July 28, 2021


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Today’s guests are sisters and design creatives, Susie & Heidi Bauer, owners of Rock Scissor Paper. Rock Scissor Paper has created products imbued with their signature sense of color and optimism that stay true to their joyful outlook in life. Join us as they discuss building their brand, how they can insert a dose of happiness into every product they sell, and how they believe ice cream is truly the best medicine for anything!

Additional links:

Heidi's essay in Medium with mention of their "Small Victories Rainbow Wall"
Small Victories Wall Essay

Check out their before & after small victories wall photos below
Small Victories Rainbow Wall

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RSPstudio
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rspstudio/_saved/
Instagram: @rockscissorpaper
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rockscissorpaper



Heidi & Susie Bauer of Rock Scissor Paper

Michelle :  Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier, and this is the retail whore podcast, the stories and Lessons from the Life and Retail.

Michelle : Hello. Hello, it's Michelle. And I am literally bursting at the seams. The gift shows are back. You know, COVID took everything out that had to do with any type of crowd. The gift shows were no different. Us as an industry have not seen a, quote, gift show and probably about a year and a half. And this summer it is back on. And for those of you who do not understand how the trade works two times a year, there is a massive gift show. They are held nationally, they are in the spring and they are in the summer. And anything from a stuffed animal to a candle to crystal to books are shown at these shows. And as a buyer, I can tell you it is extremely challenging trying to purchase from catalogs and off the internet, things that you take sort of for granted. Like if you haven't bought a candle line, for instance, before, what does it smell like? You know, Moroccan mint smells a lot different to a lot different lines. Rose And anything mixed with the rose go figure you. It's a crapshoot of what you're going to get stuffed animals. How soft are they or are they scratchy you all these things you really take for granted? We have been without for about a year and a half.

Michelle : So it's really great to hear that shows that have happened already. Atlanta and Dallas has already happened. They are extremely busy, which for us as an industry is phenomenal. It means business is moving back. I know they are busy because retailers are busy and it is you know, it just feels like we are starting to come out of it. And I figured what better time then to release our interview with the beautiful sisters from Rock Scissor Paper, Heidi and Susie, we have a chance to catch up on what they did during quarantine, how they got through it, how they stay inspired. For anyone that knows this line, this line is bright, it's fun. It is all things, rainbows and unicorns. And these sisters have created a brand that is 100% based on happiness. And we have a chance to find out how they stay inspired, what their past lives look like prior to how they spent their childhood and what they're doing now to push their business forward. So it brings me great pleasure to bring you the sisters, Susie and Heidi of Rock Scissor Paper. It's so lovely to finally see your faces and meet you. I feel like I've been going back and forth to you for so long. Just for everything I know. I know.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And I feel like I know you because of Instagram.

Michelle : I know. It's so funny. How are you guys?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We're really good.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We're really in the process right now of getting ready for the shows.

Michelle : Yes. It seems like the pedal to the metal in our whole industry.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It's I know.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Not quite mentally.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Prepared for it.

Michelle : You know, it's weird. It went from like feast or famine to feast. Like, I mean, what seems like overnight, it's really obviously not overnight. But I feel like it's like going to the Las Vegas show. It felt so good to actually see, like even though it's a small amount of temporary, it was like, oh my God, there's like energy in our industry again.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Michelle : So. So after reading your bio, like, I was already like a huge fan girl anyway, because I know me from Instagram, but I buy for Burt's Pharmacy, so I buys product. And then I don't know if you guys knew this that I used to be one of the owners for Suite XL.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Oh, that's right. Okay, I'll come together now.

Michelle : I'm a huge fangirl of you guys anyway, just because I've always loved your product. And it's like. It's it's like it just makes me so happy. And I know that's like, 90% of your brand, but I just had to get that out of the way because.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Like the.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Connections in our industry that just over the years, it's like you can there's this thread that weaves everyone.

Michelle : Together. Yeah, it's I mean, I love it because it kind of feels in an odd way, sort of like family. Yes. You you know each other. You watch everyone evolve. You know, obviously everyone mourns when somebody closes the store and then when somebody opens or goes to another job and then picks right back up with you guys, it's like I mean, it's it's that family atmosphere, I feel like.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah, definitely.

Michelle : So after reading your bio, like, I'm like, there's so much I have to ask. I'm like, I had no idea. So I'm going to start with the first question I always ask everybody is, How old were you when you both started to work?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I was 14.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And I was 15.

Michelle : And what was your first job?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Ironically, we both at different places worked at ice cream parlors, and our lifelong love of ice cream continued from that moment.

Michelle : Oh, it's so funny because I always ask everybody, because I've realized everybody who's really a hustler and who has their own businesses and have done everything they're doing, like trudging along. Everybody has started work super young and it's hilarious because, you know, you're the fifth person that has started an ice cream shop. I started at Haagen-Dazs. I started when Haagen-Dazs was my second job because all the cute boys came in for free samples, right.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Working in an ice cream shop is the best because everyone is in a good mood and happy. There's no one that's not happy to come into an ice cream shop.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And they were a little sad by the time they have the ice cream. They're happy, right?

Michelle : Which ice cream shop was it?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I was at Swenson's which where the full brown and orange.

Michelle : Set this hideous uniform.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: 1880s.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And mine was McConnell's ice cream.

Michelle : Oh, they have.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Amazingly has a resurgence. The original incarnation of McConnell's.

