
Jillian: Finding the balance between life and work is a struggle. As a small business owner you are the manufacturer, the marketing director, the sales associate, the bookkeeper. You do the shipping and customer service. It’s hard to define the boundaries and it can be hard to set that aside and embrace each moment of life instead of constantly planning each next task to complete. It helps to take a day off each week to relax and connect with family and friends.
Me: You’ve mentioned your love of Arizona summers, which is opposite of a lot of people. How do you stay cool and find joy in the summer heat?
Jillian: Yup, I’m on my own with that! I love to swim so when the weather gets into the 100’s you can find me in the pool. I find that going on adventures in the evenings after the sun has gone down helps. Our city is so cool and there are so many fun bars and restaurants as well as stunning nature and scenic drives. Going out a little later is a fun way to stay active in the summer without overheating.
Me: Your photography is gorgeous and really complement your products. Do you take the photos yourself?
Jillian: What a compliment, thank you! I do not take my own photos, I work with an amazing Phoenix-based photographer and graphic designer. Her skill, style and eye for design has been critical to the success of my business – especially online and with social media.
Me: What’s next for Lafayette Avenue Ceramics?
Jillian: Look out for Lafayette Avenue Ceramics branching out to stores all over the southwest! My goal for the next 2 years is to have product in stores and restaurants all over California, Oregon, Colorado and beyond. I’m also planning a dinnerware collection and possibly a garden collection – so stay tuned for new products and colors.
Me: Where can we buy Lafayette Avenue products?
Jillian: Currently, I sell in 6 stores in the Phoenix area, including Vida Moulin and Practical Art; and Enchantment Resort in Sedona. You can find select items at the Uptown Farmers Market on Saturdays starting in September and Gilbert Art Walk Saturdays starting in October. You can visit my website for the full list.
Me: Last question…what’s your favorite vacation you’ve been on?
Jillian: A friend studied in Kenya for a year after college and I went to visit for 2 weeks. It was by far the most eye opening, incredible trip I have ever been on. We played with the village children, helped the local carpenters, milked cows and harvested sunflower seeds. Since she lived there, I really got to experience the normal daily life in the village and that made it so memorable.
Thank you so much Jillian!
All photos courtesy of Lafayette Avenue Ceramics
I often find myself going down an Instagram rabbit hole when I can’t sleep. One such night I stumbled upon VIDA MOULIN and immediately fell in love. Today I’m so excited to welcome the owner, Chantell Moulin Nighswonger, to the next installment of my spotlight on local creatives and businesses here in Phoenix. Not only does Chantell have great style, she’s super friendly and sweet. Visiting her boutique is like chatting with a friend!
Me: How did you decide to open a storefront boutique?
Chantell: I grew up a boutique shopper and thrived on finding brands that everyone else wasn’t wearing. I dreamed of one day curating my own selection of unique brands for a shop of my own. Moving to L.A. and later San Francisco, my love for local boutiques only grew as I was surrounded by them. In addition, I fell in love with concept stores, where boutiques did not simply sell one thing. I had always wondered why Arizona did not have similar types of retail destinations. VIDA MOULIN was built on this idea and brings together my love for fashion and interior design into one space.
Me: What is your background? How did it help you to open your own business?
Chantell: Before VIDA MOULIN, I spent 7 years in the PR and Digital Marketing industry, most recently running marketing communications at JanSport in the bay area. I have to admit while picking out the beautiful clothes and home items is certainly fun, I truly love the time I get to spend building marketing plans for the shop, from in store events to photoshoots to social media promotion. My background definitely has been a huge driver of the business!
Me: What is the inspiration behind the name, VIDA MOULIN? And how do you pronounce it?
Chantell: I’m half Mexican and fluent in Spanish which is where the word vida (life in Spanish) comes from. Moulin (pronounced like the movie Moulin Rouge) is my maiden name and my mother’s Maiden name. My mother is an only child so the name would not be passed down through her and when my Grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, (he unfortunately passed away last month) I decided to have the name forever live with my business. He lived his life as an entrepreneur and the fact that I was starting my own business, made him very proud.
Me: What is a typical day for you?
Chantell: Morning cuddles with my cat and husband, open the store at 10 am, usually process, unpack, steam and merchandise inventory, there’s probably at least 3 hours dispersed throughout the day I spend on our social media channels (planning, posting, engaging), close the store at 7 pm, evening cuddles with my cat and husband, then I spend about 2-3 hours simply answering emails from the day or uploading new product to www.vidamoulin.com and then I finally make it to bed around 11 pm.
Me: The photography for your look books and website is gorgeous. How did you determine it was an investment you wanted to make in your business?
Chantell: How sweet! Thank you! Honestly, conceptualizing photoshoots and coordinating everything from the photographer, models, locations, looks is what gets me giddy and makes me excited to open the shop everyday. It certainly is a time and money investment but we live in a visual world and if you’re not first thinking visually and how the world absorbs your brand/business through visuals, then you will certainly fall behind.
Me: What’s the biggest challenge of running your own business?
Chantell: Feeling the need to please everyone. I often struggle with choosing product as I truly want everyone to be able to find something they could fall in love with in the shop. Whether it’s the perfect dress for an event or a candle for a hostess gift…. the struggle is real! There are definitely products I have brought in that have totally bombed and there others, that I questioned bringing in, that have been a huge success, so it’s all a big learning curve for me and I, honestly, can’t wait for 2017 so I can take all of these learnings and apply them.
