Category Archives: sponsors

Sponsor Spotlight: SassMouth Apparrel.

Second only to the movie Human Centipede or the prospect of real life land sharks, I think one of the scariest things in the whole world is starting your own business.
So much responsibility!
I mean, I’m just a blogger, right?  It’s a micro-business, as my friend Lauren calls it.  My blog is mostly a one-woman show.  I don’t have “quarters” or “fiscal year reviews” or anything nearly as grown-up as that behind-the-scenes at Austin Eavesdropper, and yet, every task besides the actual writing part is EXHAUSTING.  I don’t know how these little 14 year-old entrepreneurs do it.  How do they go to school and do their homework, while running an online hand-crafted tie-dyed beret hat business from their bedroom or whatever?
Whenever I meet someone my age (i.e., 14 times 2) who is an entrepreneur, I find them fascinating.  How did you do it?  Were you scared?  How are you so fabulous?  Can we be friends?
I had the opportunity to do that this month with Karli Isiyel, the very-fabulous-indeed founder of SassMouth Apparrel, an online vintage shop.

 Karli is an Ausinite, and I was so thrilled to have her presence here on Austin Eavesdropper!  If you are hopelessly in love with vintage like I am, go ‘like’ SassMouth’s Facebook page and follow their Twitter feed, where they post deals on their wares.

1. Hi Karli! You are the founder and owner of Sassmouth Apparel. How did you start this business? 

I started to love thrifting as a college student. Money was tight and it just made sense. But then I sort of made it my thing, I would find great things and people would be envious of my style. So finally after years of just finding the great deals for myself, I decided that it might be a good business venture.

2. You started Sassmouth for girls who like to get their thrift + vintage on, but may not have all the time in the world to sift through all those stores. Where do you go for all those fab finds? 

Oh, now I could never divulge my secrets!  I go to numerous thrift stores around town. Not to sound pompous, but it’s not always about the greatest thrift stores, you have to have an eye for a pattern or fabric that may be stuck in some dark corner and take it out to find the beauty!

3. How would you describe your own style? 

I would say I am a bit rockabilly, I love 50s and 60s styles. Vintage clothing is so amazing, but I have a hard time finding my size. Usually I will take a modern piece of clothing with some vintage lines and dress it up for my liking. Maybe one day I can have my own line of vintage inspired clothes, that are AFFORDABLE and fit all sizes of women.

4. I love that you did your photoshoot for this site at the Cathedral of Junk. AND that all your models are beautiful, real-looking women who SMILE!  

Both of which seem to underly the ethos of Sassmouth. How would you describe the “personality” of your business? 

The personality of my business is simple, it’s just a young gal, enlisting the help of her beautiful friends as models and promoting the fact that you can look fabulous with little money and a lot of style-no matter what size you are.

5. I am in awe of entrepreneurs. Was it scary to strike out on your own, and create this business from scratch? 

There wasn’t too much risk involved in this one, since I have an online store front. But it is a bit scary to spend more money on things as I get more popular.  Everything has been trial and error, from how I do inventory and keep track of clothes to what I buy; and learning what sells best. It has been a huge learning experience. One day I hope to have a real store front in Austin.

6. Favorite children’s book? 

Wow. I was super stumped by this question, and could not remember the name of this book for the life of me! A phone call to mom was in order … Roger’s Upside-Down Day.

7. What’s the secret to living a creative life, Karli? 

Hmmm. I don’t know if I can put it into words. I think it is something that comes from inside you. It’s funny, I have a degree in graphic design and very frequently get stumped when designing. But when it comes to clothes and thrifting and vintage my mind never stops being creative!  I think it just might be my passion. I guess the secret would just to never stop seeking out ways to be unique in everything you do.

* thanks for stopping by austin eavesdropper, karli! *

Pictured: Models Corey Gusnowski, Hollie Baker, and Melissa Johnson, at Peter Pan Mini Golf and the Cathedral of Junk.  Photos courtesy Allison Bright.

Sponsor Spotlight: Austin Ikebana.

