Style is hard to define, but some people just have “it.” And Stacy Mikulik is one of those people! She’s a Chicago gal, a girl boss of her own making, and she loves a good coffee and Soul Cycle date (just like us!) What’s not to love? We were so lucky to work with her company, Grace + Hudson, to design custom jewelry pieces that you can SHOP ON HER SITE NOW (insert casual joy here). She also gave us a peak into her life, and helped us realize that we can, in fact, have it all…
What led you into the fashion world?
I discovered the art of jewelry making when I was vacationing in St. Thomas in 2008. I visited this beautiful handmade jewelry boutique there which was owned by a woman also named Stacy. Although I didn’t know how to make jewelry at the time, I remember exactly where I was standing in the Caribbean Sea when I said to my friend, “I’m going to quit my job and open a jewelry store like that back home.” Fast forward about 18 months and many You Tube jewelry making videos later, to when I quit my day job as an attorney and opened my own brick and mortar jewelry boutique in New Jersey, where I’m originally from. Although I only had the store from 2010-2011, I learned so much and never regretted the chance I took on that store. I had to return to the practice of law, but once I paid off that debt and did a whole lot of soul searching regarding what I wanted my life and career to look like long-term, I started making plans for my next venture. That led me to today’s current business, grace + hudson, which is all online and pop-up shops, and focuses on wholesale too.
What was the process of starting your own company?
I practiced law for 10 years before I launched grace + hudson. I always knew deep down that law wasn’t for me, but I graduated from an Ivy League college and fell into the trap of buying into everyone else’s definition of “success” which included a high paying job with a prestigious title. After I climbed the ladder and landed what should have been my dream position as an attorney, I didn’t feel any joy. And then my father passed away in 2014, which really put life into perspective. It was a combination of those two things happening at once that led me to truly understand that “success” is up to me to define, and really has little to do with the number on my paycheck or the title next to my name. It has a lot more to do with what brings me joy and happiness, and how much those things fill up my days. So I saved money from my day job, educated myself on website design and social media marketing, and designed many of the pieces in my collection. Then I quit my full-time gig and put all my time and effort into launching grace + hudson. If I do something, I go full force. And the added pressure of not having income from a day job makes me work a lot harder to make my dream a reality.
How do you stay inspired with your design process?
Designing feels like a moving meditation to me. I put on my favorite music like Coldplay or Mumford and Sons, have my favorite cup of tea nearby, and start playing around with my jewelry materials and different designs just come to me. I also love looking at pretty, light and airy things on social media from my favorite brands and bloggers like Sugar Paper and Julie Engel over at Girl Meets Glam. I also love to workout at SoulCycle, and the rush of endorphins and head-clearing I feel after that workout energizes me and opens up my mind to be more creative. It’s also a super supportive community full of people who are giving their all to be their best selves day-in day-out, and it’s pretty inspiring to be around that energy.
Who is your Grace + Hudson girl?
She is a her own version of a “girlboss”, loves classic, polished pieces, but also wants to sparkle a little with a sophisticated pop of color or unique design that isn’t on every girl walking around Chicago.
What is the best part of your job?
I love how no two days are the same. It keeps me interested and challenged day-to-day. I also love how light and airy and pretty my job feels now. This is quite the opposite of my previous legal job, where every day felt argumentative. I also love the charitable component of my business — I donate a portion of every purchase to a charity, which changes on a quarterly basis. I’d like to start working more with charities as I grow because giving back definitely brings purpose and meaning to my work, and helps to spread love and kindness, which the world needs a whole lot more of right now!
And the toughest?
Prioritizing work appropriately is definitely the toughest challenge. As a one-person business with a couple of interns, there is a lot of work to go around and not enough people to accomplish it, so prioritizing is most important. Sometimes you give too much time to something that doesn’t pan out, or vice versa. In the beginning of a business, it can sometimes feel like a guessing game, where to devote your attention and time. You win some you lose some, but the important thing is you learn from the defeats. That’s what builds a successful new business month after month.
How do you balance a personal and professional life?
It’s funny because now that I’m doing something I love, my job feels more like a lifestyle than a job. I don’t keep 9 to 5 hours, and I don’t even think of it as work sometimes. It’s just something that I like to spend my time doing, like a hobby, and naturally fits into my life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy all the time, and it can be very hard work, but doing something I love, in and of itself, has given me the balance I always sought when I was in the legal and corporate world. During weeks that are full of hard work though, I try to be social more frequently but for smaller blocks of time. For example, it’s easier for me to find time to go to SoulCycle with friends and grab coffee afterwards a few times a week, than to find a day or evening that all of my friends are free for a big dinner out or other adventure.
Do you think we really can “have it all”?
I think we can, but first we need to define what “having it all” means to us individually. Most people haven’t even thought about that part, and just go through the checklist of job, marriage, kids, dog, house with white picket fence. Then they get to the end of the list and realize that happiness wasn’t waiting for them. Happiness needs to be defined by each of us individually. What is going to bring you joy each day? How can you incorporate more of that? When you start answering those questions, “having it all” becomes defined by your own standards, and then you can achieve it. For most people, “having it all” is going to mean slowing down, not juggling ten impossible things, and that is definitely achievable.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
None of us is here forever, and there’s never going to be a perfect time to start that new business, or quit that job, or leave that marriage, or have that child. And before you know it, “next year” quickly turns into many years later. It is through watching my father pass away that I really came to understand this. He lived his entire life saving diligently for retirement when his life would “start”, and he passed away after a short battle with cancer at age 65. Too many of us live for tomorrow, and that is a sure fire way to waste the opportunities and life that’s been given to you. If you have the courage to step out and do the thing that needs to be done, trust me, the universe is going to catch you.
All photos courtesy of Iron + Honey Photography