Dazey Lady Feature: Moorea Seal
Meet Moorea, jewelry designer, "pinfluencer", store owner, & best selling author
1) You are a lady of many talents. Why don’t ya give us a little list of what it is that you do!
Probably the best word to describe what I do is entreprenartist. Does that count?
- I am the CEO of Moorea Seal, yes, it’s a company that has the same name as me. I’ll explain why later (I promise I don’t have a huge ego!) Moorea Seal is an online retail site mooreaseal.com where we feature over 160 designers who are either handmade makers or focus in sustainable fashion/ethical sourcing. We donate 7% of all proceeds to non-profits.
- I also have a storefront in Seattle, WA. After having a cute little shop in Belltown for 3 years, we are now mid-build out on a huge new storefront in downtown Seattle, right in the heart of the city. The new store opens in October and we are having a huge party all weekend long, Oct 14th and 15th. You’ll be there, right Dani ;)
- I have been a jewelry designer for 8 years now! Though I took a little break in the middle while launching mooreaseal.com
- I am an author. I published The 52 Lists Project just 2 years ago and it’s gone on to be featured on Oprah and is currently being translated into 9 different languages! My second book 52 Lists for Happiness came out a year ago and has been been just as successful. And my new book Make Yourself at Home comes out Sept 26th. So exciting!
- I design desktop product, you know, since I seem to have so much free time. And I’m hoping to get a new line out this Winter/Spring.
- Above all else, I deeply believe in empowering others. I do advocacy work for women in business, I am extremely passionate about women’s rights, minority and immigrants rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and children’s rights and hope to create positive change within the Foster Care system one day (I hope to get into politics in the future). And you can bet that you’ll find me at a rally, protest, or meeting with local and national policy makers more and more as the years go on.
2) Walk us through the path that got you to where you are now.
Woo! I’ll try and keep this as short as possible, haha.
I graduated college during the recession in 2009. And jobs were beyond scarce in Seattle so a few months before I graduated college and had to start paying back my college loans, I started a blog in hopes that I could get my voice and my art out into the world. By 2010 I was nannying over 70 hours a week, blogging daily, I was teaching myself graphic design and a little bit of coding, I was in a band (I sing and play guitar) and I was working as an artist’s assistant. Despite doing all that, I still had very little money and was barely surviving. I wanted to make art but I couldn’t afford to. So I kind of accidentally stumbled into business.
I started redesigning my blog as a way to practice coding and graphic design and eventually I started designing other people’s blogs as a side gig. As a musician, I had a ton of friends who needed design work for posters, album covers, etc. So I started doing design work for musicians. I started doing illustrated portraits for bloggers. And I taught myself jewelry making as a way to make mini sculptures that I could sell, get money back, and keep making more.
In 2010 I also started using Pinterest when it was in Beta. I thought it would be a great way to create inspiration boards for my blog design clients. Once I started using it, I realized it was like creating an online museum of everything I wanted and dreamed of but couldn’t afford, from “Beautiful Eyebrows” to “Dresses” to “Bathrooms” you name it, I had a board for it. It was the one space where I wasn’t hustling as hard as I could. And one day in 2012, when a sponsor for my blog asked me my stats on my social media channels, I checked out Pinterest, saw it say 250,000 followers and I thought, ok that’s a glitch. So I emailed Pinterest and they said, nope, it’s real. By the end of 2012 I had major retailers wanting to work with me as an “online curator” or “influencer” and it blew my mind because I had been hustling so hard just to survive since college, trying every job I could and making more up as I went, and somehow, Pinterest became the space where I really took off. My childhood dreams of being a museum curator somehow translated into being an online curator.
By late 2012 I had done content creation and collaborations with Madewell, Nordstrom, P&G, L’Oreal, Gap, and tons of other major brands. But I started to feel like my voice didn’t matter when I worked for other brands. I didn’t want to be known as “Moorea who has a big Pinterest following.” I just wanted to create and be known for being me.
So because my following online had happened so organically, I knew whoever followed me anywhere online trusted my voice for being honest. So I decided to create my own online retail site focused on handmade goods and that gave back to non-profits I deeply cared about. I was lucky to band together with my cousin and one of my best friends to bring it to life and now they are the CFO and COO of our company. We chose to keep the name of the company Moorea Seal because by 2013, I had almost a million followers on Pinterest who knew my name, my jewelry line was already under my name, and my blog was under my name. So here I am, with a retail site with my name on it! Accidental brand consistency.
