Small Business No. 24: Chelsey Ann Artistry

I'm really excited for you guys. Because you are getting to hear from one of my favorite ladies in my industry. The lovely Chelsey Cobbs of Chelsey Ann Artistry.

As a photographer, I feel like often I get credit for all of the wonderful artists that work so hard behind the scenes. Everyone ooo's and aaaah's over our pictures, but there is so much more that goes into that image than me choosing an aperture and shutter speed. One of those vendors that a photographer can't thank enough is their make-up artists. And if you ask anyone in the OKC wedding/art scene, Chelsey is the bees knees. An infectious personality, immense talent, and all around fantastic person. Take a minute to fall in love with her like the rest of us.

Names: Chelsey, Chels, or Chel. And according to my best friend and business partner Ali Earnhart - "Hey Blondie!" Basically I respond to them all. But the most prized of them all is reserved for a four year old little man in my life named London: he calls me Mommy of course.

Business Name: Chelsey Ann Artistry

Favorite Dessert: Hands down and without question my Papa's (he happens to smell like peppermint and pipe tobacco which is pretty dreamy if I might say so myself) Chocolate Pie. Absolutely no, and I mean no, meringue. Now I love my chocolate; so don't go ruining it with meringue. Just this past week when I walked into his home late afternoon on thanksgiving day, there stood said chocolate pie awaiting my arrival. It took quite a bit of generosity on my part (I'm only slightly kidding) to muster up enough holiday cheer to share a sliver or two with my family and friends. Rumor has it that in the past there might have been two pies made: one to be shared and the other specifically intended to go home with me fully intact and completely untouched. It might be safe to say that my Papa has a soft spot on his heart for his one and only baby girl.

Favorite Artist/Album:
I can't ever seem to answer that question outright. It's always a case by case, moment by moment sort of thing. I suppose every season of life has its own soundtrack of sorts. Among the many Spotify playlists I'm finely curating and artists I'm regularly listening to the one that stands out and comes to mind now is Jake Bugg's (twenty-one year old kid from Nottingham, England) track Two Fingers. Listen to it for yourself and tell me what you think. 

Tell us a little about your business:
First and foremost, I am an artist and makeup happens to be my primary medium of choice. A quick side note for your consideration: Perhaps we are all artists in search of a medium. Thoughts? Maybe we can hash that one out over a cup of coffee at Elemental or a Fall cocktail from Ludivine sometime. I digress for now; let's move on.

Being and referring to myself as an artist isn't something I shy away from, but rather a lifestyle I boldly claim as my own and livelihood that I pursue with humility, gratitude, and a splash of reckless abandon. To put it most simply: we create art and make beauty. Art is all about love: love that creates new worlds and love that rolls up its sleeves to heal the old world too.

When did you start your business?
A couple of years ago. If you had to circle a month on the calendar it would be February 2014. But at the risk of sounding a little nostalgic and dragging you down memory lane: This dream of mine took root and began to really expand and grow in my heart long before it became a reality in the form of a newly launched business endeavor.

What inspired you to start it?
The impetus for launching Chelsey Ann Artistry is deeply and fundamentally personal in nature. My friend and colleague Anthony Stravlo introduced me to myself in a manner of speaking. He inspired me to see what I had not yet seen. The means was makeup. The end was a new and increased measure of confidence, security, and contentment. He tutored me as I learned skills and took hold of new capabilities that allowed me to enhance and express who I truly was at that time and who I am today. I felt beautiful. Not because Anthony made me feel beautiful for a fleeting second through makeup. I felt beautiful because I finally believed and experienced firsthand that I was in fact beautiful. And the only natural response was do to the same for others which I've been doing ever since. You see, beauty begets beauty.

Why did you choose Oklahoma City to start your business?
It's home, but not by circumstance. It's home by choice. I love this place. It's really that simple. I hold it to an unbelievably high standard. And you should too. What do you say we make this place all it could ever be and so very much more.

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome?
Living in a market that is young and relatively underdeveloped. One in which the creative class is still being shaped in real time. A place where we are still learning to value the arts in a way that far surpasses mere lip service. For example: we can talk about supporting local art all day long. And by all means go to the shows, the museums, the exhibits. But the best way to support local art is to buy something, pay someone. Fund the arts like the good ole days. Commission others to create. What I do is an art form. And unfortunately there have been times in which the arts haven't been praised or supported in the way in which they so rightly deserve. Art is more than what can be seen on a canvas, watched on a stage, or viewed on a screen. There is no art apart from the artist. And to create art is a costly endeavor. So let's not be cheap. Let's be lavish.

