We were lucky to catch up with Lydia McConnell recently and have shared our conversation below.
Lydia, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
When I started Le Chic Miami, I wanted to create something that brought joy to the world, that made people smile. I wanted whoever was wearing my earrings to feel a sense of joy when they put the earrings on.
I went to school for Interior Design in Seattle and always gravitated towards bold patterns and colors in my designs. Growing up in Seattle and attending school in Seattle this was far from the norm. Seattle is a wonderful place but most people are afraid of wearing bright colors or using color in their homes. My designs in school weren’t always understood or appreciated by my peers but they brought me a lot of joy.
After graduating, I moved to Miami and I kid you not it was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz leaving black and white Kansas and entering into the colorful world of Oz. Suddenly it wasn’t only okay to wear color but it was weird if you weren’t wearing bright bold colors. Miami and the culture around me really influenced my designs. I didn’t feel limited by the monochromatic color scheme of Seattle or judgment of my peers. I was able to create designs that truly made me happy and I hoped would make other people happy too.
I first started selling my earrings at local weekend markets and they were a huge hit. When someone would walk up to my table you could see their face light up. They would either pick up one of my designs and laugh at the “kitschy-ness” of it or put a pair on and light up seeing the bright colors next to their face.
I think one of the main reasons why I’ve been so successful is because when I design I don’t follow trends or what everyone else is doing. I think about the feeling the earring will invoke and if it’s joy I’ve hit my mark.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA but relocated to Miami in 2017. I have degrees in both Interior Architecture and User Experience Design.
After finishing design school I knew I wanted to do something creative and design related but I wasn’t sure what. I also knew I wanted to work for myself and not work in an office. After moving to Miami I joined a local makerspace, where I learned how to use their laser cutter. Miami is a bright, colorful place and I wanted earrings to match my unique style. I started making earrings at the makerspace out of wood using their laser cutter. I would then hand-paint the earrings using bold, bright colors. I received so many compliments while wearing the earrings I decided to try and sell them at a local weekend market. After that the business just took off. I started Le Chic Miami in March of 2018.
I design each earring on a computer based design program called, Illustrator. I then laser cut each piece out of sustainable wood and then hand-paint each one. By hand-painting them I’m able to create the exact design I want with as much color and detail as I’m after.
I think what sets Le Chic Miami apart from the rest is, our whimsical designs and use of bright colors. I want to create something that brightens someone’s day. Something they not only feel confident wearing but something that makes them happy.
As a brand, I am most proud of our relationship with our customers. I really appreciate our customers and take all their suggestions to heart. I want our customers to not just wear our brand but feel a part of our brand. When a customer comes to us with an issue I really listen and come up with a solution to solve it. Or when a customer comes to us with an idea for a new design, if it fits with our brand’s mission, I am more than happy to create it.
In 2021, I relocated to San Antonio, TX to expand our team as well as our studio space.
Can you talk to us about how your side-hustle turned into something more.
Le Chic Miami started as a creative outlet for me. I would make earrings in my free time during the week and then sell them on the weekends at local markets. I would usually sell out of earrings over the weekend and then spend the following week laser cutting and hand-painted more earrings.
My first big milestone was when I was accepted into my first store in 2019. It was a store in Miami that only carried products by local artisans. To have my earrings in a store was a dream come true. Shortly after being accepted into my first store, I started reaching out to more and more stores in Miami. I would research which stores would be a good fit online and then go and visit them in person. Connecting with the owners of each store in person really helped me in the beginning. The owner could meet the face behind the brand and understand my process. When people see my earrings many people don’t realize they’re wood or hand-painted, so being able to explain that really helped.
The next big milestone for me was when my earrings were in 100 stores. This was huge! I decided to start participating in markets around the country. In each new city I would go and personally talk to stores that were a good fit for my earrings. Traveling all over the US meeting customers as well as store owners in person really helped my brand to grow.
In 2020 when the pandemic hit I was working part time while also working on Le Chic. I was too scared to transition into Le Chic being my full time job even though I was working 60+ hours a week on it. The place I was working at part time shut down and it was the first time since I had started my company that I was able to put all of my effort and focus into Le Chic. After that the business grew exponentially.
By the end of 2021 my earrings were in 200 stores throughout the US, Canada and Europe. I now have three women who work with me side by side. My goal by the end of 2022 is to have my earrings in every state throughout the US.
Any advice for managing a team?
One of the most important things to me is making sure the other members on my team feel apart of the company. When Le Chic gets into a new store, we all get into a new store. When a customer leaves us a good review, we’ve all done a good job. I like to celebrate every little win with my team and make sure they know that without them these wins would not be possible.
The holiday season is a really stressful time for us. I make sure that the team members don’t take on that stress. They may need to stay a little longer each day but I make sure to maintain a fun work environment where people are excited to come to work. If we have a large order to get out and people need to stay late, I’ll pick up Starbucks for the team. If we’ve had a larger than normal quota for the week to fill, I’ll make cupcakes for everyone or order lunch. I find that people work harder and more efficiently when they enjoy their work. If I’m stressed and I pass that stress onto the team it isn’t helping anyone to work faster, it’s only creating an environment no one wants to be in.
After the rush of the holiday season we had a holiday party for our team members where they could invite their family members. Not just their significant others but their parents as well as their grandparents. I think this really helped to include their extended families. I was able to understand the team members in new ways through meeting their families and their families were able to learn about what they do.
- Website: https://lechicmiami.store
- Instagram: Lechicmiami
- Facebook: Le Chic Miami Earrings
Cinphotos, Tyler Likkel, Alejandro Crespo