Welcome to Volume 2 of Crescent City Crush! This time we headed out into the woods of Ponchatoula, Louisiana to meet with Holly Williams, New Orleans small business owner, jewelry maker, founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Barman’s Fund, B&B owner and all around bad mamma jamma. She was one of the first people I thought of when venturing into Crescent City Crush and I was pretty stoked that she was down to be featured. Holly knows how to crush it and does so with a style all her own (I’ve been drooling over her jewelry for a long time now!). Plus she’s freakin’ beautiful. So there’s that. 🙂 Check out her interview and shoot!
LR: Here we go! Crescent City Crush Vol 2: Holly Williams in Ponchatoula Louisiana. I know I call this Crescent City Crush but…
LR: Here at the Trampled Rose Ranch. Back in New Orleans, your shop is the…?
H: Tooth and Nail Trading Company. At 3952 Magazine Street.
LR: How many different artists’ work do you have in your shop?
H: I’d have to say more than 20 now. Most of them are local. We make a great effort to mix it up, though, and to carry a variety of wares that are fresh and new – some up and coming artists from across the country. We strive to not be your typical Magazine Street store.
LR: It’s actually one of my favorite shops down there. Do you have a lot of women’s products?
H: It’s mostly women’s wares, but many of our pieces function as unisex. We are ever changing and constantly getting new items in that we fall in love with. We’re making a big push to carry more clothing at the moment.
LR: A lot of your artists and jewelry makers are women, right?
H: Yeah! Almost all of them. My business partner at Tooth & Nail is the brains and beauty behind Queens Metal. My jewelry line, Small Change Finery has a heavy presence there, as well. So far all but one of the visual artists we’ve featured have been women. There’s a huge female influence in our store and we’re very proud of that.
LR: Good. That’s what we’re all about! Give me a little bit of background on your story.
H: I was born and raised in the New Jersey suburbs. My dad’s father had a farm in upstate New York that he would take me to, my parents split when I was young and I spent a lot of time with my dad up there. I just fell in love with the country and animals. That was sort of my get away from real life. After high school, I studied visual art at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. I was very into fashion and documentary photography for a long time – I still am, really. After Rutgers I wanted to travel a bit. I lived in Arizona, New York City, Florida for a little bit, Mississippi, and then eventually found my way to New Orleans. I love it here. I love being close enough to New Orleans to experience the city and enjoy the parts of it that I love, but head out to the country when I need some well-earned rest.
LR: And invite your friends to come out and stay too!
H: It’s a juggling act. Some days I don’t feel like I’m crushin’ it, but at the end of the day, tasks gets accomplished. I’ve got my jewelry line going on- Small Change Finery. I’m constantly hitting markets, seeking out new wholesale orders and doing all of the production myself at the moment. From Small Change grew Tooth and Nail, the shop. I thought it was going to be an extension of the jewelry line, but it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s gone in a very different direction than I’d expected and I’m really happy with it. Then there’s the farm, which I adore and really enjoy. But it’s work. Constantly. There are always projects to be done, snouts to feed, always a gate that needs to be repaired. Some days I don’t feel like I’m getting as much done as I like, but it does get done. And at the end of the day, jewelry gets made, clothing gets sold, animals get fed and it gets done. My breed of ‘crushing it’ is an organized chaos.
LR: How many animals do you have right now?
H: Plenty! I think I’m up to 23 assorted chickens now, 3 Nigerian Dwarf goats – two have kids on the way, 4 rescue dogs at the moment, 2 ducks, 2 Juliana pigs and 4 rescue squirrels. I’m rehabbing 3 orphaned baby squirrels and they will be released in the back part of my property very soon. One is a lifer. He’s unfit for nature.
LR: The inimitable Mr. Jonesy. I’m glad I finally got to meet Jonesy. I’ve seen him online since you first rescued him.
H: He did really well with you! He’s not always thrilled to meet new people. If he likes you, he’ll let you scratch his fuzzy little face. It’s really kind of ridiculous.
LR: So with all of these things that you’re doing, what’s your motivation?
H: I have this innate feeling that I need to keep going. I don’t know what it is. Caffeine helps! I spent so many years of my life being stagnant. Then I woke up one day and said ‘I can’t do this anymore. I want to do something, want to make a difference, I want to help people, I want to help animals, I want to do something that I feel proud of.’ And I started doing it. Once I got that feeling from doing something and accomplishing something I was really proud of, it was like a high. It motivated me to keep going. It’s hard to stop now.
LR: Was it the need to do something that created the Barman’s Fund? Or was it the Barman’s Fund that made you need to keep doing things?
