We had the good fortune of connecting with Sierra Lewis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sierra, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success is my ability to persevere. Building a successful small business takes time, dedication, and a lot of hard work. Success doesn’t come overnight, and it’s not guaranteed to stay around when you do achieve it. On a daily basis I need to have the confidence to strive towards my dream AND to successfully share my vision with others. It’s a commitment like very few others I’ve made in life—and it has its share of hardships—but I’m dedicated to seeing my dream come to fruition.
What value or principle matters most to you? Why?
That’s such a great question. I’m an extremely value-driven person so it’s a bit hard for me to narrow it down to one. If I had to, I would say that respect is what matters most to me. Respect is something that I think is really powerful—and is something that we all could use a little more of. Respect for ourselves, respect for others, respect for time and effort. I think when you start from a place of respect, it leads the way to courtesy and empathy. And when you receive respect from others, it can empower you—it makes you feel valued.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
New Origin Shop is an online lifestyle shop which is pretty unique in and of itself. By “lifestyle shop” I mean that we carry products that we hope bring inspiration and joy into all aspects of our customer’s daily routines. From jewelry and hair accessories to skincare products and home decor—we feature products with a contemporary and minimal aesthetic. New Origin Shop takes an emphasis on natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly ingredients and materials. What sets us apart—and a point that I take pride in—is the focus on curating wares that are handcrafted by our amazing group of makers and small-business brands. There’s a special relationship and an appreciation you develop for an item made by a small business. You can identify the person who made the item, read a short list of materials in the item, or even see how it’s made sometimes. I’m also a huge believer in “Community over Competition”. I practice this by prioritizing investments in fellow Black-Owned, Woman-Owned, and POC-owned brands and small businesses. Not only do I purchase their items for our shop but I want to share their stories to give them exposure whenever possible. I do this by working to build supportive and collaborative relationships, constantly sharing their businesses on our social media (Instagram: @neworiginshop), and through a Meet the Maker series we have on our blog. Starting my small business has been a dream of mine since the age of 17 and I actually put it aside for most of my professional career. While in college, the idea of working in luxury fashion or trying to obtain the position as a buyer for some major retailer never appealed to me so the idea of owning my own small business stayed firmly in my mind. In 2011, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree after studying Fashion Marketing. I had a business plan to follow and a bunch of student debt but not much else. I had no network, no resources needed to pursue my dream, and no real idea in general what I was doing with my life. So l relocated from Baltimore to New York in the hopes of getting some experience in the fashion industry (and yes, also for love). Nothing really quite worked out and eventually I made the decision to pursue other passions and made the transition into education and non-profit. I loved that type of work and continued my career in this field for years—even after we made the decision to relocate from New York to Austin in 2016 (Yes, the love story actually had a happy ending). Relocating was a breath of fresh air lifestyle-wise but my work as a Special Educator was extremely demanding and stressful so I began to turn to creative projects for relief. I dabbled in candle making, crochet, and even clay jewelry. I ultimately gravitated towards crochet, which turned into a small collection of crochet handbags (inspired by Austin being a plastic bagless city at the time). When my collection became too much, New Origin Shop was born on Etsy to try and sell off some of my pieces. In 2017, I exclusively made handbags, but over time I added to our collection of fiber wares to include home decor, accessories, and jewelry (the earrings were a hit). During the week I’d work on shop tasks before and after work and I’d attend pop-up events on the weekends. It’s at these pop-up events where I was able to connect with the amazing community of local artists. It was also where I was inspired to diversify New Origin Shop. Fast forward to 2021, the shop has evolved quite a bit from our beginnings on Etsy. Namely, I rekindled 17-year-old Sierra’s dream of having my own shop—which meant focusing on selling curated wares in addition to my own stuff. I also took on all roles for the business—including roles I wasn’t prepared for like spokesperson or accountant. After much work, hustle, and determination, at the end of 2020 I’d supported 69 brands in the shop, 53 of those were Women-Owned Businesses, 63 of those were value-driven, and 14 were Black & POC-owned. I’ve experienced and learned so much throughout this journey and I continue to do so on a daily basis. Entrepreneurship has to be one of the most challenging, vulnerable, relentless experiences of my life but I wouldn’t change it for a second. I often remind myself that my dreams matter and that I owe it to myself to pursue them. it’s up to me to manifest them and it’ll take hard work to convince others to believe in it along the way. I’d love for the world to know that I’m a proud first-generation business owner working tirelessly everyday to defy the odds—and (hopefully) creating a space that brings joy and inspiration to those that I’m fortunate enough to cross paths with.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh boy, I tend to keep things low key so I’m sure my answers are going to get a few side eyes from many other Austinites (spoiler alert: It’s a lot of quick foods). I’m also going to pretend we’re in pre-Covid times, for obvious reasons. Ok, so we’re definitely going to all of the places that I fell in love with when I first visited/moved to Austin. So all of the “y’s”, Torchy’s, Rudy’s, and P. Terry’s. To round off the fast food, we’re going to Chilantro, Shake Shack, and Hi Wings. If and when they get tired of fast food, we’ll get dinner at Sap’s, Titaya’s, or Komé. We’re also going to get coffee from 85C Bakery, but we’re going to get baked goods from Tous-Le-Jours. We’ll fit in some brunches at Magnolia Cafe and Cherrywood Coffeehouse. Some scenic spots we’ll check out would be South Congress, Zilker Park, and Mayfield Park. If they’ve never been to an Alamo Drafthouse, we’re also going there to see a movie and get a trio of warm cookies (and a pot of hot tea because I’m really a 70 year old woman at heart). If they wanna see the surrounding area, we’re definitely going to the town square in Georgetown and getting a giant slice at 600 Degrees Pizzeria. Maybe splash around Schlitterbahn or take a day trip to San Antonio. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I absolutely co-sign the idea that success isn’t made without the support of others. Thinking about it, there’s so many people that I want to shout out! I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my friends, family, and the maker community for the endless encouragement and support. I’m pretty fortunate to have such a creative and supporting network. Many of my friends and family have creative backgrounds (some of which I even feature in my shop). They’re there for me when I need to bounce ideas off of them about new products, pricing questions, and marketing. Of course, the wonderful maker community that I’m a part of is a limitless fountain of support and inspiration. And that’s not just the makers I feature in my shop. Both local and global makers have shown me such love—whether it’s a reshare on Instagram, a shout out on a blog, or just some kind words in my DM’s. I do want to give an extra special shout out to my husband though. He is definitely New Origin Shop’s MVP. He has helped in far too many ways to count—from cutting out price tags to even producing all of my video content.