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Spotlight on Kara Whitten, Owner of Kailo Chic

Spotlight on Kara Whitten, Owner of Kailo Chic

Meet Kara Whitten, Owner + Creative Director of Kailo Chic. Kailo Chic is a lifestyle and gift brand specializing in bright colors and bold prints. We had the pleasure of working with Kara during Austin’s SXSW Festival. Austin is filled with over 500,000 visitors walking the streets, taking in everything that is SXSW. To give us a festive boost, Kara created a gorgeous balloon installation at the Katie Kime Cottage.

What started as just a hobby while in search of a job, eventually transformed into what is Kailo Chic today. Meet Kara Whitten, founder of Kailo Chic. A University of Texas alum who decided the path of Chemical Engineering was not for her, turned down the road of bold colors and signature patterns. Beginning with handbags, she has grown to design and sell almost anything from phone cases and throw pillows, to tumblers and wrapping paper. But design isn’t Kara’s only interest, her unique skill of balloon installment is definitely something extraordinary.

Here are some other balloon installations that Kara created in Austin. Such a fun pop of color!

Kara has generously provided a “How To” for your own balloon installation on her website.

Great for parties or holiday’s.  We encourage you to visit the Kailo Chic site for creative inspiration and to contact Kara.

Bell and Bird – Pink Enamel and Emerald Custom Ring

Bell and Bird – Pink Enamel and Emerald Custom Ring

Bell & Bird specializes in curated 18th and 19th Century Jewels, as well as, Custom Jewelry.
Husband and wife owners, Cyrus and Rhianna Shennum enjoy the hunt for the lovely and the uncommon jewels that are hundreds of years old. Their evolving collection is carefully curated to be authentically antique while still referencing modern fashion.
When it comes to custom jewelry, like this Pink Enamel and Emerald Diamond Ring, the custom jewelry process is collaborative. It begins with a watercolor design or pencil sketch. And then through dedicated, classical jewelry techniques, mixed with modern methods, custom pieces are made to perfection for the intended wearer.

Visit Bell & Bird during store hours, though appointments are recommended.

Bell & Bird are located @ 26 Doors Shopping Center in Austin, Texas
1206 West 38th St. # 1102 • Austin, TX 78705


Coaches, Clergy and Counselors: Their Invaluable Role

Coaches, Clergy and Counselors: Their Invaluable Role

Since a young age I’ve held what I believe is an innate desire to always be better – whatever the topic may be. A better student or athlete when I was younger, a better artist and thinker once I got to college. Today a better wife, CEO, mother, designer, on and on the list goes. This, as my team and family can tell you, can be one of the tougher aspects of my personality and knowing when I suffer because of it rather than am served by it is an important distinction I’m working on. But on the positive side is a belief inside of me that my own potential and the potential of all humans has hardly been tapped into and that there is more to us and our capabilities than we know. A large part of exploring my own personal development and growth over the past few years has been the role of coaches, clergy and counselors in my life. In some ways they’re different from one another and in many ways they’re the same. Ultimately they have become outside voices that can see things  as objective viewers that I cannot. They are simultaneously both my fiercest challengers and greatest encouragers. Last week in Scotland, as I visited a favorite coach turned dear friend, I began trying to summarize what it really is that these seers are and do and why this type of development will forever be a part of my personal and professional life. I think they can best be summed up in these three ways, among others.

  1. Learn a different way of seeing. Be it a coach helping me as founder and entrepreneur, a pastor speaking to me in a time of need, or a counselor helping me process this crazy thing called life, there is one common thread that runs deeply through them all and that is that there is always more going on than what meets the eye.  We see in three dimensions and yet physicists today believe there are at least ten dimensions in the universe. If that is true it means there are more than double the dimensions that we can’t see to those that we can. And so I believe is the case with our own unique complexities as well as those interpersonally at work with our partners, families, co-workers and even the natural world around us. We are unbelievably complex, beautiful, flawed, intricate people. From the unique information stored in our DNA to the memories stored in our nervous system, from our family and cultural upbringings to the one thing we all share – mortality – there is always more going on in us and those around us than we are generally attuned to seeing. I believe we are simply too complex and there is too much mystery in the universe for us to ever fully see but I know from my own experience that we can learn new ways of seeing more than we currently are. This practically for me has translated into a higher threshold for ambiguity, conflict, and challenge be it personally or professionally. A seemingly impossible situation when observed from a different angle or dimension becomes possible. An unfavorable event can be later found to be a gift. A personality flaw in someone else can show its strength when viewed through the right lens. Ultimately the worst of life becomes more tolerable and the best of it becomes infinitely more beautiful and exciting as we learn to see more than what can be seen. With a different view the crazy-making people become a little more lovable and so do I.

