Len Collective Wants Consumers To Be Conscious About Their Purchase
Shannon Len, Owner
San Luis Obispo, CA
I was raised by a strong and creative single mother who taught my sister and I a multitude of art mediums, ranging from pottery, sculpture, painting, jewelry, candle making, weaving, you name it, we made it! We were totally that family who made ALL of our holiday gifts, a lesson I have since grown to appreciate. While I loved growing up in this area, I always had a lust for travel and left as soon I was 18. I went to a couple different universities from SF to SD, but decided my third year in that the structure of this type of learning was not for me, and I began to feel impatient to get going on what I truly wanted to pursue. I struggled with the decision, but I eventually decided to move to Kauai where I would do a 1 year sabbatical exploring my creativity, and of course never looked back. I always had a passion for learning but as a true entrepreneur through and through, I wanted to do it own my own terms, in my own way.
After settling in Hanalei, I purchased some beads and started making jewelry where I sold it at the Hanalei farmers market and various local shops. From the moment I sold my first piece, I was hooked. I couldn't believe the gratitude I felt from being able to sustain my existence off making things with my hands. From there I traveled the world for a couple years seeking inspiration, immersing myself in cultures, taking classes from other jewelers, and selling my jewelry along the way. Once I felt ready to ground down, I moved back to my home town and began the slow evolution of my business.
After years and years of craft shows, I finally opened my first studio (open to the public) in 2014. And a year later moved into a larger space next door and started to bring in makers that I felt passionate about. My shop was pretty hidden on the outskirts of town so it was truly a word of mouth spot. But it slowly caught on and in 2016 I made the plunge and moved my shop into a larger space closer to town. This was a big move, as I had just had my second daughter (she was one month old when we opened) but I just knew the time was right to expand, so we went for it! From the outside, the idea of expansion seemed ludicrous as I had no funding and no business plan but I had saved along the way, investing every dime we made off each product back into more products. And before I knew it, we filled a shop.
Fast forward two years, and we just moved our shop for the third and final time onto the Main Street of downtown SLO, doubling our square footage and finally having foot traffic and the proper exposure. While, this has all been a whirlwind and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, we finally feel settled in our forever home and I am so excited for this next chapter of Len Collective. Aside from pouring my heart into this business, my first and foremost job is being a Mother to my two daughters Pfeiffer (age 7) and Seycha (age 2) and the wife to the most supportive stay home Dad, Todd (who truly holds down our fort). We live on a 5 acre farm full of fruit trees & chickens, where my girls run wild and free. Budding entrepreneurs, they run a permanent fruit stand outside of our house that is based on karma/aka leave the money in the box.. This slow living lifestyle out on the farm is the perfect balance for me to the chaos of running a business. Of course, bringing balance to a business owner will forever be our deepest challenge. I am still working on that one but life is good!
Len Collective is a brick and mortar shop based on the collection of artisans, makers, and conscious brands we feel passionate about. While I started with primary my own jewelry I hand make out of my home studio, I have really expanded our selection to over 150 women makers from across the US. I also blended in a variety of items I have fallen in love with, from natural apothecary, a wide variety of books, natural children's toys/clothes, home goods, textiles, clogs from Sweden, and Pons shoes from Spain. We really offer a wide selection of goods but somehow they all just flow together. We try and stick with neutral colors, natural materials, and heirloom items that will last generations.
Most of our makers happen to be women, and being that we are an all-women run business (11 in total on staff), we really love working together and creating a supportive community. I went into this business without a proper business plan, but instead I have let this develop naturally & authentically, and while this style doesn't work for everyone, it has been the most beneficial way for me. Whenever I seem to try and force something or follow the standard rules, I push up against resistance. But when I follow my intuition and make decisions based on my heart, it all just seems to flow (most of the time anyway).
It was a slow evolution dating back to 2001 consisting of lots of crafts shows, road trips hustling my goods to shops, and researching/collecting ideas along the way in hopes of a future shop. The first brick and mortar was in 2014. Almost 5 years and 3 shops later, I finally feel like we have launched the business I have always dreamed of.
Being in the day and age where over consumption and thoughtless consumerism seems to be taking over our culture. I really wanted to bring the idea to our area of being conscious about your purchases. Who made it? Where is being made? Is it supporting the maker or a larger corporation? Is it exploiting workers across the world or does it support a local Mother who is feeding her children off her passion? Does it have longevity? All of these questions are important to ask ourselves when fueling this market. Through our business model, we connect with the makers, whether local or across the states and order from them, developing a lasting relationship. We host our makers in the shop for pop up events almost every weekend so our community can connect & hear the stories of these makers. This is very important for us to put a face behind a product so our customers can truly appreciate these items.
We also offer items that have a history or are meant to last a lifetime, in turn they evoke a connection with you. For example we offer little carved/hand painted wood toys from Germany that have been hand made by a family-run business for centuries. Even with their simplicity, when you touch them you can feel the passion and time poured into each piece. In turn you appreciate these toys far more than some cheap plastic crap made in China that your kids will most likely be over before they even start. With this minimalist approach, they inspire your kids to use their imagination and create their own story. We are very inspired by the Steiner Woldorf philosophy to childhood and it has inspired our shop greatly. It's all about keeping it simple and quality over quantity for us at Len Collective.
In addition, to these offerings our self care and wellness aspect of the shop has really grown in recent years. We offer a wide selection of natural apothecary, herbal tinctures, stress relieving CBD products, and inspiring books to prompt creativity, self care, spirituality, wellness, and so much more. We have had an increase of customers coming in seeking stress relief and a way to reconnect with themselves. This has really brought so much joy to this business being able to offer items that help facilitate self care (we can all surely benefit from that these days).