Michelle : Is that Santa Barbara.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Had few retail stores in Southern California that they closed.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Afterwards. Yeah.

Michelle : Oh, my God. I love. That's my favorite ice cream in the world.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And it's funny because like when I worked there at the time, they, I guess, were one of the originators of vanilla bean ice cream and their other famous flavor was Turkish coffee, which had coffee grounds in it.

Michelle : That is the.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Best. And people were just that was their calling card. People would come in and want that. And it's just interesting that those two flavors have endured like ice cream Haagen-Dazs.

Michelle : It was I think coffee chip was like the number one.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah, yeah. My beloved Haagen-Dazs flavor from childhood, which no longer exists, which was honey vanilla.

Michelle : Oh, I think it was the chocolate covered almond one that I love.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Michelle : Thank you for that extra 10 pounds of working that job. I literally like a sample spoon was in my hand 90% of the time, which is really.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: You know, working early. The thread that's interesting because for us as teenagers, working meant independence. You know, it meant independence. It meant broadening your circle socially because it was people outside of your school. So we I mean, we didn't stop working after that. We worked all the time.

Michelle : I find it amazing now. I mean, it's like I don't want to say the millennials don't do anything, but it's always amazing to me now when I talk to you and I don't know if the same for you, when you guys interview people, it's like, so what, what? Where have you worked so far? And it's like 20 year olds that have never worked. I'm like, I don't. And it's like that work ethic. And that's one thing. It's like I was saying, like everybody that started really young, the work ethic that you have, like from such a young age is. So totally different to the work ethic that this generation has. And it's like I find myself, like, almost frustrated. Like, why are you, like, sitting there? Like, why aren't you just jumping up and figuring out what to do? I mean, it's very rare now when I come across interns or new hires that just have that get up and go and they just instinctively know what to do and just jump in. And whether it's right or wrong, they're jumping in. They're not standing. They're like waiting for.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah, yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We were good students in school and health jobs to were you?

Michelle : See, I was a horrible student, so I actually quit high school when I was a junior and I never went back. So there you.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Go. It all worked out right?

Michelle : Maybe which count? Why I'm so bad at computers.

Michelle : Tech stuff.

Michelle : Yeah. So tell me a little bit about yourselves and your brand.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: So if you don't know we're sisters, so we're the sisters and co-founders of Rock Scissor Paper. We are an independent lifestyle brand. We design and manufacture ourselves products across a wide variety of categories. And the thing that unifies all those products, regardless of what they are, is our design aesthetic, which is always thinking about how we can insert a dose of happiness into an everyday product. And it's kind of just our way of sneaking a little bit of joy into people's lives through these products.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And unlike other companies in our industry, we are designers and creatives that we just wanted to make things. And so we built a company to be able to.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Make to indulge ourselves as.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Opposed to someone who has an idea to start a business and then finds designers or creates design directives based on what what products need to be made in a season. It always comes from our passion and our hearts and our brains. So we're we're definitely kind of outside the norm. And I would say that really identifies us as being independent.

Michelle : Absolutely. Do you have anybody, any designers that you bring in from time to time, or is it just the solely the two of you? Just how big is your company? How many employees do you guys have?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We currently have three. We post COVID, we have three. Yeah.

Michelle : Yeah. Is that including you two or total companies? Five. Where is your production out of now? Is it LA or is it.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It's 85% out of our studio, which is in the northeast, San Fernando Valley.

Michelle : Okay. So tell me, because after reading your bio, I was fascinated with your parents. Tell me a little bit about your childhood.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Go ahead.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Well, our parents were European immigrants are mom was from Belgium and our dad was from Germany. My dad's family immigrated here. He went to trade school in Germany as a teenager and learned textile design and manufacturing. Wow.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And he joined the Air Force and then was stationed in Europe in the late fifties and met our mother and brought her over to the US. And they really embodied like wanting to pursue the American dream. They loved everything about American culture, the music, the movies, the style, the the hope. And coming out of Europe post war. Like it was the polar opposite of the lives that they live there.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And like our dad would talk about when they moved to California because they originally lived in New York and the feeling that he would have driving on the freeways, especially like an overpass from one freeway to another when there was no traffic. And it just for him, captured Los Angeles and the possibilities that existed.

Michelle : I love that.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We've always felt that that's like infused in our DNA. I mean, we definitely see the flaws in our our city, our country, whatever. But the overriding thing is that it is still so much possibility if you work hard.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: So he he owned two factories successively here in Los Angeles, manufacturing in the beginning, double knit polyester, which was all the rage in the seventies. Although our mom was so, ah, close out of it, so we had some pretty crazy polyester coordinated outfits.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Being not only manufactured but being creative. Like he created double knit fabric that looked like denim that Levi used, and he also developed polyester lace. So in Europe, having lace curtains in your house is very traditional. We had polyester double knit lace curtains, which was so envious that they could throw them in the washer and dryer and they come out perfect.

Michelle : That's amazing. So, you know, the was it mostly apparel people that bought the fabric?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yes. Yes.

Michelle : Do you know any of the other brands that bought it other than Levi?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Oh, that's a good question.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Well, he did a lot of work with local contractors in downtown L.A., like Edwards of California.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And that did a lot of sportswear.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Sportswear. I really don't know.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Susie's been obsessed with buying pieces of double knit polyester when she goes to thrift stores and sort of collection.

