A Pop (Up) of Kindness

When we first decided to move to San Antonio in July of 2019 I immediately started searching for local markets and boutiques that I could visit once we moved here. Supporting small businesses has always been a passion of mine, and I’m friends with several small business owners in my hometown (Peoria, Illinois). I knew this would be the perfect way for me to start meeting friends in a new city.

One of the first shops I started following on Instagram last summer was Thaïs Ann Boutique, owned and operated by Thais (pronounced ty-ees) Peacher herself. Since then, I’ve purchased several pairs of earrings and a navy-blue top from her boutique. Everything I’ve gotten has been excellent quality and has a unique design. When your packages get delivered, they always include a hand-written note from Thais. Having the opportunity to interview her and hear the backstory of her business has been such a joy!

Thais shared a post shortly after COVID hit in March that struck a chord with me. Quarantine was in full swing and small businesses across the country were already showing signs of struggle. In regards to why she was continuing to post pictures of clothing and jewelry amidst a global pandemic, she said:

“I started this business four and a half years ago. I did this after having worked through high school and college to help put myself through school. After earning an undergraduate and graduate degree in business. After working in the oil and gas industry for 15 years. After starting over and working for a corporate retail company that told me I wasn’t extroverted enough to excel in the industry. After coming home to Texas and leaving two jobs that brought me to tears daily because of how much I hated them. This small business is my dream; what I believe I was created to do. I do it because when you buy that new pair of earrings and pose for a picture, that smile on your face is confirmation that I’m in the right place.”

– Thais Peacher

Reading her words caused an emotional reaction for me. THIS is why I love to Shop Small. Every small business has a real person with a real dream and a real family who needs support. I grew up in a city of 125,000 people, briefly lived in a small town of 2,000, and now I live in the 7th largest city in the country. Every place I’ve lived has small businesses, and the small businesses are where I’ve always been able to find “my people”. They are the people who have allowed themselves to honor two passions at the same time: to be personally successful and community-centered. Thais is no exception to these traits, and her kindness and business-savvy shined through her entire interview.

Thaïs Ann Boutique is an online- and pop-up boutique that features jewelry, clothing, and accessories. She does pop-ups all over San Antonio and has even taken her shop on the road several times when her husband was traveling for his job. Last weekend she was at St. Paul’s Square, this coming weekend she’ll be at West Elm, and she often frequents Brick at Blue Star for their “Sundays at Brick” events. When you visit her booth, you’ll find her subtle but straightforward signage, her tables meticulously arranged with products, and she is there ready to answer any questions you might have about any of her items. What you won’t see are the hours upon hours she spends behind the scenes making sure each event she attends runs smoothly.

There are heavy bins she must lug back and forth to her vehicle to set up and tear down each event. There are photo shoots to plan for each new wave of items that get launched on her website, which includes planning backdrops, models, and color schemes. There is even a surprising amount of research that goes into choosing every piece before ordering it because she wants to ensure that her clients are getting top-quality products. She makes sure that she personally knows exactly what each item is made of, how to care for it, and how to pair it with other items.

She also knows when to admit that she has made a mistake and she works diligently to correct it. There was a customer who visited her booth and explained that she had severe allergies to several types of metal, and Thais carefully helped her select a necklace that she believed did not contain any of the allergens. Once the customer checked out and had moved on to other shops, Thais felt a pull to double check herself and pulled up the specs on that necklace. As soon as Thais realized she had been mistaken, she worked diligently to reach the customer. She ended up finding her on social media, messaged her and allowed her to return the item for a full refund.

When she finished telling me this story, my jaw was almost on the ground and I thought, “Man that’s not the type of service you’ll get at Target!” (Don’t get me wrong- your girl loves a Target run- but when it comes to individualized service, they just simply don’t compare.)

This is truly what sets this boutique apart from others: Thais is incredibly committed to helping other women feel confident and comforted in their purchases, and cares deeply about maintaining her reputation as an honest business owner with complete integrity. She is loyal to her customers and is always willing to learn from them.

When I was a teacher I was almost discouraged from having a large online presence. Keeping all of my accounts private was a way to protect myself from prying students and community members. Now that I’ve changed careers and am being encouraged to create a large following on my business account, I am really struggling with how to consistently maintain my social media presence without feeling inauthentic or pushy. I also still want to be able to detach from my devices and spend quality time with my family when I need to. When I asked Thais to describe an aspect of running her own boutique that she didn’t anticipate when she started, I was surprised to learn that she struggled with these same concepts.