H: It was a little bit of both. I wanted to be done bartending. I had bartended for nearly 20 years and I didn’t feel like I was really doing any great service to anyone including myself. I wanted to help people. So I went back to school and I got straight A’s for the first time in my life, I did all Science classes and I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I got in and did my first semester of nursing school. I remember a lecturer saying “you’re the hand-holder, you’re the tear-wiper, the doctors do all the heavy work and you’re there to wipe tears and nurture people”. That’s when I said ‘I can’t do this’. I want to be leading, I want to be helping people but I’m not the hand-holder or the tear-wiper, I could be doing so much more than that. So I started Small Change Finery which organically happened from tinkering with metals and then I still wanted to do something to help people. That’s where the Barman’s Fund came in. A friend of mine was doing it in New York and I said ‘hey, how about starting it up in other major cities? We could be doing this on a bigger scale.’ New Orleans was the first offshoot of the New York Chapter and it really caught on like wildfire here. There are just so many people in this city that really want to give back and don’t know how to- especially bartenders. This is a service industry run city and I think a lot of people felt like me. They had a career they were good at and they thrived in but they just didn’t feel like they were doing anything positive and they wanted to contribute to their community while doing their job. That’s how the Barman’s Fund snowballed here.
LR: What’s the idea behind Barman’s Fund? How does it work?
H: Bartenders pick one shift a month to donate tips to the fund. And every bartender in town that participates pools their tips and then we select three or four different charities per month to be beneficiaries. We contact them. We ask what they need and they give us a wish list. Then we physically shop for it. We all get together one morning, have breakfast and go out and buy all those goods and deliver them. Afterwards there’s usually a whiskey fueled celebration that happens.
LR: That’s so great.
H: You know where the money is going. 100% of the tips go to helping people. There’s no question of ‘who gets the money’ or ‘where does it go’ ‘what do they use it for’. We all go out and do it with our own hands. We get to meet these people and get the hugs and see how happy people are to be receiving basic necessities. It’s very humbling.
It’s still rolling! I’ve since gotten out of the bar business and passed it off to a very good friend of mine, David ‘Catfish’ Naser. He’s crushin’ it. If you ever do a male Crescent City Crush, you definitely want to check this guy out.
LR: The future has that in store I’m fairly certain. We’re equal opportunity here at Crescent City Crush. But right now I’ve got so many ladies to get to!
What project are you most excited about right now?
H: I’d have to say at the moment it’s the farm. It’s still fresh. I spent the last several years getting the jewelry business going and I’m still working on evolving the store. That’s all very exciting still but this farm thing is like a vacation, albeit a working vacation. Whenever I have time to take a trip, I do something with nature. I go to a place like this and unwind or I go hiking or canoeing. Now when I come home from work, I’m here and I have it. I have so many projects I want to do. I’m starting a goat breeding program. I definitely want to start making goat cheese and have the farm functioning as a full bed and breakfast soon. I’m excited to get a seasonal menu going and to be to be able to cook with a garden of fresh produce that we grow and pluck right onsite. I already have an excellent chef in mind.
H: Bees are on the short list! I’m really excited about it. The farm is new to me but it’s always been at the back of my head and it’s finally here. Last year I turned 40, I’d been saving money and I knew I wanted to buy a house but I just didn’t know exactly what. Then I came out here and saw this and thought ‘this is it. This is what I need to be doing’.
LR: What women has influenced you the most? Who is your Crescent City Crush?
H: I didn’t have a lot of females role models growing up that I can say influenced me in a way that has made me grow. But a lot of my peers now and friends are crushin’ it and they constantly inspire me. They keep me going and pushing harder. Fellow small business owners Naomi Celestin (Restrung Jewelry) and Reina Solano (Shop Soul in Covington) are some big influences of mine. They balance their business, family, travel, markets and festivals and incorporate giving back into their philosophies, too. They’re doing it right. I admire them a lot.
LR: What advice would you give to an aspiring Crescent City Crush?
H: Get Shit Done. That’s my motto: GSD. I saw you write it the other day and it’s something I always said when I was director of the Barman’s Fund. Shit needed to get done and it needed to get done on time. It was hard to motivate a large group of perpetually hungover people – myself included. That’s sort of how I keep going forward. I make myself a list for the day and crank it out. GSD.
Another helpful tidbit is to act and speak like you know what you’re doing, even when you don’t. Especially when you don’t. I wish someone would have told me that a long time ago. Speak and act with passion and conviction and you’ll find people believing in you and whatever it is you’re doing.
LR: That’s solid advice right there. Fake it ’til you make it!
I’ve followed your social media accounts for a few years now and you’ve done a really great job at cultivating a brand that is yourself. This is a really valuable tool for anyone trying to make it in the freelance or self-employment world. How do you do it? Got any tips for someone trying to incorporate their self into their brand?
H: YOU are your brand. Whether people are buying your product or buying into your charity, they are essentially buying a piece of you. You are selling yourself in whatever you do. I rallied a huge fanbase when The Barman’s Fund started up here and I sincerely believe that they carried over into my shop and jewelry businesses and contributed to their success. Know your market, know your fanbase and be someone they are proud to support or represent. Having social media savvy helps, too.
LR: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
H: Oh! I’m taking steps to get my wildlife rehabbing permit. I’ve sort of traded people for animals. Not abandoned, but I spent a lot of time donating to humans and now since I’ve been on the farm I’m sort of focusing more on helping animals which has always been a passion of mine. I have a friend who is a legit licensed rehabber. I’m one of her substitutes. She’s taken me under her wing and is training me on how to do it. Once I find some free time- if that’s possible- I’ll get licensed myself and take that on too. It’s very rewarding and I really love it. ♥
Connect with Holly: