Heritage Littles

Forth loves Nimble Well: Vintage & Uncommon Tabletop Decor by Natalie Pavela

Four our 2014 salons we're tickled to be partnering with Kelly Connolly, owner of Nimble Well, to utilize her collection of vintage and beautiful tabletop rentals. Kelly's a 2013 Forth alum and we were eager to partner with an individual that really understood the mission behind what we're doing. We were oh-so-glad she signed on to style out our salons, as her pieces - linens, glassware, china, silverware, cake stands, platters, vases and more - all aid in creating a beautiful setting for an intimate evening of dining and conversation. Today we're showcasing some of Kelly's collection that brightened up our spring salon. We chose a color palette that and seemed perfect for the season - blues, greens, and yellows, oh my! But more importantly, we're also taking a peek behind the curtain at Nimble Well, getting to know the business & the lady who runs it.


You founded Nimble Well in 2012, and last year transitioned into this as your full-time gig. Tell us a bit about what encouraged you to take that leap of faith to grow Nimble Well and go out into business of your own. What have been some of the biggest hurdles you've had to overcome in the past few years?

In the fall of 2012 I knew I just had to go for it. In the spring of 2013 I built up a small collection and I hired a photographer to take pictures of 5 different tablescapes with the small collection I had and I built a website around that. My collection was tiny and I knew it had to grow, but I needed to have clients to know how it would have to grow. I just had to keep taking small steps forward. It's been a series of get clients-get inventory-clients-inventory to fund the growing inventory. My inventory is growing in a way that will make it a true rental collection, not just a group of things I like or one couple would like.

Getting my own space out of my apartment was a big step. I had to have a place that clients can visit and also to keep some physical separation between home and work. I was just out of room, too.

There were a lot of things I had to learn. I had no experience in the event and wedding industry, so I had to figure out who the different business were, what they did, who I would like to work with -- and would work with me. I spent a lot of time online before I even met anyone, and I then I was lucky to find some very friendly people who didn't hold it against me how tiny and raw my business was.

In the beginning I did a lot of "eye training" on wedding blogs and Pinterest to see what was going on in wedding style and where my business could fit in. I originally knew nothing about vintage glass or any of the things that are in my collection now. I spent a lot of time in the resale world and looking at pieces online to start making sense of it all. I've built my own categories around things that I like, what my clients like, what is possible to find, or what is a good investment.

I definitely invested in more things in the beginning that I liked (but clients did not) and I would search for just about any special requests from clients, even if it wasn't likely to be rented again. I'm a lot more careful with how I expand the inventory now, mostly from experience.


Where do you find the majority of your vintage pieces? Any pieces go straight into your personal not-for-rent collection?

My home and my collection are pretty separate. My car is the main place they mix, and I feel a lot better to have that separation. My rental inventory can't go in the dishwasher, so that nixes most of it for home.

I get asked a lot about where I find my stuff, and I wish I had a more succinct answer. It's a mix of resale shops/yard sales/estate sales/flea markets/online/private sellers/pickers. I have certain places or people to go to for certain kinds of things, but many of my finds, like cake stands, are a one-time find at a certain place and then I'll never see one at that place again.

What materials, pieces, or collections have clients been asking you most for this upcoming wedding season?

This year blush and gold is the big hit, so I've been building up those collections. Brass is definitely more popular than it was in the past. Overall the trend in vintage is less rustic (Ball jars and burlap) and more refined, so it doesn't necessarily come across as "vintage."


We love your new Labor of Love blog series! Tell us a bit more about what inspired it and what you have in store for us next!

My most recent post featured Sarah Drake and I'm working with a baker and wedding planner right now on a future post. I'll be starting to follow several more businesses in May when the wedding season really picks up.