“I love doing my pop-ups, but learning how to push Online Sales more and more has been a challenge.”

Thais Peacher

She described similar situations that I’ve experienced, like having to ensure that you’re always on top of the feeds and are staying relevant so that people don’t “forget” about you and your business. Trying to come up with fun content and cute snapshots while working from home is a whole new level of creativity that she isn’t quite used to yet (I don’t think any of us are!). Luckily, she has two sisters and a husband who are usually willing to jump in and help in any way they can. Her sisters have both modeled for her, and her husband helps load and unload the car for many events.

She’s also part of a group called The Boutique Hub that has provided her with some tools and strategies to strengthen the digital aspect of her business. They are a community of boutiques that provides support to  boutique owners by providing education, business tips, and virtual platforms  for selling products, among other services. Being part of this group has helped her find footing in a post-COVID world where shopping online is the new normal. If you’d like to help support her online business, she says it’s simple:

“Keep shopping online! Keep commenting, liking, and sharing on social media. Post photos of yourself in the jewelry and the clothes, I love seeing your smiles!

Thais Peacher

Recognizing that she is incredibly lucky to have her support system in place so that she can continue to pursue this dream, Thais has always looked for opportunities to give back to her community. She has donated some of her products to auctions that are raising money for charities, she has participated in several events, and she has made direct monetary donations to others. Heading into the holiday season I know there will be many opportunities for all of us to donate or volunteer for various organizations and it can sometimes feel overwhelming to take on that extra pressure while you’re shopping for gifts for your own family. But Thais pointed out that the amount of money or time that you give shouldn’t be compared to what someone else gives, it should only be compared to what you have been given.

“I always try to do what I can, even if it feels like it’s not very much, I know that doing what I can do is better than not doing anything.”

Thais Peacher

What an excellent reminder that comparison is the thief of joy.

You can follow Thais on Instagram @thaisann or shop her site at thaisann.com. When you make a purchase don’t forget to post a photo with the hashtag #uniquelythaisann

A Fulfilling Interview

Let me tell you about one of the most selfless, giving, and encouraging women I’ve ever talked with! Lisa Hansen is the powerhouse behind the San Antonio Women’s Conference and the virtual self-help course entitled ‘A Thriving Mother.’ She’s also publishing a book that will be available for purchase this Holiday season. Lisa has poured her heart and soul into cultivating a sense of friendship, unity, and fulfillment among all women in the San Antonio community, and she’s just getting started.

After graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Lisa began traveling the world for her career and had a blast with each new experience. She had met her husband, Greg, in college and when he took a job in San Antonio their relationship continued long-distance for four years. When they decided to get married she found a job here in San Antonio at Boeing and they started their life here. She began to explore her options for attending Culinary School and realizing her childhood dream of becoming a Pastry Chef, and was pleased to find the Culinary Institute of America at The Pearl. Fast forward to two years ago, Lisa was living with her husband and best friend, was the mom of two sweet boys, and was running her own bakery full time.

In the midst of running a bakery, keeping up with her kids and all of their needs, and trying to stay fulfilled as a wife and as her own person, she started to struggle.

“Here I was living my dream, right? I’d had this dream since I was little and I had done all the work and made it all happen and here I was. But I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be. I wasn’t fulfilled in the way that I thought I would be.”

Lisa Hansen

Hearing Lisa say these words GOT me. Like, lightbulb-dinging got me. This exact thought has crossed my mind more times than I can count. I felt this way when I graduated college, I felt this way as a first- and second-year teacher, I felt this way as a veteran teacher, I felt this way when I got my Master’s degree, and I still feel this way after changing careers completely. I can’t help but wonder how many other women have had this exact thought too?

This struggle that Lisa found herself in drove her to do some heavy research on the topic and she ended up attending several conferences and reading a ton of articles online.

“Through trial-and-error I found out there are some core human needs that we all have that I wasn’t fulfilling for myself. I was fulfilling all these external things but I was neglecting my inner core needs. I made a huge shift and it was amazing. My husband even said, ‘You’re so much happier and nicer!’”

Lisa Hansen

As she started talking to more women, she realized how many were having that same struggle. “They were doing all the things they thought they were supposed to do and MORE and giving so much to life and motherhood but were still struggling to feel personally fulfilled and at the end of the day they were just tired and not so excited about the rest of life. I felt this desire to share my experience and help them, and I really felt compelled to host a conference.”

Last October she felt a strong pull from God and booked a venue for her first conference to be held the following February. She announced the conference in November with the tagline “Creating Your Personally Fulfilled Life.” She wanted to create a day for women to come learn about their needs, how to fulfill them, and how to say ‘No’ to the things that only fulfill other people. She began working furiously to pull together the event she had been dreaming about for so long.

In February of 2020, Lisa hosted a sold-out conference at The Voigt Center. She gave the keynote address entitled “Living Your Fulfilled Life: Prioritizing Your Time & Honoring Yourself.” There were several guest speakers, including Christie Cuthbert, who spoke on finding humor in motherhood, Mady Boyer, who taught everyone how to, “Prioritize and Simply,” Leslee Owen and Christine Brinkman presented their talk, “The Power of Community,” and Candace Stringham taught a workshop on photography. There were breakout sessions throughout the day that included sessions on: Small Business Ownership, Personal Finances, High Fitness, and a Health & Wellness panel. Lisa was able to reach out to eleven local boutiques who all came and set up booths for women to shop during breaks. She also put together a raffle basket with items from other local businesses.

I’d like to quickly point out that Lisa did all of the planning BY HERSELF and went from booking a venue in October to hosting a sold-out conference in February. As a person who took over a year to plan her wedding, I cannot believe she pulled this off! She did have some friends who helped her keep things running smoothly on the day of the conference, and her husband was up late with her the night before cutting out name tags and stuffing goody bags. And she said that going forward, she will hire someone to help with future conferences that she hosts!

Lisa has a passion for valuing Community over Competition among women, particularly women who own small businesses.

“There was definitely a portion of my life where I would see someone else succeed at something and I’d feel like they just took a big slice of the pie and now there was less pie left for me. But now I know that when someone else succeeds, it’s ok to CELEBRATE them. That their success takes NOTHING away from the things I’ve accomplished or will accomplish in the future. That it actually enriches my life to be able to celebrate successes with friends and family, whether they’re my successes or someone else’s. We’re taught as women not to think that way, not to lift someone else up, and that we’re literally supposed to be competing against every other woman out there. It’s not a healthy culture for any of us.”

Whoa. Let that one sink in.  I totally get that feeling of someone else taking a piece of the pie, and there have been countless times in the past that I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on my goals because someone else accomplished them first. I’ve always been a perfectionist with a Ricky Bobby mentality that says, “If you’re not the best -insert role here- then you must be the worst.” But I’m trying to turn that voice in my head off and surround myself with people like Lisa who are able to realize that we’re all stronger when we’re supporting each other.

Living for 8 months of uncertainty in a global pandemic has thrown a wrench into many of Lisa’s plans for this year, but she’s taken each one in stride. This Spring she took all of her profits –yes, ALL of her profits– from her conference and reinvested them in local small businesses owned by women. She did this by hosting virtual events like Quarantine Bingo and Impact Auctions. She also launched her first ‘Thriving Mother’ virtual course early in the Fall and is planning to launch another one for Winter. Although the pandemic was something she could never have planned for, the feedback she’s received on her conference and events thus far is something she never anticipated.

“So many women have told me they’re grateful for what I’m doing and sharing. It’s extremely humbling and deeply impacts me to feel like I could help someone in that way. That’s what the goal always was, but you often go into things with goals that aren’t achieved. To really feel like someone is more confident, loves themselves more and is having a more positive ‘go’ at life because I helped them is truly humbling and brings me to my knees in gratitude.”

Lisa Hansen

Looking ahead, Lisa still has big plans. She is re-opening her ‘Thriving Mother’ virtual self-help course (I was part of the first round- it is WELL worth your investment!) and she is weighing the options for future conferences. The Book she is publishing will be in the self-help genre to teach women to be confident in themselves and say “goodbye” to self-doubt. She wants every woman to know they are capable of accomplishing anything they want to: from being a different kind of mother to launching a successful business and everything between.

You can follow Lisa on Instagram @sanantoniowomensconference or check out her virtual courses at linktr.ee/TheLisaHansen

Post #2- Seasons of Food

When I was still teaching high school I had a class of students ask me if I liked pumpkin-flavored foods. I replied, “Yes, but only if it’s Fall,” and the entire class started giggling. “What?!” I asked, “Do you guys eat pumpkin stuff all year?!” and I was shocked when most of them nodded. The idea of eating or drinking things outside of their “season” was completely foreign to me.

I’ve always held myself to a rigid Food Timeline, I just never realized that’s what I was doing.

With the Timeline I get to enjoy seasonal highlights, like fresh-squeezed lemonade on a sticky July afternoon, while simultaneously looking ahead (Next week is September 1st, better stock up on pumpkin puree!).

I taught Foods & Nutrition for 8 years and I was accustomed to students’ natural curiosity about outlandish dishes, but I had never experienced students being so curious about my own tastes and preferences. So I let them keep asking me questions, and I asked some in return.

For the next 10 minutes of class we narrowed down my Timeline and made lists on the board to keep track.

As the lists grew, more of them started to agree with me that yes, some things taste better during *insert season*, but I also started understanding their conviction that if fresh-squeezed lemonade is available on a blustery winter day it is perfectly alright to enjoy it.

At the end of the day I reflected on those 10 minutes and realized it had been one of those “I hope they learned as much from me as I learned from them” moments.

This was not the first time I realized that I associate food with personal feelings and memories, but the charts on the board provided the most linear and concrete example of my relationship to those foods.

Without further ado, here is my Food Timeline. I still follow it pretty strictly, but am making an effort to branch out.

Spring: Strawberries, Blueberry Muffins, Blackberry Pie, basically just lots of berries.

Summer: Lemonade, Watermelon, Pineapple, Corn on the Cob, Popsicles, Sherbet, Steak Kabobs, Dips- all of the dips, and most of the Chips.

Fall: Pumpkin-flavored everything. Soups- Chicken Noodle, Broccoli Cheddar, Butternut Squash, Cream of Potato, Corn Chowder. Apples, Apple Pie, Apple Crisp, Apple Butter, you get it. Big fan of Fall because my birthday is in Fall!

Winter: Hot Chocolate. Real Turkey. Real Mashed Potatoes with actual gravy. Cookies- Chocolate Chip is my favorite but any cookie will do. Yeast Rolls. Peppermint-flavored desserts. Mulled Cider or Wassail.

What’s on your Food Timeline?

Post #1- I don’t need a plan.

Here we go!

I was going to start this blog 6 weeks ago. I had incredible visions of writing about the Food Service Industry and how there is an emotional connection between food and people- hence, “Service, through food”. I wanted to tell the stories of employees in the industry, from minimum-wage drive-thru attendants to Food Truck owners and beyond.

I wanted to highlight their passions and their struggles, laugh and cry with them, and eat their food (or drink their drinks).

And then Coronavirus took over every single aspect of the world. Literally 5 days after I decided to start a blog.

Everything shut down immediately- and for good reason. But as the industry scrambled to adjust to new regulations, I scrambled to think of what I would put in my blog instead of what I had originally planned.

And it took my 6 weeks to realize something: I don’t need a plan. I just need to write. To document these crazy weeks, to provide entertainment for anyone willing to read, to relieve a little stress, and to provide myself something that is exclusively “mine” during this monotony.

So here’s the truth- I haven’t even touched my own laptop in 6 weeks.

Wait- I take that back. I have touched it, but the only to log into my daughter’s Google Classroom and pull up the weekly list of assignments from her 5th grade teacher every Monday morning. Then I set it on the island by her favorite stool and it’s hers the rest of the week. Tonight when I flipped up the screen I had to close out of 13 tabs that were hers. THIRTEEN TABS!!! Unnecessary tabs are a pet peeve of mine but for her, the more the merrier. I should conduct research into how many tabs the general public considers “reasonable”.

Anyway, the rest of the day is spent answering any questions she has on her work in JUST the right tone because home girl is sensitive AF (she gets that from me). I also chase around a 1-year old and try to get him to say actual words instead of pointing and yelling. My husband is WFH (I finally learned what that means) and that occasionally adds to the chaos when he has to speak on a conference call. Without fail, he takes himself off “mute” at the exact moment the toddler decides he needs Dad RIGHT NOW! It’s a fun little game. Lastly, and don’t get me wrong I mean LASTLY, I sometimes decide to keep up with the laundry, dishes, and dust that have built up. And I try to exercise a little. And I eat snacks- more on that later.

Phew! At night I usually do some crossword puzzles and then read a few pages from my book before I crash. And you guessed it- I do it all over again the next day, and the day after that, and again, you get it.

I know everyone is living their own version of this weird, repetitive, challenging-but-not routine. And we’re all seeking new ways to keep ourselves occupied while we shelter in place. So the new direction of my blog is: I want to serve you, the reader, by talking about food. But not just food itself- there are millions of other places you can get that info. I’m going to talk about my emotional relationship with food. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Because it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (but there are plenty of those too).

I’m excited, determined, and a little bit scared! But this beats trying to find a documentary more enthralling than Tiger King (because there aren’t any).

Cheers to big rears and overcoming your fears! -Abby


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