Moorea Seal is not only the owner of a successful boutique, she’s a talented jewelry designer, has her own line of office accessories, and is a best-selling author. She literally squeezed this interview in between writing and art directing her fourth book — due out next year. One look at her Pinterest boards or Instagram account will have you wanting to redesign every space in your home, and shop for a whole new wardrobe.
With three inspirational books already on shelves (you know they’re amazing when Oprah hand-picks them for her website) and a brand new flagship in downtown Seattle that showcases handmade designers and donates a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits, Moorea really is living her motto “do good, do great.” Here Moorea shares how she got her start, what inspires her, and her vision for the future of her brand.
Name: Moorea Seal, CEO and Creative Director of Moorea Seal
Location: Seattle, WA
Education: BA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Illustration
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
I graduated in 2009 right at the height of the effects of the recession and believe me, it was a really hard time to be entering the working world, especially as someone with a degree in Art. But what studying art taught me was to create something out of nothing, to be innovative even when resources are scarce. I nannied for two families right after college to make sure I could financially sustain myself.
Then I started an Etsy shop to challenge myself to come up with a creative way to make a living, I tried selling illustrated cards at first but those didn’t do well. I also started working as an artist’s assistant to a sculptor here in Seattle which paid little, but was truly enriching artistically. It inspired me to try making jewelry, imagining it as small-scale sculptures. And from there I started selling jewelry on Etsy and my little brand grew and grew. I also started a blog in 2009 as a way to express myself through writing, to challenge myself to make art and share it, and to find community across the world.
By 2010, I started doing freelance illustrated portraits for bloggers, graphic design, blog design (I taught myself some basic coding), and started doing design work for musicians. I didn’t have one job right out of college. More like six! And I didn’t have the opportunity to land anything well-paying or notable. But I hustled hard and got by while trying a lot of different things and making the most out of the time that I had.
Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in Seattle?
I grew up in rural England in a village of 400 people, then when I was 8 we moved to a town of 2000 people in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California, called Nevada City. I ended up moving to Seattle for college after having a rather traumatic first year of college in Southern California. I loved how Seattle felt like a little big city with nature all around. But these days it’s getting pretty cramped inside the city. Might be a reason to move back to the UK someday!
You have a massive Pinterest following, how did this happen and how has Pinterest played a part in your business?
It honestly was a bit of a surprise! Around 2011, I was working as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and blog designer. I found Pinterest when it was in Beta and thought it would be a great way to create inspiration boards for my clients. Once I’d been using it for a little while as a tool for my clients, I realized it was a great way to create inspiration boards just for myself. I have always been someone who loves documenting, collecting, journaling, and creating pages of art books filled with cutouts of things I love. Pinterest felt like a digital space for me to collect in the same way that I did on paper.
It wasn’t until someone asked me how many followers I had on Pinterest about 6 months later that I realized, omg, I had 250,000. And since then, it has grown to 950,000! It was because of Pinterest that I decided to partner with my current business partners and start mooreaseal.com, creating a website that clearly reflected the creative vision of my Pinterest boards. It felt really organic to create a store that curated goods the same way that I was intuitively pinning on Pinterest. Pinterest continues to be one of our biggest traffic drivers.
You’ve now written three amazing books; would you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind each one and how the ideas for them came about?
These books are my heart!
The 52 Lists Project started out as a project on my blog in 2013. I am very open about having depression, anxiety, and trauma, and I knew that if I struggled with these things, so many more people must be dealing with the same hardships — quietly or loudly. I wanted to create a resource for myself and others to help stay centered in the moment, expressing our thoughts and feelings in concise and easy ways through list making. The lists also create opportunity for all of us to discover hidden wisdom and insight as to who we are and what we need. This book is all about guided self-discovery. And in 2015, I had the chance to turn it into a book thanks to Sasquatch Publishing House here in Seattle discovering my blog and liking my writing voice!
52 Lists for Happiness was inspired by my realization that no level of success was ever going to create long-lasting happiness, that happiness has to be found within the person I already am and that I invest in daily. When my first book did SO well straight away, getting picked up in Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Barnes and Noble, and over 400 stores worldwide, it just made me realize that though the success was amazing and so exciting, it was a moment in time to savor, rather than something that defines me as a person and my value. Happiness comes from within, and every person on earth deserves the gift of happiness and love. This book is all about creating a practice of happiness and learning the ins and outs of what truly brings you joy.
Make Yourself at Home came to be because home is an enormously important thing to me, a source of comfort and joy, a place worth investing in many ways. I have moved almost every year, sometimes a few times a year, for the last 13 years. Each time I move, when I first land in a new space, I have a hard time feeling like myself when I don’t see myself in my surroundings. The visuals and tactile elements of home have such a huge impact on our emotional well-being and that is the focus that I explored through this book, providing resources for readers to explore what truly makes them feel at home within their spaces and within themselves.
What do you think sets you apart from other shops? Where do you get your inspiration?
Something that we often see in the landscape of stores with a gorgeous curation of unique objects and clothing is a very austere and sort of standoffish attitude, as if the store and the products themselves are so beautiful that they are extremely exclusive. The goal with our store has always been to challenge that false concept, that the most beautiful objects are only for a select group of people. We have always sought to offer a space of inclusivity, positivity, and warmth while also sharing goods that offer a unique perspective and design, and most especially celebrating designers whose works are made within the U.S.
We’re mega-inspired by whatever is happening in culture and each season, from politics to social change, we love discovering and stocking products that provide joy and a source of self-expression. I’m always on the hunt for new designers and new artistry within the world of fashion and design. And jewelry is really where our specialty resides. We started our online store focused on jewelry and it has grown with clothing, home decor, and gifts since then and of course, into a beautiful storefront in Seattle as well! Jewelry and a desire to share a positive space and message is really where we gain the most inspiration.
