Friends and followers, this is our very last #MississippiMonday post of the year and of course we wanted to finish out 2015 with a bang! So, today we are spotlighting the most adorable and talented power couple of Erin and Ben Napier and all their fine ambitions and accomplishments. If you need a kickstart to get in gear and ready to take on the 2016, read on for our interview with this sweet duo and soak up some of their inspiring passion and zest for their craft and their community! Cheers to creating, community, friendships and lots more of the same for the new year!
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MEET ERIN + BEN:
What exactly is ErinAndBen.co?
ErinAndBen.co is the umbrella site for our wedding invitation and identity design company — Lucky Luxe, our home goods line — Lucky Luxe Dry Goods, Ben’s reclaimed woodshop — Scotsman Co., and my daily journal that’s been going every single day since January 1, 2010, no matter how tired or grumpy I feel.
How did you all get started with each line and what was the initial inspiration to take the small business leap?
Way back in summer 2008, I was a nearly-wed working my day job doing graphic design in the art department of a huge company when an old friend reached out to me about creating custom invitations for her wedding. I made these screenprinted handkerchief save-the-dates for her and posted them on my little free blog I had started up for my freelance work called Lucky Luxe. Soon after, a wedding photographer from New York contacted me wanting them for her own wedding, so I did them, and unbeknownst to me she was apparently a very reputable photographer. When she shared them on her website a few weeks later, we got inquiries from every corner of the earth and Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. I got thrown in the pool and had to just start swimming! It was exhilarating. A few months later, after launching a website (www.lucky-luxe.com) for my fledgling invitation company and doing it for a year as a freelance side thing every night after work, Ben encouraged me to take a leap of faith and consider doing it full time. It took a ton of prayer and crying and worrying and praying and encouragement from my family to finally go for it and I turned in my 2 weeks notice in December 2009. January 1, 2010 was the first day of my self-employment and I made a resolution to begin journaling the best thing that happened every day of my life in an effort to curb my natural bent toward negativity , and I called that blog Make Something Good Today. Over the course of 5 years, I discovered that by writing about only the good moments of life I was permanently altering my outlook on life, constantly looking for the positive. O ur careers and interests kept evolving and shifting with really special opportunities on the horizon and Ben’s hobby for furniture – making becoming more of a career focus for him and we realized it was time to somehow create a website that would be like the chassis holding all those pieces together. I could never have imagined the impact launching this new online home would have for us. The response has been incredible and the readers and customers are some of the most gracious, good people in the world. We’re both over the moon thankful for how it’s all happened.
How does Mississippi play a role in your business?
Oh, it’s everything. In Mississippi, our costs for everything are lower, the cost to live, the cost of goods, the cost of labor. Our customers are all over the world, where they don’t have that luxury of low cost living so our goods are reasonably priced for them. We have our support system here in Laurel, our amazing little town that’s brimming with young entrepreneurs and creativity, we can afford our dream home because we live here. Southern hospitality is a very real thing that’s an advantage to us doing business with outsiders, too. The most common review we get is that customers appreciate our warmth and friendliness, which I can only accredit to our Mississippi upbringing.
What are your goals for your brands?
My goals are simple and probably trite: I don’t want our brands to become stale or a repeat of someone else’s. I don’t want them to become stagnant. That’s the biggest challenge too, I think, for any brand.
Where do you all find inspiration?
History is always the best muse. I’m inspired by old books, old homes, old wood, books about turn of the century font design, every person’s own weird personal history and interests are inspiring. Ben is inspired by early American furniture and 1960s auto design. In short, the new doesn’t interest us.
What do you all like to do when you aren’t creating/building?
We like sitting on patios, eating dinner under string lights with our dearest friends, talking and dreaming. We like to imagine how far we could push the envelope for our town if everyone was on board. We’re homebodies.
What’s a surprising tidbit about you your customers may not know?
Crafty is different from artistic in a hands-on sorta way and I’m not crafty at all. I also don’t have any interest in visiting tropical destinations, but I fantasize about New England and Europe. Outside of a tuxedo, Ben doesn’t own a stitch of black clothing, he can’t put in eyedrops, has never tasted alcohol, and loves The Eagles.
What are your favorite local places to shop and dine?
In Laurel, we eat downtown at Lee’s Coffee and Tea or Cafe La Fleur almost daily, and there’s no better burger joint than Phillip’s Drive-In (PDI). I shop at Southern Antiques on Central Ave. weekly, The Rusty Chandelier monthly, and The Pink Anchor when I want something new and inexpensive to wear.
What are some of the reasons you call Mississippi home?
Our family is here, our best friends live around the corner, the historic homes are abundant and affordable, the air is clean, you can see the stars at night, you can see for yourself the places where so much important art and music was born, and honestly—Mississippi is just a small town. Every one of us are connected by blood or friendship, one way or another.
How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of Mississippi?
I think it’s the responsibility of the creatives to make the general public realize how cool it is to be a Mississippian, to grow up in and come back to our small towns. If you love it, find your own way to tell the world, constantly, consistently, and sooner or later the world catches on. It’s just a matter of perception. We’ve got a secret we’re keeping close for a little while longer, but in 2016 we’ll be doing our best to show the world what a special place Mississippi is. Stay tuned!
Thanks again to Erin + Ben for taking the time to share with us and for their dedication and love for our great state! We can’t wait to see all they’ll accomplish in the New Year!
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To learn more, shop or keep up with Erin and Ben, find them in these places: