Today, we’re telling the story of how Emily and I met, and how together we decided to create Atelier Doré. You’ll hear my side of the story and her side of the story. It’s been an incredible adventure for both of us!
As I was telling you last week, the day I met Emily, I found her big smile and enthusiasm so captivating, I hired her on the spot. It was one year after I’d arrived in New York, and I had no plans to expand. All I wanted was to find time to sleep again, because honestly I was spending my entire life working.
I had an assistant, Caley, and Emily was going to be my editorial assistant from then on.
Really, I didn’t know what that meant exactly. I just knew I had lots of ideas, lots of things I wanted to do, and no more time to make them happen.
She was 22, adorable, petite, funny, determined, and most of all, she was able to take all of the random tasks I was throwing at her and handle them really well. Sometimes, I would tell her something, make a reference to something, and I’d see she didn’t completely understand. She wasn’t the type to ask me to explain, and I wasn’t the type to push her into a corner.
Especially because I quickly discovered that if she didn’t know something one day, the next day, she’d figured out a way to learn it.
I liked that about her right away. I’m the same way. I like to find my own way out of situations without panicking. And I had also jumped into worlds I didn’t totally understand, where I was forced to learn quickly on the job.
When I looked into Emily’s eyes, I always found what I was looking for. There was something very clear about her, honest, and most of all, quick and intelligent. In a few weeks, she understood me before I’d even finished my sentence. And in a few months, she’d made herself totally essential. She did everything, nothing scared her, nothing was above her or below her. That’s a quality I look for in others and I hope I have myself.
Little by little, our studio grew. I gave Emily more responsibilities. She had studied journalism, but soon she began to take an interest in business. Personally, I don’t really like business except for the ideas, creative problem solving, and the opportunities that come from working as a team.
I was very happy to have someone I could count on, and who knew how to read an Excel spreadsheet.
Like me, Emily is an open book. As soon as she found her confidence, she was very open about expressing her ambitions. I really liked that, because it helped me to understand how I could help her and how to stimulate her.
She also understood right away that I needed a lot of support, support I didn’t always ask for, and support that sometimes went beyond strictly professional boundaries.
My personal life and my work are super connected, as you can imagine!
It’s very difficult to get attached to people we work with, because you think one day they’ll probably leave. Or you’ll decide to part ways with them, whether it’s mutual or they decide to leave of their own accord, whether it lasts a year or ten years, one day they won’t be there anymore, and that can be very challenging.
I’m too emotional for that, I think. I had to learn to keep a certain distance with the people I work with, otherwise it was too hard. I love them way too much.
But with Emily, time got the best of me. Over the years, we formed a very close relationship. It was different and surprising. Between our professional lives growing together and our personal lives getting mixed in along the way, everything we knew about each other, the vulnerability of knowing we couldn’t really hide anything from one another, and most of all, the inescapable day-to-day of running a business together, the laughing, the mistakes, and lots of tears, something important was born.
And one day we were wondering what our next adventure would be. We had carried what had become “our” project, which I told you about last week, on our shoulders. We wanted to move forward, and we were feeling a new kind of pressure.
“Are you going to take an investment? Hire a CEO? What’s the next step?”
I didn’t really know what I wanted. Create a platform? Create products? Create content for other people? Lose ten pounds and become an it-girl who takes selfies in the front row?
Emily and I were both confused. I knew I wanted to keep writing, drawing, creating things. We both knew we had potential but we didn’t want to lose ourselves running after profit.
We started meeting people, potential CEOs, consultants, business men and women. It was strange, nothing really stuck, but we figured that was normal when a business was growing, and maybe we needed to overcome our fears, and put confidence in a stranger who would tell us what to do. We had heard some great success stories, so we thought maybe it would work…
In the meantime, Emily began to lose her beautiful confidence. Was I looking for someone to replace her? What would be her role in the future? What were we about to become?
And I get that. At the time, I wasn’t clear. When I asked for advice, people would tell me: “You can’t let your assistant run your business! You need someone strong who knows what they’re doing!” She must have sensed that I was being pulled back and forth. Her work dipped a little bit, and our relationship also went downhill. But I also needed reassurance. Giving responsibility to someone you’ve watched grow also means expecting a lot from them…until the two of you are equals.
So one day, I decided to speak up, and I was very clear.
You have to know, I’m very soft, in general. I let people find themselves. I say things, but very rarely do I push people into a corner.
