Client Check-In with Christine of South of Libbie
I am so excited to introduce a new series on the HB Designs Blog called “The Client Check-In”. My goal for this series is to introduce you to a variety of amazing business owners, who also happen to be my past clients. These posts are interview style, so each person was sent a list of questions having to do with running a small business, advice for people just starting out, branding, marketing and more!
I met Christine from South of Libbie at the Making Things Happen Conference in March of 2018. She was the sweetest person and always looked so put together. We have actually only talked face to face for maybe an hour, and that was at the conference back in March, but have had countless skype calls since then - how cool is technology!?
Christine owns a monograming business called South of Libbie that specializes in high quality linens for gathering and hosting. She has built a business truly around her heart for family, heritage and making memories and has amazing insight into being confident in your business and also bringing in pieces of your heart into your business.
I am so excited to dive into her story, so without further ado!
Tell me a little bit about South of Libbie and what led you to monograming and opening an Etsy business.
I grew up with an extremely close family. We got together frequently for family suppers (what we grew up calling ‘dinner’ in the South!), where my Mom, Aunt, and Mamaw would set the table nicely with real linens, silver, etc… Now, I do have to say…setting the table like this was never in a “snobby” way…it truly just felt like they were honoring the importance of family and time together! I remember my mom would assign me the job of setting the table for family get-togethers…so I would imagine my infatuation with table settings/hosting came from this.
When I was in high school, I remember playing around in my mom’s jewelry box and stumbling upon her monogrammed ring. Now, this ring was of her maiden name initials, and she no longer wore it. However, I immediately asked her if I could have it, and have worn it daily since. I think this ring is where I became smitten with monograms and the way they are physical expressions of family heritage. While this ring isn’t my initials, I love looking down every day and seeing my mom’s monogram on my hand. It’s such a physical reminder of the love for my mom and the beautiful heritage she has created for our family.
My goal is for South of Libbie to do the same. Our monogrammed linens and gifts are made with the goal of using them to host and love on your family and friends, while also creating a physical legacy with your monogram that can be passed down for generations to come.
What is the story behind how you started?
Growing up, I was always drawn to the retail world. I just truly had a fascination with and a passion for boutiques, shops, and the like. In college, I worked part-time in a local boutique in our downtown area and absolutely LOVED it. Likewise, after college, I began working full-time in another local boutique in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and again…just loved it! Knowing I was moving to Charleston, South Carolina after getting married (and not wanting to pursue the industry I got my degree in in college) it was just a great time in my life where I had an opportunity to make a leap and try something I had dreamed about.
I started South of Libbie because I really felt at the time there wasn’t a monogramming business that encompassed an approachable view of hostessing and monograms. While I of course love beautiful, monogrammed linens and a beautifully set dinner table, I also want my business to simply encourage people to host others in their home and love people well with an open heart. I wanted South of Libbie to be a place to encourage people to have beautiful monogrammed heirloom pieces, but using them in an approachable and intentional way.
When you first started South of Libbie, did you call yourself by your current business name?
Yes! I’ve always gone by South of Libbie. When I first knew I wanted to start a monogramming and gifts business, I thought for a long time about the name and included my mom in these conversations. I knew I wanted to honor my Southern heritage and my time spent growing up in Richmond, Virginia, but also my move to my now home, Charleston, South Carolina. We thought of different landmarks that represented each city, and we immediately thought of the South of Broad area in Charleston (a well-known, beautiful residential area filled with stunning antebellum homes) and Libbie Avenue in Richmond, a well-known street with beautiful homes as well as local shops and restaurants. So, we combined South of Broad (Charleston) and Libbie Avenue (Richmond), and came up with South of Libbie. Elizabeth (where the nickname ‘Libbie’ comes from) is also a family name. Together my business name honors my family heritage, as well as the two Southern cities that I call home.
What have you loved most about running your own business?
I have absolutely loved all of the amazing relationships I’ve been able to form with customers, other business owners, brands, etc! I also love the creativity behind the scenes in creating products, marketing, building a website, etc. That part is genuinely fun for me!
Creating photoshoots is particularly exciting for me! There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to create beautiful photos, but it’s an exciting process for me that really allows me to flex my creativity!
What have you loved least about running your own business?
Learning how to manage the business side of things (particularly finances) has been challenging for me, given I don’t have a background in any of this. However, I’m learning that I’m changing my mindset. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m so bad at finances!” I’m now telling myself, “I’m going to be good with managing money in 2019.” I believe so much that what we tell ourselves becomes our reality, so I’m hoping by changing my mindset and belief system about myself, it will also change the outcome.
What are some things that you learned from being a business owner that you didn’t expect?