There is a lot of anxiety about the cost of weddings. And not just from the couple spending the money. There's anxiety about buying a house and all kinds of big purchases, but with a buying a house--you get a house--the investment is tangible. People are getting married and still finding it meaningful to have a wedding. But they're getting married later and paying for their own weddings, and now a wedding can be any kind of event that the couple wants, reflecting their personal style. So there's more choice and more pressure to make good decisions about what to do and how much to spend, which means that couples have to think through every aspect of their wedding, every purchase and service, to determine whether it's good for them. And there's many different businesses that couples can go to for finding a version of what they're looking for at many different price points. Because of the volume of small and large decisions that have to be made people get decision-fatigue, and can get cynical about what they're paying for.

The purpose of the Labor of Love series is to show the work of wedding professionals. Maybe it will help explain the cost to couples making choices about their wedding. I'm basically saying, "Here's what you're paying for if you go with this kind of professional. Here is the work involved." And you also see the people doing the work, and I think that re-frames it from being just another purchase. The work looks easy when it's done well. And it's easy to take for granted what people have done to make it appear so easy.


Nimble Well shares a studio space with Sarah Drake Designs. Can you share one way think your businesses and you as creatives have benefited from co-working? What are 1-2 challenges of a situation like this as well?

The best part of sharing a space with Sarah is that I don't feel like I'm working all alone. I'm someone who can spend a long time by myself and not feel lonely, but it's really nice to share the office with Sarah because she has a separate businesses in the same industry and can share information, successes, and frustrations. Sarah has worked for herself for a lot more years than I have and she's a parent, which is in my plans, so it's inspiring to have a good example of how it all fits together too.

One challenge for me is that my office visits are by appointment. Some people don't realize that I'm not in the office all the time and occasionally they'll stop by when I'm not there and Sarah is and she has to figure out what they need.


What made you interested in partnering with Forth? I like the open-ended nature of the group. I was a little puzzled about it first, I thought that there might be some kind of sell at some point, like a weekend at a hotel where you have to sit through the timeshare presentation. I like that there isn't a pitch and there really isn't any monetary purpose to the group. It's women doing good, interesting work getting together to talk about things that are important to them. I love art, spending time in nature, and got a degree in something that isn't technically useful, so I think this structure is perfect.


What goals do you have for Nimble Well in 2014? What would be your dream event/client to work with this year?

The number of weddings and events I will do this year is a big jump from last year, so my goals are mostly about refining my processes to handle the workload smoothly. I am collaborating with a few local non-profits on their fundraising dinners and events this year and I'm excited about that. I would love to do some outdoor dinners this summer--with restaurants, one-time events, farm dinners. And there are some photo shoots in the beginning stages of planning that I'm looking forward to--also outside. That's what I'm excited about right now: doing things outside.


What about Nimble Well are you most proud of?

When it's thought of as a real thing by other people, and it feels like something separate from me, and I see it's growing there is a relief from the usual white-hot panic. When I'm proud about Nimble Well, it's something like the feeling of having figured something out. But most of the time it feels like Nimble Well is just the name I call what I do every day, and if I stop, it stops.


Thank you Kelly for sharing openly and honestly about your company, how you've grown, lessons you've learned, tips on sharing a studio space, and more. It looks like you have an exciting year of unique events ahead and we can't wait to see what gems you pull out of your collection for our summer salon!

Nimble Well / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest



Spring Salon Venue Spotlight: Heritage Littles by Natalie Pavela

Yesterday we introduced you to Melissa Salvatore & Becca Doell, the women behind A Little Photo Studio. Today, we're taking you on a tour of Hertiage Littles, the space above A Little Photo Studio that Melissa owns and runs with her husband Mike (the site of our recent spring salon!). Heritage Littles opened up in the Lakeview neighborhood in October 2013 as a sister company to their first business just a few blocks up the street - Heritage Bicycles. The Heritage brand is truly built upon the Salvatore family's life experiences, and they credit their toddler Bennett as the inspiration behind expanding the brand with a new space geared towards kids.

The space that houses Heritage Littles is multi-functional, selling a small selection of bicycles and bike accessories for kids of all ages while also housing a milk and cookies bar - it's basically a kid's dream! In the basement you'll find A Little Photo Studio, Avery House, as well as the Chicago arm of Smilebooth. Take a tour of the Heritage Littles space below!

