Marissa Cristina, the founder of Design Love Co., is a maker, dreamer, entrepreneur and a tea-drinker. After creating a planner for herself, she started selling her products worldwide within a few months after the launch of her website. We met with Marissa at her new (and beautiful) office one Friday morning to learn more about her and her story.
How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
I design lifestyle products for the modern woman and merge the notion of fashion and function. Stationery is a stepping stone to other things I want to do, I am planning on working on leather goods and other fashion merchandise.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a portrait photographer. My favorite was Richard Avedon. I collected all of his photographs and I loved his style. I love the fact that you can take a picture of someone’s face and tell a story.
What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I actually used to have a fashion blog [neverdressdown.com] that I really enjoyed writing on but it never fully came together because I knew there was always something missing. The first thing I wanted to sell was bracelets. l got a bracelet for Christmas and thought that this is something I can easily make. I went all over the Internet and the city to make one and did a lot of research. I realized that I am not the artisanal craft maker. I sold a few on etsy, though.
What do you wish you knew before you started your first business? What’s one piece of advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
It would have been helpful to talk to a business coach of some sort, to get support with the organizational procedures and starting a business.
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
Don’t let it fester inside your head. Just move on.
Describe the most exciting minute of your entrepreneurial journey.
An email from Chapters that came four months after launching the website. I thought I couldn’t breathe and almost passed out.
Do you have any formal education? What was your favourite class?
BA in communications and minor in digital publishing from Simon Fraser University. And I went to Langara for a Communications Arts diploma. I started at Langara almost right away after graduating from SFU and I worked full time, and had four classes a week, and on the weekends I worked on projects. I loved it. Just work all the time, as long as you love it.
When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck? How do you find inspiration?
Leave the office, bring my Notebook, listen to music and then sit on benches and watch people.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur? What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?
My daily habits: wake up at 6:30 everyday and always make a healthy breakfast, then watch Bloomberg news for an hour. Get to work at 8:30, stay until 5:30. I cook dinner almost every night. I shut everything off at 9 o’clock, read for an hour and go to bed.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading “The Secret” – the most amazing book ever. My favorite book of all time is “#Girlboss”. I read a lot of design and creativity books and magazines.
What technology, apps, websites do you use on a day to day basis?
Instagram is number one. Also, vsco cam, afterlight, FreshBooks, Car2Go, Adobe Creative Suite and Google Drive.
What do you think is the most important innovation of your lifetime thus far?
Digital photography. When I was 12, I took my first photography class and started with black and white film with my grandfather’s camera and I really wanted to learn how to create the perfect composition. I know everything there is to know about photography and I spent most of my time after school in the dark room. Digital photography is fantastic, it’s an innovation, but it changed photography.
How do you use social media? For example, do you use it differently for work vs. personal posts?
I don’t get Twitter, but I don’t let anybody touch Instagram. Today is international donut day and it’s good to play into trends like that (we will get some donuts later for a photoshoot). I do have personal accounts but I’m not as active on them because I don’t feel the need to share my personal life as much.
What’s the most unique thing you’ve ever done?
I used to develop my own films when I was 12-13.
Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Two people. Sophia Amoruso and Ivanka Trump. There are lessons to take from each one on how they became successful. Both have different stories and both became independently successful. I was thinking Oprah, but she’s like God – unrealistic.
Where is your favourite place to escape?
Los Angeles. I love LA. Everyone is fabulous there.
If you could do anything now, what would you do?
I would be doing this. Perfect shit storm of bliss. It’s stressful, I have bad moments but at the same time it’s a weird adrenaline rush to keep going. It’s exhilarating and scary.
What are you proudest of in your life?
I am proudest of myself, because when I was younger, I was always very shy and never spoke up. Moving to Canada taught me that no one is ever going to do anything for you. You have to go and get what you want. I grew up, started paying attention to fashion trends and became the woman I am today.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
My boyfriend is the most recent one. We met three and a half years ago. He is an entrepreneur and has been successful with his company. I look at him as a resource to figure out what the hell I am doing. He’s been the biggest supporter and pusher.
What fact about you would surprise people?
I am a thrill seeker.
What’s your favorite quote?
“If you are not willing to risk it all then you don’t want it bad enough.”
What’s your productivity secret?
I listen to a lot of classical music (Chopin is my favorite) and I love tea with milk and honey. For my birthday I want a real English tea set.
If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them?
I would meditate.
What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs and future students?
As cheesy as it may sounds, never stop dreaming. Dreams can become reality; you just have to be patient and hard-working. Trust me, anyone can do it and make it possible.