You host a lot of events in your store, why do you do this? What have been some of your favorites?
With that desire to be a space of inclusivity, a source for cultivating and fostering community and celebrating new perspectives in design and voices, I think that set us up from the very beginning to be a great host for events! We have a few reoccurring events: Happy Hours every Friday from 5-6:30 in our storefront. Free champagne and a gift with every purchase! We often have tarot readings, astrology readings, and even free nail art events with Juniper Nails. We also love hosting events that really meet us in each season. Wreath Making in the winter time, for example. We can’t wait for more events for the year to come.
Who is on your Moorea Seal team? What’s your team structure?
We started our company back in 2013 with just me, my cousin Reed, who has a background in marketing and sales, and one of my dearest friends Jenette who has a background in retail operations and psychology. My background is in art, music, writing, and social media marketing. From there, Tram and Jessie quickly joined our operations team, first as interns, and today they are truly part of the core who have helped build this company. Since we have an online retail site, a wholesale jewelry line, and paper and desktop line plus a storefront, we have different teams for different areas of the company.
We have amazing leaders in our storefront, our store manager Crystal and Reina, our assistant manager. They manage 3-5 sales team members at a time, depending on the season, as well as coordinate everything that happens within our storefront, from day to day operations to workshops and events.
When did you hire your first employee? How many do you have currently?
I worked for myself for quite a few years running my own business on Etsy and through my blog from 2010-2013. And when my Pinterest following grew to almost a million followers, I decided it was time to expand and build something bigger off of the business I had started on my own. That was when I decided to partner with Reed and Jenette. I knew I needed to work side by side with people who had skills I lacked so that we, as a unit, could really work optimally with our unique skill sets to build something amazing.
Tram was the first person we hired not too long after Reed and Jenette and I started the company. She started out as an intern but now she’s our operations lead and does so much that is core to our company. She’s also the first person on our team to have kids! And we are obsessed with her beautiful little family.
At this point, we have a total of 13 people on our staff. And our goal for now when it comes to staffing is to keep it as small as possible for as long as well can, to keep that community tight. We really love seeing the people who are on our staff grow within our company. And my hope is that most of the people with us today can keep growing with us as the years continue. We just really love our team!
What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of in your career?
The fact that my business is still alive and kicking is a huge gift I cherish. Being a small business owner is HARD WORK, and anyone in small business would tell you the same. 70% of small businesses close after three years! So, the fact that we are still growing four years into our online site and storefront, I can only be thankful to all our customers and our staff that keep us going.
Getting to write my books and then seeing how deeply they have impacted so many people really is what I personally take the most pride in and where I find the most inspiration and joy. It means so much to me that words I have written have helped someone else pursue their truest self. With all my books, The 52 Lists Project, 52 Lists for Happiness, and Make Yourself at Home, I just wanted to create tools that anyone could use to deepen their self-understanding, self-acceptance, compassion, and love. And I’m so grateful I have the opportunity to keep writing more books with that same intention and hope.
What are some of your hopes and dreams for the future?
For my business: This year I want to keep on track with all the ways we’ve invested in our business and then get everything we’re doing to its highest potential. I’d like to see it sustain itself with less of a reliance on me as a face of a business. I’d also like to create new passive forms of income for the biz so everyone is less stretched in their tasks. And far into the future, I would love to just see my business become ever more sustainable for itself and for my staff. A healthy happy business all around. Oh, and write books for the rest of my life! I’m working on one right now, that’s four in four years!
For my personal life: Keep investing in my new routines. Find new ways to have routines of fun! Travel less frequently for work, and more for pleasure. Meditate on being in the present always. Someday either be a parent or a foster parent or a mentor for kids. Move back to the UK.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
You don’t need to prove anything to anyone and you don’t have to overachieve to be loved. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always felt like it is my duty to be responsible for others and to lead even when it stressed me out. I’d take on burdens that were not mine to carry.
A few years ago, I used to say I wanted to be the next Oprah or Ellen because I love how they give back to people and help people feel uplifted through their work. Now, I understand that at my core, I am a nurturer, and very tender spirited and it’s the admiration of loving others that draws me to Ellen and Oprah. With that self-understanding, I now also know I really do NOT want fame or glamour, or any of the pressures and stresses that Oprah and Ellen must experience with their huge presence in media. I don’t want that stuff.
I want my work to speak for itself without me having to be front and center. But what I DO want is to nurture others in my own small ways, through my books especially, by creating sources of comfort and supporting self-care. The last 10 years have taught me a lot in valuing the little things, the sweetness and tender moments of life. I’m a sensitive spirit, and I want 23 year old me to know that is a great thing to be. It’s not a weakness, it’s a gift.
Moorea Seal is the Everygirl…
Favorite city to visit?
Edinburgh, Scotland or my home village in rural England. I moved to the U.S. when I was 8, I hope to move back to the UK someday! Maybe retirement.
Last item you splurged on?
I just bought this single 14k gold and pearl earring from my store and I’m in LOVE. I love wearing a mixture of unique small studs right now.
Favorite way to unwind?
Watching British game shows on YouTube with my husband and dog snuggled up on the couch. Playing video games with one of my best friends. Karaoke with my crew.
Favorite treat yourself treat?
I’m a cookie fiend. Chocolate chip cookie lover for life. Even better if there’s a dash of salt on top and walnuts, oatmeal, and coconut mixed in.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
I would have loved to have met Joni Mitchell in the 60s as her musical and artistic career was still forming. She was the reason I started playing guitar and writing music when I was 15. And her vulnerability through songwriting helped me so much through the angsty years of teenagedom and the stresses of my 20s.