Within six months of our online site taking off, we were growing fast and needed to move into a large office. So we figured, hey, all of these beautiful pieces of jewelry and goods are tucked away into boxes for online shipments. Let’s kill two birds with one stone, find a space that can work for a small storefront/showroom and then use the rest of the space for our online operations. So we opened a storefront in Seattle in 2014. Just a few months later, my publishing house approached me (literally approached me... they showed up at my store while I was working as the 6 days a week sales associate/owner) about a project I had done on my blog called The 52 Lists Project and they asked if I wanted to turn it into a book! Obviously, my answer was YES! And here I am, three years in with three books under my belt! I feel VERY lucky.
In the three years since, my team has grown and grown. Within six months of the store being open, we decided to take over the entire space next-door for our online offices. My crew has encouraged me to keep designing with my jewelry line and desktop products. And now after three years at our first little storefront, we are moving our store to a space twice as big and we’ve built out a two story space behind the storefront in a beautiful historical building to house our online operations. We’re moving in in less than a month!
3) In an era where the brick and mortar store is quickly being replaced by online retail how have you managed to succeed?
I think a lot of people are getting sick of seeing the same things over and over and over by big box retailers. In Seattle and across the globe, we're seeing people become more conscious of how they shop and where they are putting their money. And with a brick and mortar, you literally see where you are putting your money. I wanted a physical space where our customers could see and touch and feel the value of the handmade products we stock. From clothing to jewelry, accessories, home decor and paper goods, it’s all so much more fun to shop in person and get to talk one on one with customers. We wanted to not just build a store with beautiful things but also create a space where EVERYONE feels welcome. I see so many stores that look cool but don’t feel inviting, or feel inviting but there isn’t much progressive design to be found. My storefront is about providing a space to shop where you can find something you’ve never seen before while trusting, you are welcome here. Hosting events and parties all of the time also helps to cultivate and future that sense of community in our space. And I can’t wait to see that grow in our new store! Making the space Instagram worthy helps too ;)
4) How did you start the 52 lists project? What was your intention going into it and did you expect it to turn into a best selling book?
When I started the project, it was honestly just a way for me to battle my own depression and anxiety. I’ve suffered from both my whole life as have just about everyone in my family. And after getting to a point in college where I was at my lowest low, suicidal thoughts while also knowing I would never act any of it out, I hit just a snapping point of realizing, the only person who can save me is ME. And with the 52 Lists Project, I wanted to create a free online print out that anyone could use that would encourage people like me to list out answers to prompts like, “List what you are grateful for…” or “List the difficult things in your life that have changed you for the better…” Through the lists, my hope was to create visual evidence of why each person is valuable, worthy of love, worthy of loving and admiring themselves, worthy of living life to it’s fullest and celebrating themselves. It was a tool that I needed to feel well, to see evidence of who I am and what makes me me. And after posting a list each week on my blog for a few weeks, it started to spread across the web like wildfire.
When I was approached to turn it into a book, I was BEYOND shocked. To note, I was still barely surviving financially while trying to get my businesses going. And I thought only people who go to school for writing or just really famous rich people get to write books. But my publisher really believed in my voice and wanted to get my message out there. I expected it to not really take off, or just do well locally in Seattle. But that’s it. My publisher only printed 5,000 copies for the release of the book. But the day it came out, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Paper Source, and many other retailers picked it up. And now it’s been printed over 350,000 times. I’m still shocked. I still live a pretty quiet life with my husband and my dog in a little apartment. And it always amazes me when a friend texts me a photo of the book in their favorite local store or in a store they stumble into in a different country!
5) What accomplishment are you the most proud of and why?
When it comes to mooreaseal.com and the storefront, I have to give massive credit to all the people on my staff. I could have never done any of it without their incredible skills that I lack. So when it comes to what am I most grateful for, it would be the people on my team who believe in me even when I’m not perfect or mess up. And when it comes to what I’m most proud of on my own, it would definitely be my books. They are my heart. I’m still the three year old girl who dreams of saving the world. And now as an adult I understand, you can’t save anyone. But what you can do is support and empower and trust others have the capacity to find their inner strength to live and thrive. And I feel like my books help. That’s all that matters to me in the world, that I’m at least helping someone in some way.
6) As a multi-talented creator do you find it difficult to balance it all?
YES would be an understatement. I have a hard time pulling myself out of survival mode. I have had to work really hard for myself for a long time, even beyond business, just in trying to fight depression and anxiety and dysfunction around me as a kid. I am not always the best store owner, the best designer, the best author, the best wife, the best friend, the best person. But what matters is I try. And those who know me, know that. I love them and they love me, and I’ve learned in recent months to really just forgive myself and move on if I don’t live up to my own high expectations. Regret doesn’t help anyone. I don’t think there is any perfect work/life balance for entrepreneurs or artists, especially when you are a woman. But we all live our own juggle and our own hustle. And as long as we are kind to ourselves and each other, we can keep going to do great things.