Michelle : How do you know if it's your dad's production that you're buying?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I recognize some of the patterns from things that we had fabric in our house and our dad isn't alive anymore. So I can't, like, actually verify it. But it was. It's. It's really an unloved art form or polyester. It's still very dated.

Michelle : A little it's.

Michelle : A little warm.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yes, it is. And to circle back to the DNA thing, like from our mother's side, well, she was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was two, and Susie was four, and she died eight years later. So she died when we were very young. So we don't know a lot about her as a person. We only know her as a mother of young children. And over the years, we've pieced together different things about her. And a couple of years ago, our stepmom sold our childhood home and brought over tons of boxes of stuff to us that related to our mom. And it was the most wonderful discovery to open these boxes and find stacks and stacks and stacks of books and magazines from the seventies that were DIY, home decor, crafting magazines, books like How to Make Your Own Sausage, How to Make Brew Your Own Beer, like all this DIY creative stuff that is totally us. And so it was this moment of like recognizing that there was something of her that obviously was imprinted in us. That's why.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And we also found out on our mother's side that we come from a long line of merchants and printers.

Michelle : Wow, that's wild.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Her mother and sister owned a high end women's lingerie store in Belgium.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And for 50.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Years. 50 years.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Wow. And our grandfather was a printer, it turns out. Oh, my God.

Michelle : That's the crazy. That's why.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah. So it's fun to put these pieces together of your parents to figure out how does it influence what, how, who we became and what we do and what we're passionate about.

Michelle : My mom was always the school room, room mother. And we every year we bring out the Christmas ornaments that my Nana made and Dave's mother made, which were like, I swear those women were on crack because they were like the Styrofoam balls in a million pieces, individual pins going through it. But my mom's ornaments that she made us, which was a craft project for the whole entire class, is like the little Santa or the toilet paper roll, which actually reminds me of something. You guys would do it. It's so cute and, like, kind of cheeky. And I'm like, wow. Like, it truly like does the apple doesn't far from the fall, far from the tree for the influence of what your parents bring. So it's not a surprise that you guys ended up in design.

Michelle : And.

Michelle : Manufacturing. So, Susie, you worked in retail for a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your stint at Esprit.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Well, I started out at Bullock's department store, and right after getting hired there, I was tapped to go to the Esprit Shop Within Shop program that Bullock stores had. And I was just completely blown away, like it was going into a different world and. They brought in to me. I was 17 years old working in this department store. Esprit corporate came in and trained me from their visual bible of how to merchandise about composition theory. They had principles of house design in this book.

Michelle : Wow.

Michelle : That's amazing.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I just like it filled every hole in my soul at that moment. I mean, it was like, such an outlet for creativity. And and then Esprit corporate recruited me to come to their LA Superstore in West Hollywood.

Michelle : Is that the one that was on Los Angeles?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yes. Yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And it was an amazing company to work for. I felt that way then, and I feel it even more now of what I learned, how visionary it was. I just can't even say enough about what a total experience it was.

Michelle : Wow. It's great.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Of the complete package of the product, the marketing, the people who worked in the stores, the display, the merchandising, everything.

Michelle : Do you apply some of what you learn there to what you do now?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Oh, every day. Every day. And I mean, the motto at the store, and I think for the company was no detail is small. And we have that written. It's a great art. And I think of that all the time. You know, that those little details matter. They they absolutely.

Michelle : Do. I think what people skip over them, they don't realize.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Like, yeah, I think people even dismiss once a small detail and they don't realize that it may seem minor, but the totality of all the small details can make or break.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Something.

Michelle : Actually, I think people are so in a rush to get it done and get on to the next thing. I think that that's where a lot of little things like that nuances fall to the wayside because it's just like it's hurry up and put and I'll admit I'm just as bad at that as well. Sometimes we're just like, You're on a deadline. It's like, just just do it.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Absolutely.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Modern life.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And then, Heidi, your past career is a little crazy. You worked for the Roy Orbison estate. Tell me a little bit about that.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: So I was in college and I was working as an assistant to a screenwriter, and she was working with Roy's widow, Barbara Orbison, on a biopic about him. And the woman I worked for all of a sudden decided to move out of Los Angeles. And she ended up connecting me with Barbara Orbison to interview for a position with her. And so I ended up dropping out of college and working for her. And it was she had so much memorabilia about Roy's entire career and was looking for a way to archive it all. And so it was a lot of just looking at what we had, cataloging gold records, correspondence, photos, wow. Going to post-production houses and sitting with an editor and looking at home movies and seeing what footage there was that was worth holding on to. My biggest takeaway from that job and the job was difficult. Personality wise, it was a difficult experience. But my biggest takeaway was learning that Roy Orbison was beloved by everyone he encountered, everyone he worked with from a car mechanic to a dentist to the head of a record company. He was kind and thoughtful and everyone remembered it, everyone glowingly of him. And that just stuck with me in that. I mean, we can look back at our career and I'm sure you can, too. And how much of it is built on relationships and on maintaining those positive connections with people in life and not crapping on people along the way because it's convenient for you or advantageous for you to just take that high road and be kind and build those relationships, you know? And I saw the flip side of it because his wife was able to ride the coattails of that for several years post death. But little by little, those cracks began to show that she didn't have that, that those relationships built the way that he did. And as a fan of his, it was wonderful to hear that he was such an amazing man and it just was a really great, lifelong lesson that came out of it.

