HOW’D YOU GET THAT COOL JOB? WORLD TRAVELING DESIGN SCOUT, AMY CAMPBELL

Amy Campbell of Brilliant Imports.

You guys.

If the blog post title wasn’t enough of a hint — the lady you’re about to meet is a badass.

I met Amy Campbell  vis-a-vis the Internet, the way so many budding relationships happen these days. Amy caught my eye because, as you know, I’m in the process of building a private yoga studio at our house (and by “building” I mean “turning in 10,000 thousand forms to the city to approve our project” – le sigh), and Amy’s shop, Brilliant Imports, is exactly how I want to design it. Earthy, worldly objects. Printed meditation cushions. Woven baskeys aplenty. Also? She travels the WORLD (Bali, for example) finding this stuff. Not that I’m envious or anything.

When I discovered all this, I made the mistake so many of us cynics do.

I assumed Amy was, shall we say, happily rich, and this was her for-fun “hobby business” she did on the side. Sadly, I think a lot of us are programmed to think this way. I once remarked to a reporter friend of mine that I was so inspired by people who left their soul-sucking corporate jobs to start a creative business, oh like roasting coffee for example, and that person chuckled ruefully back, saying:

“Ah, yes. It’s so moving when rich people leave their lucrative careers with enough savings and retirement to last them forever, then start a coffee roasting business or cupcake trailer or purse-making studio! What a big risk they’re taking!”

It deflated me for a minute. And then…I believed him.

I started viewing creative entrepreneurs as privileged folk, who didn’t have to take real risks to do what they do. And my friends, that is simply a false narrative. I, for example, left my job to do something more creative and fulfilling. I didn’t borrow money from my family or my husband to make the transition. That’s not meant as a brag (ok, maybe a tiny brag) – but simply proof that every time you see a coffee roaster / cupcake trailer operator / purse designer, it’s not just an already-rich person who got a wild hare to become more artsy. A lot of times, it’s a person who quietly built up their passion project on the side, while holding down a regular, not-rich-making day job until they could make the leap.

(And even if it weren’t a false narrative. We’re programmed to resent the wealthy. We are. But I’m not sure making fun of them for leaving their boring job to do something more interesting is the solution here. Yes, we can recognize that they have financial flexibility and opportunities that others don’t. But what does mocking them accomplish? Do we really want more zombie-eyed people walking around so poor, as the Internet meme says, that all they have is money?)

ANYWAY…soapbox over. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

Back to Amy, awesome Amy, and her thorough badassery: People like her are one of the reasons I started this little series, to figure out the nuts and bolts of big, bold careers like hers. And you know what I found out? She launched this whole thing while still holding down a job! Which she still does! Ha, cynical reporter. And formerly cynical Tolly.

Keep reading below to find out how Amy flies across the world to hunt for beautiful objects, hang out with Balinese artists, and yogas it up in Ubud:

1. Hi Amy! Welcome to Austin Eavesdropper! Describe to us what you do for a living.

Hey Tolly! Thank you so much for having me here! I’m the Founder + Chief Import Hustler for Brilliant Imports, LLCan online boutique of home décor items that are handcrafted and curated in Bali. The idea behind Brilliant Imports is to connect the customer on my journeys and to the objects that ultimately wind up in their home. These are very special pieces that breathe calm into your space—hence the tagline ‘Your Sanctuary in Design’.

2. Your job sounds like what those fantasy people at Anthropologie do, i.e., travel the world looking for beautiful home decor objects. So how did you get your cool job?

HA! I think anyone in the imports business laughs a little that people find our job glamorous. No doubt it is fun—I do make a point to fit in yoga and meditation classes while I’m in Ubud and frequently take advantage of the divine massages available while I’m in Bali, but the majority of my days are spent getting sweaty and dusty while driving to the various villages (in Bali, each ‘village’ has its craft specialty), scouring markets (sometimes I will be in one shop for 5+ hours and often have to return several times to check product, answer questions, etc.) and waiting…and then waiting some more. Bless the Balinese but theirs is a very slow culture. Many times they say, ‘yes!’ because they want to please you but are not able to deliver what they’ve said, ‘yes!’ to….this can be very frustrating so you just have to take it all in stride.

ANYWAY! Back to your question of how did I get this cool job: I’ve been a Financial Advisor for 14+ years and felt my creative side slowly dying (especially after the market correction in 2008). Traveling, discovering new places, experiencing new cultures and connecting with people have always been my passions—I love finding unique items off the beaten path. When people come to my house and see my travel finds, I usually get, ‘Oh my gosh, I love this! Where did you get it?’. The answer is usually something like ‘Paddington Market in Sydney or a market in Thailand, Hong Kong or Morocco’. I got the a-ha moment that I could turn this talent into a business while browsing an import boutique in Turks and Caicos. I took the plunge and made it happen.

3. What does a typical work day look like for you?

Well, it can look rather bi-polar as I go to the office for my Financial Advisory gig during the day and then work on Brilliant Imports nights and weekends. So between that, my workouts and somewhat of a social life, I’m a busy girl!

4. What’s it like interfacing with the artists who produce your company’s gorgeous retail items?

You know, Tolly, it is awesome and one of my most favorite things about Brilliant Imports. Because I have people on my team in Bali who are very well connected within the community, I am able to meet artisans and crafters that I would NEVER meet on my own…this is all part of the gig! One of my most special memories from my last trip to Bali was the morning I left. Both of my buying agents (Suparta and Punia) came to visit with me. We lounged around the outside sitting area of my guest house (picture a small yard to the left with a fountain flanked by statues of Saraswati and Ganesha and then off to the front a rice field with plush trees and flowering bushes all around us). We sipped on tea and coffee while perched on gorgeous Balinese furniture. Punia wanted to show me the small Buddha statues (available soon!) that his wife painted in the colors I requested (moss green, mustard yellow and royal blue) and Suparta brought his friend Yogi, an expert carver who had taken my ideas and inspiration and created a line of wings, owls and other hand carved earrings made out of bone and wood that left me speechless they were so gorgeous. It was like he got into my head, took my ideas with him back to his studio and then perfectly created the designs I wanted….it blew my mind!

As the four of us sat, most of the time the three of them spoke in Balinese and I happily listened to them (having pretty much no idea what they were saying). But the serenity of nature, the relaxed vibe of these men and all of us being so happy to just sit and be was an experience you cannot put a price tag on. It was true Bali…the heart and soul of it.

5.Do you ever worry about money? Be honest.

Honestly, yes. But something I have learned in my 14 years in Finance: Money comes and money goes—don’t get too attached to it and stay on your hustle, do what you love and you’ll be just fine.

Thanks so much Amy for hanging out on Austin Eavesdropper!

(And thank you to everyone else for tolerating my rant earlier.)

Photos courtesy Bonnie Berry.