The Founders of Hidden Gem NY, a Home Goods Boutique, Are Bringing the Beauty of Antigua to the Hamptons
Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs-as well as their quality, handmade goods-and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Building a business as sisters was always the dream for Tanya Willock and Temidra Willock-Morsch, the owners of Hidden Gem NY—a Black-owned home goods store in Southampton, New York, that is rooted in the rich culture of their Antiguan heritage. Their respective journeys to co-founding their business, however, were drastically different. Tanya's desire to work in the home space began in high school. "It was the first time I got the go-ahead from our mom to design my room however I wanted," she explains. "That really helped show me, as an artist, how my art and vision could extend into my living space, whether that's the art on my wall, the color of my blinds—the small things that fill a space can show my personality."
For Temidra, her passion for home accessories and design came later: "I dipped my toes into textile design for the first time in high school, also, in an interior design class—but I didn't really get into home décor until later on," she says, noting that she initially associated working with textiles with fashion. "It wasn't until I got into college and was taking fashion design courses that I realized that textile design can extend beyond clothing—it can go into bedding, rugs, pillows, and drapery. Once my mind opened to, 'Oh, textiles can be anything that requires fabric,' that seemed to be where I fit in." Their separate creative paths converged in 2018, when the siblings decided to become business partners—Hidden Gem NY, a shop to celebrate all things home, was born. "With my background in fine arts (specifically photography) and Temidra's in textile design and home goods, [the boutique] really hit both of our areas of expertise—as well as our overall aesthetic as artists," Tanya says.
Keeping Family First
Tanya and Temidra's partnership—the pair officially launched the shop the following year, in spring 2019—came naturally. "Before opening the business together, we collaborated on other projects [in a business capacity] within our own art," Tanya says. "Now as the years go on, I find it really beneficial to be working so closely with Temidra. I can see how with a partner—if it's a friend or someone who isn't family—it could be really difficult, especially if you have to learn how to communicate with someone you've never had to communicate with in a business setting." Their bond has proven especially helpful, they say, since they can "gauge what the other person needs in any situation and play off of each other's strengths and weaknesses without having to figure it out." Prior to opening up Hidden Gem NY, Temidra owned a textile business, and since her company created custom rugs and pillows, the duo decided to feature these types of products in their shop. Once they were ready to launch, Tanya called on her photography skills to take stunning images of their products; they promoted them on Instagram and developed a worldwide following.
"The advice I would give is to put your relationship first," Temidra says of working with a business partner, particularly one that is family. "I think that has been huge for Tanya and me, and you don't really realize it until you're in the thick of it. We have always said that we're putting our relationship first, and if for some reason the business is too much and it's putting a strain on our relationship, then we wouldn't continue. I think when you put your relationship first, you'll do what's best for each other, and in turn, what's best for the business." They also put their heritage first: The pair explains that centering their Antiguan culture in their shop makes it come alive. Featuring bold colors and textures reminiscent of design styles in Antigua, they channel both their artistic visions and cultural roots into their homemade goods, which include custom rugs and a roster of gift-worthy pieces, like the Goldie Home x Hidden Gem Gift Set ($79, hiddengemny.com) and the Hidden Gem Resin Charcuterie Board Gift Set ($158, hiddengemnyc.com).
Curating a Space for Fellow Creatives
Not only did the sisters want to honor their childhood dream of a joint-business venture, but they also wanted to create a platform where fellow artists could showcase their home goods. "Talking to friends, we realized that we were all in the same place—we weren't able to get our stuff into different galleries or stores. That was the main thing for Tanya and me. That drove us to open the shop," Temidra shares. Pre-pandemic, the business owners traveled locally and around the world to meet artists and designers at different markets. During their scouting trips, they connected with fellow creatives and were ultimately able to feature their wares; today, you'll find the fruits of these partnerships—items like the Evil Eye Trinket Bowl ($38, hiddengemny.com) and The Kindside Hope Cards ($35, hiddengemny.com), for instance—at Hidden Gem NY. Now, creatives come to them.
Temidra adds that she and Tanya collaborate frequently with artists around the globe; they recently worked with a group of women in Kenya who created and sent them woven bags. "Once we received them, Tanya and I pulled fabric that we collected over the years through their weaving. What I like to say to our customers when I talk about this product—the Woven Culture Bag ($95, hiddengemnyc.com)—is these women pulled their heritage and their backgrounds in textiles into the weaving," she notes. "Then, we used our own techniques—that we have learned either through school or growing up in the Caribbean, around our grandma—and pulled our own heritage and stories into that bag. Now, it's a collaboration of a bunch of different women." This practice encompasses their business model: "It's a community of people who come from different backgrounds, have different stories, and have learned different techniques in their art and craft—and it's now a part of our story."
Taking Everything in Stride
To fellow entrepreneurs crafting their own businesses, Tanya and Temidra advise making the creation of the business a priority. "Don't let the planning stages take over—it's important to know when the planning phase ends and when it's time to put in the work," Temidra explains. "The sooner we started the process of our business, the sooner we got things rolling! We learned to adapt pretty quickly. The term 'fake it till you make' was definitely a part of our process." And always ensure that, like these sisters, you have a support system in place, and are open to making your business its best. "Surround yourself with lots of family, friends, and people who support you in general. Entrepreneurship can get lonely sometimes. We definitely wouldn't have made it this far without the encouragement of our supporters," Tanya adds. "Our final piece of advice would be to stay true to yourself, but be open to hearing advice and suggestions. You never know what could be applied to your situation."
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