How She Got There: Blaine Muhl, Founder & Creative Director of Blaine Bowen Jewelry

Name: Blaine Bowen Muhl

Age: 28

Job Title and Description: Founder and Creative Director of Blaine Bowen Jewelry

College Name/Major: University of Kansas/Psychology

Website: www.blainebowen.com

Twitter Handle: @Blaine_Bowen

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Blaine Muhl: There is definitely no such thing as a typical day in our office!  I like to consider myself a jack-of-all-trades; I’ll even make coffee and lunch runs for everyone when I have the time. My major role is to design the apparel and jewelry. I do all of the graphic design and sketching, and I hand-make all of the necklaces and bracelets myself. Currently, I make every piece of handmade jewelry, and all of our apparel blanks are designed by me, down to the pattern. 

Depending on the day and how busy we are, I can be doing inventory, facilitating PR requests, managing wholesale orders, packaging orders, linesheets, social media, blog posts and lookbooks and [doing] photography.  You name it, I’ve done every job that’s an aspect of my company, and I’m still required to sometimes do things that are not in my main duties. That’s just part of owning your own company. 

 

What is the best part of your job?

BM: The best part of my job is definitely the ability to create and design every day, and it’s icing on the cake when people love it enough to buy it. I have always loved design, and am a free spirit to a "T," so I’m lucky to not have the confines of an everyday job; I just wouldn’t function well that way. It is really special to have created this brand, and I love watching it grow every day.

 

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

​BM: My first entry-level job in fashion was with a fashion PR agency in New York. After that, I got away from fashion for a bit and worked for the athletic department at my university and was a veterinary technician. I’ve always had so many interests, so I basically tried everything out until I found what stuck.  

 

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

​BM: I wish I knew how emotionally draining it can be. It is a hard industry. For just as many people I’ve met who have been blessings, I’ve met 10 times more who have been hard learning lessons. People in fashion are very critical, and a lot of the time, I don’t see it being constructive. I’ve developed quite a thick skin over the past three years. The world can be a shady place, so you just have to learn to bring your own sunshine.

 

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

​BM: Definitely Lynsey Eaton of Tomboy KC.  She’s an amazing friend but has also been a solid mentor for me and has helped me navigate the fashion industry in a smarter way from a brands perspective. She is seriously like my own Yoda!

 

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

​BM: “Always go the extra mile, it’s never crowded." Over my experience in the past four years, this quote has never been truer. My other piece of advice would be that there is no such thing as an overnight success, so focus on yourself because you can’t compare your step one to someone else’s step 20. It’s a great way to drive yourself crazy. You need to let things take the time they need to grow. Most of all I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff or roadblocks; you take a nap, and get over it.

 

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

​BM: Definitely trying to grow too quickly. It caused me to spread myself too thin, and things were disastrous for a little bit. When I started the company, I had all of these companies coming out of the woodworks saying I needed this or that app to make my feed shopable, you need to pay X amount for SEO or you need an agent or a publicist, expensive photographers, the works. It all built up and became insanely expensive; at that point in my company, I didn’t need all of that. What I really needed was to let things have the time to grow, instead of coming out of the gate trying to roll with the big dogs.

 

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

​BM: I think the most surreal moment had to be when Kourtney Kardashian wore my jewelry on the cover of her Fit Pregnancy shoot. That was pretty crazy for me! Then helping style Paris Hilton for Coachella.

 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

​BM: We’re actually going through the process of expanding right now, so we’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately! When I first meet someone, eye contact and a good handshake are actually really important to me. If you can’t look me in the eye and show confidence, it makes me second-guess you too.

Also, bringing a resume and references. We had over 200 applicants for our past job and we had one girl come in with a resume and references. We actually had some applicants not even submit a resume or submit them with spelling errors. A resume is my first impression of someone, so if they don’t go through all the requirements we put out there for the application process, it says to me that they don’t pay attention and they don’t really care, two things I definitely won’t entertain.

I love to also see previous work experience, whether it's organizations or internships, to show me you want to learn and can stay committed to things. Internships are where you learn everything; I had eight. There appears to be a stigma today that internships aren’t worth it, but that’s not the case. They teach you discipline, and just as much as I ran and got coffee, I learned quite a bit.  Heck, I own my own company, and I still run and get everyone coffee and package up orders. 

In my mind, no one at any stage in a company is too good for any job; you’re all there for one reason and to work as a team. So that is definitely a quality I look for in an applicant; any hint of "I’m too good to do that…" and you’ll be checked off my list pretty quick. 

The final thing I look for is haa [an applicant] done their research on the company?  Do not ever go into an interview and not know that company as much as you can, inside and out. We actually had a girl show up for an interview that thought we were a PR company. I bet y’all can guess how that turned out.  

 

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

​BM: Ask for help. The biggest mistake I made was having all of these amazing resources at my disposal, but being too stubborn at first to ask for help. Asking for help, I believe, shows more strength than continuing down a bad path because you don’t want to look like you rely on anyone else. At the end of the day, you can’t do it alone. I think being able to work with others and take constructive criticism is huge.

My second piece of advice is to do your research and start small. A big mistake I made was doing too much, too fast; I had too many designs and stretched myself too thin. Most people will try to get you to start with a collection that is nine to 12 pieces; I say cut that in half and switch things in and out if it’s not working. You don’t want sitting inventory because someone talked you into something for his or her production benefit.  You need to start small and figure out what sells while staying true to your design aesthetic.  My mom calls these designs the “bread and butter.” For me, our bread and butter is [our Gameday collection], which allows me to explore with the other collections.

Thirdly, gain experience. Take the internship. I learned so much just observing at my internships and entry level jobs that saved me a lot of headaches and gave me a starting point and direction. You can’t start your own company without work experience.

My final advice is to stay true to you and your vision. I had so many people trying to push me different directions that just felt wrong. If you believe in your vision, stick with it. Trying to design for others doesn’t work, because the lack of passion will show. I’ve found that listening to my gut is the most consistent and safe bet.

 
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