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why?
I mentioned my best friend earlier, you know the one who calls me blondie? Yeah, her. She's the one. The one who has been able to navigate business and friendship without treading lightly or holding anything back. We've all heard it said don't go into business with friends. I say, to hell with that. What a bunch of garbage. Who else would you want to pour out your heart and spend your life alongside of than a true confidant and comrade in arms. She has and will always be family. Now I didn't say "like family", I said family. Family transcends bloodlines. It's someone or an entire community of someone's who have been given to us and us to them. An irrevocable condition if you will, a place of belonging. That's Ali Earnhart. Or as we like to call her: Ali Bear. She managed to pair encouragement and challenge together in such a way as to truly inspire, motivate, and call me to action. She didn't just say: you can do this if you really want. But rather: you must do this because it's in you to do and there isn't any chance I'm gonna let you walk away from your dream. In fact, we are going to do this together. So, Ali, just in case you haven't heard me say this in a while: Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! colleague was certainly

What is your favorite part of your business?
It's that moment when someone steps outside of their comfort zone just long enough to confront their self-imposed status quo (or mainstream fads and accepted trends) and shed that all too heavy layer of insecurity that forces them to play it safe in terms of their confidence and sense of expression. When they simultaneously risk just enough to rise above themselves, get out of their own damn way, so they can finally get comfortable in their own skin. And when they do, they see beauty in and through and all around them.

My job as a makeup artist isn't necessarily to make someone look pretty for a night or day, photoshoot or fashion show; my job is to serve as a guide on the journey that leads them to see and believe the beauty that exists in them long before they sit down in the chair and I apply a single stroke of makeup. Beauty isn't something that I possess and dispense to another. Beauty was already and will always be theirs. That's it. Period. End of sentence. Now ladies. Own it. Become it. Live it.

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours?
Paint as many faces as you can (or whatever version of "painting faces" is most applicable to your business endeavor). Every tone. Every age. Over and over and over again. Don't stop. Keep doing it. Practice your craft. It's the only way. Persevere. Do it because you love it. Keep your day job if you must. Quit your regular gig to pursue it full time if your fortunate enough. Either way. Do it. Do it. Do it. And then do it some more.

That's the good stuff. That's right where the joy is found.

Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about?
Nope that's it. Oh wait, moisturize your face. You can thank me later.


Thanks so much Chelsey for being part of the series, and being an A+ person. xoxoely

Brewing Excellence: Edible OKC Feature on Elemental Coffee

Life happens around a cup of coffee. Pouring your first cup to get your day started, catching up with old friends at your favorite shop, late night brews to keep you awake for the midnight showing of Harry Potter, er, your favorite movie.  I have experienced so many life moments in a coffee shop, spanning the spectrum from the joys of new friendship to sharing hard times with loved ones and so many things in between. The hot little brew has the power to bring people together.

Elemental Coffee in Midtown Oklahoma City is the picture of community that coffee fosters. In the short time that I spent with the Elemental partners Stephen, Chris and Laura, it was obvious that they knew their patrons on a level that surpassed the “hi, thanks for stopping in” mentality and moved toward that “thanks for living life with us” realm. Their beginnings started with wanting to share a good thing with others – which  is why they purchased their tomato red Probat Roaster to foster each cup of coffee they offer from the green, raw bean to roasted to a fragrant, steaming brewed cup of joe..

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Stephen, Chris and Laura learning about the beginnings of Elemental, and time with Chief Roaster Rachel Apple watching the roasting process. Rachel lives, breathes and loves coffee—enough to show her love in tattoo form. She happily gave me a background of a coffee plant on her forearm and then grabbed a scoop of green beans to show how the coffee goes from an unroasted green bean to the brown coffee beans that we are accustom to. It was fascinating to see how much science goes into the process, how they electronically track each roast they do so that they can offer consistency in their product, and how the perfect temperature can bring out different notes in a coffee bean. As their name suggests, they have their roasts down to its most intentional form.

Stephen Michalik, Partner
Chris Holliday, Partner
Laura & Laurent Massenat, Partners
Rachel Apple, Chief Roaster

Business Name: Elemental Coffee


What area of town is your shop in?

We are located at the corner of Hudson & 8th in the heart of Midtown.

Tell us what made you decide to open Elemental: Our desire to bring the world's best coffees to Oklahoma City and catalyze the growth of coffee culture and education.

How did you choose your name? We wanted our name to reflect our commitment to showcasing coffee in its purest form.  Excellent coffee at its most elemental.

Tell us a little background on your business, where your inspiration came from, and what made you decide to take the plunge and open Elemental: As food culture was developing in Oklahoma City, the need for a great locally roasted coffee was evident.  We knew we weren't the only ones ordering from out-of-state roasters or ordering greens to roast at home. The investment was minimal, we had warehouse space to use on West Main Street, and the work was part time to begin with.  It was easy to jump in with that first step, and we knew we would open a cafe when the time was right.

What is your most popular bean? Vaquero, currently a Brazilian, appeals to the more traditional coffee drinker, looking for the lower notes a cowboy seeks. Our current Purusha s from Ethiopia and brings vanilla, strawberry jam and baking spices that a more sophisticated drinker might enjoy in the cup. For the big adventurer, Yippee IA is always exciting and out of the ordinary- currently from DR Congo.

