In today's Muse Series we talk with the self-made entrepreneur behind Hudson + Oak, a minimalist and modern handpainted planter company. We absolutely love the aesthetic and vibe that H+O represents and we're so excited to chat with founder Sarah about how she got her start in the industry, how she incorporates sustainability into her business, and the triumphs and challenges she has encountered since starting her business.
What is your story?
Hey Hey my name is Sarah! I grew up on a 10 acre farm in Bradner, Abbotsford, spending the majority of my childhood with ALL the farm animals or out exploring in the woods that surrounded our farm. A major chunk of my childhood was also dedicated to playing sports from volleyball, baseball, rugby and mainly soccer. From a young age I always had a creative mind set, and knew that the science/math route was not my path haha! After graduating my plans were to go to UBC for general studies (lol), but plans changed and I started to look into BCIT. I loved the idea of hands on learning with their internship and learning practical and creative skills via their Marketing Communications program. I applied and got in, and can confidently say it was some of the best years of my life. After graduating BCIT, my marketing career started from my internship at Vega and then for the past 8 years have had the pleasure to learn and work for the government, B2B companies and a tech start up. In 2017 I had this void at my job, you know that feeling when you feel like something is missing, and corporate culture just plain sucks. I craved wanting to start something on the side, a company of my own, which led me down the path of Hudson + Oak.
What inspired you to start Hudson?
Hudson + Oak was born out of nowhere if I am going to be completely honest. Well, it was born with me sitting on my couch (where all great ideas start, right?!). About six months before, possibly a year, I always felt like I had that entrepreneur itch. I wanted to start something of my own, as I was tired of the corporate roadblocks of approval and idea shutdowns (which slowly kill a creative). One day my sister came over to my home ( a two-story loft) and she said my home was "cold!" Fair enough, she as the good sister she is suggested adding plants to my space, to add life to my home. That's when I started to think... okay I can add plants here and there and finding the plant isn’t the problem, but what about the planter? I also had/have a HUGE passion for home decor, and often contemplated going to school for interior design. I kept thinking about the planter, it had to fit in with my decor, right? For the next week I was on the hunt for planters, looking on pinterest, google, instagram and could not find the perfect planter to fit into the aesthetic of my home. I visited every nursery within the vicinity of my home and glossy blue butterfly designed planters were not going to cut it. About 4 weeks later Hudson + Oak was born! My vision for the company was to create modern, minimalist planters that were like the final piece of the puzzle for any room in your home, office or any space you desire.
What does sustainability mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your business?
We only get one Earth, there is no plan b. I do eat a plant-based diet, try my best to cook with local veggies/ingredients (I can make a mean garden bolognese) and recently went down to a one-vehicle household. I am a big believer that change comes in time, this switch to veganism didn’t happen overnight. It came over a span of 8 years, being a vegetarian first. My passion is 100% home decor and I have been slowly incorporating vintage finds in my home. I have recently fallen in love with thrift shopping for home decor, and found this beautiful 1970 art deco blush lamp for $8!!! As for sustainability within Hudson + Oak, monthly we donate to local nonprofits that aim to protect the beautiful West Coast, an example of a nonprofit that we support is Sea Legacy, who does great work focusing on our waterways and great barrier rainforest. We also keep our overhead low and paint to order, which doesn’t leave us with hundreds of planters in one colour. Our boxes, thank-you cards and all that jazz is 100% recyclable. We also love what we do, meaning every plant that we sell or plant that we use in our installs either in a home, office or commercial space it means one more plant on this earth, making this planet a much greener place than what we found it (win/win)!
What does a typical day look like?
Wake up, quick cuddle with Kingston (the pug) and Kevin (the corgi), the doggies get fed, then make my morning smoothie (almond milk, blueberries, avocado, strawberries, spinach, and vegan vanilla protein powder) next is to respond to emails from the past evening + Instagram check. I take an hour out of each day for mental/physical exercise which is usually hot yoga 3-4 times a week or it also looks like a trip to the gym for a run. Then back to our home studio to plan our painting schedule, organizing shipping to the US and Canada, and planning various pop ups, photoshoots and collabs. Honestly every day always has their surprises, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I absolutely LOVE being a busy bee, sometimes biting off too much I can chew, but hey it fuels me!
Favorite part of your job?
100% the creative process and the freedom I have being my own boss. When I am creating, I am the happiest. Second, the badass boss babes that I have met along this journey. This community is strong of female entrepreneurs and demonstrates the hardest work ethics I have ever seen. I am forever grateful and fortunate to be a part of this growing community.
Most challenging part about running your own business?
Two parts, first is logistics/shipping. Shipping large 20” x 20” boxes across North America is not an easy task, especially when you have a creative mindset. To get to where we are now includes its fair share of mistakes and errors. Second part is my finding/striving for a balanced state for my mental health. You can get SO consumed in the social side of your business, but I needed to learn to shut it off and challenge different parts of my brain. About a year into my business I definitely felt the effects of over using your right brain and simply being burnt out. The burnt out was real and I was miserable. I didn’t understand that it is okay if you don’t post on instagram every single day, my mental and physical health are number one priority over social statistics. It’s a hard mine shift, but once you do it, it’s a game changer.
If you weren’t running your platform, what would you be doing?
I LOVE marketing, it’s what I studied at BCIT and it’s my most FAVOURITE part of Hudson + Oak. 100% would be running my own marketing agency OR...interior design OR...both. Why not?
What has been one of the most rewarding experiences being in your line of work so far?
It is hands down 150% of the relationships I have made with other women in business. I am honestly forever grateful to have met and become great friends with such incredible, strong, hard working women who can relate exactly what you are going through on what we call this entrepreneurial roller coaster. The late night texts, early morning calls, coffee and dinner dates, focus groups nights that include lots of wine, to creating beautiful products together.
Best piece of advice to others that are wanting to start their own venture?
Don’t overthink it, fly the plane off the cliff and learn to build it as you fly. It’s honestly the only way to start, or else you’ll wake up 5, 10 years from now with regret that you never started. Second is, ask questions. I am notorious for asking a million questions, but it has served me so so SO well. Confine in mentors, and message that business you look up to on instagram, because there is a great chance they will say yes because guess what they were in your position at one point. Always be a freaking sponge and continue to learn! Lastly, don’t let ANYONE tell you what you can or cannot do.
Life motto you live by?
Simple, do good work. When life gets hectic or I second guess something or over think, I always say to myself, just do good work Sarah. Good work always shines through all the BS and fluff.
What’s next for you and Hudson?
New products 😉 Stay tuned over at @hudsonandoak :)