Michelle : How long were you with the estate?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: About two and a half years.

Michelle : And then? So buy what you did there. Do you is the archive censor like digging back in the past. Is that do you do you apply some of that to what you guys do now as well?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I don't know the archiving sense, although currently in our office we were doing some reorganization and we have boxes and boxes of the Rock, Scissors, Paper Archive. One of everything we've ever made.

Michelle : Oh, my gosh. You have to do a wall full of that.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I know. Maybe for our 30 year anniversary, we'll do a retrospective. But I do think I mean, we're Suzy and I both are just so creatively curious about the past and love anything vintage. We love deep dives into discovering an artist or a designer or a craftsperson or a maker, and then just deep diving into the story of their lives. And I think that definitely does fit into that because all those pieces and all the ephemera that surrounds a person's work. Yeah. Factors into it. Yeah. You know.

Michelle : I love that. So it sounds like Northridge earthquake dealt a major change on you. Much like it did me and my businesses. Tell me a little bit about how that kind of changed the trajectory for where you guys were going.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Well, Heidi and I were living together and had at this point, rock scissor paper was in its very small infancy as a part time kind of side gig that we were enjoying, but didn't really have many goals about yet. And I was working for Spree and I was managing a store in Sherman Oaks at the time, and my store was destroyed in the Northridge earthquake. And I was left without I was a store manager without a store. And, you know, it was just like a real wake up call for everything. Like, you know, it just disrupted life so much. And I had an opportunity to stay with a spree and move to another city, which wasn't an option for me. And I was offered a nice severance package. And Heidi and I, like, took this as a sign that this is our moment to, like, kind of go big and put all our efforts in on seeing what we can make, rocks or paper. And so.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Heidi, I quit my job with Orbison's and I got a job at night waiting tables so that I could be at home during the day, answering the phone for the business and just giving it a go.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Michelle : Did. So when you guys started it, what did what did? And I know I'm going out of the questions, but when you guys started rock stars or what did it start as since it was a side hustle. What did you guys start making in the beginning?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Well, in the very beginning, what got us started was Susie got married in what year? 91, 1991. And we made her wedding invitations ourselves. And we used this Japanese bookbinding technique and this imported paper. And at the time, we only had a computer at my office at the Orbison's, and we had two fonts to choose from. We had times New Roman or Helvetica. That's what we used to do, the typesetting to take to the printer. But it's funny because fast forward all these years, I often look at people's about US bios on their website, stationery, designers, designers that started in the last few years. And there's a common thing people say of like, Oh, when I was getting married, I couldn't find anything unique for my wedding invitation and I made my own. So that's how I started my company. And I called Bill on that because there's so many amazing things available currently.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And literally when I got married it was Crane's.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Big book of Yeah, yeah, it was just traditional.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And so people were just like blown away by what we did. And then we just started making cars, which.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We or a friend would be like, Oh, I'm having a baby. Can you make a custom baby announcement? So it was a lot of custom commissions and then cards and journals and.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And we started, you know, and this is pre-Internet Pre-social Media. We started hosting events at our home and other friend's houses. We passed out flyers to everyone we knew and their friends.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And they would empty all the furniture out of a dining the dining room and turn it into a store. Wow.

Michelle : It's like a mini pop up shop.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah, exactly. And we built this, like, big personal mailing list of fans, and we were like, we got to get into stores. Like, that's the next thing. We've been making these cards and selling them directly to people. And a friend of ours said, Hey, I can get you an appointment at Fred Segal if you want to show your cards.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And we were like.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Know? I don't know. I don't know. It was Ron who we.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Met Ron Herman.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And we were so. Nervous.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We couldn't. We've never done a wholesale pitch ever. And we didn't know how one was done. And we actually recently found our pitch presentation that we did to Fred, and we laughed hysterically because it's in a like artists big portfolio and it's huge post like black.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Art form boards.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: With like three cards presented on each board. And we brought an easel and we.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And I think we had maybe 12 cards.

Michelle : I mean, four pitching out of the box. Like you couldn't pick a bigger or better retailer for like the first pitch you have.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And we thought it bombed because he just sat there and said nothing.

Michelle : Yeah, I know that stone face.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yes.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And then he, like, got up and was like, okay, I want 48 of this, 60 of that, 24 of this.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And and said, my assistant will give you the PO and walked out of the room.

Michelle : We just like mouths dropped to the ground.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I think we, we probably went into the parking lot and threw up. So nervous.

Michelle : Were you guys.

Michelle : Pitching individual cards or card sets or your. Because you guys do so much now so I want to go back.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Look individual greeting.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Cards and after that we were like we can never do that again. Like, that was so nerve wracking presenting your own designs, you know.

Michelle : You're so close to it.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: So yeah, a friend's like, Give me some samples and I'll go into local shops and see if I can get orders for you. And she quickly got us orders at what was the place in the Beverly Center design? Anyway.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Card factory in Century City Mall. Wow. There's a name we loved.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And Jumping Dog in Century City bought a bunch of things from us. And that order in that store was our window into getting into our industry.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Because we were at our home office one day and the phone rang because it was pre-Internet. So on the back of all of our products, we would stamp our logo and our phone number. And the phone rang and the guy on the other end goes, Hi, my name is Matt Katzenson. I have a company called Fine Lines with a showing in the mart.

