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The Light Files - Jenny Morgan

Jenny Morgan

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Shop local! Laura Max chats with Jenny Morgan, founder and owner of Settlement Goods & Design in Montrose, a boutique specializing in American brands and designers.

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Laura: Hi, everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of The Light Files on thebusinessmakers.com, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. I am here today with Jenny Morgan. Jenny and her husband Gene Morgan founded where we're standing right now Settlement Goods in Montrose, the place to go for anything American-made. Jenny, welcome to the show.

Jenny: Hi. Great to be here.

Laura: I'm so excited to have you.

Jenny: Thank you.

Laura: Now this is your anniversary month. You founded settlement about two years ago?

Jenny: Well, we founded it three years ago, but we've been in this location for two.

Laura: Okay, and tell us, for those in our audience who don't know Settlement Goods, who haven't driven past on Montrose, what is it that you guys do?

Jenny: We basically showcase all of the emerging talent from all the maker centers in the state. So typically all the apparel is made in New York and Los Angeles, the factories are typically still there.

Laura: Even the hangers I've found.

Jenny: Yes, New York.

Laura: Nothing in here is made anywhere outside of America.

Jenny: That's correct. So our jewelry and apothecary items are handmade; that's all over the country. We have some even Houston local people.

Laura: Fantastic.

Jenny: So we just try to showcase like what's happening in American made and what the design trends are there, so it's not totally heritage, but we do have a mix of old and new. So it's just a nice smattering of all the best.

Laura: So it's not exactly an easy feat to start a retail venture.

Jenny: No.

Laura: No matter what the economy is. And for somebody to take it on, you obviously had your husband's help; you all went into this together. What prompted you guys to open this store in Montrose?

Jenny: Well, we were working in graphic design and we were helping all different kinds of businesses, from universities to real estate developments, kind of creative solutions for them. We would look at anything from their hardware and software and try to integrate them as efficiently as possible.

Laura: So you guys had a pretty large skill set that could help people market themselves and could help people grow their businesses.

Jenny: Exactly.

Laura: And you were really doing that on more of a freelance basis.

Jenny: Mm-hmm.

Laura: Okay.

Jenny: So we saw the successes that we were bringing to other companies and we were kicking around a lot of different ideas of what we wanted to do, and this one kind of stuck and we were like, "Hey, we do this for other people. Let's do this for ourselves." So.

Laura: I love that story, 'cause I sit - you know, I know a lot of people who sit at their desks all day; I am one of them. I think about, you know, I'm in a business that aligns with marketing as well, and there are so many skills that you learn along the way, and to apply them to your own business, I mean that's the greatest joy of all, right?

Jenny: Yeah. It's great. It's wonderful owning your own business; you get to be the boss and set the rules, but you also are working a lot, which is great when you have a passion.

Laura: Absolutely. So you were an artist-

Jenny: Yes.

Laura: I mean prior to working here. You still are an artist. You've designed a lot of what you can find in Settlement. How do you find that, you know, being an artist is translated into what you're doing today?

Jenny: Well, the store kind of functions like a gallery in a sense. We also do have local art shows from local artists here.

Laura: Yeah, there's art hanging on the walls around me. These are all Houston-based artists.

Jenny: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And we really - since I was working in galleries previously I wanted there to be less of a boundary for people, to actually know that artwork is for sale, it's something that you can buy and live with, kind of like clothing.

Laura: Right.

Jenny: So coming from the arts, I wanted to really have the store be kind of like a showcase. And it's very similar in the sense that like all of our designers are kind of like artists, we're helping them with their careers, making them aware of like feedback from the public.

Laura: They're not people that you can find in any major department store?

Jenny: Some of them are, like at Neimans or something like that, but it's a much smaller scale and much more curated. So we do try to have a mix of high and low, I guess.

Laura: So you really are a perfect example, and I love this, of someone who probably, I'm imagining, grew up really wanting to be an artist. I mean all artists do; they don't exactly have that epiphany when they're 15.

Jenny: Yeah.

Laura: It starts way younger than that. And even, you know, most of us who are artists are then later faced in our 20s with having to make a living and we can really incorporate that into what we do in our adult lives.

Jenny: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And I think, you know, as artists you get to be a problem-solver, and I just solved a problem. And that was another thing too, as we found in Houston, that there weren't a lot of places to shop that were different, that really like defined style and a more national, even global way.

Laura: You're definitely adding to the mix in that department, for sure.

Jenny: Yeah. So we wanted there - I mean we found a spot that wasn't being taken up, so we wanted to be that spot.

Laura: So I've spoken to you and your husband previous to this interview, and I remember him telling me that this is more than not just being a 9:00 to 5:00; this is a 24-hour, around-the-clock, you're coming home and-

Jenny: Pretty much.

Laura: -saying, "Oh my god, I have an idea. What if we do this?" Obviously a lot of effort goes into that. So I want to know, you know, what makes it so worth that every day and what would you say to somebody else who wants to start a venture like this in Houston?

Jenny: There's a lot of joy of like, you know, every day I come into the store and there'll be some, you know, some problem from the day before and I'm like, "Oh god, ugh." And then I get into the store and I'm like, "Aww, this is so nice," like it feels good.

Laura: This is mine, yeah.

Jenny: You know, and I think the best thing about it is working with the designers and helping them like achieve their goals and see their dreams through and watch them grow. I think my advice for someone who wanted to do someone like this, have a mentor, have someone that you can tap into and-

Laura: Someone who can guide you.

Jenny: Exactly. Like they have experience and it's something that's valuable to you and you should definitely use them, 'cause they want to help.

Laura: Mm-hmm. And they've gone through the bumps in the road before and they can help you navigate.

Jenny: Exactly. Yeah. So I think that's really important. And realize that it's going to be hard. It's going to be totally rewarding, but it's harder than you think, you know?

Laura: It's a big venture. But it seems to have really paid off for you; the store is awesome.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Laura: I'm going shopping after this interview, in case anybody else is asking themselves that. It was so great to have you on the show, Jenny.

Jenny: Thanks.

Laura: People can come find your store at 3939 Montrose Boulevard, and you're online as well at SettementGoods.com.

Jenny: That's correct. And we will be launching our online store very shortly.

Laura: Fantastic. So stay tuned for that. Everyone, I'm Laura Max. You've been chatting with me and Jenny Morgan of Settlement Goods today on 3939 Montrose Boulevard. You're watching the Light Files on thebusinessmakers.com, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. And as always, we'll see you next week. Bye, everyone.

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