How this Founder Turned a Failing Concept into a Thriving Home Goods Brand

 
Melissa Moriarty, Founder and Creative Director of Azulina Home   Photo by:

Melissa Moriarty, Founder and Creative Director of Azulina Home

Photo by:

 
 

Melissa Moriarty is the founder and creative director of home goods brand, Azulina Home, a line of pillows, baskets and rugs--all artisan handmade and in an aesthetic best described as California laid-back luxury meets global modern.

Moriarty started the business as a dinnerware product line in 2013, the brand was originally called Azulina Ceramics, but Moriarty says it was a flop, “financially speaking.” At the same time of the dinnerware concept not working, Moriarty was faced with the sudden loss of her little brother, Jimmy, who had been killed while serving overseas in Jordan.

“Paired with Jimmy’s loss, I was in complete despair with my failings in business,” she says. At the time Moriarity was living in Bogota, Colombia. Unsure of what to do next with the company and mourning the death of her brother, Moriarty had a glimmer of inspiration when she came across a Colombian-made pillow at a friend’s house, “Inspired by all the amazing home goods that are handmade by talented artisans in Colombia I was like, okay, maybe there's still something in this space that I can turn into a business,” she said.

In under two months Moriarty created the new business, with new products, a brand new catalog and website and took the line to the NYNOW trade show as one last ditch effort at the brand, “My line of thinking was, I'll take a few things that I’m obsessed with to the trade show, and if it sticks, great, if not, I spent a couple grand on my final effort to test this business idea and I’ll know for sure it doesn't have legs."

It worked. “I wrote more orders at that show than I had written in the entire year with my old product line. It was a GD miracle,” Moriarty says, “So I was like, alright, I guess there might be a business here.”

Moriarty switched from tableware to baskets, pillows, and rugs, in early 2017. At the time of publishing this piece, Azulina Home is on track to double their 2017 sales and the brand has gotten into over 40 stores from California to Vermont. Azulina Home is going into upholstery next and will be launching the line in the spring in partnership with Alt for Living.

While Moriarty has outside contractor support to help build the business, she still runs the concept as a solo founder. Managing a week--from product-development hat, to sales hat, to marketing hat, to, keep going--is an act of balance and focus. Moriarty shares how she does it below:

What I do to prepare for the week…

On Friday, or during the weekend, I sit down and plan out my week ahead. The question I ask myself is this: “what are three things I need to do tomorrow to move my business to over $1 million in sales.” I have to be razor focused here or else I’m just wasting my time. I pick the top three most important things for my business, and schedule that into the next work day. I’ll usually have Monday and Tuesday written out in advance and then as the week goes on and things adjust or change I will edit the following day’s to dos. The most important thing is having these items written down the day before.

To kick-off each week I...

I have an 8:30am call with my assistant every Monday morning. I hand off all the important tasks that need to get done for the week, get in sync on any outstanding issues, and then I get to my top 3 to dos.

 
 
Moriarty at a tradeshow

Moriarty at a tradeshow

 
 

I get each day started by...

I recently bought this really amazing Breville espresso machine that I had been eyeing for a while and it is every bit as delightful as I thought it would be. Every morning I turn that sucker on and make my morning latte.

The biggest unsustainable habit that I had to change to be more productive was...

I didn’t have clear goals for myself or my business. This is so simple, but so overlooked. To change it I sat down, maybe spent a few hours on this exercise, and listed out the big dreams I have for my life, and the number # 1 goal that I am most excited about that I want to achieve first. For me it’s to surpass $1 million in sales in 2019 so I write it down every day, say it out loud and plan my everyday activities around that goal. I listened to a recent Rachel Hollis podcast (go buy her book right now!) about the importance of writing down your 10 dreams for your life and one goal, every day. It’s important to note here that you’re focusing only on one goal at a time. It’s really tough to only pick one goal, but as Rachel brilliantly pointed out in the podcast I was listening to, no matter what that one goal is, as you are doing all the things to attain it it’s like a rising tide, you not only get closer to the goal you’re focusing on but lots of other things also rise and improve at the same time. Being hyper focused is so very crucial.

Something I do to help me transition from work mode to chill mode….

...I am the type of person that thrives in an office. I’ve tried working from home and I just am not as efficient. I’m not cut out for it. I have a small office space downtown that is my “work zone” - when I walk in the door it’s all business, so that when I come home at the end of every day I am in my “home zone.” The separate environments are key.


My favorite time saving hack is...

...Hiring an  assistant. Even if you don’t think you can afford someone, trust me, it’s a lifesaver and you can afford it. Just 4-6 hours a week makes a huge difference in my business and helps me to stay focused on what I’m best at which is sales, strategy and design. It has been a crucial step to scaling my business and serving our customers the best. Thank you, Sarah, you’re a lifesaver!!


 
A space styled by Lark Interiors featuring an Azulina Home Cuatro Tetas basket and Chusco Pillow

A space styled by Lark Interiors featuring an Azulina Home Cuatro Tetas basket and Chusco Pillow

 
 

My best tip for balancing work time and personal time…

You know, my work life and my personal life are one and the same, and I love that. I think about new designs, new marketing strategies, new ideas alllll the time. That’s just part of my life now and I’m okay with that, because I love what I do. Now, to be clear, I’m not taking business calls late at night or on Sunday mornings, but I’m always “on”. That’s kind of what you sign up for if you own or run a business.


 
 
Moriarty on-site researching materials for a new product

Moriarty on-site researching materials for a new product

 
 

I do my best big picture thinking when...

I’m talking shop with other boss ladies! I was going to say they when I’m in shower, which I also get a lot of great ideas in there, but when I get to brainstorm with other business women I am just BUZZING with great thoughts and ideas. It inspires me like no other and is where I get all my ideas.

When I feel stuck...

I do Morning Pages - an idea developed by Julia Cameron. I first read about them in Tim Ferris’ book Tools of Titans (highly recommended!). After waking up and making my coffee, and before reading anything or looking at anything on my phone, I sit down and write three pages of whatever comes to mind. I cannot tell you how clarifying this practice is, especially in the aftermath of losing my brother in late 2016. It calms the monkey brain, as Tim calls it, and keeps all those worries, fears and frustrations you have (that are always there, lingering in the background) onto the page. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes and helps to calm my thoughts so I can focus on the good stuff. Once I’m done, I throw the pages into the trash. Boom! 


 
The Azulina Home Cuatro Tetas baskets in three different sizes

The Azulina Home Cuatro Tetas baskets in three different sizes

 
 

I do my best in-the-weeds work when...

...I’m on airplanes! I don’t know what it is, but airplanes are where I can get really focused and fly through all the tedious, detail-oriented work that otherwise bores me, like financials, photo organization, business planning, etc. I am in the zone and air travel just zooms by, I love it.

What I do to help me relax...

...I look forward to my Sunday New York Times like no other. Sunday morning is the sweetest, most beautiful moment of time during the week where everything is quiet. To paint the picture, I’m in a cozy ball on the couch, next to my boyfriend, with my latte in hand, surrounded by newspaper. It’s blissful to me and when I travel and don’t get that time I feel out of whack.


 
Alison Gilbert