proved to be the ultimate authority on all things boutique at its annual conference held at Magic Box@TheReef in downtown Los Angeles on February 11-13th attended by more than 290. The thought-provoking two and a half-day conference brought out the biggest movers and shakers in the flourishing community that continues to break barriers in the most inclusive industry of our time,
announced June 2018 by BLLA.
Frances Kiradjian and Ariela Kiradjian, the powerhouse mother-daughter team behind Stay Boutique Live 2019 welcomed an impressive line-up of speakers for its Leadership Edition, followed by its riveting Female Empowerment Edition. “Providing a safe haven for boutique thinkers is what Stay Boutique is all about,” says founder Frances Kiradjian who created its parent company BLLA, Boutique & Lifestyle Leadership Association, in 2009. “This is our 10th year anniversary. I started this in a down economy when nobody believed in boutique, they said it was going away.” Not only did Frances prove them wrong, her vision and tenacity has brought boutique leaders together from all over the world and continues to do so with the passion and creativity that the mother-daughter duo delivers on a daily basis.
Participants carried the themes thoughtfully and purposely throughout the 2-1/2 days of being un-apologetic for being boutique, deviating from the norm and creating experiences throughout their brands to connect directly with customers. Both hoteliers and boutique businesses participated in the themes with enthusiasm and joy. They also expressed their personal thoughts about “being boutique.”
Keynote speaker and veteran hospitality guru Larry Korman, President of AKA Serviced Residences, was interviewed by Frances Kiradjian on the importance of having the community that Stay Boutique and BLLA created and continues to nurture. “We are all thinking outside the box and it’s nice to know that there are other like-minded people…I think we inspire each other to go further. If we start doubting ourselves, there are other people who encourage us; we all propel each other to that next step as well as support and give each other constructive criticism. It’s in the spirit of wanting to help. We are blazing new trails – together.”
Korman who credits his family for encouraging him to take chances, was able to find a niche for his luxury extended-stay residences in major urban cities like Manhattan, when the economy was at an all-time low. “The fortune 500 companies we had worked with were gone, they weren’t traveling at this point, and that’s when I discovered the film industry. They loved that we were a residence, and not a hotel room. So, I partnered with the film community and we had directors, actors, producers all staying with us.” AKA is now a global company with properties in Los Angeles, London, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
Korman now incorporates his forefathers’ philosophy of giving back to the community, by adding a new concept to his properties called voluntourism. “We invite our guests to help us feed the homeless during the holidays. Many of our guests are alone during this time. These residents start the day feeling blue because they are not with their families, but by the end of the day they feel great because they have done something so meaningful. We share this family passion with our residents.”
Passion is a central theme in the world of boutique, just ask Benjamin Edgar Gott, who founded Boxed Water, Th-oughts & Benjamin Edgar Object Design, and is the Co-Founder of The Brilliance. “I love being around really passionate people! The boutique is the anti-mediocrity,” says Gott who created Boxed Water with a philanthropic spin.
While all the speakers had different stories to tell, the recurring themes were that of community and experience. “At the end of the day, it’s all about experience,” says keynote speaker Avi Brosh, CEO of Paligroup, who has gone on to create a society known as Palisociety compromised of like-minded, creative people. “Boutique is inclusive. It’s about having a really independent spirit and of course creating a community.”
Wilhelm Oehl, CXO, Eight Inc,, had some powerful words to say about succeeding in the boutique business. “Trust your gut feeling. You have to trust yourself and you have to be willing to try as well. Stay human, stay connected and don’t be afraid to fail.” Often described as Apple’s best kept secret, Oehl (and his company Eight, Inc.), is the mastermind of the design concepts behind the computer giant’s famous storefronts worldwide.