That day, we were in my kitchen, and Emily was in a bad mood, which never happens. I could see she wasn’t quite the same, and part of me wanted to give her a big hug, and the other part of me wanted to shake her. I was afraid that consoling her would put us into a bad cycle of victimization, so I decided to just go for it.
I asked her what was wrong, and we both started crying (we cry a lot together, whether it’s because we’re emotional, joyful, sad, laughing too hard…) and she told me about all her concerns. And I said to her:
“Emily, I can see that you want to be the person I’m looking for. I know that, but if you want this job, don’t sit around waiting, or start getting frustrated with me, expecting me to just give it to you. Take it, take the power and show me you can do it. Of course I have concerns, but I know you can do it. So, educate yourself, go for it, stop waiting for permission. If one day you want to run a business, you only need permission from yourself.”
That was a big moment for me. A moment of courage, putting someone I love and want to protect on the line, testing their courage and commitment.
Talking, pushing, and overcoming my fear of hurting her feelings.
And it was a big moment seeing Emily in the days that followed, leaving her doubts behind, changing her attitude, taking control and becoming who she is today.
Strong, fragile, ambitious, a go-getter, ready to take her dreams and make them a reality. I knew that by putting that trust in her, I would have to make a few concessions. She still had a lot to learn, it would take some time, and there would probably be some mistakes.
But I also knew what I was gaining. An ally, a friend, a partner, a brilliant mind; someone I could trust 100%, someone who shared my dreams and fears, and knew how to push me when needed, but would also tell me to rely on her when I needed to.
We opened Atelier Doré together, it’s our baby, and we have millions of plans to share. We wanted to start by sharing our story because it says so much about who we are, our innocence, our passion, what motivates us and what makes us close. Her success is my success, and I hope she feels the same way, because there’s nothing like finding a true ally in life.
And on that fertile ground, we want to create a big family together, with our entire wonderful team at Atelier Doré (many of whom were recruited by Emily, by the way)(I’m starting to wonder if she didn’t recruit me too, actually)(hahaha) and with you, our dear readers.
P.S. – Thank you for all the résumés you sent us last week. We’re reading all of them and setting them aside for when we need them. Don’t get discouraged – passion, talent and humor always win in the end. The proof? I met Emily through Twitter, Vanessa at the organic grocery store in my neighborhood, Alison at a weird conference where I was wearing a weird outfit…and the rest is your CV, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, of course.
My story with Garance is long and sometimes complicated and, in my eyes, super beautiful. Today, we like to say we’re married. Let me explain.
The first time I met Garance did not go as planned.
Nearly 6 years ago, fresh out of college in Washington, DC, I moved to NYC for a glorified internship (aka I got paid, but not enough to cover a month’s rent) at Lucky Magazine. I was looking for a full time job and saw a tweet on my feed from @GaranceDore saying they were hiring an Editorial Assistant. Let me preface this by saying I started reading Garance’s blog when I studied abroad in Paris and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I lamely tried to replicate her illustrations more than once (hilarious if you know me and know I can barely draw a stick figure)…From there I started following her and reading the blog periodically.
I sent in my resume never expecting to hear back. A week later, I was shocked to get an email from Caley, Garance’s assistant at the time, asking me to come in for an interview. We ended up scheduling for the following day and I raced back to New York from Philadelphia where I was visiting my parents. I headed down to the village to meet Caley and when the elevator door opened I walked in to what looked very much like an apartment. I was a bit surprised, I realized I literally had no idea what I was walking into…and took a seat on the couch at Caley’s request. That’s when Garance came walking into the living room barefoot and fresh out of the shower! I never expected to meet her that day and the surprise and intimacy of the situation threw me into an anxiety tailspin. I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember feeling like it went terribly. I left thinking, “Well I’m definitely not getting that job! But at least I got to meet Garance Doré.”
A few days later, I got an email to come back in. I went back to the apartment, much more prepared, and a few days later accepted an editorial assistant position. I had just turned 22.
It became clear very quickly that G and I worked well together, but my responsibilities were all over the place. Caley moved to Seattle and I became the only employee on the team, taking on the role of personal assistant, editorial assistant, producer, advertising operations and sales. I learned on the job. I could identify that I liked the organizational aspects of my job. I liked bringing in revenue. A few months later we hired Alex (who worked with me at Lucky) to help us with editorial and from there my role flourished. I felt invested and I got excited about the business and all the ways we could organize and grow. It’s no surprise to anyone that Garance is a creative in every sense of the word—she’s full of ideas, works very non-traditionally, is messy, and hates numbers. I never thought numbers were my thing either, but I took on the role of being the yin to her yang and I loved my job.
