Paige Appel and Kelly Harris are two incredible women we’ve been wanting to feature on the site for months. Not only are they the sweetest humans on earth, they are total powerhouses running one of our favorite LA stores Midland Shop (in Culver City, Silver Lake, and online) — and not to mention, they’re mamas and championing good causes while doing it all.
There are several cool things about this duo (trust us, just keep reading), but one of the undoubtedly coolest things at of the core of what they do is set in doing purposeful work — and to them, that’s achieved in a handful of ways. Paige and Kelly met via Twitter (true story) and the rest has been history. They’ve worked hard to set their brand apart and it’s obvious to any of us who know them, and by reading this, you’ll understand why, too. This is one of those interviews that will instantly make you feel ready to conquer the world. So trust us and take a seat with Paige and Kelly.
Tell us about the Midland journey. How did the two of you come together and start this company?
Our journey has been kissed by fate for 10 years. We met in 2009 over coffee via finding each other on Twitter (oh the days) and immediately felt connected. Two creative entrepreneurs living in LA looking for their next endeavor. Kelly hails from the east coast, Paige from Texas and both of us have lived in LA for about 18 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 in 2009 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. The timing has always lined up for us and we have stayed best friends through many iterations of our career.
In your experience thus far, what’s been one of the hardest parts about running a retail operation?
The hardest part about retail is two things: figuring out what customers want that we also want to sell, and making enough money to pay ourselves! In today’s market of fast fashion and quick buys, we try to set ourselves apart with thoughtful, well-made, ethical and boutique designers. Not everyone gets it, so making sure the products are tried and true and part of a considered story helps them sell. We believe so much in brick and mortars who are working to keep conscious consumerism alive and thriving, and being fairly new to the retail world, we hope we can make a lasting mark and keep customers coming back to discover and support the Midland vision we are creating.
What’s been one of the most rewarding parts thus far?
The most rewarding is definitely discovering and supporting so many wonderful designers and makers. It is a connection to a higher quality life, an inspiring feeling to aid in someone’s livelihood, and a circle of wonderful people all doing great things. Some are indigenous people who’s craft has been around for centuries and some are new makers paving a new path. It feeds our soul and makes this work elevate us to a higher frequency than the event planning did. We feel purposeful in a new way and inspired on a level that feels necessary and lovely.
You’ve now expanded from Culver City to a second shop in Silver Lake, have a clothing line, host an incredible retreat, and so much more. How did you guys get to this point in your business? What has it taken?
Yes! It has taken active listening to our inner voices and not saying no to challenges and desires. Being open to learning and being vulnerable in asking for help. We have amazing business partners and spiritual teachers that have encouraged us to be dynamic and strive to evolve in our intellect, skill-set, long-term intentions, and entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s a lot to take in sometimes, but when we get to the core of what we want from life and how we want to exist in this world, we have to make sure our ethics, our families, our friends, the earth, our souls stay in tact and un-harmed. We operate on a very transparent and accountable level so we can make sure our job lines up with our bigger life goals.
What inspired your incredible campaign, #midlandgalsforchange? We love this campaign so, so much.
Thank you! We felt we needed to use the platform we have to bring about more awareness and change. Every person can contribute in some way to making a difference in society and what tool gets the most traction these days? Social media. We felt we could start with this campaign and we’ll see where it goes. We’ve made a commitment to give more to charities and use more of our time and resources to giving back. And we’ve learned so much from these women! We hope to continue to have women of all walks of life join us in using their voice and their ideas to invoke hope and action into the world today. It’s a snowball effect… when one person starts it up, the movement to be better people can get bigger and bigger. There is really no excuse to not participate in helping in whatever way you can.
You are both mamas on top of running your biz. How do you find work-balance? Is that even a thing?
Yes it is! It feels like it swings one way or the other sometimes for sure. Like when we have a busy week at work we try the next week to clear more time for the kids. One reason we gave up event planning is because we had to be on the road so many weeks of the year missing school plays and loose teeth and milestones we didn’t want to miss anymore. We were definitely not balanced. With Midland, we are home more. We don’t have to miss as much and we don’t have the same pressures. Pros and cons of both types of work but we love the space we have created and can be flexible with our choices more. And our kids feel the shift, which makes for a more harmonious home life.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Clarity is kindness. Someone told us that once and it really makes sense with everything we do. If we have murky decisions to make, we wait until it shows clear. If we have hard conversations to have, we make sure we are direct and vulnerable enough to be clear. If we start a new business, or when we sold our events company, we made sure the flow was clear. If something doesn’t sit right with us, it’s not kind to ourselves or to others involved. Customers, families, colleagues, employees, friends, business vendors. When we make thoughtful, clear, decisions and boundaries, everyone benefits. Even if it’s hard to do sometimes.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to venture off into their own biz?
Fake it till you make it is not authentic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to fail. Stay hungry, go to panels and hear your mentors talk about how they do it. Be transparent, set goals, hustle and work. It takes juggling a couple of jobs sometimes. It takes asking elementary questions. It takes crunching numbers. It takes really loving and committing to the new biz idea. You will get frustrated, you will have set-backs, you will feel vulnerable. Keep going and make sure you are open to people telling you advice you may not want to hear. Don’t think you know anything. Be honest with yourself and others, and that will open doors to discovering how to move forward in your plan.
What’s next for Midland?
Who knows?! More clothing designs, more product development, more retreats, more pop-ups, more campaigns, more activism. We just see where the wind takes us. We probably won’t open anymore shops for a bit, we are thinking other cities eventually but for now the two L.A. ones take up our time as well as the online shop and doing more local events. We will be hosting a beach clean-up with our friend Christy Dawn to kick off summer in June. We really just want to keep creating and supporting in a way that feels right to us.