Small Business Profile: Alex Hall, Owner of Maven - San Diego
HI Alex! Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Walnut Creek, CA and spent my childhood in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. I moved to San Diego in 2000 and have been here ever since. Prior to opening maven, I studied fashion design, expanding my knowledge of the industry, and started a family. I spend the majority of my time at the shop and with my fiance, Kyle, my little guy, Barrett and our two pups.
What was your first job?
The Gap. I was fifteen and had to get the application approved by my mom.
What led you to begin maven?
Through my travels, I had been really inspired by the artists and shopkeepers I met. I wanted to share that perspective with San Diego and create a platform for independent designers and makers. I opened maven with the intention of exposing locals to inspiring brands and artists from beyond San Diego. I gather a lot of inspiration (and product) from metropolitan cities and style incubators like LA, San Francisco, Nashville and New York.
Tell us more about the origins of the brand’s name?
Around the time I was opening the shop, I was reading an article about the Mavericks surf competition in Northern California. I had a conversation with my mom about liking the word and she led me to the female version of it – maven. I loved it. ‘Maven’ is an expert or connoisseur who wants to share their knowledge. This is essentially what I want to do with the products I offer – Share what I love and know about. So long story short, my mom is to thank for the name.
How do you source the products and brands that you have in the shop?
I take frequent trips to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York to get inspired – especially when I’m feeling stagnant. Most of the brands in the shop I have in my own home or use myself. For new brands, I typically look for quality and a certain design aesthetic that suits maven.
What are some brands/designers that you are excited about that we should know of?
My current favorite brands are Paloma Wool, Cold Picnic, Pansy, Blockshop Textiles and Nu Swim. They really embody what I’m trying to do at maven and my overall style.
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
The funny thing is, I have an office at the shop – but I spend no time in it. I find it much more enjoyable to be up in the front in the shop. The lighting from our massive front windows is so much better.
Do you have a team? What steps did you take to build it?
I work with a really wonderful team of creative women. Olive is our shop girl – and all around muse. Emily Poole and Taylor Balding are both freelance photographers who have captured a variety of incredible images to tell maven’s story. I also heavily rely on my close friend and fellow business owner Melissa George – she’s someone I turn to on the daily for anything and everything. The girls at Bay Bird Inc are also a part of my team and support my efforts here at maven. As well as Jane Riley, my amazing graphic designer. It takes a village!
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I am first and foremost a creative. maven is truly a passion project and a labor of love. My favorite part of my job is the diversity of each day – as I’m doing something new every day. It’s also amazing to be my own boss and build a community surrounding this shop.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting your business?
Finding a space was a long and frustrating process. When I first applied for this little corner spot, I was actually turned away. Everyday there after I would drive by and couldn’t get it out of my head. So a few months later, I called up the owner and asked again. Although my persistence clearly paid off, I was then faced with some serious setbacks in our build out that we didn’t anticipate at all. Replacing doors, wood rot, termites, raising the floors three inches, erecting a wall….the list goes on. It was all so overwhelming. Luckily I had the help of my incredible family. My dad was a contractor for over 20 years and added a few walls with the help of my brother. My mom installed the baseboards and helped in the design. My Grandpa’s painting company did the interior and exterior and my fiancé who is an electrician did the lighting with his good friend. I am so proud of this space -- it has so much soul.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in the development of maven?
Honestly, the community. Before opening maven, I sat down with several shop owners in the neighborhood to chat about being a small business owner – the reality of it. These conversations helped me to develop the concept of maven, my niche in the retail landscape and build strong ties with the community. I am so grateful for the fellow shop owners that encouraged me to pursue this and continue to support me. I also rely heavily on apps like Canva, Over, Shipstation, Genius Scan and my POS system Clover. They certainly ease the weight of wearing what seems like 100 hats as a shop owner.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Agreed. We are much stronger together than separate. I work with my neighbors, and fellow girl bosses, at Little Dame to coordinate events like ‘Fem Block Flea Market’ to bring together other female creatives in our community.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
I have quite a few boss lady friends who hustle hard in this city. One being Melissa George of Walter & George. I’m so impressed by her focus, intention and drive.
What have you learned from owning your shop that you think you can apply to any creative endeavor?
Self-employment has definitely shown me what I am really made of! I feel more confident in myself now that I’ve run this business for the last 2.5 years. This process has taught me how to listen to my intuition, practice patience and to really believe in myself. It’s a constant reminder to trust my gut.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
We are about to receive our new shipment of fall product and I can’t wait to introduce some new lines to shoppers. I’m also really excited to create some unique, female-focused experiences for my community.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
I’m not sure I believe in the phrase actually. As a mother, shop owner, partner, daughter and friend I try to be as “balanced” as possible with my intentions, but the constant unexpected needs of the shop or of my personal life can sometimes leave the other roles lacking. And I’m beginning to not feel guilty about it like I used to. Our shop hours are wonky and that’s okay. I opened the shop to be able to pursue something creative, while being able to spend time with my boys. maven is truly my passion and I hope the time I put into it reflects that -- but balance isn’t a reality for me. I admire those who are able to do so.
What are some of your favorite places in San Diego?
When I’m not working, my son and I frequent the museums at Balboa Park and the Zoo. I spend a lot of time at Dog Beach with our two dogs and my fiance. I love going out to eat as well. My girlfriends and I love Jaynes Gastropub and Cantina Mayahuel for lady dates – both just a few steps away from the shop.