I’ve learned how important it is to be confident in my choice to pursue South of Libbie. I was honestly surprised at how much I lacked self-confidence in my decisions before this. Before running South of Libbie, I think I was really influenced and impacted by other people’s views of my career. Now, I’ve come to learn that not everyone is going to support my decisions all the time, and I’m ok with that knowing I’m following a path that I feel God has led me down and gifted me with.
What keeps you inspired and loving what you do?
Travel and interacting with my customers!
After my trip to France during the summer of 2018, I was filled with ideas and so inspired with all the beauty around me. So much of South of Libbie is inspired by family heritage and heirloom pieces, so seeing all the beautiful historical buildings in France (Paris, especially, and many adorned with beautiful monograms!) really reinforced my ideas and beliefs in my business.
The main thing that inspires me, however, is the conversations I get to have with my customers. Whether this is simply messaging through Instagram or communicating with clients about their orders, conversing with customers and seeing how they are using South of Libbie linens to love and care for others in a hospitable environment is really just so inspiring!
What are a few things about your day to day that may be surprising to others? Any habits or things that you do daily before you can get to work?
I always start my mornings with a green tea, which is probably a habit I got from my mom (are y’all beginning to see how much she has influenced my business?!) I ideally like to spend time doing a devotional or reading my Bible. I do feel like South of Libbie is a business entrusted to me by God to love on others well, so I need to focus on His word first in order to spread that love with others.
I also like to immediately start my day by sorting through my email and deleting anything irrelevant that doesn’t need my attention (i.e…sales emails.) Although, I highly recommend the app Un.roll me for doing this more systematically! I feel like I am a lot more focused when what’s in my inbox is just what needs to be done for the day. I feel so much better about everything else if my email inbox is slightly under control haha! I live by my daily planner…my favorite is Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner. Old school, hard copy planners really help me get a sense of control that I just don’t get when tracking my day electronically!
What advice would you give to people wanting to take the leap into business ownership in your industry?
Just get started! Nothing is going to be 100% perfect when you get started, and that is ok! No one else will notice the ‘imperfections’ in your business as much as you will…so don’t let that get you down!
Be confident in your decision. Not everyone is going to support your decision to become an entrepreneur, and that’s ok! You don’t need everyone else’s approval to push forward with a dream that God has put in your heart.
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle!
Lastly, put your blinders on and focus on your business, not someone else’s. I learned it was easy to become overwhelmed with all of the “how to” business articles floating around Pinterest, the myriad of business podcasts, you get the picture…. I felt like every day there was a tutorial for something I needed to be doing better in my business, and they all felt important! However, when I started deleting business podcasts (except for a select one or two), putting blinders on for blocking out internet tutorials, etc… is when I finally felt like I could get things done in my business. Everyone is going to have advice for you, but you don’t have to take it all. Just get started! Also, take the time to reflect back on how far you’ve come since you first started!
Tell me about your branding and how it’s changed since when you first started?
Oh goodness, my branding has changed so much! I started off with buying a simple pineapple graphic for literally $10 off Etsy! Then, I upgraded and scrounged up the money to have someone design a simple logo for me. From there, I upgraded slightly more. Finally, I invested in Hayley Bigham Designs for a complete branding overall! Let me tell y’all, it was worth every penny! Honestly, I felt like I didn’t have a true grasp on what my brand was at the beginning, and that reflected in my physical branding. I was very unclear with my business goals and vision at the beginning, and that reflected in my branding. However, now that I have my updated branding done with Hayley I finally feel content and like my physical branding accurately depicts my business vision!
How has having professional branding created changed your business?
I have felt so much more confident about my brand after working with Hayley to completely revamp my branding professionally. While I knew a decent amount of Adobe Illustrator and was able to somewhat design my logo prior to working with Hayley, it all felt (and looked!) very DIY. Once I invested in Hayley, I finally felt comfortable and more importantly, so proud, of my brand! I even had customers commenting on how much more “me” the new branding felt….which was truly the greatest compliment I could have received!
What would you tell someone who is looking into working with a designer on their logo or branding?
I would absolutely recommend working with a designer, especially Hayley Bigham Designs, for professional branding! What I’ve come to learn about hiring other professionals is that, although I may be able to DIY a project a decent amount (like my branding) there are professionals (like Hayley!) out there who truly have a gift. My gift is not graphic design and branding, yet Hayley’s is! By hiring Hayley to design my branding, I’m not only enabling Hayley to flourish in her gift, but giving myself the space and time to focus on my own gifts. I would also encourage you to really have a knowledgeable understanding of your brand and goals prior to working with a graphic designer. My first few rounds of my logo (before I hired Hayley) were really confusing because they didn’t accurately depict the emotions and feelings behind my brand, as well as my long-term goals. With Hayley, we worked through a lot of behind-the-scenes work to determine what my physical branding would represent…and I really feel like we hit the nail on the head!