Other inspirational speakers included Stay Boutique Live’s very own Ariela Kiradjian who shared memories of her mother, Frances Kiradjian, and her journey to creating the very first boutique community despite naysayers who claimed boutique was just a fad. “The community that my mom brought together ten years ago through BLLA has evolved so much so that it has given way to an entirely new movement in just a decade,” said Ariela. “Something that is also really important to us is creating a new home for boutique hotels and concepts that is more supportive than ever, a home that values innovation and inclusivity.”
Kicking off the Female Empowerment Edition was the personable Kim Malek who founded the famous Salt & Straw artisan ice cream shop. “Upon moving to Portland, there was a story in the newspaper about a boutique ice cream shop that had just opened in San Francisco and I thought to myself, with fists in the air, ‘That was my idea’! Someone else is doing it!” Kim continues, “This is one thing that I found in hindsight that’s kind of a female thing to do, in politics, in business – the list goes on and on. There are all these studies and reports that show that guys will tend to wake up in the morning and say I just had the greatest idea and the world has to hear this, and women will be like I just had an idea, I am going to work on it for fifteen years until it’s perfect and then I might whisper it to someone when I see someone else doing it because that maybe then validates that maybe it is a good idea, so that’s something we need to talk about and maybe work on.”
Malek recalls bringing her business plan to several banks to get funding for her ice cream. “I didn’t have any money and of course the banks wanted to lend money in 2010 during the recession to an ice cream shop (she laughs).” Unable to get a loan, Malek cashed in her 401K, sold her house, had a garage sale and cobbled together all the money she could find.
Fast forward, Salt & Straw is one of the most popular and profitable boutique ice cream shops in the country, with nearly 20 shops and more to come. Malek attributes her success to being true to herself and focusing on community. “Those connections are everything in a business within the company and with the customers. People are really craving connection and if we can help with loneliness, we are on the right track. Kindness is what it’s all about.”
Lisa Odenweller, Founder, Beaming & Kroma Superfoods was interviewed by Frances Kiradjian who knows a thing or two about empowering women. Lisa shared her powerful story of how she started her Beaming food business after a personal mission to take charge of her own health and the health of her family, particularly her then 9-year-old daughter who had struggled with ADD. After eliminating the trigger foods, gluten, sugar, dairy, wheat and processed foods from her daughter’s diet, the results were remarkable. “In just a few weeks she was off her medication, she was in honors classes, and she’s never been back on the meds. I get emotional about it because I realize how we have to put health into our own hands.” From there, Beaming was born and became the most successful superfood bars in the country with multiple locations.
Lisa went on to share her struggles with the business that she loved and created. “I made some mistakes, primarily choosing the wrong people to go into business with and bringing people on board who didn’t have the same vision. I was naive, and as a result I sold the company. I didn’t want to, but I felt it was necessary.” The entrepreneur has now launched a new company called Kroma Superfoods and takes her lessons with her, advising the crowd, “Make sure you are in alignment with the people you bring on board. …don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself and most importantly stay in your power and trust yourself.”
Trusting herself is exactly what April Brown did when she transformed a gritty little motel into one of the most sought-after boutique motels in Canada. The June Motel located in Prince Edward County, wine country, is one of the most instagrammable motels on social media. In fact, The June Motel took home the top prize as Stay Boutique’s Best Boutique Instagrammer Award of 2019. “Boutique to me is having a really unique experience. I had absolutely no experience before starting on this adventure. I asked myself, with my partner, what do I want my life to look like. We followed our passion to create something fun for ourselves and for our guests, and we have been booked ever since.”
Speaker Evelyn Rusli, Co-Founder & President of Yumi, shared her journey into creating a boutique baby food line that is delivered straight to your doorstep. “We are a generation that doesn’t want something that has a million carbon copies. People don’t want something that is just cookie cutter, this to me is what boutique means. It’s thinking about those moments that just spark magic.”