What does a typical day at the shop look like? We put in a lot of hours both on the floor and behind the scenes. Whether it be serving the guests, making drinks, roasting coffee, or cooking, we are always researching to better educate ourselves and our guests. We also love taking breaks throughout the day to hang out with our customers, who become friends and make our job so much fun.

Tell us about your food & business theory: We focus on quality in everything we do, which is why it took a few years to transition from roasting only, to also operating the cafe, and, finally, adding a full kitchen with breakfast, lunch, and brunch. We provide sustainable, high quality, health conscious food that is sourced as locally and ethically as possible. Our menu offers something for everyone with vegetarian, vegan, and omnivorous items that are creative and out of the ordinary. We also focus on making our guests feel welcome and at ease when ordering coffees and foods that may push them outside their comfort zone.

One of the things that I think really makes you great is that you roast the coffee ou serve. What made you decide to roast your own instead of source it out? e have always thought of the cafe as a playground for the roaster – a place to innovate, educate, and bring the best coffees the world has to offer, freshly roasted, to Oklahoma City. We cup, on average, 90 coffees for each one that makes the roster and we truly love every bean that comes through our door.

On coffee packages, I see descriptions of different flavor notes that can be found but often are lost on me. Do you have suggestions on how we can teach our taste buds to be more in tune with identifying them? It is a good practice to begin tasting intentionally. For example, take a bite of a strawberry and think about the sweetness, acidity, and aroma – what makes it taste like a strawberry? The more you think about and are aware of what you are tasting in food and drink, the more you will be able to recognize those notes in coffee, but also in wine, beer, and whisky.

What role does community involvement play in your business plan? Community involvement is our mode of operation, rather than our business pla. It is who we are. People with relationships and a space to help people connect. We have always made donations to support local efforts in health, education, and physical activity, and participated in local events and demos, but our greatest strength is the relationships we have built. Through our co-founding of and continued work on H & 8th Night Market and our relationship with DNA Racing, we are gearing up for the nationally sanctioned ProAm Classic next year that will combine three days of bike racing in three downtown districts, with the annual H & 8th, and more events to be announced for June 3-5, 2016.

What is the most rewarding part of your business? The guests who walk in the door, the quality we offer them, and the connections they make to each other. Our space was intentionally designed to encourage people to talk to each other and to meet new friends at the bar or at the European style tables. As Tracy Zeeck likes to say, we have become the town square of Oklahoma City. It's a place where you can meet graphic designers, artists, state representatives, non-profit leaders, developers, event planners, and creatives of all types. That extends to our staff, talent ranging from visual arts to photography to recipe creation – our art curator and graphic designer, Aaron Morvan, was a barista in the shop before he went out on his own.  We have as much creativity behind the bar as walks in the front door.

Coffee shops seem like a hub for community life. Could you share a story with us about the most fun/exciting or weird thing that has ever happened in the shop? For me the most exciting things are the connections made that give birth to new projects. Take a youth mentoring program, a professional cycling team, a Community Advisory Board chair, a bike-share program and mix them all together.  You get a for-credit character class that pairs students with mentors, teaches repair and maintenance, teaches safety and group riding, and changes the lives of students through the freedom and independence of owning their own bike. An idea from Baltimore that came to life in Oklahoma City through the network of Elemental regulars. Stay tuned as this program expands and enters the public art arena!

Where do you hope to see Elemental in 5 years? Elemental will have opened a second location, why not a third, with the same quality in coffee and food. We would like an opportunity to serve our current customers and reach a new audience to continue pushing the foodie culture in OKC. Because we often serve visitors to our city, we expect continued growth of the wholesale roasting as well.

Since you opened your doors you have watched Midtown change quite a bit. What new opportunities has this presented, and on the flip side what challenges has it presented? Through the efforts of thoughtful developers like Midtown Renaissance, the decision of St. Anthony's to keep its location and invest in the district, the continued work of the Midtown Association, and events like H & 8th Night Market and Six Degrees of Bacon, we have become a destination for visitors to the city as well as those who live in the metro. We only see it as an opportunity to continue elevating the coffee culture in Oklahoma City.

What aspects of Oklahoma City do you think are the best and/or hardest having a restaurant? Being a part of the food culture, the tight knit community that does food in OKC, and the network of Keep It Local businesses is rewarding. We value the relationships we have with local farmers and friends who are sources for local fare – urban teahouse, Prairie Thunder, Kize, and Big Sky bakery to name a few.  It is challenging in any city to keep up with staffing, training, evolving the menu and the day-to-day. Food service is hard work.

