Interview: To Life, Designs
Today in our Friends of Fallbrook Small Business Highlight, we speak with Shane & Kourtney, owners of To Life, Designs
Please tell us a bit about yourself!
We have lived in Fallbrook for 13 years. We moved here from Menifee, which is where Shane was living when we met. I’m originally from Washington state. We met in Cabo San Lucas, fell in love, got married and combined our six kids (three and three, ages four to 14) to make a big crazy family. I had always lived in the country, surrounded by trees and wildlife, without a neighbor in sight. So, moving to a track home in Southern California was quite a shock for me. Despite my love for all things SoCal, I quickly became depressed, missing nature and privacy. Shane saw my dismay, discovered Fallbrook, and we moved here right away. We were immediately in love with the lush, colorful landscape, the wildlife, and the small town vibe. Our kids grew up playing hide and go seek and making forts in the avocado grove. The Fallbrook Christmas parade became our most beloved tradition, and we’ve brought all of our friends and family over the years.
We love so many things about Fallbrook, but our favorites are; hiking the Santa Margarita trail, visiting all the local fruit stands, watching the gorgeous Fallbrook sunsets and moon rises, and listening to live music at the local restaurants and wineries.
How, when and why did you start your business?
To Life Designs has been in our hearts pretty much since Shane and I met in 2008. What started as an idea over drinks when we were dating and falling in love, became a dream for our future.
Shane works full time in Poway, managing a steel fabricating company, while I was mostly at home, raising the kids and working as a server from time to time. I’ve worked at a few local restaurants but the demands of the kids’ activities and schedules always pulled me back home. By 2019 most of the kiddos were out living their own lives and I was happily working at Small Town with just two kids left at home. Then came 2020, and with it Covid. Eventually I lost my job, and suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. Shane and I talked constantly about how to start our business. I made paintings for him, he made furniture and unique candle and wine holders for me, but nothing jumped out at us and said “This could be a business plan”! We felt frustrated that we couldn’t seem to move forward with anything.
Then, in January of 2021, my cousin was turning 50, we were celebrating in Joshua Tree, and I had an idea for a large wooden frame to take pictures with, but I couldn’t find anything even remotely close to what I was looking for. I asked Shane to help me make one, and it turned out better than I had even imagined. A few months later my aunt asked for one for her winery. We thought it was a cool concept so I made a post on FOF, and a few of the local businesses jumped right on board!!! A couple months later our daughter requested we make her a coffin shaped bookshelf. It turned out really cool, so again, I posted on FOF, and we immediately got orders! Next was the firewood holder, and before we knew it, the small idea from 2008 was becoming a reality. Fallbrookians have always been our biggest supporters and now we are getting to live our dream, which has always been to design custom pieces for people! We are creating bookshelves, signs, firewood holders, wine barrel bistro chairs, and painting abstract pet paintings to our hearts desire! We could’ve never done it without the love and support we’ve received from FOF, and Fallbrook friends and strangers alike.
What challenges have you faced?
I think the biggest challenges that we’ve faced is staying consistent, even when not much is happening with the business. It’s been such a roller coaster. Some weeks, we can barely keep up with orders, then others, it’s radio silence. Some social media posts get up to 1000 likes and interactions, and bring lots of orders, others are barely received.
I studied social media, and researched things like audience engagement and the best times to post. In the beginning we’d get so much interaction, but then we began to get shadowbanned. I found myself having to pay for an audience boost, which was frustrating.
When not much was happening, it was hard to stay dedicated and positive. We’d start to have a lot of doubt, and let negative self talk and self limiting beliefs take over.
A few times customers would be flakey or difficult, and we (I especially) had to learn to not take things personally. It was also very hard for us to charge our friends and family to make things for them.
One of the most difficult things for me, personally, has been self-promotion. Not only believing in myself, but asking others to believe in me as well. After being a stay at home mom for 20+ years, finding the confidence to put myself out there, was painfully difficult.
We also had to learn to quit butting heads. Accepting our roles in the business without letting ego overwhelm us. We are both pretty passionate and hard headed about how we want things done. Learning to keep our relationship separate from our business has been a challenge. Kourtney and Shane, the couple had to learn to leave Kourtney and Shane, the business partners alone sometimes.
Tell us why you love what you do?
Oh gosh, that’s easy!!! Being creative is everything to us. Brainstorming ideas, coming up with new products, and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones are all the best part of what we do. Lately, friends and customers alike have been asking us to create things that they can’t even fully envision yet, when they ask us! THAT is the ultimate dream for Shane and me. We love to sit down with a sketch pad and a beer or glass of wine, and see what we can come up with. It’s the perfect date night!
If you could do it differently, would you?
We talked about this last night. Neither of us would do anything differently. We really feel that it’s happened just as it should have, and each step has happened organically. We loved being parents to six vastly different humans, and our hearts were in that 100%. Once all of our kids seemed to be making their own ways in the world, To Life Designs sort of became our seventh child. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
Who or what inspires you?
Shane – Kourtney inspires me. She’s painted her whole life, but was always afraid to put herself out there. Over the past couple of years she’s pushed herself way out of her comfort zone and I’m so proud of her.
Kourtney – My family inspires me. My friends, too. Obviously Shane inspires me. He’s so creative and talented. Local small business owners putting in all the work are so inspirational, as well. Nature inspires me. Instead of all the drama of life overwhelming me like it used to, now it inspires me.
Probably the biggest inspiration to me though, is the idea that creating something unique and beautiful can bring happiness to someone. I really think life is art. Creating physical representations of that, is the ultimate inspiration.
If you could give advice to someone contemplating entrepreneurship, what would it be?
Just start. No matter how small of a step, just take it. Even if you have no idea what the next one will be. Also, push yourself past your comfort zone as often as you can. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
What’s next for you?
We just want to keep doing what we are doing. Eventually, we’d LOVE to have a little store front. A place for customers to come to discuss projects they’d like us to do, or gorgeous custom pieces they’d like us to create for them. I’m thinking of a beautiful little space to gather, listen to music, drink some wine, and host other artists and creators.
Nothing too serious, though. We both love to travel, and our kids have moved all over the place, so we need to be able to visit them often.
I think it would be awesome to do this full time, but Shane still has a full job, outside of To Life Designs, so for the time being, our small business will have to stay small.
We’d like to start creating cool stuff with our logo, too. To Life Designs (the name) means so much to us. We lost two of our very best friends, both of whom were so full of life. After Shane lost his best friend, a group of us got “To Life” tattoos to commemorate his life philosophy. Each time we’d toast to his memory, we’d say, “To Life, to Jeff”. Then, after my dear friend, Laurie, passed, the tattoo, and the saying, meant even more. When it came time to name our business, it couldn’t have been a more simple decision.
This business means so much to us. We are so very thankful to be where we are and working together. We just want to keep making art and creating beautiful and unique stuff for people.