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Conversations with Karen Quimby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Quimby. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Founded by two girlfriends, Karen & Billie in 2009, The Twig & Willow Boutique opened its doors with one location in the Belmont Heights neighborhood of Long Beach, CA.

Karen, a 22 years veteran Product Designer in the Beauty Industry, has lead the launch of many of the most successful products from Urban Decay, Smashbox Cosmetics and many others. Billie was a high-rolling executive in advertising, managing budgets for some of the biggest luxury brands. This fierce duo decided it was time to use their creativity and business know-how to launch their own project, and the Twig & Willow brand was born.

Fast-forward 12 years later and a second location in Bixby Knolls, Karen is now the sole owner of the award-winning brand and has hung up her Beauty Industry gloves to nurture her passion project, Twig & Willow.

Twig & Willow has become a recognized name in Long Beach and surrounding counties and has become the go-to shopping destination for anyone craving unique clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts. Featuring over 50 local artisans and designers, you will find a curated selection of handmade pieces mixed with on-trend clothing brands, leather & vegan handbags, jewelry and rare home decor. Described as California casual meets beach bohemian, you’ll find your favorite everyday pieces and all those specialty things you can’t find anywhere else. The old-school approach to customer service and its warmly staffed and decorated shops create a friendly and comfortable place to just browse the day away, leaving inspired and satisfied.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Owning a business, especially retail brick and mortar stores is never a smooth road, no matter what anyone says. There is no two days ever alike and the industry keeps you moving fast and furiously. There have been financial challenges through tough economic times as well as successes during economic up-swings. It’s hard to ever get ahead though and just being able to pay your bills, pay your team and keep a little for yourself is typically the norm. It’s a business that you truly have to be passionate about because the pay is not usually the benefit.

Having enough inventory or having too much inventory is usually the most challenging. We tried inventory consultants to help manage it all but at the end of the day, retail is VERY hard to predict. I tend to do best, following my gut and staying flexible. You have to be able to act quickly, both from a marketing and sales perspective, to move the inventory. You also have to be just as agile when you are understocked and have suppliers at the ready to get goods quickly when traffic unexpectedly rises.

Partnerships are usually not easy either, though Billie and I still remain best friends. We were usually able to communicate through challenges and get through the tough times.

Lastly, the pandemic! No one could have guessed what that might do to small business. I became an expert in grant writing and filling out loan applications. We had to furlough most of the staff but surprisingly were able to keep a revenue flow going during our three months shutdown. We could have never expected the amount of online orders we would receive while everyone was held-up in their homes. My husband did door-to-door deliveries in his car before his work shift daily and I had two team members work side by side with me every day to pack and fulfill orders, receive new inventory, put all our inventory online and come up with creative ways to sell products.

We spent one of our busiest holidays in quarantine, Mother’s Day. We came up with pre-packed gift options, made mostly by local artisans, to offer on the website and we marketed our butts off. I think one of everyone’s favorite things we did over quarantine was to dress up wearing bandit-like masks and calling ourselves “Joy Bandits”. We had seen our friends from Thalken Mercantile in Colorado doing it and thought it was a great way to raise spirits. The three of us would take turns, every other day, to hand deliver pre-made “Joy Bags” to our customers locally. It brought serious laughter to our customers and gave us the will and energy to keep going. We would film the drop-offs and post to social media and everyone got a kick of seeing us dance, skip, and cartwheel our way to people’s doorsteps around the neighborhood.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a 23 years veteran of the cosmetic and fashion industries as a Designer and Product Developer. I created, marketed and developed beauty products that still remain best-sellers for brands like Urban Decay and Smashbox Cosmetics. I had the reputation as one of the beauty industry’s leading innovators and has appeared on QVC, Network television and in many brand videos and broadcasts. It was a fun, stressful and wild ride!

I then decided to go solo and founded Product 360, a Product Development/ Creative / Marketing firm in LA in 2007. I continued to work with small start-ups and worked directly with founders to launch successful beauty brands that still live on the shelves in Sephora, Ulta and global major retailers. I brought on a partner that now focuses mostly on creative direction, graphic design and brand building and she now owns the business after my departure to focus solely on Twig & Willow.

In 2016, after opening my second location, I decided to follow my true passion and work full-time on Twig & Willow, I oversee all facets of the business, though I’ve been lucky enough to have loyal and skilled managers run the day-to-day operations of the stores. My favorite parts of my job is buying and merchandising. I really love creating a unique space for people to shop or to just wander around when they need a break for their lives. I feel like merchandising is an art that I really do well with. I try to tell a story in everything I place. I think I’m most proud of creating a business that people love. I spend A LOT of time hunting for the things I put in the shops and I know guests appreciate that. From offering gift wrapping to hiring really genuine and kind team members, I believe Twig & Willow is a special place to find special things.

How do you define success?
Easy, happiness! I don’t bring home much money from the shops but I’ve built a business that employs eight women, supports local artists to make a living off their craft and a place for the community to gather, shop, explore and find gifts for loved ones and all while I have fun!

Contact Info:

  • Email: hello@twigandwillow.com
  • Website: www.twigandwillow.com
  • Instagram: @twigandwillow.com
  • Facebook: Twig & Willow
  • Twitter: @twigandwillow
  • Youtube: Twig & Willow
  • Yelp: Twig & Willow

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