Above: Last year’s European trip for a training called Cathexis

2.   Above all else, keep yourself. There is song that Trent Reznor wrote that Johnny Cash is best known for called Hurt. After painful verses of regret the song ends with this line: “If I could start again a million miles away, I would keep myself. I would find a way.” It’s beautiful summary of another aspect of the role of coaches, clergy and counselors in my life. And even more than a “good” thing it is an empowering thing. It is the belief that no matter what circumstances may befall us, no matter what the person next to us chooses to do or be, we have our own choices, our own paths, our own right, even duty to remain true to who we are even in the face of unimaginable opposition. The best example of this came from a coach of mine in some of the most difficult circumstances of my life. Betrayed and rejected by very close family and friends in one of my greatest times of need, this stunning email was sent to me:

Forgiveness and the Concentration Camp

 Taken from the inner walls of one of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany at the end of the Second World War, this prayer was scratched by an unknown hand:

“O Lord, when I shall come with glory into your kingdom, do not remember only the men of good will; remember also the men of evil. May they be remembered not only for their acts of cruelty in this camp, the evil they have done to us prisoners, but balance against their cruelty the fruits we have reaped under the stress and in the pain; the comradeship, the courage, the greatness of heart, the humility and patience which have been born in us and become part of our lives, because we have suffered at their hands.

May the memory of us not be a nightmare to them when they stand in judgment. May all that we have suffered be acceptable to you as a ransom for them.”

First let me say that comparing my or any “normal” suffering to a concentration camp is not at all the point or intended. The message was much more important than that. It was an invitation to keep myself no matter what was going on around me. And not only that, be better because of it and then be grateful because of that bettering. A different way of seeing things, being enlarged instead of diminished and then on top of that the concept of compassion and grace, even gratitude for the suffering. Life changing ideas I could have never surmised on my own. The invaluable gift of keeping myself no matter what.

3.   Let passion be a roadmap. As westerners words like progress and puritan work ethic, goals and discipline and success aren’t just ideas for us they’re basically a code imbedded in every aspect of our daily lives. And they’re not bad. They can be amazing qualities for a person and a society. But somewhere along the way it seems they became somewhat mutually exclusive with words like desire, passion, want, love… This can result in a distrust of our desires. Through coaching and mentorship I’ve come to find this to not only be untrue but often the result of us missing the most important clues for finding and living the life we most deeply want. It is not to say that life is only about wants and desires. And as we all know, often the things we desire most require the most discipline, sacrifice, and change (marriage, motherhood, entrepreneurship to name a few for me). But over the past few years I’ve come to view passion and desire in both myself and others as an incredibly important thing that is to be explored and honored not dismissed or moved quickly past in pursuit of progress. I think in our heart of hearts our deepest desires can be roadmaps for our place in this world. And that in the end it is not just our own lives that are fulfilled but also the lives of others. Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” My deep gladness has always been in the vision for KK, Inc. To create beautiful products for every aspect of a woman’s life can at times truly take my breath away. And yet that journey, from beginning to now is not only one of the greatest joys of my life it is one of the most challenging. Entrepreneurship as much as anything has pushed me, challenged me, at times nearly broken me and then put me back together again ever stronger. Jobs have been created, life changes have been made possible for people, beautiful things have made for moments of delight in the midst of the mundane. I think if we have the courage to chase it, life can take our breath away while at the same time allowing others to breathe easier. What do you want? (Can’t help but have Ryan Gosling yelling that question to Rachel Mcadams in the Notebook pop in my mind every time I think or say that). And beyond the answers like a healthy family or financial security. Those are great but what’s deep inside that maybe you won’t even admit to yourself? What if it’s not vanity or selfishness or silly but a roadmap of who you were born to be? Not just for yourself but for the world. Richard Rohr, one of my all-time favorite authors, says that each of us is born with a “divine blueprint.” Roadmap, blueprint, path, calling, whatever word you prefer they all require one thing to find them: desire. Trust it. Embrace it. Chase it. It leads to amazing things.

Above, married by two of our coaches/mentors


Sagequest. Shane Hipps. Neish. The Enneagram

Kaki Gaines’ Oxford Style

Kaki Gaines’ Oxford Style

Next up in our Oxford series is Kaki Gaines. Read her interview below and follow her @kaki_pants. Girl’s got amazing style! Create you’re own Oxford Style here.

Kaki Gaines

©Leah Muse Photography

©Leah Muse Photography

©Leah Muse Photography

I am passionate about…Inspiring others through fashion and being surrounded by friends and family.


My personal style is…Feminine and trendy with classics mixed in.


My three favorite places in Austin are…The patio at Josephine House, the pool at Hotel St. Cecilia, Lake Austin Spa.


The best advice I’ve ever received is…Zero in on what your natural gifts are so you can live into who you were be created to be!


My role models are…My sister, my mom, and my grandmothers.


The woman I aspire to be is…Someone who puts her identity in faith and is confident in the way she is living her life.