Michelle : My gosh.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Who the hell are you  - that's so Matt! And there was this very robust, nice display of our products, and he had never heard of us. And so he invited us to come meet with him at his original online showroom, which was much smaller than it is now, and gave us a bunch of advice of how to expand our line in terms of what it would be a viable wholesale line for reps to take it out on the road and said, These are the things I suggest you do come back and talk to me in a month. And they started repping us after that.

Michelle : So have you been with Matt this entire time? With fine lines. Wow. How many years is that?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It's 20 something.

That's impressive. That's impressive. I love Matt and I love that show room and my love for Mara and everybody that works there, it's like it's just such a great organization.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And being like, because we have just been figuring it out as we go along, like just DIY ing it and not being maybe being fearful but still doing it no matter what it is like figuring it a way to get it done. Working with Matt and Fine Lines was just like essential for us in the beginning because he just had no filter to tell us like, you need to do it this way or this, this isn't going to work. Or so we were there with like big open ears to like just absorb what this industry was, you know, and.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It changed everything.

Michelle : I think that's smart. I think a lot of people, when they go to reps, don't always listen to what the rep is telling you and they're telling you based on their experience and what they need. And I think a lot of sometimes a lot of new vendors, I think, go in and we're like, I know what to do, I know what to do. And it's like, No, you don't just listen and take in the information because like that information is invaluable. I mean, it's like I'm sure that that was a whole education for you guys. It's like, right, the only way you're going to.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Get that is to tell them that.

Michelle : Hands on experience and getting that from the horse's mouth is like invaluable.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I think to like now with the having information at our fingertips on the Internet, I think there's this thing that people feel they need to do and then also believe that they are an expert in everything. Right? Because you can Google anything and learn something whether what you learned is accurate or not. And I think without the Internet is a crutch, you have to be open to finding sources to help you and to listening and valuing that information in a different way than just finding it on the Internet.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I mean, we always try to come from the mindset of we are novices and we don't know anything and try to view whatever we're going to do through that lens of like, what questions do we need to ask? What experiments do we need to do and fail at to be able to move forward and not being embarrassed that you don't know something?

Michelle : And that's like that. That piece of advice is huge. I mean, just how much the ego will get in the way. And instead of being like, I learned humility when I lost my stores at Fred Segal because I was the asshole that had the store at 27 years old. And you know, you live in a bubble, like you go into showrooms and it's like, whatever you want, we'll give you net 90, we'll give you and you become a very demanding prima donna. At least I did, because you just at 27, I had no concept of what really were I was until I ended up owning stores. And I only learned the humility after I lost my stores. And it's like you realize, like there is no need to be an asshole like you and listen to what people are trying to tell you. And that I think the biggest thing is like I thought I was all that in a Big Mac and I would not listen to people and you know, I mean, like some even my grandfather who was trying to give me advice on stuff, I was like, please, granddaddy, I know I, I own stores at Fred Segal and it's like, God, I think about that now at 55 and it's like, God, why? And it's that's part of I say failure. Failure is the best instructor. I still say this to you to this day. And it's so it's it's nice to hear you say that because it's it's nice to know I'm not the only person that believes that because it's truly it's like I think unless you're willing to be open to those lessons, whether they be from the universe or from your own hands of failure, it's like, I think that's the only way you're ever going to learn and succeed, to be honest.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And I mean, just as a society, we have to get rid of the shame around on failing at doing something. It's really you're just learning.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Michelle : Absolutely. I mean, that's I think it's I'm actually grateful for the lessons that I had through trial and error. And I mean, I've lost like three businesses and it's like, okay, so, you know, I don't take it as hard now. It's a little easier to get up and dust off and go, okay, that was meant to happen. But I'm I'm truly grateful for those those lessons because I don't think I would be I don't think anybody would be where they are today without what they learned in the scrapes and bumps and bruises that you gained along the way.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Michelle : So with the gift show's coming up, tell me a little bit about what you guys are working on now.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Oh.

Michelle : We have to give up any secrets. But, you.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: No.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: No, we're just still kind of like, frankly, in a COVID fog. I mean, we have a direction that we're moving toward, but we are trying to see to to be open to what lessons we've learned in the last year and how we can keep those as permanent things in our business. So, you know, we're working, we're finishing up a lot of new designs. We're really focusing in on our local love program of name drop products that we do for stores to celebrate their hometowns.

Michelle : I love that program, by the way. It's working. Like every locations I've dropped in, it's worked in great.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I think just what we're struggling with is one of the things. Obviously, the slower pace of the last year, while nerve racking from a business and financial standpoint, has really opened up our eyes to having a little bit of breathing room in how we operate on a daily basis has sparked a lot more creativity and a lot more personal contentment. And just like how we mentioned how all of a sudden the pedal to the metal, it's like someone turned a spigot on with the world is coming back. Trade shows that we realize that this constant pace of churning out new stuff and trade shows and where way back when trade shows season across the country maybe encompassed two weeks. Now there's so many shows that it's basically two months, twice a year that you're dealing and handling with shows and designing showroom spaces and sending samples and sales meetings and all this kind of stuff. That how do we rein that in a little bit so that we don't end up with the burnout, creativity and energy wise?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It's like a monster that just has to be fed constantly.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And you know, from our inception we're a different kind of company.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We do everything different, actually, everything different.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And that we come to realize in the last year 100% is our superpower, that we can look at things in a different way and we can recognize in ourselves that we're different and that we need to stay true to that. And that has made us resilient, that has made us be able to reinvent ourselves over and over again.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And more importantly, personally satisfied with our career in our lives. You know, there's there was some years where, as everyone does, you fall into the thing of like for us being a small company that we have to be bigger and bigger and we have to act like a big company. And we finally in this last year was like, why do we have to act like a big company? Why can't we just act like the company that we are?

