Putting Authenticity First: an Interview with Genuine & Ginger

In any new adventure in life, we all know how important (albeit rarely easy) it is to bring the best part of ourselves along for the ride. When it comes to making those tough decisions in both our work and personal lives, it’s always helpful to have some guidance from those who have walked where we’re standing. So, we decided to chat with Kyla Donner, the founder of Genuine & Ginger. Someone who oozes such an authentic spirit, it’s even in her business name.

Tell us about Genuine and Ginger…

Genuine & Ginger is a jewelry and home decor brand that was officially created in the Fall of 2015. The brand was actually created out of a ton of previous failure, and a restored hope of sharing my creative work in a really authentic way. I had started another brand while living in Austin, Texas a few years prior while I was in college. That business was a massive success as far as sales and growth were concerned, but a massive failure as far as staying true to my original vision and mission to create something I was proud of. So with a ton of conviction, I shut everything down, spent a summer in Africa, and moved back home to New Mexico. I stopped creating all together. Which wrecked me. For a creative person, to stop using your gift and not do the thing that allows you to self express is really dangerous. But I was so scared of not being able to do that well and honorably, that I just didn’t do anything at all.

After a few years of working suffocating office jobs and managing teams, I finally started to create again. Slowly, with intention, honesty, and staying true to my own style. Over time, I got jewelry requests and commissions for home installations or wall decor, so I knew I had something worth pursuing. As I opened myself up to the potential of starting another business, I knew it had to stay GENUINE. This is where the first part of the name comes from. Secondly, it had to deeply represent me as a woman, a creative, and a unique personality. I was forever known at that time as “the red head” or “ the fiery ginger”, so GINGER seemed like an all encompassing description of who I am. I have since caved and become a blonde, but the sentiment remains.

I went full time with G&G about a year and a half ago. I quit my job, sold everything I owned, and drove to LA to stay with friends for four months to figure myself and my business out. The first weekend I was in town, I attended my first Yellow Conference in 2015. I owe so much of my success to Yellow because it was the perfect way to kickstart the creation of a brand. The speakers wrecked me in the best way. The other women I met inspired me deeply, and I have since been able to work with so many of them. Yellow has had a massive impact that I really can’t even put into words.

What is the mission behind G&G?

We handcraft anti-trendy, minimalist items that are meant to be worn by real people. We design for the everyday. For the women who need effortless accessories to complement their style. Our woven goods and wall decor are created with that same mindset. Pieces that can be used for years and years to cultivate beautiful spaces you live your life in.

Authenticity First - Genuine & Ginger - The Yellow Room

We LOVED our bracelets you gifted our attendees at the 2016 conference. When you heard our theme words GRIT, VALOR, and HEART, did it resonate with you as a business owner?

When I heard the theme and the words that we would be putting on each cuff, my heart cried out “YES, YES, YES”. At that point in my business, I had experienced moments that required all of these things - the willingness to dive in, do the hard work, push through the rough stuff, and stand strong in my “why”. Of being able to say no to the big orders if they didn’t honor my convictions or mission. Of having the courage to pursue big dreams that seemed impossible, and believing in my capabilities. I figured if this so deeply resonated with me, then it would with every single woman attending the conference.

What are your dreams for G&G?

Well we are in no short supply of dreams around here! At Yellow 2016, we did a workshop that basically asked us to dream really big for what it would mean to add a do-good component to our already existing businesses. In the process of really digging into my heart as to what that would even be, something clicked.

Here in New Mexico there is a massive issue with teen pregnancy. It is a generational issue, deeply rooted in family histories. So we are now working with local organizations that interact with and help this community, giving a portion of our sales to meet their needs. But - we don’t have an intention of stopping there. We don’t want to throw money at a cause without really building relationships with these teens. Our long term plan is to develop a mentorship employment program with the girls. We would hire them, pay them well to begin saving for when their babies come, and do a tri-fold mentorship program geared towards parenting, finances, and counseling. We want these women to experience wellness on every front. By breaking cycles that have existed in their families for generations, creating new legacies for their babies, all while being able to provide and care for their kiddos.

The biggest picture dream is to open a communal living space on the same property as our design studio where these teens can live during pregnancy to birth, and year one with their child.

Ultimately we want to embody the fullness of loving your neighbor as yourself. Of serving the weary, the downtrodden, the marginalized.

Providing new hope for the teens that don’t have any, and allowing them to dream bigger than their circumstances.

What are you inspired by for your business, creativity, and life?

As far design inspiration goes, we are very inspired by the desert culture we live in. We use tons of texture, warm earthy tones, and simplicity in our work. Everything we do has an easy, organic flow to it with a modern boho vibe. For general inspiration, we are blown away by the WOMEN all over the country who are doing such amazing things both in business and in life. We read a ton of design books, mostly interior design, and love love love pop art and fiber art design.

Authenticity First - Genuine & Ginger - The Yellow Room

Is G&G your full time gig, or your side hustle? How do you make time for it all (AND time to stamp and donate FIVE HUNDRED bracelets for YC 2016)!?

This is a full time gig for sure! We sell our products online, travel the country doing pop ups, markets, and craft fairs, in addition to wholesaling to shops across the nation! Making the cuffs for Yellow was one of the biggest projects we had undertaken at that point. I was the only person actually producing our products, and once I was about 100 cuffs in, I knew I would need help! So my community really came in to save the day. We NEED people. We really do, I learned that so many times in 2016.

Making time for it all is the struggle for all business owners. In order to say yes to something, you have to say no to something else, and a lot of the time your personal life is the first thing to go out the window. For a period of time for me it was sleepless nights, lots of hours in the studio, and traveling for months at a time. Which I do not recommend whether you are in year one of business or year ten.

The beginning of building a business is where we build all our habits, both the good and the bad.

So I have had to be so intentional going into this new year to get to a place where I could work really hard and do all I needed to, without sacrificing my physical and spiritual wellness, as well as my relationships with friends and family.

What are you listening to as of late?

I am a podcast junkie. We have them going all day in the studio! We are currently loving: Goal Digger, How I Built This, Start Up, Millennial, Modern Love, The Mortified Podcast, This American Life, and so many other ones! Music wise, I joke all the time that I am a sucker for a “sad song”. I love indie, folky, sad songs.  

What is your creativity-boosting routine? How do you get yourself “in the zone”?

I start design days with morning reading and coffee. I will take time to read a few chapters in whatever book I’m reading, and then journal to brain dump. Next I head into the studio, usually in a dress that looks like a giant sack, or yoga pants and a chunky sweater. When I am creating new products, or designing new wall hangings and decor, I DO NOT get on Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, etc. I turn on a podcast, light my favorite candle of all time (Maison Louis Marie: No. 04), then get to work. I don’t sketch things out, I just start playing with different elements until something clicks!

When you hear the word ‘PIONEER’, what is the first word that comes to mind?

Well, I have two. Innovation and fearlessness. To go before anyone else, you’ve got to have these things deeply embedded in your character. When you step out in an unconventional way, you will get criticism and doubt from all sides.

What is your go-to mantra for inspiration?

Work hard, do your best, and create something you’re proud of.

Photos courtesy of Genuine & Ginger