In what ways do you wish to see Oklahoma City grow, and which aspects do you hope never change? We have undergone an amazing renaissance through years of reinvestment in the core and attracting corporations to locate here. Now, it's time for Oklahoma City to turn its attention to the people who live here and invest in quality of life – education, health, connectivity and culture. Small businesses and districts have a culture of helping each other out, cheering each other on, and that is unique to OKC. Let's not grow to be Dallas or Austin, let's improve and continue investing in ourselves.

“There really is no ceiling to how much science and precision can go into every step of the process from the tiniest of coffee plants in coffee growing regions of the world to the perfect extraction right before you drink a cup. So many people across so many countries involved before you ever get to enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning it’s staggering. To get to be a part of that chain of production is really special to me and I do my best to honor all of the work done before I get the giant bags of green beans to roast them well and to help train our staff to make the best possible cup out of the roasts I carry out.” - Rachel Apple, Chief Roaster at Elemental Coffee

Small Business No. 22: DeatschWerks

In our first few years of shooting weddings, we had the pleasure of photographing the nuptials of Mike Deatsch and his lovely bride Lindsay. One of my favorite things about their wedding was that they held the reception at the very cool building that Mike goes to work at every day-- DeatschWerks. It seemed like a really neat and creative environment and I was really impressed by what they had going on there.

As the daughter of an brilliant Mechanical Engineer I'd like to think that I could keep up with the best of them when it comes to explaining about how things work, but even though the Deatsch brothers David & Mike explained to me so patiently about their product, I couldn't quite grasp it. Insert some some sort of stereotypical woman/artist joke here. But here is my very nontechnical explanation of what they do: They create Fuel Injectors for racing cars that allows the fuel to move more quickly, therefore helping to have better performance. Hopefully I got that right. :-)

Although I don't really understand the mechanics of it, what I can get behind and appreciate is working hard to make something that you love and making it into your business. David started by solving by being a solution for a problem he was having with fuel performance in his own car, and then shared that solution with others and created a business that is thriving and includes over 25 employees. I just love that.

Name:  David Deatsch       

Business Name:  DeatschWerks


Favorite Dessert:  I’d rather have a local craft Stout or Porter

Favorite Artist/Album:  The Lumineers

When did you start your business?  I started out of my garage 10 years ago.  We now have 25 employees and our own 12,000 sf facility.

What inspired you to start it?  I felt the need… the need for SPEED

Can you tell me a little bit about your business and the product you produce? We design and manufacture high performance fuel systems... fuel injectors, fuel pumps and fuel filters.  The cars you see in "The Fast and the Furious" and Discovery Channel's "Street Outlaws" - those are our customers.

What got you into producing this type of product? The company was born out of my passion for performance cars.  I started by solving my own fueling problems and quickly found out lots of other people were having those same problems.  Before I knew it my hobby had turned into a business and we have been creating fueling solutions ever since.

What was your first car you fell in love with?  Anything Nissan - 240sx, 350z, GTR - I've always loved nissans.

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome?  Staying focused and resisting the temptation of shiny objects

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? My entire family was extremely supportive when getting the business started:  My wife would work with me late into the night doing anything that needed done.  My father gave me my first business loan and lots of great advice.  My brother left a career-job in Chicago taking a pay cut to do manual labor in my hot Oklahoma garage.

What is your favorite part of your business: I love creating new products.  The process of moving from idea, to design, to manufacturing, to market is a thrilling experience every time.

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? Every week, month, and year will have challenges.  Keep your head down, stay focused, and don’t give up.  But along the way, don’t forget to have fun.  If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.

Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about? I am passionate about the culture we have built at our company.  Our team is fun, smart, dedicated, and hard working.  They make coming to work a lot of fun. 


Thanks so much to DeatschWerks for being part of our series!

Edible Feature: Roxy's Ice Cream

Recently Edible Magazine dawned it's premier issue for the Oklahoma City area, and I am contributing a column called Ely Loves Local, in which I highlight Oklahoma City restaurant owners. Check out our most recent feature on Roxy's Ice Cream Social.

Pistachio. That is was the scoop that made me fall in love with the little pink and yellow Roxy’s Ice Cream Social truck on a summer night at Myriad Gardens. Shane & Raena Mutz are the head and the heart behind this delectable ice cream business. A husband and wife team who love their pup and spend their time creating a product that helps create sweet memories for other families – these are my kind of people.

And now that Roxy's has opened their bright and cheery brick and mortar shop on Northwest 16th Street, fellow ice cream lovers are able to pop in and experience the joy of a sugar cane dreamsicle floats or ice cream cones six day a week. Built on the memories of nights spent with family eating homemade ice cream, Raena and Shane drove their little truck onto Oklahoma City’s food truck scene in the spring of 2012 and have parked a spot in our community’s heart. 

