Tell us a bit about yourself.
My family is Greek and growing up I spent a lot of time in Greece and traveling throughout Europe with them. I was always in awe of the fashions I would see there and how sophisticated and trendy the women dressed. I was also inspired by the plethora of handcrafted items and the respect people had for true artisans and the process of creation whether it be food, fashion, wine, or soaps.
Soon, I was learning to use a sewing machine to create the fashions that I could not find back here in the States. Eventually, I found myself hosting spa parties at my home, selling my own handbags along with my handmade natural beauty products.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
My full-time business is Mojo Spa, a handmade beauty company with over 200 handmade beauty products from cosmetics to skincare to my famous cake and cupcake soaps. I have a store in Chicago and a natural nail spa where I pamper my clients with homemade desserts and events like Beauty and Brunch on Sundays.
I’m always reading cookbooks and I love to bake. I like to say that I’m a graduate of the Food Network; I always have it in the background when I’m sewing or crocheting. If I’m not making beauty products or sewing you will find me in the kitchen cooking up new dessert and beauty recipes, which I post on my blog.
What would be the title of your memoir?
How I Conquered the World on a Protein Shake. I started Mojo Spa ten years ago, and throughout that time I suffered from serious health problems. My business slowly grew as a result of my sickness — since I was unable to use many of the chemical laden products and cosmetics on the market at that time, I created my own. It was truly a labor of love, and one that often seemed impossible when I couldn’t get out of bed or couldn’t eat anything but liquids. I didn’t go out much because of my sickness but instead I learned how to sew and crochet and started making handbags and accessories to give myself another creative outlet.
The most important thing I have learned so far is to never give up. Many people told me I couldn’t do it because I was sick or I didn’t have the ability to take my business to the next level. Through Etsy I was able to grow both of my businesses and reach international customers whom I would not have been able to otherwise. I believed that I would succeed no matter what, because I knew that Mojo Spa is what gave me the will to survive and have something to work towards. That belief is what finally gave me the ability to heal myself using alternative and holistic methods, which I now incorporate into many of the products that I create for other people to be able to heal themselves. This has only fueled my motivation to develop more innovative products to help people feel good on the inside and out.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I find inspiration everywhere! I always look to my customers and what they want to see as my number one inspiration. Many of my ideas are inspired by my time in Greece and vintage fashion. I love watching old movies for inspiration or going to vintage stores. My sister inspires me all the time and I bounce all my ideas off of her because our styles are so different that I know I can create something that will appeal to more people. I get inspired by function in handbags or accessories and then I try to put a romantic twist on it.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade simply means made with love. The passion that I have for both of my crafts always makes me happy and shines through no matter how tired I am. You believe in what you are making and your heart is invested in the process. In the end, it comes down to a simple statement my grandma used to say to me about making her famous filo pies: “People can make my recipe but if they do not make it with love you will taste the difference.”
How would you describe your creative process?
An idea usually comes to me as I’m falling asleep at night. Sometimes I will dream of the idea and all the possible ways I could make it. Then I start to make a prototype, and I either nail it on the first try or I have to make several samples before I like what I see. Then I show it to my sister and get her feedback, as well as my other employees. If the feedback is positive then I will see how it sells and decide if I will make more in different colors and sizes.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I would love to take a peek inside Valentino’s or Oscar de la Renta‘s studios and their archives. Their gowns and accessories are so beautiful and have inspired me over the years.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
When I was very young my mother wanted me to remember my Greek heritage and always remember all the good times we had there as a family. She had a special gold bracelet made for me with my Greek name engraved on it so every time I wear it I think of walking on the boardwalk, going to the bakery with my grandma to get freshly baked bread, or eating the best filo pie ever!
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I get out of creative ruts by talking with my sister. She usually tells me ideas she has and we collaborate on new designs all the time. Also I will visit my favorite fashion blogs and love looking at pictures on Pinterest. I watch old movies from the ’50s and ’60s — they inspire me because I love retro fashion. I go to the fabric store and look at all the fabrics or I will go to vintage stores to get my creative juices flowing.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would definitely like to be healthy and enjoying my life. It would be wonderful to continue to grow my businesses and have multiple store locations selling both my handmade beauty products and handbags/accessories. I also would love to be a motivational speaker and tell my story of how I created and ran my business for seven years despite my sickness. We all have excuses of why we don’t do what we love and I would like to inspire people to let them know it can be done.