The storefront view from Lakeview Ave. (there's a second entrance off of Lincoln Ave.)

Heritage Little Storefront

The lovely milk and cookies bar. They thought of every detail in this space, including seats and a counter top at an appropriate height for little ones.

Heritage Littles Milk and Cookies Bar

Candy bars and sweet lunch boxes on display!

Heritage Littles Milk and Cookies Bar

And of course, some chairs at adult height to accommodate the parents.

Heritage Littles Milk and Cookies Bar Stools

We were dying over this teepee made from recycled burlap from Stumptown coffee sacks - a kid's dream!

Heritage Littles Bikes and Teepee

Yakkay bike helmets for kiddos adorn one of the exposed brick walls adjacent from the bike collection.

Heritage Littles Kids' Bike Helmets

Heritage Littles sells bikes for kids of all ages - from the Shperovelo to their own Bennett Balance Bike to gorgeous Linus bikes in kids sizes. Did we mention the Bennett Balance Bike has a version made from recycled milk jugs? How fitting for this milk and cookies bar!

Heritage Littles Bicycles for Kids

And how cute is the chalkboard art on the bathroom wall?

Heritage Littles Chalkboard Wall Bathroom Art

Smilebooth has a backdrop station available to capture the moment when a kid receives their first bike, shots from a birthday party or any other event hosted at Heritage Littles!

Heritage Littles Sink and Smilebooth Backdrop

Heritage Littles Storefront

Big thanks to the Salvatore Family for sharing their space with us for the spring salon. We can't wait to come back for milk and cookies sometime soon!

Chicago friends, be sure to visit Heritage Littles between 10am-6pm on Wednesdays through Sundays at 2868 N Lincoln Ave.

Forth Spotlight: Melissa and Becca of A Little Photo Studio by Natalie Pavela

We were so excited when Melissa Salvatore offered to host the Forth spring salon at Hertiage Littles, the adorable kids bike shop/milk-and-cookies bar that she owns with her husband Mike. The Heritage Littles space is unique because it houses three additional businesses in the basement - A Little Photo Studio which Melissa owns and operates, Avery House photography, and the Chicago branch of Smilebooth. On top of that, Melissa recently brought on her long-time friend Becca Doell to join in running the operations at A Little Photo Studio.

At our spring salon both of these ladies shared valuable insights on the joys and challenges of women working together in business. Today Melissa & Becca dish on the transition from 'just friends' to being 'friends and coworkers', sharing what they've learned about each other since the partnership began, how they've benefited from sharing a studio space with other businesses, and tips they'd give women who are considering going into business together. Read on!

The two of you have been long-time friends, but just recently started working together. What were the some of the biggest considerations you each had to address before deciding to move forward with expanding your relationship from friendship into the co-worker/co-collaborator sphere?

(Becca) Our biggest concern was hashing out numbers (salary, etc.) and making sure everything was super legit and contractual to avoid potential arguments/conflict over vagueries in that department later. The funny thing is, we were so concerned about that, but we still haven't actually drawn up a contract! My feeling about that though is if Melissa were to sit me down and say, I don't think we're working well together and we need to go our separate ways, I would say cool, thanks for thinking of me in the first place. If she were to sit me down and say, I have to stop loving you because I think you're a terrible person, I would be devastated. For me, business, money, contracts, etc. are fleeting and terrestrial, whereas my love for her and our friendship is forever. That may sound naive, but it really is true for me. I think the depth of friendship you have with someone can make a huge difference in the success or failure of a professional partnership. A solid base of open communication can get two people through anything. If you know each others' strengths/weaknesses/annoying quirks/body odors, and you've already had years to figure out if those quirks or body odors are deal breakers in terms of how much time you want to spend with this person, then it's hard to fail.

