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On Wine, Circe, Sunscreen, and Smiirl: A Casual Interview with CE Founder, Torie Tilley

On Wine, Circe, Sunscreen, and Smiirl: A Casual Interview with CE Founder, Torie Tilley

Sara Long:

Torie hey! How’s the new office space?

Torie Tilley:

HEY!! You beat me to it. I’m usually so punctual too. The office space is... empty. I didn’t go in today because there were thunderstorms in NYC and I’m generally too lazy to use an umbrella. How are you?

SL:

It probably just needs a rug and a few plants!! I’m doing just fine, thanks. We’ve had thunderstorms all week here in KC and I’m just staying inside. What’s an umbrella? 🤔

TT:

You’re from Seattle, right? So of course you’re an umbrella truther. The first piece of advice I got when I moved there from Sydney was to never use an umbrella because I would look like a tourist. I managed to live there for two years without owning one!

SL:

That’s right! Whoever told you that was clearly looking out for your best interests. I’m sure NYC has a different attitude. Does this make you miss the weather in Sydney?

TT:

Ahh yes and no. Sydney is a beautiful city and my favorite place in the world, but it’s really hot in summer. I love it the rest of the year though. There’s a fragrance that hits you the minute you walk out of Sydney airport - it smells like jasmine and sea salt and that always feels like home to me.

NYC is amazing, but we moved here only a few months before the pandemic hit, so I haven’t really had the chance to enjoy it!

SL:

Oh that’s right, awful timing and no end in sight. How did the pandemic change things in regards to Common Era? Were you working from home the whole time?

TT:

It didn’t change that much for me, because I was already working from home. The main thing that changed was that suddenly my husband was also working from home and he’s very chatty, which is why I just leased some new office space. I’m a big introvert so I really need that energy I get from alone time.

SL:

I hear you. I love WFH, and my boyfriend does too, but we need to be on opposite ends of the apartment to get anything done. And it does get hard keeping work separate from the rest of my life. I imagine you’re working around the clock, how do you put work away when it’s time to unwind?

TT:

I totally agree, it’s so hard to switch off. When I started CE, I was working 7 days a week, and I continued to do that until about a month ago. One of the big things I wanted to do with CE was build it almost like a tech company (but like a not-evil one) in that it’s really modular and efficiently run. This keeps our prices low and it also distributes work really evenly. It was painful and it took a very long time to set up, but now I have so much automated that I can really focus on the things I enjoy and am good at, like design and marketing. That means I finally have my weekends back, and I refuse to look at emails after 6pm Friday until 8am Monday!

Also... wine! I think that when you’re stuck in a little NYC apartment 24/7, it becomes even harder to delineate work and leisure time, so I open a bottle of wine at the start of the week and have a glass whenever I finish work for the day, even if it’s at 10pm, because I’m trying to Pavlov my brain into knowing that wine = no more work.

SL:

Brilliant. I’m taking notes. You mentioned you prefer to focus on design, what’s your creative process look like? Do you have any advice on nurturing creativity?

TT:

I’ve always been in creative marketing roles, but jewelry design is so different because it’s technical too. I started out by reading a lot of books about that technical side, and then just diving into history and museums for inspiration.

I think one of the best things to do when you’re stuck creatively is to just walk away. I get stuck often and I know that if I dig my heels in and keep trying, my work just gets worse. Now I just say “okay, I am not in the right headspace for this right now,” and drop it to go work on something else. Usually, a new idea or a solution to a problem will just come to me when I’m walking my dog a week later.

SL:

And how is Otto?? He’s so precious.

TT:

He’s sad today because it’s raining and he can’t go for a big walk because he’s afraid of water 😂

SL:

He can go find a sock to eat. That should cheer him up.

TT:

Dude that little monster has eaten and pooped out so many socks. There’s nothing he loves more.

SL:

Omg no!! Good thing he’s so cute. I forgive him.

TT:

He gets away with everything because he’s so adorable.

SL:

I’ve actually been dying to ask, I know Medusa is your current favorite, but have you ever taken the goddess quiz on the CE website?

TT:

I have!! I’m Circe.

“You value alone time and vehemently disagree with John Donne's quote, ‘no man is an island.’ You don't need anyone else to make you feel good - you're perfectly capable of that yourself, thank you very much.”

Yep, the first half anyway. I definitely lean on my friends and family to make me feel good! What did you get??

SL:

I got Circe too. Coincidence??

TT:

Are you also a person who likes to stay home alone eating takeout and yelling at stupid people on TV?

SL:

All day, every day, for the rest of my life, yes.

TT:

Best trashy tv show?

SL:

Don’t shame me for this, my guilty pleasure is Supernatural. The first season has spooky intrigue but it’s all downhill from there.

TT:

I would never shame anyone for anything! I love Stargate SG-1 which is probably more embarrassing.

SL:

Love that for you!! I’ll have to give it a try! This comes at a good time because I just finished watching the Office for the fourth (?) time and I desperately need something new.

TT:

I never tire of the Office. It’s like my feel good background show when I’m sick in bed and still working. Ben and I have a sort of Jim and Pam story so I love that too.

SL:

So, I have a personal question for you.

TT:

Shoot.

SL:

Inquiring minds want to know if you would drop your skincare routine?

TT:

Wait really? I have terrible hormonal acne. But I do take good care of the rest of my skin.

Number 1: sunscreen. Always physical sunscreen, not chemical!! So zinc only.

SL:

Save your skin and the coral reefs!!

TT:

Number 2: tretinoin prescription—I used Curology for ages but now I just use Altreno. And 3: IPL facials. I’ve had three or four over the last few years. Oh, and take lots of fish oil too!

SL:

I’ve been putting off my derm appointment and my skin has been SO unhappy with me. I think I have to finally go and get that tret prescription. 

One last question: it’s quite a leap from marketing to starting your own business. How do you keep moving forward despite the uncertainty of it all?

TT:

I think the key thing that I’ve learned is tenacity and self confidence. When I started CE I suffered from hideous anxiety attacks for months, to the point where I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was so sure I had thrown away my entire life savings chasing a silly dream. But a couple of close friends and my husband really encouraged me and kept me going.

Last Christmas, my husband bought me this beautiful old-school counter thing called a Smiirl that connects via API and counts sales, and when he gave it to me I’d had about four sales in a whole month. It was the sweetest gift I’ve ever received because it showed how much he really believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. So corny, right? But when I didn’t want to keep going and I was starting to look for new jobs because I couldn’t make rent, I just kept staring at that counter and remembering that he thought I could do it. Slowly those sales numbers grew and CE now has thousands of happy customers. Seeing that all my hard work was paying off helped me find the self confidence I was lacking. That helped propel me forward and also find faith in myself.

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