Restaurant Name: Roxy's Ice Cream Social

Shop Owner’s Names: Shane and Raena Mutz


What area of town is your shop in? The Plaza District

When did you start Roxy's: April 2012

How did you choose the name Roxy's? We played around with different names and ended up between Roxy's Ice Cream Company or Ice Cream Social. We decided to combine the two and name it after our spunky great dane girlie Roxy. 

Tell us a little background on your business, where your inspiration came from, and what made you decide to take the plunge and open and start Roxy's: In the fall of 2011, we opened a food truck and then decided to sell it. Shane then started building food trucks for people. I had him build me a food truck so I could run it by myself while he was building other people's trucks. It has now turned into more than a full time business for the both of us and Shane doesn't get to build very many trucks anymore. We chose ice cream because it has always been a special treat in my family (Raena). At family gatherings we would always have homemade ice cream. It is something that is comforting and delicious. 

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Raena- Strawberry
Shane- It varies from day to day but I can't turn down a scoop of pistachio.

What does a typical day at Roxy's look like for you guys? We make ice cream everyday, a lot of ice cream. We are usually at the shop and then working the truck most days too. 

When you decided to open a brick and mortar shop, why did you decide on the Plaza District? We started coming to the Plaza District when we first opened the truck and it was always our favorite spot. Our brick and mortar location actually fell into our laps thanks to a few loyal customers. When we got the offer we knew immediately it was going to be home base. The area has the best sense of community and it just feels like home.

How do you think having a shop has changed your business? I think that it is great that people will always know where to find us. Just having the truck people were always having to chase us down. It also gives us an opportunity to try new flavors and add our cane sugar soda line. 

What is your favorite part of the Roxy's shop experience vs. the Roxy's truck experience? It is nice to have to time to talk to customers instead of it being so fast paced on the truck. We really enjoy people getting to make memories at the shop and come back and share it with loved ones. 

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? Hiring employees. We have been running the business by ourselves and getting to create relationships with our customers. Now, having to keep that spirit going through our staff is what we work on every day. We want every experience to be better than expected. 

What is the most rewarding part of your business? We love to see regular customers and to see people come in for the first time. We can't help but think we are creating lasting memories for the community. 

I love that you've added the new cane sugar soda line. Are there any new fun products we can see popping up in the Roxy's line? We are really excited to expand our brand with products other than ice cream. We do have some things in the works, but we want to keep it under wraps for now. 

Tell us a little about your food & business theory.
We don't find the need to advertise it, but we use the best quality and local products we can get our hands on. The idea behind our ice cream is to do the classic ice cream flavors really well and sometimes with a twist. You won't find us going too far out of the box.

What aspects of Oklahoma City do you think are best for having a restaurant? The food scene is alive and vibrant in OKC. New restaurants are popping up everywhere and the community is there to support them, whether it be a food truck or a brick and mortar. 

In what ways do you wish to see Oklahoma City grow, and which aspects do you hope never change? It would be great to see other venues for food trucks to go. It can be tough making it day to day. We started as a food truck when food trucks were somewhat taboo. We hope the support we get from the community never changes. OKC is so welcoming to new businesses. 

When you aren't dreaming up delicious ice cream flavors, what hobbies do you enjoy? We love to try new places to eat. OKC has such a great diversity of cuisines. We of course like to sleep in and play with Roxy and her brother Zeus.

Other than your ice cream and soda fountain shop in the Plaza District, how can we find your adorable truck cruising around town? We always post where the truck will be on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can always find us at Live on the Plaza (2nd Friday), H&8th (last Friday), and Heard on Hurd (3rd Saturday) from March-October.

Thanks so much Raena & Shane for sharing a little bit about your little shop of happiness!

Small Business No. 21

It's hard to believe that I've been working on the Small Business Series project for over 2 years now! I've almost kept to my posting every month. I love this project so much because of all of the awesome people I have gotten to meet and work with, and these two definitely fall into the category of people that are life giving and so fun to know. Please meet Kelsey & Leslie of Touies Design!

Name: Kelsey + Leslie (and Louie the goldendoodle)

Business Name: Touies Design


Favorite Dessert: This actually might be the hardest question to answer on this entire survey! We pretty much support any dessert choice, but some of our favorites are chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, anything Oreo-themed, angel food cake, chocolate covered strawberries, pretty much any Blue Bell ice cream (this is Louie’s favorite), cookie cakes, marshmallow bars….we could literally go on for days.

Favorite Artist/Album: This is so hard to narrow down as well! When we are working you will most likely hear one of two Pandora stations, either George Strait or Sunday Slow Jams. That pretty much sums up our musical taste!

Tell us a little about what your business: We are a graphic design studio that specializes in custom stationery and invitations. Our clients range from newborns to grandmas and if you can print it, we can make it. The main goal is to be able to provide both collection pieces for customers to choose from but also have the option of completely custom designed paper products for their events.

When did you start your business? Our official birthday was April of 2012 when we filed all of our legal documents, but we really got started and took off in June of 2012.