Michelle : Did that come up? Did that realization come up during quarantine when when you had some time to reflect on.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Everything it was building and it really came up during that time? Yeah. And one of the things that helped us survive during quarantine as far as our business was because we do things differently. We're incredibly nimble with being able to trim costs.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Change, design direction on a dime.

Michelle : Yeah, you guys were pretty quick in reacting to some of the stuff that you started putting out, which was great because you didn't just lie down. I mean, you just kind of pivoted, which is, you know, it's I know I had reached out to do lives before and the pivoting. And I think everybody was like like, I'm so sick of the word pivoting.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I know.

Michelle : But it is like it is it is important to reflect on like how you were able to after everything was said and done and the reality of what was happening and like, oh, my God, like, you kind of can settle into it and then move forward because I was in complete panic and I was still pushing for work and I'm like, No, we can do the reconstruction now. There's no one coming in. It'll be great. And finally, one of my clients, Rob Paradise, was like, slow your roll. We're not doing anything. We're not even open. Like, just go home and relax. And it was only until someone said that that I was actually able just to go. Oc. I guess this is what it is. And I actually, for the first time in I want to say like for years I've never had so much time off in my life but actually was able to just be present and be in the moment. And that, that was like was, did you guys have that? Like because after everything was said and done and like the initial shock wore off, is that where I mean, I guess were you able to find balance in like having that moment of just being? And then also, what are we what are we doing now?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We never stopped in that. I mean, I remember the day that like the lockdown orders hit and we were texting each other. We were both at home. And I should go back and look at those texts one day because we're both pretty much resigned to like, okay, see you in a couple of months. Like even though we see each other every day, like for our whole lives, that we that everything we knew was over and we were going to both be just be home for a while. But it's just not who we are. We process trauma, we process loss, we process happiness. We process everything through doing yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Doing stuff, doing stuff.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And so we made the conscious decision that even though every single order we had on the books was cancelled over a two week period, that we're still going to show up to work every day. We had to lay off our entire company that she and I were just going to show up every day at work as a mental health thing, if nothing else. And it gave us this like pause where, you know, there was nothing immediate we had to do, but we could use that time to think about what's next, what are we going to do differently, how are we going to survive this?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We have like hours long conversations every day, just like philosophical things about work and life, work and life, and like where we saw ourselves coming out of this and how we could survive and how we could get through the next day.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And through doing that. It just was the greatest thing mentally that our lives didn't feel like they completely fell apart because we were still doing the familiar of showing up to our happy little place we created. And being together was great for our marriages because we weren't home with our husbands.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: 24 seven My poor husband.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah. And about, I don't know, maybe six weeks into lockdown, I wrote an essay that we ended up publishing and putting out into the world because to back it up a little bit, about a month before lockdown, we got notification from our suppliers that they were having major disruptions in the supply chain coming out of China for certain things we bring in and then print in our studio. So we made the decision to buy six months more worth of inventory than we normally would at that time, at great financial expense, not in the budget to buy extra.

Michelle : Leap of faith.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah. And we had to rent storage space because we couldn't hold all that inventory at our studio, got it all into storage and.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Never thinking that COVID would impact us.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Here in the US the way it was in China. And then lockdown happened and in cutting costs, we had an enormous storage bill and we thought, this is crazy. We have to move everything back to our studio. And we filled every nook and cranny in the warehouse with product and ran out of room. And so then in our offices and our main office, we had to literally throw out furniture and instead replace it with boxes and boxes and boxes of ceramics.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And so depressing.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It was so depressing because as far as visual people to look around this thing you've built that is so uncertain now and see nothing but brown cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling was so depressing. And so one day I got the idea. I thought back to the recession, when of course things were hard for a period during the recession of something we did back then, and I decided to recreate it visually. It's what we call small victories, where during the recession, at the end of the week, every Friday, we would email each other with a list of just small accomplishments that happened during the week. Good things to remind us that like we're moving forward. We're moving forward a lot on this one giant wall of boxes. I ended up taking brightly colored Post-it notes and writing each small victory as they happened on a small post-it note and taped them on the boxes in the order of a rainbow.

Michelle : Oh, my God.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And little by little, those small victories add up to a lot. And it was just this constant visual reminder for us of resilience and that we weren't wallowing in despair or uncertainty. We were doing what we could to.

Michelle : That's incredible. Do you have a picture of that?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I do, yeah. I'll send you the. Yeah.

Michelle : Do it. Send that. Because what we'll do is we'll link all this information, I mean, your bio and the company information, but I would love a link to that. I would love the essay and a link to that picture would be great.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It just became this metaphoric mountain that we had to climb, that instead of this brown, daunting mountain, we were going to cover it with a rainbow and find our way over it. And we.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Did.

Michelle : That's incredible. I love that story. Did you guys pick up any hobbies during this time? I mean, since you had some some time off?