(Melissa) Well, Becca beat me to the punch in answering these questions and how can I compete with that answer!?! I mean, this is how we work so well with each other. We each have our own voice, talents and skills but at the same time can finish each other's sentences. I have a few friends who it just doesn't matter what you do with each other or where you are at in life or where you live, you will still be friends and she has always been one of those. We approached this move with caution (on paper) but also (in reality) with a leap of faith. It just happened that the timing worked out (all very quickly actually). There was a 7 year lull where we hardly spoke on the phone or kept in touch, but once we reconnected and the idea was brought up for her to move and join this creative venture, it just worked. I personally approached it from a standpoint that if it works out then great and we will figure out all the details along the way. It was very important to both of us that the contracts and money needed to be discussed and firmed up, but there also needed to be fluidity in the process. My biggest fear was that she wouldn't feel comfortable or "ownership" of the ideas or space since it was not hers to start, but she is so great at diving right in that my biggest fear has already been curbed.

What is one thing you've learned about each other since starting to work together?

(Becca) I've learned that Melissa's energy level is as expansive as the universe. It has no end and no beginning and is accelerating as we speak. As long as I've known her, she's done at least 3 things at once, but she amazes me every time she finds the fuel from one muffin and a coffee to photograph 3 families with 3 three kids back to back, answer 4 email accounts, return 5 phone calls, go home and make dinner,give her son a bath, read him two books, put him to bed, clean up dinner, AND watch Shark Tank with a clear and happy head.

(Melissa) Can you ask Becca questions every day so that I can hear all these wonderful things? I'm blushing. I don't know if it is as much of what I have learned about Becca, but what I already knew - that she can roll with the punches in new situations. With our new studio and how much is on our daily plate, it has really been less training and more diving in and getting to business. She is great at keeping to tasks and helping the studio execute our ideas (the ones that would be on the never ending to-do list if I was doing this alone.) I also re-learned about her amazing talent to sing a song while burping.

Your space houses four businesses under one roof. Can you share one way think your businesses/you as creatives have benefited from co-working? What are some challenges of a situation like this as well?

(Melissa) It is wonderful to have the shared usage of such a large space and also to share with such creative and equally as motivated people. The space is shared between 2 couples: Myself and Mike who own Heritage Littles and A Little Photo Studio and Matt and Stevi Savage who own AveryHouse and the Chicago franchise of Smilebooth. There are ways that our businesses all intertwine with each other and we are able to bounce ideas off of each other and cross-promote. The biggest challenge is scheduling and working out how and when the space is used. As organized as we were with the set-up, at the end of the day, your customers decide how a space is used. Overall, this was a cautious approach to opening another retail space for Mike and I and it was done between friends with the knowledge that there would be challenges and an adjustment period. We also followed our golden rule of not leaving things too vague and hashed out many of the details when putting together a contract before entering the space together and we both were in understanding that when it comes down to it, it is a business decision and if it doesn't work out in a year, it wouldn't affect our friendship.

At the end of the day, It was important for both of our families to have work-life integration with some balance and by sharing a creative space together this has opened up many opportunities and freed up a lot of family time without feeling burdened by the overhead.

What are 3 tips you'd give women considering going into business together?

1. (Becca) I think you definitely need to weigh the pros and cons of you both being mothers and what that means for productivity and workflow. We don't have that problem yet, but I know it was a huge consideration for Melissa and other friends she's thought of working with. Because I don't have kids, I'm not tied to any schedule other than my own. I can rearrange my day for work, whereas some days Melissa has to rearrange work to fit into her home life. I know if and when I do start a family, Melissa would be more understanding of the different ways family can interrupt a work week.

2. (melissa) I'd say respect - woman have a tendency to compete with one another. There needs to be a level of respect for the other person and their workflow. And with that said, for me that meant the need to have the same work ethics as the person I hired as my "right-hand-woman". I wouldn't have collaborated with anyone that didn't work hard regardless of what is going on in their personal life. I think that for women the entire benefit of being in your own business is that the flexibility outweighs the stress of running your own business. But it is goes full circle because for the flexibility to be successful, you have to have a great work ethic.

3. Keep an extra box of tampons at work.