What inspired you to start it? We were both working together and designing for our individual jobs and then in 2011 we had multiple family members and close friends get engaged and married. That year we got lots of requests for custom invitations and after doing some research, we realized there was a need in our area for custom-designed stationery. We played around with the idea for a few months and then we just decided to be bold, take a chance and see what would happen!

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? Hands down, our biggest challenge has been overcoming fear and insecurity within our business. Starting and owning a business is a pretty overwhelming experience and you have to take risk after risk after risk. In the beginning, we were so anxious about making mistakes that we would get in our own way at times. We had to learn to be confident in our brand, our talent and ability to make decisions. Once we got more comfortable with those things, our business really started to take off and it’s still something we constantly work on.

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? No doubt, our biggest source of encouragement is each other. It has been priceless to have the two of us start this business together. There have been countless days where one of us is at the end of our rope and the other one is right there to offer encouragement and lift up both of our spirits. It’s so hard to explain some of the daily challenges in owning a small business, so having each other to depend on, and vent to, has been huge.

What is your favorite part of your business: All the free time! Haha (sarcasm). The best part has to be all of the clients we get to work with. We have such a wide range of requests, anywhere from a Harry Potter-themed first birthday party to a 600-person black tie wedding. It has been so fun to meet all of these different people, hear their stories and be able to help their visions come to life. We get to celebrate with people every day and there’s just nothing like it!

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours?
We would both say the number one thing is that you have to pour your whole heart and soul into it or it won’t work. There will be days when it is so hard and you will have no idea what you’re doing. But, there will also be days when you can’t imagine it any other way and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Just keep your head up and take it a day at time!

Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about?
One of the most beautiful things about all small businesses is the care that goes into every product and that’s something we really care about in our own business. We always want to be a company that goes the extra mile for our clients and be intentional with every detail and order, big or small. No matter the occasion, no matter the budget, no matter the client, we always strive to put our best work into our products. 


Thanks so much Kelsey & Leslie for being part of the series, and Happy (a little belated) Birthday on your business anniversary! 

Small Business Series No. 17: Sara Kate Studios

  Sara Kate Studios | Ely Fair Small Business Series

So I don't know if I've shared this on the blog before (probably because it's a big commitment!) but part of my hopes for the Small Business Series is that every 5 years I can check in with my features to see how they are all doing, how their busiensses have changed and where they are at that time. So there, I've said it, now you can hold me to it.

The reason I mention it is that today is because with Sara Kate Studios I have already had the pleasure to see how Sara Kate's business has grown and changed since first meeting her! Just over a year ago we were tucked away in a corner booth at Kitchen 324 talking about where she wanted to go with SKS, and since then her business and passion grew into realitiy from an in-home business to a brick and mortar shop on Automobile Alley! It's been fun to watch her passion turn into something that she can share with all of OKC in a tangible way. I am looking forward to seeing where she is again in 5. :-)

Sara Kate Studios | Ely Fair Small Business SeriesSara Kate Studios | Ely Fair Small Business Series

Name: Sara Kate Huff

Business Name: Sara Kate Studios   


Favorite Dessert: Crème brûlée or a rose macaroon. I don’t believe I could choose between the two.

Favorite Artist/Album: Ella Fitzgerald. I started listening to her in college and don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

Tell me a little bit about your business: My business is about creating a beautiful life with a story - it is part retail and part consulting. The retail component has been around for a few years but just grew into a brick and mortar in the last few months. The shop is full of vintage items and unique finds that make a home feel special and thoughtful... I like to think of the vintage pieces as heirlooms from a stranger. In addition to that I have a growing studio where we consult on interiors projects and for a few companies giving them creative direction. My day-to-day varies immensely from building something in the workshop, to roaming in search of pieces for projects, to meetings going over floor plans, and packaging shipments for the online shop - there are days when I feel like I'm leisurely juggling and others where I feel like I've been asked to pull a rabbit out of a hat. To be quite honest, the past six months have been the most vulnerable, although exciting, of my career.

"Design is a function of connection... there is nothing more vulnerable than creativity and what is art if it is not love?" - Brene Brown

What inspired you to start your business? Honestly? One part panic and two parts necessity - I had graduated college and knew that what I wanted to create didn’t quite exist yet in Oklahoma City. I was trained and interested in interiors and wanted to work with an emphasis on antiques and vintage.

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? Everyone’s input and critiques. I think the first year was the hardest because I myself was unsure if it would work. Going freelance isn’t for the faint of heart and I have such respect for anyone who dares to try it.

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? It’s impossible to choose one, so I would just say that my kindred spirits were my biggest encouragement. I have met so many lovely people over the years that are eager to connect and encourage other people’s creative endeavors. There are different people in varying degrees that have made the celebrations so much sweeter and the hard days lighter – I hope to mimic that in the same way that I have so graciously received it.

What is your favorite part of your business: Goodness. It is difficult to choose one favorite part but could probably narrow it down to two. First, I live for the feeling of that great “find” and reimagining it for a modern customer. Secondly, I adore placing a great piece with a client and, if possible, arranging it for them… There is something so fun about placing an item and feeling like it is going to the home it was intended to go to.

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? Take courage, dear heart. Jumping out and doing your own thing is such a vulnerable and courageous thing to do. Surround yourself with amazing people who will cheer you on during the days you say “I don’t know what I’m doing”… That is part of creating something from nothing, and as exciting as some of your days will be you will also have those hard ones mixed in.

Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about? Connecting with people and helping to create their home. Home is such an intimate and powerful place that is full of memories and moments – being able to learn about someone’s prized heirlooms and their family life comes with the territory and I feel so lucky to play a part.


Thanks so much Sara Kate for being a part of the series, your shop and dream is lovely!

In addition to her beautiful shop that I want to buy everything, SKS is also joining up with Dutch (another one of our Small Business Series contributors!) for the OKC Popups (organized on by ANOTHER one of our Small Business contributors Allison Barta Bailey) at the end of the month. SO MANY SMALL BUSINESS IN ONE PLACE, I LOVE SMALL BUSINESSES, SMALL BUSINESSES UNITE! This makes me so happy.

Small Business Series No. 15: Verdigris

Our Small Business Series feature this month is on my top 3 list of favorite places in OKC. Please meet the lovely ladies of Verdigris, Kimberly & Melissa! They are the sister team that keeps the wheels rolling behind the beautiful shop Verdigris, and just this year expanded to a larger space on Hudson & 7th. Their business tagline is "recreate. repurpose. reinvent." which is right up my alley. I love finding old treasures and making a new purposes for them.  I had a great time getting to know the two to them through the SBS series, make sure to stop by and say hello during H&8 tomorrow!

Verdigris, Oklahoma City Verdigris, Oklahoma City
Name: Kimberly Spicer & Melissa Graham
Business Name: Verdigris
Favorite Dessert:
Kimberly – my mom's frozen strawberry dessert, my nana's turtles, my memaw's chocolate chip cookies, & mint chocolate chip ice cream
Melissa – Ditto...except no mint chocolate chip ice cream for me! I'll take chocolate meringue pie & banana cream pie any day!
Favorite artist/album:
Kimberly – I love all kinds of music!
Melissa – I love anything with a good beat!
When did you start your business: January 2011
What inspired you to start it? We grew up entrepreneurs constantly coming up with ideas, such as selling hand-made hair barrettes & jewelry stands, paint pen monogramming, having summer day camps for neighborhood kids & babysitting. We also spent a lot of time at our grandmother's (nana) interior design shop. We would hide in the closet and run blank credit card carbons through the credit card machine, play with the adding machine, and would “help” with cutting fabric. We also spent a lot of time at market. After going our separate directions during college and early adulthood, we finally came back together in OKC to combine our past & current interests to create Verdigris.
What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? The biggest challenge to overcome is balancing family life with self-employment in the retail industry.
Who/what was your biggest encouragement & why? Each other. While we both enjoy all aspects of the business, Kimberly is more right-brained & Melissa is more left-brained. Due to our differences, we rarely have conflicting views or concerns. We are constantly learning from each other which encourages us both to continue thinking outside the box.
What is your favorite part of the business?
We both enjoy being a part of the local business community & seeing the revitalization that is happening throughout OKC. We also love our customers & business partners that we have met along the way!
Kimberly – I enjoy hunting for unique pieces & then putting them together to form unusual displays.
Melissa – I enjoy the hunt & staging...but I would rather be in the office working on the accounting, payroll, media relations, or even creating a spreadsheet that we haven't determined we even need yet! :)
If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? Find what you love, create a plan for your business, seek advice from professionals, and go for it! Plan to succeed, but it's okay if you fail!
Anything else about your small business that you're passionate about? We are both passionate about helping to incorporate the environmentally friendly business concept of reusing, recycling, repurposing, etc., into the everyday lives of others.
I love, love, love that you were entrepreneurs from childhood! Loved that part of your story, thank you so much for being part of the series Kimberly & Melissa! 

Small Business No. 14: Pencil Shavings Studio

As summer is making it's appearance this year, I thought there would be no better time to share the SBS of the lovely Rachel Shingleton  of Pencil Shavings Studio. And I'm going to have to break my rule of doing only black and white photos for the series because, well, how can you take photos of Rachel Shingleton and NOT have some of them in color.  :-) Ely Fair Small Business Series | Pencil Shavings Studio | Oklahoma CityEly Fair Small Business Series | Pencil Shavings Studio | Oklahoma City

Name:  Rachel Shingleton

Business Name:  Pencil Shavings Studio

Favorite Dessert: wedding cake - or really, any kind of good cake and frosting. It's all about the frosting!

