For Lily Ashwell, daughter of Shabby Chic Founder Rachel Ashwell, running a business has always been seen as a labor of love. Her mother’s brand was born out of a creative passion—turning timeless treasures into beautiful, comfortable, and functional home decor—and has endured by staying true to its core values.
Now, Lily’s eponymous clothing line embodies this same heart and soul, creating pieces inspired by personal vintage finds and producing them with loving details. Here, she shares lessons learned from opening a brick and mortar corner store, and 7 things her mother taught her about running a successful—and meaningful—business.
Make a plan
Organizing and budgeting my personal life has never been my biggest strength. But from day one of starting my own business, my mum has mentored me on mapping out a budget, my goals, and then a plan. While no one has a crystal ball, and unforeseen problems always pop up, I have learned there is satisfaction in structuring a business, and it’s rewarding when things go according to plan.
…But don’t be afraid to compromise (without losing soul and values)
Immediately following college graduation, I was determined to execute my visions in a very precise way. But over time, I have learned that sometimes compromises need to be made, for various reasons. Sometimes it’s to create a product with a realistic price point, or sometimes it’s due to limitations in production. Usually with some extra thought and attention, I am able to make the compromises while still keeping my products special and in line with the heart and soul of my company.
Keep a balance
I have watched my mum work hard my whole life, in part because her business is a labor of love, but also because owning a business can be downright hard. Sometimes it feels like I’m spending my entire day tangled in the weeds of the business. My mum reminds me that the reason I started on this path was due to my creative passions, and while the operations of running a business are important, I must always carve out enough time to work on the creative side as well.
Follow the beat of your own drum
My mum always said she was never interested in the furniture business—even though she was a furniture designer. I never understood this fact until starting my own company. While I’m a clothing designer, I’m likely never to be seen at the front row of a fashion show. My mum showed me that it’s OK to have your own vision and approach to your work; it doesn’t have to be in line with what everyone else in the industry is doing.
It takes a village
Growing up, I remember my mum inviting her whole company to the house for a holiday dinner. She has always called her company the “Shabby Family” and has always emphasized how important every member is to the family. It was important for her to show them how she appreciated them. As I build my own little village, I hope I always make them feel important and valued.
Live your brand
No doubt about it—I grew up in a shabby chic house. My mum lives her brand’s story, and it is authentic. This has certainly inspired me to stay true to designing products that I love and that are unique in the market. I don’t study trends because I like to think my pieces are timeless from a standpoint of aesthetics and quality—and that’s because they come from the heart. I know this is a core value of my mum’s, and one that she taught me early on.
Cultivate your creativity
Although my mum has been in the commercial world, she considers herself an artist first, so keeping herself inspired is vital. I do whatever I can to cultivate my creativity. Nature is a good source for me, as well as interacting hands-on with artisans. I love to see their process, often labour intensive, to produce something mindful and meaningful. Their passion inspires me to do the same with my work.