This morning, I want to show off one of Austin Eavesdropper’s newest sponsors: Austin Ikebana.
Ikebana is a special art of flower arrangement — almost like flower craft.  Rather than big bunches of flowers, Ikebana practitioners mold different parts of the flower to create these delicate, gorgeous shapes.  They’re like little pieces of art.
So when I heard about Vanessa Howell, an Austinite who trained under an Ikebana sensei in Tokyo, I was immediately intrigued!  Her arrangements are the kind of thing I could see at The W Hotel or Uchi here in Austin: Unusual, striking flower settings that beg you to stare, and wonder: “how are those plants making those shapes?”
But even more than Vanessa’s work, I was really touched by her back story.  She and I started talking back in April, and I found out that she did something I’ve always wanted to do — pick a place on the globe, and go live there for an open-ended period.  That was how she accidentally stumbled on Ikebana, which now enables her to be a working artist.  I’ll let her tell you her whole story, below, but trust me.  It’s pretty rad.
(As is her baby boy.)

I am so pleased to introduced Vanessa Howell of Austin Ikebana!

Hi Vanessa!  First of all, can you explain to everyone what Ikebana is?
Unlike traditional western flower arrangement, which focuses almost exclusively on the flower blossoms and their colors, Ikebana designers consider the entire flower—the bloom, stems, and leaves—when creating arrangements.

The rules that govern traditional Ikebana emphasize shape, line, form, color, and meaning. The art represents a marriage of nature and humanity: Ikebana uses the designer’s hand to integrate raw pieces of the natural world into an arrangement that becomes nature, distilled and presented for the human eye.

You learned the art of Ikebana while living in Tokyo.  What made you decide to venture out there?

The short answer is, there was no good reason! I met my man in Japanese class at UCF in Florida, and we just decided one day to sell all of our stuff and move there. We didn’t have jobs lined up or anything, we were just hoping to go and find jobs before our three month tourist visas ran out. It’s kind of crazy now that I look back on it, but it’s seriously the best thing I’ve ever done!
I also brought my cat with me to Japan, he is in one photo. We strapped a camera around his neck that took pictures on a timer.

The pictures of the bike and the sky are by him: 

How did you find a teacher?

I was teaching some really cute girls in their 20s conversational English, and we were having a conversation about hobbies. One of the students described her Ikebana hobby, and I had really been interested in trying it myself.  So she introduced me to Tsubaki-sensei (‘Tsukabi’ which means ‘camellia.’)

Her lessons were taught out of her home, and her mother was a really accomplished Ikebana practitioner as well. She was really kind but didn’t speak English, so at first, when my Japanese wasn’t that great, we just had to be patient with each other. I loved it immediately and she laughed at how serious I was about it.

My Japanese gradually got better, and at the conclusion of my time there, I had earned three levels of certification from the Ohara School. I currently hold the しはんか いっき しゅうりょう, Advanced Level Certification.

What was the very first Ikebana arrangement you ever created?

My first arrangement was this one, simple with hydrangeas and sunflowers:

It must have been during the rainy season in summer. I didn’t have proper vases so I just had to use a soup bowl and one-cup sake glasses that they sell in the convenience stores there. At my lessons, my teacher would teach me a certain style, then I would take it all apart and carry the flowers home and then try to put it together again once I got home. It was good practice!

When ordering from you, what should a client request? Do you create arrangements based on a client’s personality, or the room’s style?
For home deliveries that are gifts, where I set up an arrangement on-site, I usually just need to know the occasion and then I work with their budget to make something that conveys their sentiment using as many seasonal elements as possible.   Sometimes, people tell me the personality of the gift receiver or they might know their favorite flower, and all that info just makes the arrangement as appreciated as possible!  Since in these gift situations I usually don’t know what the room will look like, I will bring a big bucket with a few different options.   This is also good because the receiver of the gift can spot their favorite blooms and say, ‘Oh I love peonies! Please use those!’
For clients hiring me for a specific function (like a party, a realtor’s open house, a wedding, or table centerpieces for a banquet), I can usually scope out the place beforehand, which is really the best. Otherwise, I just bring a few different options and get some clues from the client about what they are envisioning. Some clients have a lot of input they want to give, which is great, and others just want me to handle it and use my judgment, which is great too.

Thank you for sponsoring Austin Eavesdropper, Austin Ikebana!  I love your business and your awesome story.  Your sense of adventure is totally inspiring to me!
Take an Ikebana Class with Vanessa:
Saturday, June 18th
Contact to reserve a spot.

Sponsor Spotlight: Whitney Lee Photography.

If you’re a regular reader of Austin Eavesdropper, you may have noticed a new sponsor in the margin: Whitney Lee Photography.
She’s based here in Austin, and I quite fancy her work.
Sometimes, I tell Ross (husband) that we should get married again, just so we can throw ourselves another great big party.

He laughs … because he thinks I am joking.

