How Think Unique saved my life.
I’m sitting here drinking my hot tea, fresh from a morning meditation by the lake, working at my favorite table (s/o to CB2 for creating the dining room table of my dreams), and feeling SO grateful for this past nine months of adventure.
This is now my life.
No more dreaded alarms, unhappy commutes, blacked out nights, unfulfilled days, none of that. I am living out my dreams of being an artist, a creator, a member of a beautiful community, and a badass boss babe! I’m excited, okay?! ;)
Now, it has not always been this way, and it sure as hell wasn’t easy getting here.
Some of you may be wondering how I got here. How did Think Unique start? Well, I can tell you its been a long time coming and I think it’s time I share my story with all of you.
It’s long, and its not all happy, but I want you to know the story.
So here we go…
Lets take it back to the Northwest burbs of Chicago in the 90’s.
I grew up in an adorable house in front of a railroad track in the burbs with my parents, my brother Max, and our (unintentionally but gratefully) adopted fur baby, Nala.
My Dad is what I have always called a human calculator/encyclopedia. The man is insanely smart. He has always been a hard worker and a believer in learning and growing from your mistakes. He taught me to always follow my passion, if you are lucky enough to have one. He is also chock full of the corniest dad jokes and is a bit of a goofball (which I definitely inherited from him) One of my personal favorites is: “What did the ocean say to the beach?”
"Nothing, it just waved!” *I am actually laughing at my computer screen right now
My Mom is a total creative spirit. She is an excellent self-taught cook, a well rounded artist (painting, sculpting, drawing, interior design, sewing, etc), and a warm spirit. She always taught Max and I to be warm and welcoming and especially to be silly. She also raised us with a high standard of education, drive, and focus, which I am grateful for. She also taught me how to make the best damn coconut macaroons you’ve ever had *not so humble brag
Growing up with these two as parents made for an interesting development in young me. I learned about business, art, finance, warmth, work ethic, sacrifice, creativity, perseverance, finance, and a myriad of other skills and lessons.
I can’t leave out Max, who has been the most incredible sibling a girl could ask for. He is endlessly supportive, encouraging, and provides challenge and new perspective whenever its needed. I got to watch him take risks and start businesses all over the world when he was in his 20’s and I attribute a lot of my courage to him. Thanks, Max- you rock!
Okay back to little me,
and here’s where it gets interesting. I always wanted to be an artist when I grew up and because of my independent spirit, and inherited/learned business mind & creativity, I became quite the little entrepreneur. I’m not talking your average 25 cents a cup lemonade stand.
Looking back at this time in my life makes me laugh… and also feel pretty impressed.
One day, young Lauren took it upon herself to start a business. I think I was maybe 8 years old.
I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had seen my mom sew clothes for my dolls and make all of my halloween costumes and knew our family history was strong with seamstresses. I used to play around on my grandmother’s old sewing machine and make little things, bags, scarves, dresses, etc. These were by no means high end garments but I wasn’t even 10 years old so I was doing my best. I decided it was time to take things to the next level. My friend Eryn came over and we came up with an idea.
And thus, EL Façions was born. We did the cédille because we thought French was fancier and therefore, better. How this came to the mind of an 8 year old I will never know.
We sewed a collection of garments, made a few bags, a top and skirt set, and a full length dress with a slit inlay (again, this is 8 year old quality but I felt like Coco Channel at the time). We made a catalog using some early-tech kids program intended for making CD covers. I also made business cards complete with accent stickers in the corners because stickers were the coolest. We handed out the business cards and gave our parents a catalog and held a little fashion show.
This was my first business.
From there, things only grew. I sold little bracelets to my friends in elementary & middle school. I kept taking art classes.
Then puberty hit.
I became depressed, highly anxious, and suicidal. I became hyper aware of my body. I was bullied in school.
I felt good when I was creating and helping others, and it helped me escape everything that kept pulling me down. So, I carried on.
I decided I wanted to brand myself. At 15 I came up with my brand, Think Unique. I had no idea what business it was to be at the time but I was proud of the name I created and I thought it encompassed my independent, creative spirit. It made me feel good. I made an email address for it (because thats what I thought businesses did) and created a stencil so I could screen print t-shirts with my brand on them.
