Hustle Chat with Angela Wator of BASH Party Goods
Angela Wator is the owner of BASH Party Goods, a highly design-focused company. In addition to being a designer and business owner, she is also a new mom to Lady Hustler-in-training, Penny. We had the pleasure of talking to her about the success of her business, her love of design and balancing her mommy hustle with her everyday hustle.
LH: Tell us about your hustle.
AW: I own BASH Party Goods, a modern party goods company based in Chicago. I design all our products and manage all aspects of the business, such as marketing, order fulfillment, and product photography, with occasional help from some amazing women. I launched BASH a little over a year ago with the intention of primarily selling the items through our online party shop, but there was a pretty huge demand for wholesale almost immediately, and that is now the main focus of the business. In just one year we expanded our catalog substantially, and our party goods can now be found all over the world, from Melbourne and Hong Kong to Beirut and Sweden!
LH: Have you always loved design?
AW: Absolutely! My favorite childhood game was lining up all my toys in order by color or size! I haven't always been interested in the same design fields, but when you have a passion for visuals, it tends to infiltrate everything you do. A love for design can be applied to so many different careers, so I've studied and/or worked in graphic design, interior design, baking, illustration, fashion design, and visual merchandising, among others.
LH: What motivated you to take your love of design and turn it into a business?
AW: I was working as a visual merchandiser in NYC for a large corporation, and though I enjoyed my job, there wasn't much room for growth from my position. While I was trying to plan out my next career step, I happened to get in contact with a stock broker to look at investing my savings. She walked me through some options and then stated I should commit to leaving the money invested for ten years without touching it.
Something about that just sparked my imagination. I thought about how much I could grow a business in ten years, and I felt more comfortable investing in myself than handing my savings off to a stranger. I started working on a business plan that night, and three months later, I left my job and moved back to Chicago to finalize the launch of BASH!
LH: What object would you not be able to hustle without?
AW: I have a million little notebooks that I keep within arm's reach at all times. I have so many to-do lists, product ideas, or design concepts flying around in my head, and I use the books to capture even the most abstract thoughts. I rarely go back and look at what I write, but the act of jotting it down makes it stick in my mind. You'll find one tucked into every drawer, shelf, cabinet, or pocket in my apartment, and most pages read like "Cobalt is hot. $7.62 x 2! Order foam. Lemons?" Pure gibberish!
LH: What's your favorite kind of party to attend?
AW: You'd never know it from looking at my party goods, but if all parties were 1920's theme parties, I'd be a happy gal. I can pull together a solid twenties costume in a matter of minutes.
LH: What's your favorite kind of party to throw?
AW: I throw an annual and kind-of-formal holiday party, and I love transforming my apartment into a cozy, magical wonderland. The theme is always different. One year I made my place into a ski lodge, another year I covered every inch of the apartment in white lights, and for my favorite one, I made my home into a wintry forest (complete with tons of real trees and snowy ground covering).
LH: How has becoming a mother changed the way you hustle?
AW: I found out I was pregnant right after giving notice at my corporate job, so the pregnancy was quite a surprise, and I had no idea what to expect. It turns out caring for a baby takes an insane amount of time (who knew, right?)! My daughter is nine months old now and I still have a really hard time with critical or creative thought while she's awake. My day-to-day business tasks are manageable, but I save certain daily tasks for after she goes to bed, such as detailed design work and completing financial reports. Fortunately, I love what I do so I don't mind working around the clock...but man, I could use a few days off!
LH: What is the best risk you've ever taken?
AW: Walking away from a comfortable, secure job that I loved to start a business I knew very little about was terrifying, but I knew I couldn't start the company as a side job and obtain the level of growth I was aiming for. When I sent a wire transfer to pay for my entire opening tableware range, I was certain I was going to throw up from anxiety in the bank lobby. Instead of investing in the stock market or property, I was investing my life savings in...paper plates. It sounded crazy.
LH: What's the best lesson you ever learned from making a mistake?
AW: Mistakes aren't so bad! The fear of making a mistake has caused me more misery than actual mistakes ever have.
LH: Favorite color combo?
AW: Ooh, it changes all the time! I love awkward combinations - colors that are really jarring together but somehow just work. Cobalt and the palest pink, chartreuse and cotton candy pink, olive and lavender. Most of my designs pair pastels with bold black and white prints, which is always a favorite of mine.
LH: Who is a Lady Hustler you look up to?
AW: My mother is the ultimate Lady Hustler. She owns an accounting firm and works harder than anyone I've ever met in my life, but she truly loves what she does. I was fortunate to grow up with such a great role model, and from a young age, I knew I'd much rather work an eighty hour week doing something I loved than a forty hour week at a job I felt dispassionate about.
LH: Where do you draw strength from?
AW: My partner, Jeramy, has this sort of acute emotional awareness that makes it easy to get through hard days. When you're running your own business, particularly in a creative field, self-doubt can be a serious obstacle to decision making. He can tell when I'm struggling with conflicts like that, and instead of giving me an answer or affirming that I'm doing the right thing, he helps me just relax and reset so I can think clearly. He works crazy hours as well, so we find balance in each other.
LH: Favorite Chicago food spot?
AW: All the food spots! Osteria Lange when I'm feeling fancy, Longman and Eagle or Maude's Liquor Bar when I feel like sharing, and any of the amazing Mexican restaurants in the city for all other times.
LH: Guilty pleasure?
AW: Every Saturday night for the last three years, I smoke a cigar on my back porch and listen to The Jonathan Schwartz Show on WNYC. I've passed up hundreds of parties, dinner plans, and bar outings to carry on this nerdy tradition, but I look forward to it all week!
LH: Any advice for other Lady Hustlers?
AW: Don't live your life afraid of risk and failure! If you don't like the way things are going, it's usually worth it to change direction and start something new, even if the route is more difficult.
Also, try to avoid having a baby in the same year you launch a new business unless you know for a fact that you never want to sleep again.