Have you ever been scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, only to catch sight of something that makes you stop and squeal out loud? I did, the first time I saw Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik's pink-mermaid-and-fish patterned Heinui dress (see below). After falling down the rabbit hole of her amazing photos (spoiler alert: this girl has *style*), and realizing she co-owns Hello Holiday (a curated boutique for "the third coolest girl in the room", focusing on emerging designers + cool basics, with a vintage flair), I knew I had to pick her brain a little more. Read on to learn all about how Hello Holiday started, the challenges of running + growing a small business, and her best advice for someone looking to build their own...
(And yes, I bought the dress... I have literally never received so many compliments on an outfit as I did in that dress. I think it has magic powers! P.s., they have a limited run back in stock, grab it here!)
1) OK, FIRST THINGS FIRST! WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
Hi! I’m Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik and I am one of the founders of Hello Holiday, an independent online retailer specializing in dreamy frocks for dreamy femmes in sizes XXS-4X since 2012.
2) HOW DID HELLO HOLIDAY COME ABOUT?
In early 2012, I stopped by my friend Megan Hunt’s then-coworking space in downtown Omaha to borrow her professional steamer to prep a vintage dress for a music video I was styling, and everything just rolled from that chance meeting. Megan and I had known each other for years prior, working on styling projects for her bridal design line together and casually as friends. I was working full time in the social work field but I knew my heart wasn’t in it and was doing styling work for every photographer and designer I knew, writing a style column in a local paper, blogging, and going as far as costuming plays (I have no costuming background whatsoever) to try to do anything I could to figure out how to work in fashion in Nebraska.
The aforementioned dress was so many layers of vintage tulle that it took me hours to finish steaming it. During that time at her office I mentioned that I was looking to pursue a major career change, and that I wanted to open an online store but the idea wasn’t flushed out much further than a very sad business plan at that point. Megan opened up and told me she was looking for a new challenge in business and expressed interest in working with me, and we hit the ground running from that evening. A few days later we had a new business plan on paper and filed for our LLC shortly after that. Hello Holiday officially launched online on October 1st, 2012.
3) YOU HAVE AMAZING PERSONAL STYLE? HAVE YOU ALWAYS LOVED FASHION OR DID THAT EVOLVE LATER?
This one is hard! I started out loving fashion but really started honing in on my personal style post-high school, when thrift stores were essentially flowing with milk and honey and I started putting together looks inspired both by the early fashion bloggers I wanted to emulate and mid century style icons like Audrey Hepburn. So cliche, I know! But this was around 2005! Things were different and I honestly didn’t know many people who knew who she was at that time. You can guess what my eyebrows looked like at this point.
4) AS WITH MOST COOL JOBS, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE TO IT THAN MEETS THE EYE! WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY WORK LIFE ENTAIL?
My main responsibilities with Hello Holiday involve photo styling, social media, buying, and customer service. That’s not all I do, but definitely how I spend most of my days. Five years in, we’re lucky to have a small team of ten employees, so I’m able to focus on the creative side of things much more than I used to, which is just a dream (I loathe packing orders). My days are mostly repetitive: email, post on social media, create content, email, placing orders, and so on. We have a photo shoot for our online site every few weeks, so my days leading up to that including scouting models, booking time with our beauty team and photographers, deciding on themes/inspo and running with it.
5) HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO STOCK + CARRY FOR HELLO HOLIDAY?
A lot of what we carry honestly comes from designers who reach out to us, or designers we scout on Instagram. A lot of my late nights are spent down the Instagram rabbit hole (discovery page? is that what the kids are calling it these days?) looking for new stuff. We also go to a few buying markets a year and visit showrooms in LA pretty often between seasons. As the years go on our style has changed significantly, and we’re finally at a place where we stock independent designers as a majority, and a well-rounded collection of pieces we love and want to wear ourselves. The more true to self we try to be with buying, the more success we’ve found.
6) THE FASHION/CLOTHING WORLD IS NOT AN EASY ONE! WHAT HAS HELPED YOU BUILD A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS IN SUCH A COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY?
Girl it’s definitely not an easy one! In the past year or two we’ve seen so many retailers fold, large and small, and we feel really lucky to have the support of our customers. We always say that we want to be the kind of company you would be best friends with. And many of our customers have become our friends IRL, it’s really amazing.
7) WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
The best parts of my job definitely include styling and buying (hello, who doesn’t love to shop endlessly?), but if I’m being honest, the very real best part is seeing customers find pieces that make them feel amazing. Fashion is both political and a privilege, and when you have access to and are able to find pieces you feel good in, there’s nothing like it.
8) WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?
Oh boy! Well, as a small company, a lot of the challenges revolve around finding new ways to grow on a small budget, finding time away from work, and continually adapting to a non-traditional schedule. After working in an office with a 9-5 schedule for years, it feels both positive and negative to “make my own schedule.”. I say that in quotes because making your own schedule generally means you work all the time, haha. But we definitely find time for our families and to have fun too. It’s easier now that it’s not just the two of us and we have a great team who both pick up the slack and inspire us to work harder.
9) YOU'RE A MOM TO A TODDLER AS WELL! HOW DO YOU BALANCE (IF THERE IS SUCH THING) WORK + FAMILY?
I don’t believe in work-life balance as an objective, but I do believe in bringing your children and family along for the ride. It feels wonderful to know that my son will grow up with a crew of strong women and entrepreneurs around him, and my partner is also a small business owner (we own and operate a bar in Omaha called Krug Park) so it helps that he understands that there’s no real expected schedule for business operations. You work when you need to work, and hopefully you have fun doing it and find breaks during your slow times of the year. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to take my son to work with me daily for the first year or so of his life, but working with a baby strapped to your body is hard, so there’s positives and negatives to it for sure.
10) WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR HELLO HOLIDAY IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
To grow and become very financially secure so we’re able to take calculated risks like manufacturing and taking on more designers we believe in. To create jobs in our field locally. To foster a thriving environment for the future entrepreneurs that work for us now. I can’t wait to see what our team builds and to support them like they support us today. I’m a big believer in trying to be who you needed when you were younger, but didn’t have.
11) WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO BUILD THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Talk to me! But no really, talk to someone, anyone, and interview everyone you know that’s even close to the field you’re interested in. I interviewed anyone I could, shop owners, buyers, random business owners that had nothing to do with retail, anyone who would give me the time of day before we started because there’s no guideline out there for starting an online retailer (but maybe there will be soon *wink*).
12) TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW PEOPLE KNOW! :)
Cloris Leachman crashed our wedding. I was runner up in a contest to win a walk-on role on AMC’s Mad Men. I feel so lucky to be featured on the Violet Tinder Studios blog today, thank you so much for asking me.