I am such a sucker for engagement photos.  The cheesier the better.  And, would you believe it?   This was the one thing Ross and I didn’t do before our own wedding.
So maybe I’ll hire Whitney to take the engagement photos we should have gotten four years ago, as those are her proverbial bread and butter.
One thing that Whitney is exceptional at is finding wonderful, wordy backgrounds around Austin to use in her photos.

She’s a particular fan of east 6th street here in Austin, where a favorite neighborhood bar — Cheer Up Charlie’s — resides.

This couple is actually two members of the most adorable family you will ever see in your entire life.  Behold:

What did I tell you?

(PS. Raise your hand if your family portrait, when you were a child, was far less hip.  Bonus points if it was taken at Olan Mills, like mine was.)

These are two of my favorites from Whitney Lee’s portfolio:

Isn’t that picture insane.

I’m kind of inspired to go make some word kites now.  Only I’d need some help writing cute messages.  Right now the first things that come to mind are, “I love my real estate agent” (true) and “When it works properly I love my digestive tract” (also true).  Somehow I don’t think that’s going to fit on a kite.

Or be terribly romantic.

But oh well.

Thank you for sponsoring Austin Eavesdropper, Whitney Lee!  We think you’re the bees’ knees, you talented lady.


Welcome, February sponsors!

It occurred to me last week that, whether or not you’ve been reading Austin Eavesdropper for a while, it might be nice to know the faces behind those sponsorships you see marching down the right hand side of your screen.

See, behind every single one of these sponsorships is a story.  I know all of these businesses and their owners personally.  One of them shot my wedding, one of them showed me how coffee is roasted, one of them is in the process of selling me lingerie (which should be a simple task, but is more difficult with a lingerie-buying moron like me, and aren’t we appreciating the non-awkwardness of this little aside Mom, Dad, and in-laws?)

Anyway!  I really, really love these people, and deeply admire what they’re doing.  It’s hard to be an entrepreneur, which they all are.  So I thought I’d take a moment to welcome them to Austin Eavesdropper, and in the process, tell YOU why they are badasses.

To make these intros a little more fun, I asked all sponsors one question:

What makes the best Valentine’s present? 
Let’s see what they had to say, shall we?
How convenient is this?  The first one I’m going to tell you about is a lingerie shop … mere days before Valentine’s.
Kuhmillion Lingerie was started by my friend Beth Hempton and her husband Patrick in 2009.  After getting frustrated by the lack of classy, quality online lingerie vendors out there, the couple thought: “Why not do it ourselves?”  And thus, Kuhmillion was born!  
I’ve always found Beth to be an incredible force of nature.  In addition to Kuhmillion, she helped found Etsy Austin, our local contingent of crafters, and also produces adorable handmade toys.  Don’t you love that?   That Beth helps women feel sexy with lingerie, which in turn makes their lovers love on them, which makes babies, babies she can eventually make toys for?  Cycle of life, people.