In High school, I learned about how impactful a business/ organization could be for people. I dove into community service and fundraising and became the fundraising committee chair for the ACS In my district. I transitioned my business efforts to fundraising and won an award for “Most likely to change the world (one cookie at a time)” after raising $10,000 for the American Cancer Society. This is where things shifted for me. I realized I was able to get people on board and help others through my entrepreneurial skillset.
I had value.
I could help people.
I could actually make an impact!
Fast forward 3 years and I’m a sophomore in College.
My parents had gotten divorced, my Bubbie (my incredible grandmother with whom I was extremely close) has passed away, Nala (our fur baby) passed away, I had been in multiple abusive relationships, I was in a bad car accident, I had become increasingly aware of my severe depression & anxiety, I got two concussions, I was suicidal again, I was sexually abused on multiple different occasions, I had been robbed, I was abusing drugs and alcohol, and I was feeling lost to say the least.
Luckily, I still had Think Unique.
Experiencing trauma had led me to become increasingly interested in spirituality and healing practices. I slowly started to find things that made me feel better and helped me heal. I began going to therapy. I looked mostly to nature because thats where I had always found comfort. I used to collect rocks as a child, so I began looking into crystal healing which was showing up in a lot of my research.
I figured if these things could help me, why not make something that might help other people as well? I dove into researching the benefits of crystal healing, meditation, yoga, smudging, and other spiritual practices I had been using. I was lucky to have many teachers who showed me the way and helped me on my healing journey. (s/o to Dan Cheeseman my favorite yoga instructor from IU). I practiced, I read, I studied, I kept moving forward. I adopted my cat, Brutus, who gave me a purpose and helped me feel calm when times were dark.
Through a class-assigned experimentation, I discovered that raw stones and clay were a match made in heaven. I spent my free time making hat-pins, pendants, and other little creations. My friends were incredibly supportive and bought many of my pieces, many asking for custom orders which began my custom business. I felt good! I felt that I could accomplish things and had a reason to keep going. I started a little business.
That business was called Think Unique.
From here, I started to bring my creations into wider circles. I sold them on a little board at music festivals, I made a Facebook & an Instagram page and took photos that I thought were amazing at the time. They were horrendous. Haha
Business grew, and so did my spirit. I stopped taking drugs for awhile. I got out of my abusive relationship. I started to connect with people that really supported me and my journey and said farewell to those who only added negativity to my life.
I graduated college!
I found some careers that I thought college grads were supposed to have all while making my jewelry on the side. Friends and family asking me for custom orders, soon referrals started to pop-in.
I skipped around to different jobs (Human resources, Sushi chef, Restaurant manager, social media marketing, tech sales) but none of them made me as happy as I was when I was making jewelry. My free time grew more and more scarce and my pieces were starting to be forgotten.
I kept working and I stopped making jewelry.
I kept trying to drown my sorrows.
In September 2018, after a large increase in my alcohol and drug consumption and a large decrease in my happiness, I decided enough was enough. I pledged to myself that I would not waste any more time by not pursuing my passion. I pledged to stop drugs and drinking and do things that helped me feel good and helped others feel good, too. I put in my 2 weeks at my job, and I went to work on Think Unique.
I applied for art shows, having no idea what I was doing, and met two amazing women that gave me a chance (Thank you Suzanne & Danielle!). I had my first art show at Esquina in October 2018 and it lit my soul on fire.
From there, its all been a wild ride. In the past nine months, I’ve stopped taking drugs, I’ve severely decreased my drinking (working towards quitting), I’ve participated in over 28 art shows and events, I’ve sold over 600 items, and I’ve met people who have changed how I view the world and myself. Together we have laughed, cried, celebrated, mourned, come together, and made dreams come true.
I could not be more grateful for this business or what its done for my life. It’s given me hope, its made me proud to be who I am, it’s made me believe I can be something bigger than my trauma or my mental health.
Frankly, this business has saved me.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. Thank you for being here and for supporting me in my endeavors. Thank you for helping 8 year old Lauren live out her dream of becoming an artist.
Thanking you for supporting the thing that saved me.
With a full & grateful heart, I say Namasté. The divine in me honors the divine in you.
I’m off to make more dreams come true…
Much love & many thanks,