One of the Babes: Friends & Neighbors
We are so thankful to the babes of Friends & Neighbors, Jade Place and Jill Bradshaw, for graciously allowing us to use their space for our first #bossbabesatx meet.
After the meet, we caught up with Jade and Jill to talk brand-building, inspiration and learn a little more about the history of our beloved East Austin jewel, Friends & Neighbors.
1. How did you two meet?
Jill: We have a few mutual friends in New York, and when word got around that I was moving to Austin, they all told me I had to meet Greg and Jade. We met up, became friends and later decided to work on the project that is now Friends & Neighbors together!
2. What was unexpected when establishing Friends & Neighbors as a business?
Jade: I think we were all shocked and feel very lucky to have fallen in love with the first property we saw.
Jill: There are always unexpected events that will happen along the way with any business. You can research and prepare and have past experience, but every venture is going to be different. I think the buildout had a few unexpected bumps along the way; the city doesn’t make it easy for you sometimes! Also, just being in this location was unexpected, but was also a happy surprise. The house itself is beautiful and the perfect landscape for what we wanted to accomplish with this store, however it is also a lot further East than what was developed at the time. We knew it would take a bit for the area around us to become more familiar with the city inhabitants, but honestly I couldn’t be happier with this location.
3. Any tough bumps?
Jade: We really wanted to keep the character of the house, so our buildout was pretty minimal on the outside. However, we did need to replace all of the waterlines, electrical, add ADA bathrooms and a wheel chair ramp—all of which involves architectural plans, permits and city inspections. Unfortunately, the city of Austin's building department is extremely understaffed and backlogged, and waiting for permits set our opening date back many months.
4. Any personal victories?
Jade: F&N is a labor of love. Seeing people enjoy the space, just like during your #bossbabesATX meet-up, is the best feeling and makes it worthwhile.
Jill: I felt like our Free People event during SXSW was a fun victory. It was lovely to host such a great brand here at the store and have them take over, but really every time we have a successful event where people come through and make a connection with what we’ve created is a personal victory. Like yours! I loved seeing so many ladies together all pumped and ready to collaborate and make a difference.
5. What advice do you have for people attempting to create a space for their own brands (don't be afraid to be a little cutthroat; we like tough love.)?
Jade: Do it!! Creating a budget is a usually the first step, including items like rent during buildout, city permitting costs, legal/incorporating fees and a cushion of at least six to 12 months of operating costs is really important.
Jill: My advice would be to have a clear idea of what you want your vision to be and stick with it. It’s important to know exactly how you want your aesthetic to be and what your message is and to make sure that that message is carried throughout all that you do. I think people respond well to good branding. Also, expect difficulties along the way but keep fighting and making it work. I believe that the more you put into something the more you get out of it. You can’t just expect things to happen, you have to make them happen. Hard work pays off!
6. What inspires Friends & Neighbors' distinguishable style? How do you go about picking items and decorations for the store?
Jade: We really wanted it to feel like you are in someone’s home. I love to fill the cafe with my favorite goodies from all over. We have a strong Brooklyn presence on the shelves, because that was our home for many years. Also. I’m originally from Australia so there are a few Aussie goodies. We are always expanding our local offerings: Tyna makes our compost cookies (coffee, potato chip, pretzel, chocolate), our very own barista extraordinaire Emily has been making amazing caramels, we sell Lauren’s Bloody Mary Mix, and Evergreen Chai makes our delicious chai weekly.
Jill: I have always been attracted to kitschy things and a lot of color so that will always go into my process of decorations and picking products out. I tend to gravitate toward creative people doing new and exciting things that fit within the environment of the store. I love finding new artisans!
For clothing, I have a wide variety of styles. I like having items that aren’t expensive ,and you can wear every day mixed with very special and rare vintage pieces. Whether you’re a mom, a college student, an entrepreneur, or all of the above, I think you can find something to suit your style here.
