We had the good fortune of connecting with April Ann Kohlmeyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi April Ann, how do you think about risk?
When Iris approached me for a follow-up interview with Voyage Magazine, I was again flattered. It made me pause and really take a look around at how far Shash has come in what is now a relatively short period of time. I was given a list of potential topics to discuss, and I can now confess that the one I chose is the one I least wanted to take on. The question is on risk-taking… “How do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/ career.” (Gag)…is how I think. But as I’ve come to understand about life in general, the place that seems the hardest to enter is most likely the avenue that you should take. So here we go… Anyone who knows me will say that I am an anxious wreck when it comes to uncertainty. I am prone to anxiety attacks, I cannot sleep for days before a major business engagement, and the thought of my daughter growing up in a world where she has to venture beyond my sight gives me stomach aches. So when I ask myself how my partner and I have kept Shash afloat for so long in the presence of risk, I confess that my first notion is to blankly stare at the wall and say to myself, “I have no freakin’ idea.” I’ve used the metaphor that I feel like I’ve perpetually kept this little feather floating for the past two years, knowing that should it ever hit the floor, we’re finished. Risk has been absolutely horrible for my health. Truth be told, entrepreneurship has likely taken years off my life, given me a few wrinkles I could live without, and thrown a few grays into my hair (don’t tell anyone). So why has a woman who is seemingly entirely averse to risk keep on living a life of perpetual uncertainty? When I honestly reflect, I come to the conclusion that it is the pursuit of happiness that outweighs my innate fear of risk that has brought us this far. But isn’t that true for everyone in everything, not just myself? I mean, really… everything great and worth having in this life comes with a “Risk” price tag attached to it. When we find the one we love who’s worth spending the rest of our lives with… there’s no certainty in the equation at all. When we welcome a child into our lives, we not only are granted a priceless gift, but the simultaneous curse to forever have our hearts live on the outside of us. What we deem worth pursuing as a means to put a roof over our heads and food on the table for that kind of people also entails a level of risk, the same gut-wrenching, life-changing type. When we first considered Shash, before we even had a name for our organization, I had to weigh my options and the potential costs… the risks. I’ve continued to do so every day since. And while I still have sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and days where I feel as if the life is literally being sucked out of me, I weigh the cost… and pay it gladly. Yes, there is Risk. But where there is Risk, I have a thousand-fold measure of faith weighed against the balance. I have faith in my partner… who has been by my side through every high and low point this life has to offer. I have faith in my family… specifically, my husband. No matter if the worst should come to pass, they will all love me no matter the consequence, unconditionally. I have faith in God above. Who has and will continue to guide me no matter if success is a loving neighbor or an elusive shadow. And in the end, I have faith that what we are doing and creating is a worthy and noble cause. We bring the possibility for a greater good in this world, where even just stepping out the door means wading through a river of Risk. Risk? It is real and ever-present in both my life and career. But what we do and create at Shash is about living boldly and choosing to laugh in Risk’s face. We value what’s on the other side of Risk more than the certainty we could have in living quietly. We put “Risk” in the backseat and tell him to shut up so that we can courageously pursue all those things that hold the affections of our hearts.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
We are made in the USA but what makes us most proud is that our whole line is dedicated to helping save a woman’s life. We took our time to find women to help us engineer and manufacture our product. Our handbag is designed, engineered, and produced by women for women, We are dedicated to empowering women. But let me also explain that our handbag isn’t only for women that carry a gun for their protection. This handbag is also for women that choose to carry a taser, stun gun, pepper spray. Whatever form of self-defense is chosen has a unique, versatile holster and compartment. We encourage women to carry some form of protection, we want women to be safe. However, we also want you to look chic and fashion-forward while you’re carrying as well. Yes, we are a Texas-based company ran by Texas women, but we’re not all cowgirls. I’m a city girl, so my fashion influence on this line is very apparent and robust. The chic, sleek shape, the materials, the way we style our handbag… we are the Fendi of the concealed carry handbag world. Also, our handbag comes with a safety feature. We are the first concealed carry handbag to offer this feature. Safety is important to us, but weapon safety is just as important. So, our customers will have the option to lock up their self-defense product of choice with our fingerprint lock also known as our “Purse Candy.” We are excited about the future of Shash Lifestyle. We have overcome so many obstacles in the past two years. Adding a pandemic to our journey has thrown us yet another curve ball. But we have some major fight in us. We are not stopping now.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I adore a good staycation in Houston. Three elements I love to include in any staycation are Food, Art, and Relaxation. All of which Houston has to offer. Since I live closer towards Galveston, I would take friends to a local-area restaurant that holds my heart and fills my tummy with joy. Marais…in the heart of Dickinson, TX. This place is high up on the “must go” list of restaurants, a hidden high-tier gem beyond the city limits of Houston. The owners, Keith and Holly Lilley, always make my family and me feel at home. Afterwards, heading into downtown Houston for some art, I love to drive through the Art District. I would steer friends towards a museum or two, suggesting whatever exciting exhibits are featured at The Museum of Fine Arts. I would also encourage them to peruse the beautiful art murals scattered around town for some fantastic eye candy. If I work up an appetite, I’ll be looking for an excuse to satisfy my sweet tooth and have some exquisite dessert. So the next stop is a must, Dessert Gallery on Kirby & Richmond. Ask for Gilbert. You will be welcomed with open sugary-sweet arms. Next stop, relaxation. One of my favorite places to stay in downtown Houston is The Marriott Marquis. Located across the way from Discovery Green, there’s plenty of options to dine in and around the hotel. More likely than not, the Green will be hosting some kind of family-friendly event. My favorite, however… is to relax on the Marriott Marquis’ lazy river shaped like the great State of Texas. I look forward to tuning out and hitting the brakes. Truthfully speaking, relaxation is the most essential part of the vacation paradigm for me. As an entrepreneur, I value the time to catch my breath, put my creative mind at ease, and appreciate life in the moment.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My partner, JoAnna Guelker for believing in me when I no longer believed in myself. JoAnna’s parents, Joe and Charlotte Pigford, who’s faith, love, and trust has helped hold us together. My husband, Andrew… who loves me best when I’m at my worst. And our daughter Madison. You are the light of my world, baby-girl. And my parents… Dolly and Lonnie Alexander. For their continued support and never-ending faith.
To Darren, Myla and Nola Raymond- our Canadian family, thank you for always offering your home when I need to escape from city life so I can reset my focus and absorb more creativity. So grateful for your love and support.
To my Tribe…Lisa, Mimi, Nancy, and MP, every time I fall, y’all are there to catch me and lift me back up. Thank you for your love, cheers and support.
To all the models from Texas to Iowa: Kimberly, Ali, Erica, Cui, Carly, and Kelsi
Photographers: Texas photographer TW Andris with Twolees Photography and Iowa Photographer Trav McAvaddy
Y’all see the creative vision and deliver magic!!! Thank you so much!
Facebook: Shash Lifestyle LLC
My personal photo: Photographer TW Andris with TwoLees Photography 6 photos with Shash Models: Cui, Carly, Kelsi Photographed by Trav McAvaddy 2 photos of our handbags photographed by our manufacturing company