Not only that, but there was also a relationship flourishing between Garance and I. We trusted each other pretty early on—we’ve always both been incredibly honest with each other. Quickly we weren’t just boss and employee. What I love about us is that roles we play in each others lives (there are multiple!) shift so fluidly. Sometimes it’s like we’re sisters, sometimes like best friends. Sometimes she’s my boss, and sometimes my colleague. We had all of that, but we also developed boundaries so we weren’t overwhelming each other either. It made work fun, and easy.
I started to get busier, my responsibilities grew along with the business and we began to hire and haven’t stopped since. My confidence grew too. Yes I was young, but I was surprising everyone (and sometimes myself) with how much I could handle and accomplish. We were becoming “the Studio” and I was learning how to build a small company without even knowing it. By the time we launched Garance’s book in 2015, I was heading up business development and operations for the Studio and our lives were truly intertwined. G had the ideas and I could make them happen, we couldn’t work without each other.
After the book, Garance was hearing more and more that she should hire a consultant or a CEO, and I started to get really discouraged. It was clear to me that she wanted to take the business to the next level, but was having doubts that I could be the one to do it with her. I thought about leaving, and thought maybe that if this was what she wanted, it meant that it was just my time to move on. Things started to get tense and eventually came to a head. I was sitting in the stairwell of our office building, crying, and having one of the few (but not the first or last) really hard conversations with G. I wanted to grow into being her CEO, I wanted her to trust in me and to stop using the excuse that I was young (I am, I was). She told me to go after what I wanted and step it up. And I did. A year later, we became partners. It wasn’t an easy process, it was incredibly emotional and sometimes contentious. But what we did agree on, always, was the type of business we wanted to build.
Garance asked me a few years ago what I wanted for my career. I told her then that what I wanted was to work somewhere that I would have the flexibility to work in a way that made sense for me in terms of time. I want to be a career woman. But I also want to have a family, and I don’t want to be absent from my children’s lives. I want to be able to work remotely from Cape Cod in the summers, I want to be able to take my kids to school and pick them up when I want to. I want a business where I can be a woman, a real power player, AND a caretaker.
Our shared vision is to build a business that doesn’t just measure success based on profit and scale, but on the comfort and happiness of its employees. I want all of us to love our work, and have a life. And I don’t think that means that we can’t be successful financially. It only means that we can be authentic and show up as our best selves because we’re creating an environment that strives to provide balance. What we do focuses on bringing creativity and beauty into people’s lives. That’s probably why you’re reading the site right now, for inspiration or entertainment, or maybe just to dream. To me, the only way we can continue to do that authentically is if we have a business that allows us to continue to dream, try new things and experiment. Many large corporations don’t have the luxury of that because they are accountable to more than just their readers or consumers. They are accountable to stockholders and investors. Their success is measured solely by money. A mistake could mean budget cuts and layoffs.
We measure success based on a few other things. Our success is based on our pride in our work. It’s based on making our community happy, and getting to spend time engaging with them, whether that’s in person or through the comments on the site and social media. It’s based on our creative stimulation and our happiness. That’s what we’ve been striving for and what we hope to continue to instill in our employees and with our readers.
It hasn’t always been easy, especially with things that have happened in our personal lives but we’ve always been there for each other. I’ll never forget going to see her the day that her and Scott decided to split up and I hugged her while she cried. Then when Josh and I broke up two years ago, I slept on her couch for 3 days before going home to see my family. We’ve leaned on each other through meltdowns and hard situations in a way you can’t just lean on a regular colleague. But there have been times of great happiness too! G was the first person I spoke to when Josh and I got engaged (Ok I did call my parents first, but it was so early they didn’t answer, but G did!). I helped Chris coordinate her engagement ring, while we were on the book tour together so extra tricky! We may be 15 years apart, but our lives have run this parallel that’s been beautiful. She’s taught me so much, and maybe in some ways I’ve taught her a few things too.
And just like that, I’m 27 and the Atelier is born. As it turns out, walking into that apartment that day was one of the most pivotal moments in my young life and career. From there, I started learning from her, becoming who I had the potential to be. It was the starting point of my not-so-traditional success and an invaluable friendship. Garance can now live a beautiful life in LA and continue to create and dream in a way that will drive our business. And I can be in New York with our team and my fiancé, to start the next phase of our company and my life.