7. What's your favorite record/album/playlist/whatever musical medium you're into?
Jade: This is so hard for me to answer; my Spotify account looks like I have multiple personality disorder, so Jill makes our playlists for the store. [Laughs]
Jill: I have a diverse taste in music so it’s hard to pin down a favorite. I usually just put my iTunes on shuffle and let it surprise me. I’m not a Spotify person, but i do love making my own playlists. Over the years I’ve collected a ton of mp3s, and I will still come across things I didn’t even know I had. I love discovering new old music. I’m more of a lover of the past than a lover of present-day music.
8. Beside Friends & Neighbors (which is obviously already super rad), what's your favorite hangout spot in Austin?
Jade: Completely biased answer, but Hillside Farmacy, which I co-own with my husband and 2 other awesome babes.
Jill: I have multiple! I always enjoy meeting a friend at the San Jose hotel, grabbing a cocktail at Weather Up, taking a dip in Barton Springs… the norm. My favorite hangout spot is anywhere under the sun, where I can enjoy a good read or a good beer that’s not too crowded or loud.
9. Favorite coffee drink?
Jade: I don’t drink coffee, but my favorite drink changes each week. Trevor has been making some amazing syrups and shrubs—last week, it was basil and blackberry.
Jill: I don’t drink coffee, either! Ironic, I know. But I do love our shrubs.
10. Favorite quote or favorite piece of advice (whichever means more to you)?
Jade: "Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” — Dalai Lama
Jill: Every successful entrepreneur has failed at least once or twice before making it big. My dad told me that, and it’s something that has always stuck with me. I think it’s just as important to hit rough spots and learn from them as it is to find success. There are always ebbs and flows to every business, and even when you are successful there can be growing pains and difficulties along the way.
11. What have been some of the barriers you have faced starting a business specifically in Austin, TX?
Jade: I think the crazy rate in which people are moving and businesses are opening is creating barriers between small business owners and neighborhoods. This is understandable; there are a lot of historic houses being torn down and replaced by crappy condos and out-of-place businesses popping up by people who aren’t caring about the people that live in it. For both F&N and Hillside Farmacy, we were honored to be awarded by Preservation Austin for our preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of our buildings. We live in these neighborhoods and want to a provide spaces walking distance for people to enjoy with their families, dogs, to be able to show their art and feel included. We needed the help of our friends to open, and the support of our neighbors to stay open. I think neighborhood associations have been burnt many times with businesses coming in, promising certain things and doing another, so they are already on the defensive when something new is trying to open.
Jill: I think Austin has an interesting mix of people who have already lived here and those who were gravitated to move here. There are so many amazing, creative and talented individuals who call Austin home, but I also think that Austin maintains its chill and relaxed environment. I don’t think people have a consumerist attitude in this town and are more conservative on what they will buy. It’s tricky, because they tend to also want things that are well-made and worth the price. There are some things I’d like to carry in the store, but I don’t think it would resonate with our customers. It’s always important to evaluate who your customers are and what they want but be able to anticipate new things they may want as well.
12. Who are your women idols (can be anyone!)?
Jade: My grandparents owned many different types of businesses throughout their lives: pubs, a gas station, a general store and they both worked in them every day wearing many different hats. Their first venture was a pub, which had a few rooms upstairs for guests to stay. In the pubs, Nana would bartend, help in the kitchen and clean the rooms upstairs, all while raising two children. She’s a tremendously strong woman, and even as dementia takes away a lot of her short-term memory, she can still vividly remember opening night, regulars' names, jokes, a bartender that would steal money by stashing it in her bra and the number of kegs sold in their first week open. Being a business owner is already a huge commitment and adding family to that is a new phase I’m about to embark on in four weeks! I hope I have the same strength Nana showed for all those years.
Jill: Well, my mom of course, for her beauty and patience and generosity throughout my life that has seeped into who I am as a person. Also, my sisters! I look up to both of them, not only because they are eight and 10 years older than me, but because they are truly amazing and wise individuals who have always been there for me and give great advice.
There’s a lot of love in our family! I’d mention my awesome dad, as well, but I’ll stick with just the girls! Honestly, though, all women inspire me. Every woman in this world provides something different and there’s something to learn from everyone. Being in the shop all the time, I get to meet so many interesting ladies and I love talking to them! So many of them are badasses. I love it.