So Beth, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“My answer to the best Valentine’s Day gift is an out-of-the-ordinary experience that the two of you can share.  Dinner at a romantic restaurant that’s fancier than your typical haunts, tickets to a performance, or a fun weekend getaway — those kinds of things.  Celebrating great food, art and culture together in interesting new settings, bringing out your sense of wonder and appreciation for the beautiful things in life (including each other), and making you forget about everyday worries. For Patrick and I, that kind of break from the ordinary never fails to rekindle the spark.”
Wild Orchid Salon owner, Ana Zapata, and I met while being extras in our friend’s music video.  She opened Wild Orchid a few years ago, around the corner from Whole Foods Downtown, and now hosts little makeover parties during SXSW and stuff.
I’m one of those people who tends to go for a long time in between hair cuts, and this usually earns the shaking-head disapproval of stylists.  But Ana simply puts on a smile, withdraws her machete and gets down to business!  (Just kidding about the machete).
So Ana, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“I’m a sucker for a homemade card. I really enjoy written evidence that people think I’m awesome.”
Magnolia Family Vintage owner, Sarah Jessica Dean, is a frequent and lovely star on Austin Eavesdropper.  We met years three ago when I was interviewing her for a magazine story, and I was just so impressed that someone could INVENT a job as rad as hers: Collecting vintage clothing, selling it, and styling photo shoots with it.  What!
Sarah got her selling start on eBay, then closed that down a few months ago and opened up her own, sweet online boutique.  We’ve thrown a clothing swap party together and are maybe kinda considering doing another one.  Sometimes Sarah does these “secret” garage sales where she sells off extra stock, and that is how I ended up with a metallic, silver sweater so shiny, I think its threads were made from leftover NASA shuttle siding.  It is incredibly awesome.  Some day, if I ever learn how to take pictures of myself, I’ll show it to you (provided its blinding reflectivity doesn’t break the lens).
So Sarah, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“While I am tempted to say vintage jewelry, wink wink, the best Valentine’s Day gift for ME, personally, is a home-cooked meal made by my man, turning the computers off for the night, hiring a babysitter but never having to put makeup on, and watching movies under some blankets with some high school style making out thrown in!  Real romance is about intimacy, not money!
So give a girl a few hours of undivided attention and adoration.  (A lot of compliments wouldn’t hurt either.)  But if you’re really lost … vintage jewelry is one of a kind and the stylish girls of ATX can’t get enough.”
Kohana Coffee is a locally owned and operated coffee bean roasting company run by Piper Jones, whom I met last year during a coffee tasting.  And in between Piper’s mugs of Harrar Dark and Ethiopian Sidamo, as she told me about her story … I just kind of fell in love with her!
See, Piper is one of those people I think all of us strive to be.  Once, when she went on vacation in Hawaii, she tasted a cup of coffee that literally made her stop in her tracks.  She asked the shop owner, “what exactly did you just pour me?” and he told her about the beans, how they were cared for, how they were roasted. When she came back home, she couldn’t find any coffee that measured up to the cup she tasted on the beach, so she quit her high-powered desk job and started her own dang coffee company.  Ballsy!
I really didn’t know the difference between good coffee and ok (or really bad) coffee myself until Piper made me hers.  Piper only gets beans from these tiny, personal little farming collectives, picks out any non-perfect beans herself, then roasts them in this sweet, 15-foot tall red roaster.  It’s so cool to watch.  If you’re in Austin, she sells at both Central Market and Whole Foods; if not Austin, she sells online.
Tanya from A Taste of T blog is a new local blogger buddy of mine!  She writes about her daily life in Austin with her musician husband and rambunctious dogs.  Also, she’s about to have a baby!
I thought Tanya’s answer to the Valentine’s Day question was particularly funny:
So Tanya, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“Love makes the BEST Valentine’s Day gift.   But …
I had a boyfriend in college give me a $5 heart shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day. He said, ‘Sorry I couldn’t afford more.’ What’s better than a heart-shaped pizza?”
Cory Ryan is semi-famous here in Austin, so chances are you already know this fine flicktress.
I met Cory via her business card, sitting on a counter in a south Austin shop years ago, in 2007.  I was planning my wedding at the time, had just moved back to Austin, and when I saw her vibrant, colorful card with people jumping up and down on the front, I thought, I want to go to there.  (As Liz Lemon would say).  I called her immediately and hired her over my cell phone.
After the wedding, I got a call during my honeymoon from my magazine editor.  She assigned a certain “Cory Ryan” to be the photographer on one of my upcoming stories!  That weird coincidence led to Cory and I writing and shooting together nearly every single month when I was freelance writing, and to date, she has shot all four of our Austin Bleet-Up parties.  (I particularly love this little set from 2009.)
I adore you to pieces, Cory!
Chris Trew, co-founder of The New Movement Theater, is quite possibly the funniest individual I know.  He is also extremely passionate about improv, has brought me into his theater a few times to tell stories from my life on stage, and hosts the Air Sex World Championships — begun right here in Austin, Texas, because that’s the way we roll folks.
What’s not to love about this man?
Last year, I joined New Movement’s grand opening party for a type of improv show they love to do.  Basically, someone gets on stage, tells stories, then a group of improv actors take your stories and use it as material for a set of on-the-spot skits.  Which to me, is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.  But they make it look effortless and (always) hysterical.
Chris and The New Movement’s other co-founder, Tami Nelson, now teach acting, improv, sketch writing and more at their theater.  They have a rabid following … of which I include myself.
So Chris, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“The best Valentine’s Day Gift is hands down a dog wearing a cat suit.”
Birds Barbershop is the baby of Jayson Rapaport and Michael Portman.  Chances are, if you live in Austin, you have either gotten your hair cut at Birds at some point, or have attended one of their parking lot parties. Such as my favorite, ManFest.
Birds was my very first official sponsor on Austin Eavesdropper!  I still go in for a Lady Bird from time to time, and love the rock n’ roll atmosphere of the place.  To me, Birds is a case study in brilliant marketing — they just really, really got it right.  Theme parties, local blog sponsorships (high five), cool ad campaigns
When I asked Michael for his idea of the best Valentine’s Day gift, he left us with this sage advice, knowing that Valentine’s falls on a wonky Monday this year:
“Celebrate on the 13th so you get a table. Consummate on the 14th.”
Men.  Always practical.
thank you austin eavesdropper sponsors!
I really appreciate you being here.

