When we think about boss ladies, Kelly Harris and Paige Appel definitely come to mind. We’ve been industry friends for years and have looked up to their work—they definitely have that magic touch. We bet if you’ve planned a wedding, you have pinned one of their wedding images while working at Bash Please. Like many who have been working in a creative industry for a long time, people and interests evolve, and these ladies made the bold decision to sell their successful business and move on to their next dream idea: Midland. Their insanely beautiful shop in Culver City, CA, is a place where you can shop from a very thoughtful and curated selection of artisans handpicked by Kelly and Paige. Besides the beautiful design and lust-worthy products, what really draws us to Midland is the feeling it gives us.
Kelly and Paige are championing many great movements and supporting women in many different fields. It’s a place of community and inclusion. Check out their recent Instagrams to see portraits of women they admire who are advocates of change, and read on to discover how these biz whiz ladies are creating magic both in their store and online!
First, give us some background on yourselves. How did you get to where you are today?
We are Paige Appel and Kelly Harris, two creative entrepreneurs living in LA. Kelly hails from the east coast, Paige from Texas and both of us have lived in LA for about 17 years. Moving out west to pursue other ventures, we had early careers in our 20s in the film industry (Paige) and advertising (Kelly). We started an event production company called Bash Please 10 years ago and sold it in late 2016 as we were opening our shop, Midland. That leads us to career number three and we are having a blast re-inventing ourselves as we go and grow.
How did the idea for Midland come about?
It came about for so many reasons. One, we wanted to be home more. Our kids and families needed us and we were literally on the road more than on our couch. We were missing out on domestic life and family nesting, so we wanted a job that would ground us a bit more. Midland was our effort to literally create space for ourselves. Two, we were so inspired by boutiques and makers on our travels. Being destination event planners, we saw so much beauty and quality goods that we wanted to share with consumers. We would dash around shopping and exploring during our free time in various cities and we just got excited about it. We wanted to be a part of the distinctive retail story that we were finding and curate an energized place of our own to house all the wonderful, intentional makers that we observed.
There was also no shop like this in Culver City (where we had our event studio). We had to drive to Venice or Silverlake to buy products and clothes we loved. We wanted to bring something of interest to the neighborhood we were hanging out in every day.
Describe Midland in three words?
Warm, intentional, rustically-refined. We like to call it ‘A golden wheat field of abundance.’
What are the best and hardest things about owning a retail shop?
The best is all the goodness we carry. We find so much gratification in discovering well-made, ethically produced, quality goods and then seeing our customers respond with delight. Supporting people who are mindfully making artistic and responsible things makes us feel good about showcasing them and passing them on to others. When someone just gets it, that thrills us. Also, our shop gals are the coolest, kindest community we could hope for.
The hardest thing is helping those who don’t get it. When someone wants to resist the intention we’ve set forward. It’s also hard (but fun) to figure out what our customers will respond to. Sometimes we’re surprised and sometimes it makes total sense. We trust our intuition, and our buying philosophy is that nothing makes it in to Midland unless we both love it and would own it ourselves!
Tell us about the design on the shop?
It’s so beautiful. Our inspiration was a wheat field. The glow of the golden grain, the abundance of the harvest, the seasonal aspect of a wild field. We worked with architects at Otto Design Group, Alan Koch and Karen Spector, to design a plan to make it a mashup of Southwest-meets-California-meets-Japan. It was an old stinky hair salon that we gutted and transformed. We installed a Japanese stucco wall (hay is troweled in with the stucco for a beautiful harvest-like texture) and all the wood shelves and tables in the store are kiln-dried spruce. Spruce has that perfect wheat color we were looking for and smells divine. About 80 percent of our customers ask what the smell is when they walk in. We are trying to bottle it up and make our own Midland perfume and candle.
We’ve been fans since the early Bash Please days. How did that business come about and why did you decide to sell it?
It came about from being burnt out in film and advertising and wanting to be our own bosses. We were creative and knew how to produce, so we started doing that for friends and acquaintances and it turned into a full-fledged booming business overnight. It was a whirlwind! We had so much fun building that business and working with so many incredible people, but ultimately it’s one of the most stressful jobs you can have. It’s basically like producing a movie with one take. So we were just living on adrenaline and wanted to slow down, nest and be home and create a new path with Midland.
How do you choose the brands you sell in your shop?
There are so many incredible brands out there! It’s been a pleasant surprise to discover all of the wonderfully talented, conscious makers out there. We wish we could carry so many more brands. Our first standard in bringing a brand into the shop is that it feels unique and aligned to our point of view. We seek to support makers who ethically produce their goods. And most importantly, we support artisans who are simply good people. We’ve been so blessed to create strong relationships with our designers and makers. We’re building a community at Midland.
How does one go about selling a business. Did you have inquires or did you seek them out?
We initially reached out to some colleagues letting them know we were interested in selling The Cream, which is a wedding showcase event we produced. It had just had its ninth iteration and we were like, “yeah maybe The Cream needs to be passed on.” The ladies who were interested in buying The Cream initiated buying Bash Please as well. At first, we weren’t really sure we would sell, we had to think on it. It’s emotional to walk away from something you’ve literally put your blood, sweat, money and tears into to build. We felt an obligation to it and to our employees. But after sitting with it for awhile, we realized we were burnt out and needed to make a shift, so we decided to let it go and it has worked out well for us.
We trust our intuition, and our buying philosophy is that nothing makes it in to Midland unless we both love it and would own it ourselves!
Tell us about what you have coming up? What’s new?
We are currently working on our own Midland capsule collection for women. It is in the early phases but we are very excited to dive into fashion design and do it with responsible practices. We also want to continue creating more exclusive collaborations with the designers we currently work with and form new partnerships with other makers. We are also more inspired than ever to make our social presence a greater platform for badass women and their voices. Recently, we completed a Vanity Fair-esque portrait photo shoot that will go live soon featuring 50 women of different walks of life expressing what they want to see changed in 2018. Socially and politically, we feel the urge to be more vocal about reform in all aspects of life. And of course, we are also always on the lookout for a spot for store number two. Or number three.
You two are best friends and moms. How do these two things influence your work style?
We’re really more like sisters than anything. Because of that, we hold a trust that has been key to our successful business relationship for almost 10 years. We are able to hold each other up when needed and also able to give each other a little poke when needed. It’s refreshing to have that openness and support in our partnership. Being moms, we both get the constant internal struggle of how to be a great mom and still run and grow a great business. We both value family and home time and make space for each other in that regard.
What are tips you have for women entrepreneurs who are juggling so many things? How do you stay sane?
The juggle is all part of the package when you’re an entrepreneur. We think it’s important to embrace a bit of the crazy—otherwise there’s no hope for staying sane. We do our best to be very clear in our expectations and keep a set schedule so we can be fully present when we are at work and at home. It’s also important for us because we are such close friends as well as business partners to carve out our ‘friend time.’ It’s too easy to let business conversations take over every aspect (our brains are thinking about the business nonstop!), so we try to make time for us just as friends to catch up and reconnect on that level as well.
Favorite social media?
Instagram. Like most things, there’s the good and bad that comes with social media, but Instagram has connected us to so many designers and makers that we could never have discovered otherwise. It’s been an incredible channel for us to connect and get to know prospective brands and our customers in a way that feels authentic and real.
‘Filling a space in a beautiful way—that is what art means to me.’ – Georgia O’Keeffe
Photography: Nicki Sebastian