Michelle : We did. And like during that period when I said we were showing up every day, we would leave the office at like three, 330 every day and come home and have really good, quiet time with our spouses and just being at home.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I mean, we didn't I don't think I picked up any new hobbies because we have so many interests actually. So it was just a little bit more time to work on craft projects or embroidery or cooking or.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: For me, it was a deep dive into cookies, the making of cookies, also the eating of cookies. But it was.

Michelle : Like I, I did the deep dive into wine, so I had that. Now I'm like, All right, enough. I mean, it got so like it got so normal to sit out in the backyard because we had gotten married in 2019, in October. And we it instead of instead of putting money into a giant venue that you have for 24 hours, because this is my second wedding, I'm like, Why aren't we just doing it in the backyard? It will be like more like a party. So we decided to spend the money on we don't own the house on our rental backyard because as long as we were going to live here, we might as well enjoy it. Yeah. And we spent more time sitting out in the backyard, watching the sunset, drinking wine, barbecuing out there. It's like I now I'm finding it really hard to have that balance of going. I mean, it's right there going outside and just sitting.

Michelle : Being.

Michelle : In the moment. That's it's it's interesting to talk to everybody now, like post COVID now especially that everything's like 110% again running. It's like. What were the takeaways on what what were your takeaways from this entire time?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah, I'm definitely trying to hold on to exactly what you were saying, because my husband and I spent so much time in our backyard. And interestingly, we entertain a lot and we have an entertainer's backyard, you could call it. So it was very different to suddenly be using our backyard in a different way. Like, you know, it holds so many great memories. We got married in our backyard as well, but I have enjoyed so much in the last year, just he and I and our cat just 4 hours sitting on our patio, reading, doing whatever, drinking coffee, drinking wine, just being. And we're definitely still doing a lot of that good. Like I'm I'm personally what I've taken away is that I need to stop overscheduling myself. Yeah that's my go to thing is to just jam pack my schedule and I've realized I'm a lot happier if I'm more selective with what I plan. Yeah.

Michelle : It's interesting because all the type A's, like everybody packs in as much as you can. And I think a lot of the Taipei's after this are still Type A's, but I feel like all of us have a little bit more balance than we did going into it. Yeah. And now it's like kind of like trying to hang on to it. I know with gift shows, setups coming up, it's like I will lose all balance, but I'm like, okay, how do I try? I'm already trying to figure out how do I have balance in between setups that start at five and six in the morning? And then I'm always the one double booking jobs now I'm like, okay, I don't need to double book a job like some things can wait. So one of my one of my questions I always ask everybody because everyone I'm interviewing is extremely creative. Where do you guys find your inspiration?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Oh, that's so hard, because literally it's the world around us. It's our world. We just have so many interests.

Michelle : Like, you mean, like, for Anthro we would. It was expected we'd have to go on an inspiration day once a month. You had to. And so it was your choice to go to a museum or go with Rogers Gardens. It's still my go to is still the international magazine store, which I was slightly freaking out when the magazine production had kind of come to a halt during COVID. And I'm like, Oh my God, because I can't do that online magazines. But those are like, that's how do you guys have like stores that you love or magazines that you love or whatever kind of you go to is your go to that you find so creative and you're actually able to like put it towards what you're doing.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I mean, this year has been totally different because we do get so much inspiration, like when we go to New York and go to all the museums and we have creative friends there and just exploring and we didn't have any of that exploring this year. I mean, I can tell you where we try not to get inspired is through the Internet. I think that our industry in particular is suffering from everyone looking at the same things on Pinterest and Google Images. And I mean, I'm not saying I don't look at those things because I'm a visual person. It's fun to look at those things. But you you see everyone is getting the same thing. Yeah. And so we do try to go back to like the original source material of old magazines. We just, we have this huge library of vintage.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Everything, vintage cocktail napkins, ephemera cards, wallpaper, sample books, textiles.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: And we keep going back to that to look and it's not like, Oh, this is really cool, let's copy this. It's look at this color combination or look at how they use this rudimentary printing technique that created this offset in the colors. How could how could we kind of do that?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: They did at the time just because of the limitations of the printing technology. But how do we internalize that and create a look that's modern but yet touches on that inspiration?

Michelle : Your your line has a definite kind of vintage feel to me. I mean, it's still very modern, but it still has that vintage type set kind of vibe to me, some of.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: The colorful, which that's my favorite. You know, there's not we are not afraid of color.

Michelle : And that's what I think everyone loves about it. I mean.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We're not afraid of like of joy. Like that is our whole thing of like people design trends become very serious. Everything's very neutral. Everything's very serious, like in someone's home. And we're like, where is that fun? Where does that pop of of inspiration?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Well, it's either really serious and neutral or curse words. Yeah.

Michelle : Which yeah.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We're very much over the snark. And I. Yeah, I look at someone who wants a house filled where like every drinking glass has some snarky saying and every tea towel and every pillow and every T-shirt has some. I will be not.

