I'm absolutely in love with the adorable Apple Village, a unique children’s design and gift shop owned by Alexandria Pavel, a super talented design expert, and creative entrepreneur. Alex decided to follow her dream of owning her own business after realizing that everything she was doing for other companies were things she could do for herself in her own business and be successful at it too! Her interview is honest and inspiring.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services or products do you offer?
My name is Alexandria Pavel and I am the owner of Apple Village, a children’s design and gift shop. My store offers unique furnishings and gifts for children of all ages that are generally not found at big box stores.
I work with many artists and socially conscious companies because I believe in teaching kids about sustainability by surrounding them with intentional toys and products. I also offer design services to clients who are inspired by the design and feel of the shop and want to work together on outside design projects.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
Honestly, I never really knew what I wanted to do-specifically. This, (up until recently) has been a challenge because I always thought I should have more of a direction or a focus. I have always been creative and knew that I had a unique style. I also know that I love helping people, but did not have a career plan that I knew of early on.
I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Sociology, but was fairly convinced that I had chosen the “wrong” major. I was accepted to the Fashion Institute of NY while at Rutgers, but decided to stay and finish out my Sociology degree.
What’s interesting when looking back is that all of my jobs after college were design focused. I worked for many large retail companies wearing hats in visual merchandising, buying, management and everything in between, but always put my heart into the work that required my creativity.
After my last position working as a Brand Manager for a company that I rebranded via store design, community relationships and product assortment in Chicago, I felt there was no-where else I would be fulfilled other than creating a sustainable self-owned business.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been saying “yes” to myself and trusting my instinct's that I can do it. Sounds cheesy, but I have probably been my biggest roadblock in moving my career forward. Once I realized that if it’s not me, no one else is going to do it for me, I decided to act.
Making the decision to stand behind myself as a creative entrepreneur and trusting in my talents and abilities is what continues to bring on more accomplishments. All of that said, designing a really fun and unique store of my own, and being hired by women in the community to design their spaces are also at the top of my list!
What mistakes have you made with your business? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
My business is still fairly new, and I have been getting busier than I would have anticipated quickly. I would say time management has been my biggest mistake or challenge thus far. I have always been more on the creative end of the spectrum and have had a difficult time with the organization.
Now that I am responsible for so many moving parts of my business, in addition to my 2.5-year-old at home (and second baby on the way), there is no denying that I needed a better system for time management.
I am learning to write things down, make lists, and also be honest with people about my timeline and expectations. I also realize there has to be some time scheduled in there for me to relax and recharge.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
Sincerity, drive, and flexibility. I feel people can smell insincerity from a mile away. I know I can. As I get older and work to support my family and myself, I have really come to appreciate the relationships with the people or businesses I support. I want to feel good about where I spend my money because I know how hard I work for it.
Similarly, I think it’s important to do the same for the people who walk into my shop or visit the website, or on social media platforms. I want my customers to feel valued, heard, inspired, and taken care of.
Second, I think if you are dedicated to something enough to start a business doing it, you’re probably on the right track. I am driven by the part of myself that always wants change things up, stay on top of trends, connect with people, and make my business a sustainable form of livelihood.
Last, flexibility because things will happen, plans will change, and if you can move with the change and creatively problem solve, rather than get stuck, you will be helping to move your business (and yourself) forward.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Trust yourself and your abilities, and know that you might not know what everything will look like with your business right now, but it will unfold organically-which is probably for the best!
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
My advice here would be: know your strengths and also your weaknesses. My husband and business partner Dave have been incredibly supportive, and helpful in the realm of financial organization, but neither of us are experts on finances or accounting. We are seeking outside help from an accountant and advisor.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
This is an area that has been challenging for me, but I am getting better at it. I make time to spend with my friends (even if it’s a short visit), and my family. Also, If I can manage to get myself to a yoga class or take a long bath once and a while, that helps too.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would love to open another Apple Village shop on the West Coast and continue to expand my design portfolio of children’s spaces and adult spaces as well. I’ll be learning and growing, and am really excited to see where this journey leads.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I’m a certified yoga teacher and spent lots of time teaching at a healing center in San Francisco.
Thank you for such a wonderful interview Alexandria!