What do you do when someone says hi to you, and you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW YOU KNOW THEM?
As a former waitress and a bartender (in my precious 20s), I had to greet familiar but seemingly unknown people every single day & night. I’ve done my fair share of generous smiles, quirky winks, "Hey, YOUs!" and “What’s UPs!" to people whose names and stories I’ve heard many times but had no capacity to memorize.
My grandpa, who was one of the most social people I’ve ever known, once he reached 75, gave up on trying. He’d simply say -- eyebrow raised with a twinkle in his eye in a spirited way – "Hello. Have we met before?"
It was inspirational until they said their name and he came up with a far-fetched story about how he remembered their great-great grandparents but couldn’t remember the small village in Bulgaria where their family came from.
Anyway, just so you're not all, “Who on Earth are you?”, "Do I know you?" or "Uhm....and you are....?" anytime you see me in your inbox, let's get to know each other. That way, we don't have to play pretend or get annoyed.
- Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, grew up there when the country was really poor and people had to wait in line for their weekly box of watered-down half a gallon milk, pack of wheat flour, and a few potatoes (all thanks to the Eastern bloc).
- Left for the United States when I was 20. Turned 21 two days after arriving in the US.
- Had a work visa for 4 months and a return ticket to Bulgaria, which I tore apart in the tiniest pieces possible to follow my dream and build a life 6,000 miles away from my family with $1000 in my pocket, no prospect, and barely speaking English.
- Put myself through college, paying full tuition and having no access to financial aid as an international student, working around the clock as a waitress, bartender, and a Home Depot associate (all at once).
- Graduated Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, Summa Cum Laude, in the recession of 2007, losing my lined up cushiony corporate job offer because people were foreclosing their homes so why on Earth would they hire an interior designer?!
- That’s when I opened my Etsy shop and started my business making leather and sterling silver jewelry for men. Then hand-stitched leather wallets (These product lines are both deceased. My doing.).
- Then one precious morning I woke up itching to get a sewing machine (in honor of the most creative person I’ve ever known - my grandmother - who had just had a stroke) and made my famous Personalized Dopp Kit as a birthday gift for my dad.
- Clark & Taft was born. That dopp kit to this day is my best seller. And has been given as a gift on any special occasion you can possibly imagine.
- My toiletry bags, aprons, and weekender bags have been featured in Etsy’s gift guides season after season.
- My biggest bragging moment is the feature of my personalized apron in GQ’s Impossible Gift Guide: 8 Unique Etsy Finds For The Guy Who Has Everything.
- I’ve worked with Amazon Handmade and Lexus. And many other businesses who’ve wanted to surprise and delight their employees, clients, and executives with high quality corporate gifts.
- My bags were featured in Ferrari’s catalog.
- My superpower is photography (fine art but also - I take all the lifestyle pictures that live on my website and in my emails. The smiley faces you see are of my friends. I repay them in wine, homemade meals (because I also love to chef it up in the kitchen), and Clark & Taft products.
- Shoots are fun. We shoot while enjoying wine and grilling. We get to explore Austin and the hill country while scouting locations. And we get to work with cool local breweries.
- I write my own content — like this blog post.
- I touch every product - I personalize it to order, I package it with care. The handwriting on your invoice, on the gift box, and on the interior leather label - ALL mine (congratulations, you have my autograph).
- My passion is inspiring people to gift from the heart. I craft things that make people happy. With every order that touches my fingers, I close my eyes and picture the smiling face of the recipient when they open their personalized gift and the warm hug of gratitude that comes after.
- Want your loved ones to feel seen, special, appreciated, impressed? (And love you back – the way a puppy does when you give him your hamburger). I can help you.
- On a stressful day, I turn up the music and dance around the house. To say I have the energy of a lightning bolt is unfair to it, as I can burn the house down with my moves. Do lightning bolts even dance?
- I will not apologize for loving romcoms. I love watching people fall in love and chase each other through airports (makes relationships seem hope-full and easy), but I also like watching women fight in high heels over dudes (Not me. I just like watching).
I take my own professional headshots. Here's how I look when I'm in makeup, pretending to perch casually on my leather clicker. It is also how I might look trying to remember someone’s name (I am more of a visual person. I can recognize the dude who passed me by on my evening jog if I see him eating food samples at Costco the next day) 👇
Write and tell me something, so I can say, "Hey, I know you!"
How'd you come across Clark & Taft? (I always want to know this.)
What was going on in your life that brought you to Clark & Taft?
Or, what one meal would you have for the rest of your life, if you had to eat the same thing for lunch every day?
21. Mine is yogurt, Bulgarian yogurt, duh (yes, we got that in Austin, Texas). With fresh raspberries, blueberries, cashews. And chocolate covered cacao nibs for curing that sweet tooth.