Paging Whole Body Studio: We look like alligators

So, this is the time of year when my body starts to look less like a human, and more like a reptile’s.  Poor Ross has to cuddle up with an iguana each night, because his wife has apparently never heard of lotion.  What I’m saying is, I have very dry skin.

You too?

I thought this would be a nice time of year to check with one of our Austin Eavesdropper sponsors, Whole Body Studio, and get — as Cher in Clueless would say — the 411 on spa treatments.

Below, Jennie advises me on what to buy for all the gay men in my life for the holidays, how to not make your face explode from Texas allergies, and why she left her boring desk job to, eventually, own her own spa.

*  *  *

1. Hi Jennie, welcome to Austin Eavesdropper! Tell us about Whole Body Studio.

Whole Body Studio opened in 2005. In June 2007, I landed a job as an aesthetician at Whole Body Studio. The former owner and I quickly became friends and soon I was not only taking clients, but also running the spa for her. My previous administrative background really came in handy!

In October 2007, I took ownership of the spa. I brought in a new chemical-free organic product line, expanded our spa menu and brought on a few new service providers. I also made Whole Body my first priority. I felt it was important that I be present as often as possible. I wanted my clients to get to know me and also give a “face and voice” to WBS. My focus has always been to provide natural, non-invasive services and treatments in a comfortable and inviting environment.

2. Why did you start this business?

I took ownership two years after it opened. In 2005, I was working in an office … bored and unstimulated.  It just wasn’t my calling.  I wanted to find something that excited me.

My then-boyfriend (now husband!) and I talked all the time about how there had to be something out there I could do, enjoy AND make a living. One day we were getting our hair cut together and chatting with the stylists about my lack of direction.  They asked me what I liked to do and I said, “Make people happy!” They suggested I go to beauty school to become an esthetician.  What??  I had never considered that!

I was skeptical.  Definitely skeptical.  But we started doing some research, visiting some schools and before I knew it, I was enrolled in a 9-month night program.

3. I’ve noticed you offer a LOT of products geared toward allergies, which hit us Austinites like the plague.  Whaddaya got in-store for that kind of thing?

Allergies!  It seems like everyone I know is suffering.  Whole Body Studio carries a line of herbal tinctures made by Ginger Webb of Texas Medicinals.  Taking an herbal tincture like Texas Allergy Relief, which actually contains ragweed, can help your body build a better (and more natural!) defense.

For raw noses and chapped lips we have Talulah Calendula Sensitive Healing Cream. It works like a charm to calm inflammation and soften all your rough patches, plus it smells divine and is completely chemical-free.

4. This time of year is joyful!  Bursting with holiday spirit!  And stressful.  So, what kind of soothing, relaxing treatments do you recommend for the holiday season?

Massage, facials, massage, facials … and repeat.

Our therapists can customize an aromatherapy treatment for any massage.  Our facials are sooo relaxing.  Many clients tell me that they are just as relaxing as a full body massage.  I think any time you can relax and let go and really allow someone to employ the healing power of touch, you are bound to be relaxed!

5. Finally: I’m about to go gift-shopping.  I’m buying for girls, parents, and men. (Mostly gay men.) What do you recommend?

Our men’s packages are awesome! Our most popular packages for men include:

The Escape Traffic Package: The Urban Renewal Facial plus a 50-minute Custom Massage.  (100 minutes, $144)

The Big Date Package: The Urban Renewal Facial plus our signature Whole Body Back Treatment which includes cleansing, an enzyme peel, exfoliation, steam with extractions, toning and moisturizing.  (95 minutes, $144)

The Lake Austin Package: The Urban Renewal Facial plus back and shoulder waxing.  (80 minutes, $130)

We also carry an amazing chemical-free, organic line of skincare products from Talulah Natural Skincare. Talulah has a wonderful milk bath powder for sensitive skin and an aromatic body oil. They both make great gifts!

The Louise Package for women makes a great gift for girlfriends. Named after a cherished client who comes in for this package service once a month, “The Louise” includes a brow shaping, brow tint and lash tint.  Our aestheticians will expertly shape your brows and carefully blend the perfect shade of tint to accent and define your brows and lashes.  They have experience with complexions and hair colors of all shades and variations.  ($55)

thanks for stopping by austin eavesdropper, jennie!