What do you do when you realize that the corporate life just isn’t your jam? When you’re Jolie Sikes or her big sister Amie, co-founders with their mom of Junk Gypsy, you hit the road, hightailing it out of Houston and Austin, respectively—and keep driving for 15 years.
Of course, they weren’t aimlessly roaming Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. They were scouring flea markets and roadsides for discarded treasures that they could fix up and resell. “It was Mom’s idea and her $2,000 stash for the slot machines that we used at first,” says Sikes. “She said, ‘Let’s just go to Canton [where there’s a giant four-day flea market every month] with open minds and figure out what we can do.’”
That flexible entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a big helping of creative talent, has led the Sikeses to some amazing and unexpected projects: decorating the reception at Miranda Lambert’s wedding, designing a line for Pottery Barn Teen, starring in their own design show on HGTV, opening a 7,500 square foot store in Round Top and most recently, writing their first book, Junk Gypsy: Designing a Life at the Crossroads of Wander and Wonder (out this October). “Our business plan is not to have a business plan,” says Sikes, laughing. “For us, that’s how the magic happens.”
Sikes took time out from working on her and her sister’s book to share what she’s learned from starting a business. Call it a credo for entrepreneurial free spirits.
1. Focus on what makes you happy.
“Amie and I realized that we needed two things to be happy: doing something creative and working with our family. We weren’t making a ton of money, but we were following our hearts—and when you do that, it’s easier to take risks and be brave.”
2. Never settle or sell out.
“You can’t build a business trying to make a brand or product that you copied or don’t personally like. Because if you don’t believe in it, how can you expect someone else to? And if your brand is all over the place, you don’t actually have a brand.”
3. Ignore the naysayers.
“You’re going to encounter plenty of them, but stick to your guns. Before we had street cred, we were constantly told we couldn’t do things like set up walls or rig up chandeliers at flea markets. But we wanted to show how our things could look beautiful in a house—and that’s how we got noticed and we became known for doing that.”
4. Don’t ever think you know everything.
“Our parents taught us this early on. You can’t grow and evolve if you’re not learning and listening. Junkers come from all walks of life—Wall Street bankers, dentists, ex-cons. Many specialize and become experts in, say, wagon wheels. We learned so much from just talking to people and listening to their stories.”
5. Do no harm, take no bull.
“Amie just put this on a T-shirt. You can be firm about what you want—and still be kind while you’re doing it. I don’t believe in ever doing anything that’s not nice.”
Jolie and Amie Sikes will be speaking on a panel about career transitions at the Texas Conference for Women on Thursday, November 15, 2016, at the Austin Convention Center.