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Capistrano Beach, CA

Habitation Co. is committed to honoring the process of living in a particular place and the journey of discovering beautiful objects that reflect the unique styles and stories of artists around the world.  Every pretty item you purchase supports creative individuals, communities, and organizations on almost every continent.


Filtering by Tag: business

About The Process: Building Community and Branching Out in a Small Business

Hailey Fynaardt

A few weeks ago, Habitation Co. turned one. At the risk of sounding cliché, in some ways the past year flew by, but in other ways (and on most days) this has felt like the longest year of my life. In the short time that I have been building my business, several of our friends have had actual babies of their own and as they've shared their stories of sleepless nights and mini-milestones, I've nodded along, picturing my own delirium-inducing-joy-filled-days of keeping my own "baby" alive. But the thing is, a business isn't a baby (it actually drives me crazy when people refer to them as such), and compared to a delicate, darling, awe-inspiring newborn human, a business is a nebulous, illusive, all-consuming, tentacled beast with an appetite for blood, sweat, and tears. Also, no one asks you if your baby is "making any money" or if you "still like it"... that would be weird. 

But this beast of a thing? I love it, like really love it, more everyday. Sure, this past year has had its ups and downs, but I feel like a kid on a rollercoaster who was just told I could stay on for another turn- white knuckles, nausea, nervous excitement, and all. A year is hardly enough time to get the hang of anything (marriage taught me that) but I'm starting to feel less and less like an imposter every day. I guess in some ways, this first year felt like getting to know a new friend (again, business: not human), who is also your roommate, or your conjoined twin, or maybe it's mostly like that weird mole you should have looked at. Well, this isn't going as planned, but then again, that's pretty much my point.

More than anything, this past year has been a lesson in letting go of expectations, control, big fluffy dreams, and fear. I've learned to embrace failure just a tiny bit better, and let my guard down when it comes to making a complete fool of myself- if only, as it often is, for myself. And I've had a helluva time doing it- and the "doing" is what it's really all about. Habitation Co., in various manifestations, had been a dream of mine for over a decade, like a little seed that I carried with me through college, cross-country moves, on job interviews, and around the world, and while last year was when I decided to finally plant it, it still has so far to grow. (ok, now it's a plant?)

Today, Habitation Co. is primarily an online shop- a space where I have been able to convey the essence of habitation, "the process of living", through curated products that help tell a part of this story in a tangible way. Throughout the course of sourcing and selecting products made by people I admire, I've been able to blend my love of storytelling, culture, history, style, and design with my interest in taking better care of the earth, and everything on it. Also, a shop was familiar.

My love of shop life goes way back to my first job in high school working for a lovely locally-owned stationery and gift boutique where I made lifelong friends over a few years. In college and beyond I learned everything I could about the ins, outs, and upside-downs of managing a small business from mentors I still deeply admire. I love being a shopgirl- getting in early, staying late, merchandising, customer service, holiday adrenaline rushes- the whole gig. But when it came to opening my own shop, I wasn't in a position, financially or otherwise, to start with a storefront, so I decided to test the waters of online retail. 

If you've ever held the palm of your hand over a jacuzzi jet, you have an idea of what it feels like to start an online retail business with little to no prior experience, but I was determined to swim. For a year I swam upstream, working my way backwards through business school by way of books, podcasts, blogs, e-courses, webinars, newsletters, and more, trying to learn all I could about how to run a successful business, expand my reach, refine my brand, and find my purpose. I became a total geek over creative entrepreneurship to the point that I started to pursue a career as a business-branding-lifestyle-all-the-things "consultant". I figured I could put my 2,000+ hours of research into practice,  and save someone else some time and money to invest in their own ideas. This lead to me working with a few local design clients and to me starting a local group for creatives that meets monthly to chat small business, creativity, and ideas for collaborations which has been amazing, though I started to wonder if I could do "both" (I saw my shop and my creative services as separate) and worried that I would have to choose between them as a lot of business "advice" recommends. But, I can't choose- not in the way parents say they couldn't possibly pick a favorite child- but because my beast was born with tentacles, lots of them, and they are all essential for its survival. I know that now. 

This past year has been spent mostly thinking about the "Habitation" part, but the "Co." really encompasses so much more. Traditionally "Co." stands for company, but in this case, "community" feels like a better fit. My dream for this business is to grow into a vibrant creative community, a space to share ideas and experiences about this "process of living in a particular place" that we're figuring out together.  I am so excited to see how Habitation Co. continues to evolve, both in my personal creative journey, and as a platform for sharing inspiring stories about people, places, and things I discover along the way. 

So here's where I tell you what to expect from Habitation Co. but I delete and re-type that sentence five times because I'm sonervousexcited to even put it out there... but here goes:

People: stories about or interviews with artists, writers, travelers, chefs, farmers, teachers who are making the world a more beautiful place and exploring "the process of living" in their own ways.  I'd really love to explore different mediums to see what makes sense or how that could evolve. A Podcast? Events? Retreats? All of the above? I'm in, if you are! 

Places: travel guides or tours of where we travel, work, eat, shop, live. As someone who dreams up imaginary trip itineraries or mentally redesigns houses in the shower, I'm super excited for this one, and I love getting all up in people's spaces, so fingers crossed they'll be cool with it, too. 

Things: objects, art, products, books, documentaries, clothes, food, tools, and more that reflect what Habitation Co. is all about. Slow, simple, quality, beauty, natural, ethical and the like. 

Ideas: this is a big one that will usually share a space with one or more categories above,  but here's where we'll be talking about sustainability, entertaining, creativity, business, and life in a way that feels casual, approachable, non-reproachable, and proactive. We're all learning. 

