Daughters of Others: Stella Yoon
Daughters of Others is a series exploring the lives of the women who inspire us. These women are journeying through life along their distinct paths. Despite our varied passions, the singular element that connects us is: we are all Daughters of Others.
Like her studio, Stella Yoon is a woman of many colors and textures. At her core lies Hudson River Exchange: the multifaceted community of makers and creatives based in Hudson, NY. They run a handful of markets for goods and services, host local biz-gatherings and workshops, manage a brick & mortar collective retail space, and are now embarking on an annual print magazine. We needed to find out how Stella manages these many moving parts, all with grace and style. We spent a chilly Sunday morning exploring her old victorian home. We chatted about work process, the unfamiliarity of being in front of the camera, and of course, vintage fabric. We experienced some serious art book envy and wallpaper lust. Oh, in case you're wondering (like we were) that gorgeous bookshelf color is Benjamin Moore's River Blue.
D: Give us a little history on HRE. What motivated you start it and how did it come to fruition?
S: Hudson River Exchange was formed by a collective of creative women in Hudson brought together with a common love for handmade and vintage. It started with just wanting to host an event at the riverfront bringing together our creative friends - something for makers, by makers inspired by the types of markets we had been a part of in the larger cities we moved from.
D: How has HRE evolved since its founding?
K: So many ways! The Summer Market is our flagship event has become a showcase of the best in handmade and vintage from the Hudson Valley. We have a brick and mortar cooperative retail shop and artist studios on Warren Street, host small business workshops and meet ups. Our latest project, Made + Collected, is a magazine and creative service directory. From day one we’ve taken cues from our community and draw from our own experiences as creative entrepreneurs to bring programming and resources that are relevant and useful to the independent creative small business owners in upstate NY.
D: What is your biggest business challenge?
M: The money! I just want to do the work and don’t like dealing with the money stuff.
It’s not that I don’t care about the money (I certainly like to spend it) but I didn’t prioritize creating systems around it early on and start working with an accountant or financial planner to develop the tools and knowledge around my finances. And it’s foolish because it’s a life skill not just a business skill.
The financials have been something I avoided ever since I started freelancing over a decade ago. That’s a long time and I hope that others can prevent making the mistakes I have. At the end of the day, I don’t mourn the money I didn’t make, but it does inform the decisions I make now. There’s still a lot of learning as we go.
I realize now that it’s not that I don’t know the value of my time or skill set but I hadn’t done the due diligence to figure out what it costs to run my business and seeing that being a freelancer IS a small business. I learned late what may be obvious to others that your rate reflects not only your time but also your overhead.
Through a workshop last year, my perspective on how I see money changed. I now see money as a tool. And like any tool, you should take the time to learn how it works! It’s also helpful in setting goals now that it’s not this abstract thing I’m trying to avoid. I want to work and be able to hire people I want to work with. I can’t do that without cash flow so that’s been positive motivation in trying to get financially healthy. And like anything else, dealing with the problem rather than ignoring it is so much more productive.
D: What has been your most profound lesson in running your business?
M: You can’t cheat time. The overnight success is a myth or kind of like winning the lotto. It can happen, but the reality is, you have to put in the hours, make mistakes, and be able to pick yourself out of the slow or dark times.
I listen to a lot of podcasts about business founders and their journeys. They are as individual as personalities so the idea that success looks a certain way or can be achieved by following a set of rules is a total lie.
I’ve never worked on a single thing for as long as I have with Summer Market. This will be our 6th year and it’s amazing to build on something over a period of time. Feedback both positive and negative is the most important thing we get from the visitors and the people we work with. As someone who tends to be impulsive and not the most patient, it’s hard to have to wait a year to implement changes, try something different or do something better. But you can’t make time go faster and I’m grateful to have the space in between the event because there are so many unplanned opportunities to learn and unexpected connections to make along the way.
I’ve never made a 5 year plan or been very forward planning and I tend to run late. I’m my own worst enemy if I don’t try to manage my time better. I tell myself - You have to plan to leave the house ten minutes before the time you should leave to get somewhere on time, it’s better to plan out your editorial calendar instead of keeping pace with it day to day. These are things I still am working on but I’ve basically stopped trying to fight or negotiate with time. It always wins.
D: Where do you find your inspiration?
S: Travel has always been a really important source of inspiration. I used to have so much wanderlust and ever since I moved to the Hudson Valley, that’s quieted. Or at least in the way I daydream about taking trips overseas and having big travel plans. I get so much from just being out and about; there’s so much to discover right here. Driving around or taking a walk, the way the seasons and light change the landscape...I don’t know how to describe how I feel without it sounding corny but it surprises and delights me all the time because it’s always changing in ways I could never imagine.
D: What, who, or where is inspiring you right now?
S: I feel really in my own head right now because we’ve been hibernating and doing so much planning, but I’m excited by the work the Obama Foundation is doing and on a more local level the Good Work Institute. I think forces of change happen piece by piece, day by day and these organizations support the efforts of individuals that are building businesses and running organizations that are engaging, creating and dreaming for their communities.
D: What excites you most about 2018?
S: Launching Made + Collected! It’s a culmination of our love for print and love for creatives. We’ll highlight Summer Market makers and collectors and Take Care Fair product based businesses along with an exploration of topics about health and wellness from a Hudson Valley perspective.
We know so many talented people in the Hudson Valley and people are always asking us if we know someone who does “blank.” So a big part of the book will be our creative service directory and we’re looking to list creatives in all sectors from agriculture, tech, suppliers, to art and design. We love connecting and referring people so Made and Collected is our version of “word of mouth” in print form.
It will be an annual print magazine and creative service directory that will be released each year at Summer Market and be distributed around the Hudson Valley for free. For those who want to get a copy, they will also be available online for purchase.
D: What makes you nervous?
S: Before any event, I always have a moment of “Is anyone going to come?” But I feel that way even when we have a dinner party. It dissipates, but I guess we do the best we can in all the stages of planning and executing production, but it’s the one factor we have no control over. Things happen, life happens, people’s plans change and you can’t do anything about that. But I don’t like feeling stressed or worried especially about things I can’t control, so I let myself feel that and then move on so I don’t miss out on what’s happening!
D: How do you re-center?
S: I like sweeping and doing dishes - mundane chores. When things get really busy the house gets really insane looking. It’s really grounding to clean up, it’s human scale. Nothing just exists in a pristine state. You need to wash the clothes you wear and you can’t stop dust from accumulating. We exist in the world and it’s a constant cycle of order and disorder. I like that doing the dishes brings instant gratification - it’s a task that can be checked off a list and when things are clean, it makes me feel good. Truth be told, the house is the most put together when we have people coming over but we always have chores and I like the simplicity of having a direct task and it’s a meditative break especially when things feel chaotic. Also, I like that there’s a bit of ritual inherent in these tasks.
D. What’s next for HRE?
S: We have CSA fairs in the next couple weeks around the Hudson Valley! Also, we’re gearing up for our Summer events and will start looking for makers to pop up at 514 Warren St space for the season. We’ll be sharing updates through our newsletter in the coming weeks.
We’re always looking to connect and collaborate.