Michelle : Us first to admit that that I mean, I was I'll admit I jumped on that bandwagon. And it it definitely is what sells it drove my table top that way. I mean, honestly, the numbers I'm up against this year for Burt's pharmacy's tabletop division, I can't be because they were all f bomb hand towels from twisted wares. And it's like but there is a certain point where it was like, God, like, well, one, I had a customer that just freaked out in the middle of the store and like said, this is why children are shooting each other. And it was like, oh, my gosh. I mean, it was it was horrifying. And, you know, I get this call from the store and I'm like, okay, I guess the person freaked the staff out so much, they made them take all the stuff off the shelves. So the staff is like, okay, and they're taking it off. And so I had to go back the next week and put it back together. And then Robbie and I can't I can't blame him. He said, You know, I can't piss customers off like that. I can't I can't risk losing a pharmacy order over a gift item. So I was like, All right, let's put it to bed. We're not going to do it. So I'm still doing some snark, but I feel like I've gone the total opposite way now, and I've gone God and Jesus, and it's like it works. And I've found a snarky way of doing like I cuss a little bit, but I still love Jesus, so I still it still has that snark. But right. You know, I mean, kindness and and gratitude and. Love and and that I feel like works better anyway for pharmacy. But I think right now, especially for this world, I feel like kindness, gratitude and love and compassion goes a lot further than F-bomb, tea towels, not taking anything away. Or I'm going to say that now so no one comes up, comes at me from Twister. It's like.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: I say, I'll tell you one thing that's inspiring us at the moment is children's books, which have always been a huge inspiration. We can trace back much of our inspiration for what we do. From Richard Scarry Books. My Favorite Loli The Worm that like we finishing up our new line of baby onesies right now and and illustrative style is just completely like if we were writing a kids book, these are the types of illustrations that would be in it. I just find that there's this pure sense of wonder and wonder about the world in kids books that is relatable at any age. And of course there are so many incredible vintage ones and then current ones. There's an artist we are just in love with right now named Brad Montague, who just put out a book called Circles about how the love inside of you creates a circle that brings in more and more wonderful things and love and radiates that out into the world. I love that. And it's like just incredible that kids books to me have these profound, beautiful concepts distill down in a very simple way for kids that we just. We're just big kids. Really. Yeah, I love.

Michelle : That. I'm so excited to see the new kids line. Thank you. How many new styles are you guys putting out for the kids? Because your kids division is pretty big with all the little.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Little ones. Yeah, it's just a few.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: It's, I think it's six or eight that wait.

Michelle : So the last two questions are where do you see rocks or paper in ten years?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Gosh, if you asked me that two years ago, I'd probably have a comprehensive answer. But the the year of COVID, the year, that wasn't for one thing, obviously put us in survival mode, which is a different part of your brain that you operate from then this visionary long term plan. But at the same time we're kind of okay that we're not quite sure at this moment.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah.

Michelle : Being in the moment.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Because we have evolved and changed and have been resilient and have reinvented ourselves and how we do things so many times, we're kind of excited to.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: See where it takes.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Us, where it takes us. And like you're talking about the lasting things we've taken away from COVID, how that lives on in what we do and the future of rocks is your paper. I love that.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: We're just sitting back and we're moving forward, but we're not making big plans. We're not making big visionary things. 4 to 5, ten years out, we want to see what presents.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Itself and what continues to make us happy. Yeah, versus what we feel like we have to do. You're in the moment on having this rewarding company for ourselves and our employees that we take great joy from.

Michelle : Well, you're truly in the moment. I mean, I think that's the that's the biggest takeaway. It's like, let's stay in the moment instead of, I mean, the eye on the prize. But instead of like looking long term, it's like, let's just pay attention to what we're doing right now, which is.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Commendable and do it the best we can. You know.

I my last question is any advice for people wanting to go into business with a family member?

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Make sure you fought as much as possible in junior high. Yeah, get it out of your system.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Heidi and I, because our mom was sick when we were little. We were very creative kids. We had, like, intense fantasy play that went on for days, if not weeks of playing store or Little House on the Prairie or whatever it was. And so our creative partnership is like just ingrained in every cell of our body, and that takes trust. And there's nothing that I could say that would shock Heidi of like, let's do this, let's try this, let's see what happens. And I think that's like a really important thing in any partnership you have is that you can be open and have trust with that person. And as a result, we have really, I think, good communication.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Yeah. And I mean, I think as family members, you cannot get caught up in any of the petty stuff. You know how many families. Where one sibling doesn't speak to each other or you don't talk to an aunt because of some petty fight that happened that you can barely remember the details of. But it lasts a lifetime, you know? I think you can't have that. And like, the rewarding thing is that not that we don't disagree or have moments that are tense or whatever, but at the end of the day, we love and trust each other. And what a gift that I've got been able to spend my whole life working literally side by side with my sister.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Because it's like play, you know, it's play and work together.

Michelle : That's fantastic. Thank you, guys. So I can't think of a better way to end this. Thank you guys so much. I'm so grateful for your time because I know you're crazy right now trying to get ready for the show. So I'm I can't express my gratitude enough. And I'm so excited to finally see your faces, and I can't wait to see the shows this time.

Michelle : This has been.

Michelle : So thank you. And we're such fans of yours. We love seeing all the peaks you put on Instagram of what you're going on in the process, because it's an art unto itself that I don't think people realize what goes into it.

Michelle : I really I love what I do. It's like it's I'm you know, it's funny. It's like I this is all I know. I mean, really, truly and it's truly like what I absolutely love. And I'm very grateful that I wake up in the morning and it's not like, Oh, my God, I have to go to work. Not to say I don't have those days.

Susie & Heidi Bauer: Right. Of course.

Michelle : The overall like gratitude I have getting up in the morning is like huge. So thank you. I'm glad it shows in pictures and.

Michelle : What I do.

Michelle : And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com