We had the good fortune of connecting with Stacee Gillelen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stacee, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
It wasn’t my intent to start a business. I went back to school pursuing social work and early childhood education when my oldest children were ages 5, 4, and 3. While attending classes, I started making jewelry as a hobby and couldn’t stop, I just loved it so much! I began selling jewelry to friends and some boutiques, and the business continued to grow and morph over time. It’s been so special to me because it brought together my love of children, teaching, and creativity.
I left my job in banking after our second daughter was born. In 2003, with three girls under the age of 6, I went back to school to study Spanish and Early Childhood Education, with the goal of becoming a social worker. It was around this time that I started making jewelry as a hobby. I remember enjoying a simple jewelry craft with my daughters. Once I learned how to attach a clasp I was hooked! I started taking beading classes and couldn’t get enough of practicing my newfound skills.
Owning a business is a roller coaster ride for sure! Going through difficult financial seasons taught me to make monetary health a priority. Stay small enough to manage well, grow slowly and thoughtfully and remain dedicated to quality in all areas – from the materials we use to our skilled staff. One of the most challenging periods was in 2012. Despite steady business, we had cash flow issues and I had to make the devastating decision to let my entire staff go. For the next three years, my teenage daughters and I taught every class and hosted every party! My amazing husband, Mark and our family really kept me going.
Of course, 2020 brought the biggest challenge yet! We were celebrating 15 years in business and had just opened a new studio space when the shelter-in-place went into effect. We quickly had to adapt our in-person parties, classes and camps into a virtual format. My number one priority was keeping our staff employed and fulfilling the needs of our customers and program partners. We’ve worked hard to make our virtual creative experiences exciting, engaging and meaningful. The feedback has been so positive, and with more and more people working remotely, we’ve really embraced this new medium.
I want people to know we are a woman-owned, family business with a diverse team of professional creatives from all over the world who love sharing their art and inspiring others to tap into their own creativity. We believe powerful connections are made within ourselves and with each other when we make something with our own hands. We are truly full service – from helping clients plan their event to sending project materials right to their door. Serving clients at the highest level is SUPER important to me. I will pick up the phone and do what it takes to make sure our customers are satisfied.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
How much time do you have?! I can’t say enough about our amazing, diverse team of artists from all over the world! Most have advanced degrees in the arts, several are fluent in more than one language like Mandarin and Spanish. They specialize in everything from watercolor painting and textiles/embroidery to jewelry making and wool felting! We offer such a wide array of mediums and projects – something to appeal to everyone, even the self-proclaimed “not crafty.” (By the way, we don’t agree. We know everyone has a creative side). Not all artists are trained to teach art to others. Our instructors are passionate about giving our clients, both adults and children, the foundational skills needed to add creativity to their daily life, and have a blast while doing it!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, if she’s my BFF she’s probably already seen the most iconic tourist spots like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and Chinatown, so I’d want her to show her my personal favorite places that make this city the best in the world!
Monday: Explore beautiful Golden Gate Park which has enough attractions to take the entire day. We’ll take in the panoramic view of the city from the DeYoung Museum rooftop observatory and then stroll the Japanese Tea Garden and the Consveratory of Flowers.
Tuesday: Walk the Mission District. First stop, brunch at Plain Jane (mimosas a must) and then shopping for treasures at the Mission’s vintage shops and independent bookstores. She’ll be treated to a free art show because this area is filled with colorful murals by local artists! Dinner is at the magical Foreign Cinema where you can watch an indie film while enjoying a California-Meditteranean meal.
Wednesday: Drive down the scenic coast on Hwy 1. First stop, Half Moon Bay, this cute coastal village has boutiques, restaurants and several beaches. We’ll warm up with a cocktail around the fire pits at La Costanera. They have incredible ocean views where you just might spot a whale! Head about 45 minutes south and arrive in the town of Pescadero. My friend will get tasty souvenirs at Harley Farms Goat Dairy like fresh honey and local cheese.
Thursday: We need to work off that cheese so we’ll do free Zumba in the Park! Next, a trolley ride to the historic Ferry Building. With a San Francisco Bay backdrop, this indoor marketplace has everything from wine to fresh bread to handmade ceramics. Lunch is out on the patio at Hog Island Oyster Company, where my bestie will eat the best clam chowder she’s ever had.
Friday: Fancy dinner near the Presidio. We’ll end an amazing visit with a culinary experience at Spruce, a Michelin-star restaurant with true farm to table cuisine.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a big Shoutout to my supportive husband, Mark who has shown up 100% of the time to cheer me on and help in any way he can – from scooping jewelry beads at big events to setting up trade show booths to breaking down the cardboard boxes from weekly shipments for recycling! My amazing four kids: Giana, Bryn, Sabine and Jake, who grew up in the business and have taught/hosted parties and classes; designed projects; cleaned studio supplies and anything else that needed to be done. They always pitched in, even if it meant sometimes missing out on fun with their friends. I’m also grateful for my team and the mentors I’ve had over the years.
Other: Etsy – https://www.etsy.com/shop/hellodragonflyfun Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/hellodragonflyfun/_created/ Company LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/dragonfly-designs_4/