7) You’ve talked about your identity being very tied into your work. As someone who feels the same I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this.
I definitely screwed the pooch on this one by keeping my brand name the same as my real name. YIKES. Separating your identity from your work can get very confusing when you share the same name as your business! But what I have learned over the years in identifying as “Moorea the artist, musician, graphic designer, illustrator, coder, nanny, big sister, friend, blogger, writer…” the list goes on, in all of it, I’ve come to discover that what you DO does not define who you ARE. I’ve had to leave quite a few modes of artistic expression behind as I’ve grown in my career, things that deeply fulfill me like writing and performing music. But just because I don’t do that right now, it doesn’t mean that I am any less me. I get to bring that back whenever I want, and right now, it just needs to be put to the side. And I hope all women understand that too: you don’t have to do EVERYTHING right now. Your voice will still be important, even if you did none of the things you are doing now. It’s your mind and your heart and your unique perspectives on life and your own values that matter most. YOU inform your work. The more I practice remembering that I will be fully me even if literally everything I do is wiped away, the more stable I feel in my juggles. The more I name what my followers and customers ARE allowed to be a part of in my life, the more I can feel comfortable owning what I want to keep separate in my life, apart from my business entirely. No one, not even your most trusted friends, business partners or family can tell you what you are comfortable with in the overlap of business and life. Decide for yourself and stick to it.
8) Mental health is something you’re a huge advocate for. What sparked this interest in you?
As I’ve mentioned before, depression and anxiety are not only a part of me since I was little but also a part of my family. My great grandfather died by his own hand. Many of my family members have attempted and I’ve spent years of my life trying to talk some of them out of it. Thankfully, as of the last 2-3 or so years, no one in my family has been suicidal. And I think it’s because more of us have become vocal about our struggles within our family community and vocal within the communities around us. I believe in being a voice, a resource, and I’ve had lots of practice. I’m not here to save anyone or be a martyr, I just want to be a voice that I didn’t hear when I was younger, someone saying, “You are resilient, you are capable, you can keep going, you can thrive and you will."
9) What would you want to share with a girl who is struggling with anxiety and/or mental health?
My friend, I know you have some massive wisdom and strength. It’s inside of you, it has kept you alive up until this very moment. And you have the capacity to live and feel well. It’s fucking hard, but it’s worth every fight. You have had practice already. You can do this. Even in the place that I am with my career, it appears so shiny and fun and exciting, but girl, I fight battles everyday not only outside of myself, but inside of myself. And the same way that I have learned to use the trauma of my past as a resource for my own understanding and wisdom, I KNOW you can too. Those of us who have had trauma and endured pain and suffering that many people cannot understand actually have a secret power. We have knowledge. We have learned a lot quickly, whether we wanted to or not. And if we SPEAK more, honoring all that we are even in our darkest moments, we will find our communities. By sharing my battles with depression and anxiety, you know what I have experienced? SO many other voices around me saying, “Me too.” When we are trapped in our own minds, it can be so isolating. But I promise you, there are SO many of us out there fighting for our own wellness, our own lives. You have endured so much and you know what that makes you? You are not a fuck up. You are not stupid. You are not too much. You are not any of those negative things that have been placed on you. You are RESILIENT. You are mighty. And I expect to see you do great things for yourself because I know you can.
10) What’s next on the to-do list for Moorea Seal?
A nap? JK. My hope over the next coming years is to open another store in LA and Oakland, CA. Then I’d love a store in Austin, TX and Nashville, TN. One day even NYC. I’m dreaming up a new book that I can hopefully release in 2019. I’m working away on a new line of jewelry and desktop products. And amidst all that I want to adventure more, rock climb more, make friends everywhere I go, and continue living in the healthiest state I’ve ever been in. At the end of the day, if my depression and anxiety are manageable and I’m laughing everyday, it doesn’t matter what I do. It’s all a bonus on a joyful life.
11) What does being a Dazey Lady mean to you?
It means having a voice. And however you use that voice is up to you. But bonus points if you are using it to spread positivity and the empowerment of others :)
September 07 2017
Inspiring stuff… thank you for the interview. Definitely look up to you two ladies among other female entrepreneurs. Keep rocking on.
September 06 2017
Wow love love love. My brother have me her book last week for my beithfay and then I got this email a few days later about her and it just blew me away. Truly amazing.
September 06 2017
LOVED this interview. What a boss babe! Super inspiring and down to earth. Now I feel like I have even more motivation to go conquer this day!