Three new-to-me discoveries I’m excited about are…

  1. My new oxford by Katie Kime!
  2. The skin care line by Biologique Recherche. A friend of mine had a facial with them in at their studio in LA and I was instantly hooked after I saw her glow.
  3. The Netflix series Big Little Lies
©Leah Muse Photography

©Leah Muse Photography

Kaki Gaines

©Leah Muse Photography

Women Who Inspire | Kirsten Dickerson of Raven + Lily

Women Who Inspire | Kirsten Dickerson of Raven + Lily

Women Who Inspire: Kirsten Dickerson

As the co-founder and CEO of Austin-based ethical fashion and lifestyle brand Raven + Lily, Kirsten Dickerson’s work bridges the gap between social justice and style. The passion that dictate’s Kirsten’s decisions is evident in her path, and the unlikely story of how a former film stylist was able to merge her yearning to do more into a succinct, successful brand is one that has long inspired me as both a business owner and a woman. I visited Kirsten at the new Raven + Lily store in North Austin’s Rock Rose development to learn more about what drives her.

Women Who Inspire

How do you start your day?

I live in a tiny house on 25 acres east of Austin. I wake up before the rest of my family, so I have to be pretty quiet. First thing I do is feed the cats, let out the chickens to graze, and then enjoy a cup of coffee while looking at our beautiful landscape via the view from our 1995 Spartan Mansion trailer. I like the light in the early morning and I love the quietness and peacefulness. It helps me collect my thoughts before diving into a busy day.

Women Who Inspire

How do you end your day?

We unplug in the evenings and enjoy a family dinner almost every single night (I’m married with two teens). We all take turns cooking (including my foodie daughter). My husband and I often watch a movie or enjoy a glass of wine on our deck while gazing at the stars, watching foxes and other wildlife, and listening to the symphony of night noises on our land.

Women Who Inspire

Describe a memory of success.

When I firsthand hear the stories of how Raven + Lily is changing the lives of the women we help employ, then I feel we are successful. One of those moments came when I was in India visiting a beloved artisan. She has five daughters and was abandoned by her husband with the birth of her fifth daughter because girls were not valued and considered a burden. She and her daughters were suffering without education or basic needs being met. It was a very conservative and poor community. Today, she is the leader of one of our most successful jewelry partnerships (wood and leather designs), and she has helped to train over 100 other at-risk women in the community. During a visit a few years ago she told me that the women no longer mourn when girls are born, but rejoice because they now see the value girls can add to their households. That is what I consider success and it motivates me almost daily.

Describe a memory of failure.

We have had a few artisan partnerships not work out due to poor communication and lack of infrastructure. I really love the women and believe in their value and potential, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out after several attempts. It’s very hard to have to dissolve a partnership since our goal is to develop long-term relationships. We’ve learned from these mistakes and know what to look for in the early stages before diving too deep. We also have key team members that are devoted to helping our artisan partnerships be successful.

Women Who Inspire

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t ever stray from what feeds your heart and passion. This has helped me to be faithful to the original mission of Raven + Lily to empower women through design.

What’s your mantra?

Live Thoughtfully.


“When women move forward the world moves with them.” African Proverb

What are three recent discoveries (or forever favorites) you think we should discover, too?

  1. Glamping at Green Acres Boutique Retreat (aka our homestead with a few glamping yurts for rent. Come unplug and unwind for the weekend…it will be good for your soul.)


  1. True Cost (A documentary on the the impact of fast fashion vs. slow fashion…a must-watch!)


  1. Silkie chickens (we have two of these cuties at Green Acres and they make me laugh daily. They are like fluffy bunny chickens from Dr. Seuss.)


Photography by Dennis Burnett Photography

Austin Entrepreneur Series: Elizabeth Mollen

Austin Entrepreneur Series: Elizabeth Mollen

We’re gearing up to feature some incredible women on the blog. This look back on our entrepreneurial series features Elizbeth Mollen of Stone Textile. This is a classic case of liking not just the line, but the girl behind it. One word that often comes to mind: collaboration! Stay tuned for that… For now take a look below for more on her look, her lines and her lessons…

Elizabeth Mollen


KK: When did you know you wanted to have your own design company?

EM: As a child, I was usually playing with art supplies or doing somethingcreative so I have always been into art + design. Creating things for aliving has been a goal of mine for quite some time. That goal turned into a reality a few years ago when I left the fashion industry to pursue a career in home product and interior design.

stonetextile katie kime


KK: What do you love most about Austin and being a designer here?

EM: After living and working in LA, I am very grateful that we relocated to Austin.  Starting a business here has been great. The city is filled with emerging designers and creatives.  Everyone is always up for a collaboration and to lend a helping hand.  I am also very inspired by the city and all of it’s modern architecture and design.

Elizabeth Mollen


KK: What’s the most challenging thing about owning your own business? What’s the most rewarding?

EM: The most challenging part for me is creating and sticking with my own schedule. The most rewarding part is when I see Stone Textile products in people’s homes.

Elizabeth Mollen


KK: What’s the lesson you’ve learned or advice you’ve been given as a designer/entrepreneur?

EM: It is important to start small and work your way up.  I worked as an intern, in New York, starting at 18.  The first hand experience was invaluable. Now, as a business owner I try and teach our interns the day to day happenings of running a small business.  It has really come full circle!

Elizabeth Mollen