Let’s start with the one-liner – what is your company? What do you sell?
Ashara Shapiro: ARecherche
ARecherche is a design firm specializing in wearable art.
Tell us your origin story.
Ashara Shapiro: I focus on empowerment and design artistry in my work. As an advocate of historical symbolism in current society, I breathe new life into reclaimed pieces and create storied wearable art that has gone through an evolution using the tools of yesteryear.
Every piece is thoughtful and unique and speaks to the person who will cherish them for years to come. My custom work is personalized through design meetings, where I create concepts that speak to the clients’ memories, joys, and loves, and sketches the concept that will become the art. I always speak of the design meetings as my favorite part, besides the presentation of the completed work. It is then that I visualize the finished product and see how it can come to be a reality.
Did you need a lot of capital to start your business? How did you finance your business in the beginning?
Ashara Shapiro: A bit at a time. Sourcing pre-industrial tools and items to salvage in my work was a labor of love that has been in the works for the last 4 years.
Was this an area for which you had passion before you started the business, or did you see a need and move to serve it?
Ashara Shapiro: I have always been a creative and dabbled in many art forms and still do to this day. Currently, I have a book in the works, creating for ARecherche and my clients, painting in my free time, and trying many new mediums to improve and help me showcase my voice in my work. I am always trying, learning, and moving forward. I saw a need to help individuals have a voice. I can accomplish this through my design meetings and custom work. My clients want to stand out and show who they are on the inside by the image of themselves they present on the outside.
How has the business evolved over time?
Ashara Shapiro: The concept was born out of a previous endeavor of designing lighting and furniture pieces. I had that business for several years and branched out on my own in a more driven and dedicated way toward individual expression.
How did you grow? Tell us about a moment, or moments, in the early days that were “big moments” for the business. What moved the needle substantially?
Ashara Shapiro: I am still growing.
Every successful small business owner has to navigate the world of expansion. And choosing how to expand is just as important as choosing how NOT to expand. Tell us about forks in the road on your journey.
Ashara Shapiro: I have flirted with a retail location with an in-house workshop. I still may move towards that when the time is right.
As you’ve grown, you’ve undoubtedly had to delegate. How did you tackle that challenge?
Ashara Shapiro: I have not delegated. It is only me.
Do you/did you have a co-founder or did you go at it alone? Tell us about that decision, and how that affected you as a leader.
Ashara Shapiro: I went from a team to being solo. I am a quiet worker, meaning I get lost in the process. In that space, I am hyper-focused and do not have room for another. I share my space with another creative whom I can bounce ideas off and that has proven helpful.
Have you ever considered taking on additional partners, venture funding, or bank money to grow the company, or have you always bootstrapped?
Ashara Shapiro: I am always open to opportunities. I struggle with growth as a viable concept. I have thought many times about it in different ways.
Tell us about some of your sacrifices along your small business journey.
Ashara Shapiro: Working for yourself has a lot of sacrifices. I am a mother of two small children, so they always come first. I have to be very focused when I get the time in my workshop because every minute counts. I have to work smart all the time.
What is the most gratifying thing about what you do?
Ashara Shapiro: My absolute favorite moment is presenting the finished piece to my clients. I have seen many emotional responses to my work and some silent tears. These moments feel like a collective gift. I have been successful in empowering them and putting their spirit into the piece they will wear and cherish. That moment will always be my why.
Who is a leader or someone that you admire? Why?
Ashara Shapiro: Frida Kahlo, Mary Oliver, and Audrey Hepburn. All these women are incredibly talented and walked their own paths. It was difficult; they had arduous lives, but they did not conform. They also gave back.
What is a secret weapon that you have that would surprise people?
Ashara Shapiro: I can visualize what I will make my client in the design meeting. I can get a very clear sense of who I am speaking with and what they need to empower them through the conversation and the feeling I get from being with them. I believe there is a spiritual nature of my work. I also do not design with what I know. I design with no limitations. If I have not done it before, I do not shy away. I figure out how to make it come to life. I am not afraid of challenges.
If for this business, what would you be doing as a career right now?
Ashara Shapiro: This.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ashara Shapiro: I see myself in a boutique location with an in house workshop where I design, create, and sell. I see a very powerful space where my clients can spend time, discuss the world, and be part of a think tank of empowering minds. I hope to foster a place people will come back to. A place they will send their friends and families. I see a hub for women thinkers.
Finish this sentence: “I would not be standing here today if not for ____”
Ashara Shapiro: My ability to rise from the ashes and rebuild. Every day is a new opportunity to be a better person than I was yesterday. I take that very seriously.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give your 18-year-old self?
Ashara Shapiro: You are stronger than you think.