Sisters and best friends Sabrina Jackson, founder of Wolf Child, a t-shirt company featuring dreamy designs, and Brianna Bulski, founder of Little Arrow, a bright and bold stationery and accessories studio, are proof that creativity and entrepreneurial instincts run in the family. Growing up with self-employed creatives as parents, they worked at the family business (the local flea market!) and not only learned small business skills but also got *really* good at thrifting and identifying fashion trends. Sabrina and Brianna started their own companies within two years of each other, and even though they have VERY different personal styles, they support and inspire each other’s projects. If you’re thinking about quitting your day job and launching your own business or just want to raise a super creative kid, you’ll definitely want to read their advice.
B+C: Does creativity and entrepreneurship run in your family? How did your parents inspire you to be creative growing up?
Brianna Bulski: Creativity definitely runs in our family! Our parents are both creatives and self-employed. They owned and operated Piccadilly, the biggest flea market in the PNW, and our dad is an independent contractor. They always pushed and encouraged us to be creative and rewarded us with praise when we created something. I think self-employment was a natural step for both me and Sabrina; we saw both of our parents benefit from the entrepreneurial lifestyle and learned secondhand how they handled the challenges of owning a business and made it work for them.
Sabrina Jackson: One of my first memories is painting in the front yard on the matching easels that our dad made us. They were retractable, so that they grew with us. That’s just one of the ways our parents encouraged us to use our imaginations. Our mother was constantly sewing, making beautiful clothes and quilts for gifts and craft fairs. My sister and I learned a lot of drawing techniques from our father, who was a tech illustrator. But we were also raised to be really independent — to do our own things, discover our own style.
B+C: Did growing up with small business owners as parents affect the way you run your businesses?
BB: Our parents absolutely influenced our business approaches. We watched our parents both be so hands on with things. We saw them have attention to detail, be process oriented and committed to making everything they created exceptional. Sabrina and I definitely echo a lot of their business style in how we operate our companies now.
SJ: Growing up, our parents taught us a strong work ethic. Once we were old enough, we were asked to help out with the family business (we collected money from the flea market vendors!). We both learned early on that running your own show requires hard work and discipline.
Still, I honestly never thought I would own my own business! But now that I do, I can see how our family’s entrepreneurial influence came into play. Starting my own business happened very organically. Using the tools I learned from my parents gave me the confidence to set aside the common fears of failure that plague a lot of small business owners and set out on my own.
B+C: You both have such unique and defined personal styles. Did working at a flea market weekly have anything to do with that?
BB: We got really into style from being at Piccadilly. Basically, we used the money that our parents paid us to work there to go shopping at the booths. We got the craziest, best jewelry there — and we still do! We learned early how to express ourselves and be different by styling the stuff we’d find to reflect our personalities.
SJ: Piccadilly was a huge influence on developing our tastes. Both of our styles capture older trends and make them more modern. Even my new collection is completely inspired by vintage rock and roll. We could also spot the old trends coming back into style ahead of the curve, based on what people were selling and buying. We also learned the history behind the things we were buying, like depression glass and bakelite jewelry, from the vendors. It’s fun to find something and appreciate it in its own right.
B+C: Did you inspire or support each other to follow your passions and found companies?
BB: Yes, we constantly give each other business advice and love to brainstorm together! At some point, we want to collab on a joint product. We trust each others’ instincts and often share our works in progress to get feedback. It’s great because we totally “get” each other’s styles and respect each of our brands, and it’s so helpful to get an outside opinion. We also understand each others’ businesses really well, so we’re always asking each other hard business questions and pushing each other to have backup plans. It’s awesome to have someone that knows what I need and where I can improve and bring that up in a supportive way.
SJ: Brianna and I started our companies within two years of each other so we share a lot of info with each other as we grow. Whenever I’m in need of support or advice, I go to her first. We just really believe in each other, so if she’s having doubts, I try to give her advice, try to boost her confidence or give her a solution — and vice versa. It’s really fun having a sister and best friend that also has a brand you feel a part of. I’m so proud of her, and it’s been fun to watch her creativity and her brand grow.
B+C: What’s some super practical advice on starting a company that you’d tell other entrepreneurs?
BB: Understand what you want to do, what market you’ll be in and if there’s a real want for your stuff. Be real with yourself and think through the whole business. Be prepared to do a lot of research. Once you decide that — yes, people will love your designs — you HAVE to create a business plan and set one-month, three-month, six-month and one-year goals. Even go as far as a five or a 10-year plan. Once you’re in the moment of trying to launch your business and keep it afloat, you can forget what you need to take care of now for the future. It’s good to be a bit flexible and realistic, but a lot of times, people don’t think big enough when they’re setting their goals. Think as BIG as you can for that five to 10-year goal. Even if it scares you.
SJ: Have confidence in your vision and always listen to your gut when you’re starting and running a business. Have confidence, even if you have to fake it for a while! Believe that failure isn’t an option and that giving up isn’t either. Listen to inspiring podcasts that interview successful people. One of my favorites to give me a boost of confidence is The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes. Also, a lot of businesses fail because the owners never learned the tools for successfully running their own company. Set yourself up on the right path by taking a small business class at a local community college. I did this, and I promise you the tools you learn will help you build a strong foundation for your company to grow on.
B+C: How do you balance creating what you’re passionate about and running a business?
SJ: Do what you love, not what you think you should do. If you’re going to devote so much time and money into starting a business, you better love what you do! In the beginning, you do all of it. It’s really beneficial to learn all the aspects of your business. Then, once you’ve grown a bit, identify what you’re not good at (or just really don’t enjoy doing) and find someone who’s better than you in that field. Find people with experience, and then totally trust them and their strengths. That’ll free you up to do what you love — and will prevent you from getting burned out on your own company.
BB: To be successful, you have to balance the work you really want to create with making things you know people actually want. I have a strong personal style, and Little Arrow is a reflection of that, but I still keep trends in mind. But to strike that balance, for example, when you come up with a new collection, make a few things that you KNOW people are going to buy, then have some that YOU just want to do for you. Also, having that weird piece is what makes you and your brand different (and will sometimes surprise you by becoming a top-seller).
B+C: Is there anything you do outside of work that helps your businesses thrive?
SJ: I surround myself with supportive, inspiring people — family, friends, other women business owners and my partner. I think a lot of women feel held back from pursuing their dreams because they’re busy supporting their partner’s dreams. You should never feel like you have to choose between your dreams and your relationship. A good partner will root for you and be there for you during the ups and downs.
BB: Having a strong network of people around you is so important. I’m based in Eugene, Oregon and there aren’t a lot of business owners with a similar style here, so I found a group of people to connect with on social media. It’s so nice to share successes with a community, even if I don’t see them in person a lot.
Do you have a family member or friend in the same industry to bounce ideas off of? Tell us your story @BritandCo!
(Photos via Athena Delene Photography)