In 2022, Hacienda turns two! To celebrate, I sat down with Hacienda’s founder/owner, Krystin Leigh Smith, to learn her insights into turning a dream into reality as well as her vision for this fabulous online home décor shop going forward.
Krystin, we know from your bio that you are not only the founder and owner of Hacienda, but you are also a successful Toronto-based prop stylist and buyer. This was not, however, your original career path, so could you talk about that back-story?
Krystin: Entrepreneurship is indeed my third career! I started out working with Toronto’s homeless population helping them find safe, affordable housing. This was a really hard job and emotionally very draining. After 5 years I decided I needed to do something different. I have always loved home décor and started to brainstorm new careers related to that. I happened to read an article about prop styling and reached out to some stylists in Toronto. One of them hired me as an assistant and I was able to start learning the job from there!
What inspired you to further explore and journey into the world of prop stylists and to start up Hacienda?
Krystin: Prop styling seemed to be a great new career choice for me since it involved all the things I loved: curating props and home décor looks, making things with my hands, designing and creating sets for photos! I had done all of this stuff for my own hobby projects and early small businesses. I had learned how to use a camera and took pictures for my vintage Etsy shop.
Entrepreneurship is indeed my third career! I started out working with Toronto’s homeless population helping them find safe, affordable housing.
Hacienda had been a dream of mine long before I had even been a prop stylist. I loved the idea of curating a collection of home décor products but never really knew where to begin. I felt overwhelmed with all the pieces involved with starting a small business. When the pandemic hit, I was left with a lot of time for the first few months and it was the perfect time to start Hacienda so I went for it! I was really thankful that I had help and encouragement from a lot of people around me. Starting was the hard part but once things got going I gained more confidence in my new role as a small business owner!
The contrast from working with Toronto’s homeless community to becoming a prop stylist/home décor shop proprietor may be considered extreme, but you found a connection that linked the two careers. Could you talk about your path from one to the other and elaborate on that connection? How did your former career shape you in terms of preparing you for your current career?
Krystin: Working with homeless people really showed me how important it is to the wellbeing of every human to have a safe, dignified living space that reflects us and makes us feel joy and comfort. For a lot of people that live in shelters, one of the hardest parts of that experience is not being able to display their personal items that they cherish. Having a roof over your head is job one but creating a space filled with items that reflect what you love is just as important to people. This feels like a really natural connection to me. I believe making people’s spaces more functional and beautiful is helping to improve their lives.
What transferable skills did you bring with you from your former career to your present one?
Krystin: I have learned the most valuable skill I can imagine: effective communication. In the shelter system I had to learn how to communicate with lots of different people with many challenges. It was not always easy but I also learned the skill of listening which is the best gift I could have gotten from my experience.
Prop styling seemed to be a great new career choice for me since it involved all the things I loved: curating props and home décor looks, making things with my hands, designing and creating sets for photos!
Could you talk about how your work as a prop stylist informs and influences your Hacienda business? What skills from it do you bring to the day-to-day operation for Hacienda?
Krystin: As a prop stylist, I have to shop for all kinds of things. In my years working as a buyer, I have also had the opportunity to learn about all types of materials and what things are made of, to understand the different types of fabrics, ceramics and glassware. I have also researched styles from different eras and had to create sets for time periods that looked as authentic as possible. This work has given me a wide range of knowledge about what makes a product unique and high-quality.
As Hacienda continues to grow and flourish, what are your hopes and vision for Hacienda going forward? How do the rewards outweigh the stressors of small business ownership? Would you like to share any advice or guidance for someone looking to take a similar journey as yours?
Krystin: I have huge dreams for Hacienda, that’s what keeps me going when times are tough. Running a small business is not easy! It’s especially hard when you love it so much. I do have a vision of this business being really big one day. We have a big announcement related to this which I can’t talk about just yet but soon! I really enjoy helping other small business owners and my advice for anyone who wants to do this is absolutely try to make what you love doing into a job! I never feel like I am working and I have so much faith in my brand because I am doing something I love and believe in.
This work [in prop styling] has given me a wide range of knowledge about what makes a product unique and high-quality.
Would you like to give a nod to any mentors who helped facilitate the path to your current career achievements and is there a life philosophy you lean into as you contemplate the future of Hacienda and your career as a prop stylist?
Krystin: I definitely need to shout out Ashley Braz! She’s a marketing specialist who basically gave me a blueprint on the first steps to starting my business. I can’t thank her enough for the confidence she had in me and the excitement she shared in helping me start my dream business. My one philosophy I’ve always stuck to and believe in is the Rumi quote, “What you seek is seeking you." I firmly believe that when you put your efforts and full faith into something you really care about, a pathway will be forged in front of you. The things you want will start to appear in front of you for the taking. It's exciting and motivates me on the hard days.
Finally, what can your customers look forward to as Hacienda moves into its third year? Are there any upcoming events or can you give us a peek at new products?
Krystin: There is so much on the horizon for Hacienda! I can’t wait to share some secret news with you very soon about some new things Hacienda will be doing!
Sounds intriguing! Thank you for taking the time to inform your community further about Hacienda, Krystin. There are surely exciting times ahead for you and for Hacienda and we will look forward to hearing that news and to continuing on this journey with you!
Wow what an amazing and inspiring interview. I didn’t realise that Hacienda started during Covid. Fascinating bio. Happy birthday Hacienda!