Prior to introducing keynote speaker Melissa Biggs Bradley, Founder of Indagare, Frances Kiradjian reminded us all, “Without a travel agent, you are on your own and that’s so true. Who do you call? You call Ghostbusters!” Bradley says the magic of travel allows us to shift our perspective. The former Town & Country writer now runs Indagare, a boutique travel agency that offers its members a modern advisor as well as complete immersion within exotic spaces. “I noticed that there had been this sort of gap because so many traditional travel agents had been disrupted by the online travel companies and this concept of you should really be able to do this by yourself, and what I found was that there was so much information that it was impossible to figure it out on your own.”
“I’m really proud to be part of the inspiring boutique community that both Frances and her daughter Ariela have created,” remarked Nicole Centeno, Founder & CEO of Splendid Spoon. “I hope we can all continue to grow together.” The three day experience of boutique culture provided an abundance of inspiration and conversation regarding the expanding boutique community. The variety of boutique visionaries in attendance of Stay Boutique Live, the Trifecta returned to their respective industries interconnected, and with refreshed perceptions of boutique: the developing community of accomplished individuals driven by passion, intention, principle and innovation. All in all, speakers, sponsors, members and guests were left feeling inspired and connected to this rapidly growing community which promises to keep thriving in the coming years. Boutique is truly here to stay!
Additional speakers participating in The Leadership Edition & The Female Empowerment Edition included: Lynn Easton & Dean Porter Andrews – Founders of Easton Porter Group, Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski – Founders, G & B Coffee and Go Get ‘Em Tiger, Damon Lawrence & Marcus Carey – Founders, Homage Hospitality, Aishwarya Iyer – Founder, Brightland, Gulla Jonsdottir – Architecture & Design, Christine Magrann – COO Makeready, Rami Zeidan – Co-Founder & CEO, Life House, Joey Gonzalez – CEO, Barry’s Bootcamp, April Uchitel – CEO, Violet Grey, Carly Stein – Founder, Beekeepers Naturals, Nicole Centeno – Founder & CEO, Splendid Spoon, Coly Den Haan – Founder, Vinovore, Jash Mehta – Co-Founder, Fashion Mamas, Katharine Polk – Founder, KRP Creative & Houghton NYC, Chelsea Nassib – Founder, Tappen, and Ara Katz – Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Seed.
Thank you to the event’s wonderful supporters and sponsors! Headline Sponsors: Atomic Design, AKA Serviced Residences, Enseo, Greenberg Traurig, Luxe Collection, Rainmaker, Suitelife by Venture, Tempur Sealy, The Gettys Group as well as Boutique/Lifestyle/Supporting/Press & F&B Sponsors: Allbridge, Beyond TV, Eight Inc, Hotel Emporium, LATHER, Mill + Thread, simplehuman, Westminster Teak, Eugene Stoltzfus Furniture Design, Stoned Fox, Barrineau, Bravo Your City, Catherine Fulmer, Devall Design Home, Easton Porter, Harry Roa Studio, High & Dry, itouches, Love + Destroy, MAKEREADY, MCOMS, Meier Lake, R + E, Summerland, Tonic, Wanderfuel, Boutique Design, Canadian Lodging News, Digital Travel, eHotelier, Hospitality Design, Hospitality Net, Hotel Business, Hotel Executive, Hotel Management, Hotel News Now, Hotel Online, Lodging Magazine, NEWH, Today’s Hotelier, AAHOA, CCMI, CLR Home Staging, HOTEC, Hotpoint, itm Mobile, Lodging Conference, One Stone, The Agency, The Line, Colors Collective, The Bosco, 88 Acres, Boxed Water, COOLA, DIRTY LEMON, Four Sigmatic, Good Day Chocolate, Icelandic Glacial, JUST Water, Nuun, Pop & Bottle, Public Goods, Simply Gum, Skinny Dipped Almonds, SMASHMALLOW, SuperGoop!, The Mochi Ice Cream Co, Topo Chico, Aperol, Art of Tea, Aurora Elixirs, Beekeeper’s Naturals, Black Bow Sweets, Canyon Coffee, Gem & Bolt, La Colombe Coffee Roasters, Raw Juicery, Rise Brewing Co., Splendid Spoon.