Connect
To Top

Conversations with Hannah Bangs

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.

Pricing:

  • Small plants $4-$12
  • Medium $18-$30
  • Large $30-$100
  • Rare $45-$2500
  • Art $6-$500

Contact Info:

  • Email: hello@idyllmercantile.com
  • Website: idyllmercantile.com
  • Instagram: idyll.mercantile
  • Yelp: idyll mercantile
Suggest a Story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in local stories