 Favorite Artist/Album:  right now it's Coldplay's Ghost Stories

When did you start your business?  I studied graphic design in college, and went to work for a small apparel company. Right after I got married, I started my freelance graphic design business in 2005.  When Jude was born in 2007, I had to take a big break from all things work related. I basically put a complete halt on my business, and felt completely adrift as I sat alone in my house with this teeny tiny baby. I wasn’t even sure I knew who I was anymore! As anybody who has had a baby knows, it takes awhile to shift into the new lifestyle that comes with a baby, not to mention the identity shift.  But that’s when my blog was born.  After several months, I was ready to start taking on some design projects again and I launched my portfolio website. The main page had a photo of colored pencils and the tag line “I’ve never met a color I didn’t love.” So naturally with the theme of colored pencils happening, it only seemed that the blog should be called Pencil Shavings. Blogging opened me up to a whole new world of creativity. Not only did I discover that there were other working-from-home creative moms out there, but it also gave me the opportunity to land some new projects by blogging about current ones. After three years of blogging, I launched the Etsy shop as a way answer questions, in a way, about the cost of custom invitations, etc. as I was receiving lots of inquiries and the time to reply to each email was consuming me.  I wanted a line of products that reflected my own personal style and personality. I also needed it to be on my terms and in my own timing, so I could be here at home with Jude and keep a flexible schedule. Within a year of  opening the shop, I’d had 1000 sales thanks to the amazing community of people both here on my blog and also at Etsy. I have enjoyed this part of my career far more than any other part because I’m designing the kinds of things that I would love to buy. It feels authentic and natural because it’s my own, and it’s exciting to me that there are others out there too that love it as much as I do.

 What inspired you to start it? I love design - plain and simple.  And I love working for myself and I love designing pretty, happy things. Having the flexibility to be at home and still create some fun things makes it a perfect fit for me.

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? The biggest challenge is balance. Figuring out how to put together all the puzzle pieces of life - motherhood, marriage, work - and making sure everyone gets what they need can be really challenging.  I'm still working on that!

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? Getting some really fantastic press early on once the shop launched was hugely encouraging. HGTV magazine and Country Living reached out to feature Pencil Shavings Studio in early 2012, and I was flabbergasted. I was also really encouraged by those early sales. It made me so happy to know there were people out there who loved what I was doing as much as I did.

What is your favorite part of your business: I love designing the product lines, but I also love styling and photographing all the items for the shop. It surprised me how much I really enjoyed that part of it - and it's opened me up to doing other styling jobs for other creative small business owners. Definitely a nice little perk.

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? Image is everything, especially for an online business where there's no brick-and-mortar location for your customer to handle your product and see it firsthand. Excellent branding is essential as is having a specific spin on your product. What sets you apart and gives your line personality? Additionally, invest in great product photography. Your product photos will make or break you.


Thank you so much Rachel for being part of the series! You really have some wonderful insight and experience and I appreciate learning from  you. xoxo ely

Small Business Series No. 13: Rita Ortloff

I almost didn't make it, but I slipped it in just in time. April's Small Business Series. And I am so excited to share with you one of the most adorable people I have met, the wonderful Rita Ortloff. I found Rita actually from another Small Business Series shoot-- I saw one of Rita's paintings in their home and fell in love with it. So I'd like you to meet Rita Ortloff of Rita Ortloff Studio. Rita Ortloff | Ely Fair Photography

She's a painter...I have to cheat on my black and white rule and show off her colorful work!

Rita Ortloff | Ely Fair Photography

Name: Rita Ortloff

Business Name: Rita Ortloff Studio


Favorite Dessert: Oh to pick only ONE? The cruelty! Ok fine, if I were stranded on a desert island and could only have ONE dessert, I’d pick a gigantic Eileen’s Colassal Cookie with extra icing. Geez. Now I’m hungry.

Favorite Artist/Album: Is it sad for me to say that I’m not that musical? Instead, I listen to podcasts and audio books. I love to learn learn learn.

When did you start your business? December 1st, 2013

What inspired you to start it? My business was started completely by accident. I painted a picture for a friend, Instagrammed it, and people started asking for commissions. It was crazy.

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? My own mind. “This cannot be happening” “I’m JUST a housewife”.

Oh, and boxing/shipping paintings. That part was hard too.

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? My husband. The man shows people photos of my paintings stored on his phone as if they were his newborn babies. People on elevators. Strangers on the street. He is my walking billboard. It’s adorable.

What is your favorite part of your business: The painting. Making people happy. The praise when I get it right. I smile the entire time I’m painting. Seriously. My face hurts when I’m done.

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? I have no advice except to go with the flow of it. If it’s right, none of it will feel like work.

Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about? I love that these paintings will be here when I’m gone. A little piece of me will live on.


Thank you so much Rita for being a part of the series! If we ever find a new house to buy, you will be getting one of those commission inquiries :-)