Me: I saw a sneak peek of the Moulin Makers Series. Can you tell us more about this upcoming collaboration?
Chantell: Yes! This has been something that has been in the works almost since we opened. I love the idea of bringing local makers into the store but I had a difficult time of relaying the message of local and quality to customers. I thought, what if I brought several local makers together for one large collaboration? That’s when the Moulin Makers Series was created. Every season, the shop will launch a collection of home products that tells one cohesive color story, created by a group of local makers, each specializing in their own category. People can follow the collection with the hashtag #MoulinMakersAZ, launching August 25 with a launch party on the 27th.
Me: Other than VIDA MOULIN, what are your favorite places to shop?
Chantell: Honestly, since returning to AZ from SF and jumping right into the shop, I have very little time now to shop! But if I can spare some time I always visit all of the antique and consignment shops on 7th Ave in the Melrose district. I also love urbAna in Arcadia for entertainment ware and T. Madison in Chandler for it’s beautifully curated selection of accessories.
Me: What is your favorite vacation you’ve been on?
Chantell: Oh my, I used to be quite the traveler before the store so that’s a hard question but for sure, Amsterdam, is our favorite vacation destination. My husband and I dream of moving there in 10 years or so.
Thank you so much Chantell!
All photos courtesy of VIDA MOULIN
Other than a yoga class here and there, I’ve never been too into group fitness preferring to run on my own schedule instead. When I got pregnant again, I knew I wanted to do a better job of keeping up my fitness than I did during my first pregnancy. Since I stay at home with Lawson, I went in search of a studio that offered child care. I didn’t have to search far to find a Barre3 studio near our house. I cannot tell you how excited I was and that’s before I even tried my first class!
I immediately fell in love with the studio and workout. The entire staff from front desk to instructors were so kind and welcoming. Even though I was pregnant, I never felt like I didn’t belong. The workout is a great combination of ballet, pilates and yoga. The instructors checked on me throughout class and offered modifications for everyone. I truly feel like all fitness levels are welcome at Barre3!
So of course I wanted to feature Barre3 and owner Karie Johnson as the next installment in my spotlight on local creatives and businesses here in Phoenix!
Me: How and when did you first get into barre3? What led you to open your own studio?
Karie: I took my very first barre3 online class in January of 2013 and my life would never be the same. I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years and was looking for a way to have a more balanced lifestyle for myself and my family. I had a friend who opened barre3 in Henderson, NV and was very inspired. I went out to her studio and instantly knew I needed to bring barre3 to Arizona. There was something not only about the workout, but about the community vibe I felt. I loved that barre3 encourages modifications and how you can “make it your own”. Not many places meet you where you are and support that. About a year and a half later (after lots of saving and lots of training and research!) my husband, two girls and me opened our doors to our first studio in North Scottsdale! We opening our 2nd studio in Paradise Valley this year and we are loving every minute of it! Lots of work, but lots of fun as well!
Me: What is a typical day like for you?
Karie: Take my girls to school, teach a class at one of our studios, take a class at one of our studios, have lunch with my husband or a friend, order retail for our studios, answer emails for the studio, event and social media planning, pick the girls up from school, take them to after school activities, do homework, have dinner with my family, hopefully relax for a very little bit while doing some sort of chores, and then hit the hay!
Me: Your workout clothes are always so cute! Where are your favorite places to shop?
Karie: At our studio! I pick out all of our retail for the studio. I try to focus on designs from Arizona or made in the USA. My favorite brands that we carry are: Beyond Yoga, Alo, Spiritual Gangster, Ray of Light Designs, Niyamasol.
Me: What’s the biggest challenge of running your own business?
Karie: There is always something to be done! The job is never done, but that’s ok! I have a wonderful team that helps me out on a daily basis and I couldn’t do it without them.
Me: barre3 does a great job of getting involved in the community with different events (Wanderlust, barre3 in the park). Is there another event coming up where people can find barre3?
Karie: We will be having an in-studio event all summer long! Clients can compete to try to keep up with their classes in studio and online while traveling. We will be collaborating with local vendors for some fun prizes and swag!
Me: Other than instructing and taking barre3 classes, how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Karie: Barre3 is the only exercise I do. It gets everything done in 60 minutes which is why I love it! I try my best to eat a whole food diet, limiting processed foods as much as possible.
Me: I recently read a comment on Instagram about barre3 having a community feel and I couldn’t agree more. How did you create this culture?
Karie: So great to hear! That is our main focus at our studio. We not only want our clients to walk away from class feeling like they got a great workout, but also that this is their home away from home, their 60 minutes of me time. Our culture is hard enough on women, we just want to love and support other women as much as we can!
Me: Last question, what is your favorite vacation you’ve been on?
Karie: Last year in Hawaii for my 11 year anniversary with my husband! Lots of relaxing :)
Thanks Karie! If you’ve ever thought about checking out Barre3, I highly recommend it. If you’re not local to Phoenix, there are almost 100 locations in many states. See the full listing here.
All photos courtesy of Barre3 Paradise Valley Instagram