Today we’d like to introduce you to Hannah Bangs.
Hi Hannah, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I am the founder of Idyll Mercantile, a very small woman-owned business! I opened in February 2021 out of a perceived need for my community to have not only access to indoor plants but also the education for how to care for them. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sciences from UC Santa Cruz and followed a circuitous path of customer service and travel post-graduation, that has landed me where I am now. My professional career has been a compilation of cafe management jobs, and I wanted to bring the familiarity and warmth of coffee into a retail setting.
I always knew I wanted to open some form of cafe, retail, or community space, so I’ve been saving aggressively since I started working. When I moved home to Santa Barbara in October 2020, I finally had enough capital to start seriously thinking about starting a business. I chose a name, bought my LLC and googled my way through initial phases. Before I knew it, I had a location, a grower, and a small chunk of change to furnish my shop.
My first few months were BUSY. I worked a part-time job Monday- Wednesday, and on the shop Thursday-Sunday. I scoured thrift shops, craigslist, and marketplace for tables and shelving, and had my dad help me build my front counter out of wood we had in our garage.
To say I was blown away by the community support when I opened would be an understatement. Through instagram, word of mouth, and an article in the Independent, my little shop had consistent foot traffic and I had a hard time keeping the shelves stocked. I broke even month 3, quit my part-time job, and put myself on Salary! I am very proud to watch a 10-year dream come to life, and to have it received so well by the community.
Flash forward 7 months to today; Idyll works with over 30 artists and we carry between 200-350 plants at a time, all within a humble 456 square feet. I feel great joy and excitement to be a woman in business, who is creating community around plants and art.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No way! Oh man. I STILL have people walk into the shop and say things like ‘I can’t believe you’re still open,’ and ‘Good luck!’
I opened Idyll independently, with no loans or investors. I run with extremely tight margins and have relatively high over-head. There is a lot of risk involved in running such a tight-capital business. In the beginning, purchases over $200 felt HUGE. It was always an ‘either this or that’ situation, i.e. ‘either a nice new shelf, or plants for opening.’ I had to be very careful and very honest with myself about how much I had to work with at any given time.
On top of that, I had a nice four month stint of 7-day work-weeks with over 100 hours per week. There was very little work-life balance in the beginning, and I would be kidding if I said that it was smooth sailing. I felt alone and I needed help, but I couldn’t yet pay for the help I needed. My shop was very DIY, and therefore, time-consuming. I spent hours on developing my brand, creating a website, filing the right paperwork, hanging shelves, finding suppliers and artists, and carefully monitoring my accounting.
I will say that doing all of this primarily by myself, gave me a deep understanding of how long each process takes. Everything has become about efficiency, with time as my most valuable asset. I know when to hire someone based on a cross-analysis of how much time it would take me vs. a professional, and what I can do with that freed-up time.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I work hard, and I also place a lot of value on leisure and play. I don’t believe that free-time needs to be productive, in fact, I lean heavily on the science that supports relaxation and recuperation as a means to higher-productivity. I am fiercely protective over my free-time, and I have created a business with space to remain human.
As a manager, I want my people to feel valued and cared for. I want them to show up in their humanness, and therefore bring whatever they have to the table. As an employee, I want to work efficiently and effectively without sacrificing quality. In my coffee days, I loved pouring GOOD coffee quickly while also fostering community through connection with my customers.
I currently specialize in indoor foliage and the art of running a business in alignment with my values. As a business owner, I am faced with a million choices every day of how I am going to show up for my business. Each purchase is intentional, and every thing that we carry has a place and purpose in my shop. Idyll is a living and breathing example of a tiny, accessible world that I want to invite people into.
On a personal level, I am most proud of my ability to maintain creativity and fluidity amidst being a business owner and CEO! It is easy to get wrapped up in numbers and business and growth, but I’ve put a lot of work into creating something that I love to show up to and to share with others.
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Yes, it is care. I care about the entire system of people and nature in relationship with my business. I work backwards towards a more gentle, less destructive supply chain, and forwards towards the value given to the consumer. I care about how people feel when they come into and leave the shop, and I care about how the artists and the land are treated in the exchange. I care and tend to every plant that lives and breathes in my shop. By caring about what I share with the community, I am in turn cared for and experience a success reliant on the success of the environment and people around me.
- Small plants $4-$12
- Medium $18-$30
- Large $30-$100
- Rare $45-$2500
- Art $6-$500
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: idyllmercantile.com
- Instagram: idyll.mercantile
- Yelp: idyll mercantile