So, I didn't think I wanted to write this post, and halfway in, I knew I didn't want to publish it. A year isn't long enough to know a whole lot about a business or what it means to have one. I mean, at a year old humans are just learning what to do with their teeth and toes, and what gravity feels like, and we start to recognize pieces of their personalities and preferences. Again, I'm not comparing a business to a baby, but I guess I understand the temptation to. I want to say that this year has taught me "so much" because it's true, but then I think, "what do I know"?  I'm hoping that in another year, I'll look back on this post and laugh at how little I really knew. In reality, I'm still in entrepreneurship pre-school, so yes, if at the end of a year of doing this, I've learned to not pee my pants in public, occasionally ask for help, and develop my fine-motor skills, then I'll consider it a win.

And speaking of help, I would love any ideas or input for how to make this space better. Do you know of someone who should be featured on Habitation Co., or of a product that could be a good fit for the shop? Do you know how to produce a podcast? Let's chat!


Thanks, seriously, for being a part of this process- and for reading this wholllle thing. 

Talk to you soon!


FAQ: Where in the World Do You Find This Stuff?

Hailey Fynaardt

My fellow treasure hunters, deep in the thick of our first market experience in Nawalgarh, India last March. 

My fellow treasure hunters, deep in the thick of our first market experience in Nawalgarh, India last March. 

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is "where do you find all of these things?" Or, how do I source merchandise for the Habitation Co. shop. Of course, the most romantic answer is the one involving me wandering outdoor markets and bazaars in exotic countries, digging through piles of textiles and handicrafts, engaged in friendly bartering banter with the shop keepers. And, yes, while this is how I have found a few items in the shop, the methods I use for the majority of ordering may seem surprisingly simple and modern... I go online.

My goal as I set out to build Habitation was not to try to re-invent the wheel of Fair Trade businesses or to become a manufacturer of goods- I knew that my plan was strictly retail, as in, I sell things that other people produce. This decision was a natural one because my background has been in working for small retail businesses, and I know absolutely nothing about actually making products for wholesale. But it also stems from the fact that I have a difficult relationship with many other Western-owned (read white-female) "fair trade" businesses that dictate the styles and types of products the artisans make (based on Western, white-female trends). I have started several other posts along these lines, but I want to tread carefully as my thoughts and opinions are constantly evolving along with my own business. Simply, I knew that I wanted to build a retail business with companies/products that reflect my own values (yes, as a Western white-female) as well as the integrity and creative freedom of the artists and artisans who produce them, and not just what fashion trends dictate. 

The good news is that our world is more interconnected than ever and there seems to be a global-shift happening in terms of sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices. Platforms like social media sites have also made the Internet a giant melting pot of styles, trends, and standards in terms of fashion and design, particularly among the Gen Y crowd. In terms of "conscious fashion" and environmentalism, there has truly never been a better time to find fashion-forward yet authentic, ethically-produced pieces for your home and wardrobe. 

Habitation was ultimately born out of my own desire to buy/use/wear more sustainable and ethical products without compromising my personal style or twenty-something budget. I simply didn't like having to choose between something stylish and something that wasn't made using slave labor. When many people, myself included, think of "fair trade" products they think of expensive coffee, chocolate, tie-dye, felt, and incense- your local health-food store probably has an entire aisle dedicated to these products. While I think all of the above are great, I knew that there was a much bigger, untapped market of "fair trade" products out there... I would just have to go find them. 

And here's how:

1. Online

I started my hunt for merchandise by combing through websites of larger players in the ethical/sustainable movement: The Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade Africa/India, World Fair Trade Organization, etc. and searching through hundreds of individual websites and thousands of products picking items out one at a time. I have also connected with other vendors through social media and platforms such as Etsy and Pinterest. I now have a dozen or so companies that I repeatedly order from whose quality is in line with my (very high) standards. 

2. Travel

I also made a running list in my phone each time I came across a product in a shop or while traveling that I felt would be a good fit for Habitation. Some of the smaller vendors may have only an email address or a Facebook account, whereas larger companies have distribution centers right here in the U.S.. Some of these orders have looked like shady wire transfers and inconspicuous cardboard boxes miraculously showing up on my porch days or weeks later. Others have been through PayPal, Square, and other handy tools. 

3. Merchandise Markets

One of my goals for last year was to attend 1-2 merchandise markets which was super easy as there is a smaller show in LA twice a year. In terms of variety and quality of vendors, the bigger shows in Vegas, New York, and Texas likely have a lot more to offer, but the LA show was a good taste of what a merchandise market is like- which, as it turns out, is not very different from the markets in India and Africa. In the end I did find a few local vendors ( tea towels, and jewelry) that have been a great fit for the shop. I am hoping to be able to attend a bigger show in the future when a business trip is in the budget. 

4. Recommendations

Another way that I have found products for the shop is through recommendations from friends who have either stumbled across a great item while on their own travels and adventures or know of an artist or maker who they felt would be a good fit. I love discovering new people to work with, and the more eyes out there searching for treasure, the better! 

What products would you love to see more of at Habitation Co.? Home Decor, accessories, etc... what's on your "wishlist" for this season? 

Do you have a favorite ethically-produced or sustainably-sourced product that you think would be a great fit for Habitation Co.? I'd love to support other creative businesses and share them with our corner of the world. Drop me a note at

Me and "my woodblock guy", Girish in his shop in Khan Market, New Delhi. 

Me and "my woodblock guy", Girish in his shop in Khan Market, New Delhi. 

Enjoy the process!