How to Build a Brand Your Own Way: Grace Bonney + Anna Bond

7 years ago by

I’m so happy to introduce you to Grace Bonney and Anna Bond, though I’m pretty sure you already know them. Grace is the founder of Design Sponge, and she just came out with a beautiful and inspiring book called In the Company of Women, where she talks about women entrepreneurs around the world. Anna is the fantastic Creative Director and Founder of Rifle Paper Co., our favorite stationery providers. Anna is, of course, part of Grace’s book, so I thought this would be the perfect occasion to talk to two very successful business women on how to build a brand your own way. There are so many treasures, so much honesty, so many lessons and so many fun moments in this conversation, I can’t wait for you to listen to this episode of Pardon my French!

[podcast_episode episode=”241607″ ]

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

On realizing the need to build your own thing…
GRACE: I’d written for House & Garden, then that closed, then I went to Domino, then that closed. I felt like it was my fault. I went to interview for Blueprint Magazine, which was Martha Stewart’s magazine, had an interview, never heard back. I thought I just wasn’t the right fit and then I found out the magazine had folded over the weekend! I had this moment where I was so sad, but also print was not this stable place I thought it was. It used to seem so safe! Like all the “Conde-Nistas” and their high heels, regular paychecks and health insurance and all these things that seemed so appealing to me. Then I realized I was going to have to build that on my own.

On finding your own way as an entrepreneur…
ANNA: I was always really quiet in school and I always joke that I would have been the last person in my high school to be voted most likely to succeed. It wouldn’t have crossed anyone’s mind! And that makes me laugh a little bit because I don’t think I saw that in myself but it was there and I feel I’ve been doing it in my own way. When you think of leaders, sometimes it’s the bold, outgoing person, but I feel like there is a way for my type of personality to do it too and that was really fun to discover.

On who the woman in her book is about…
GRACE: There was a moment of like, women are props, we’re just these beautiful props, styled on things. Even in business magazines, it’s this “power bitch” vibe with big shoulders and ladies on desks being really sexy and if that’s who you are, great, own it, but that’s not the majority of women I know running businesses and I wanted to see confident, strong women, but in whatever way that was for them.

On selecting women to profile in her new book….
GRACE: It started out as a sticky note on my laptop that said, “bold women,” and I had a list of maybe six people, and people I sort of tangentially knew through other people who I just admired for just firmly being themselves and not being afraid to have an opinion and to have a strong point of view, whether that was aesthetic or spoken and I wanted to see more of that. I felt so much of the lifestyle community was about celebrating this sort of softness and meekness in women that is totally fine and valid, but it’s not really what gets me going in the morning. So I expanded the list to more and more women I admired but had no connections to at all, and literally on Facebook I started reaching out saying, “Does anybody know Carrie Brownstein? Does anybody know Thelma Golden?” And then through friends and friends of friends, I slowly started getting connected. It was truly a village effort to put this together.

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

On finding your voice as a boss…
ANNA: I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. The business started with me wanting to create stuff for myself. Now it’s much more complicated. Rifle was very much me when I started, I was the only person who had to agree or disagree and now I’m working for the brand almost in the same way everyone else is. I’m there to guide it, but I now have to remove myself and ask myself is that Rifle or is that just something I want to do. And that was a really interesting process.

On accepting the challenges of running a business…
GRACE: I think it’s ok to wax and wain. I interviewed over 100 women for this book and the one thread everyone had in common that I didn’t expect was that people had all embraced that their businesses had moments where things were running really well and then for a few years they weren’t and they had to hustle, and then they got it under control and then it went off the wheels again, but they didn’t feel bad about it because that’s part of it. You grow, there’s a whole new set of problems and challenges and then you tackle those and grow again and discover new hurdles and it just keeps going.

On building a business outside of New York…
ANNA: So often at trade shows people would assume we were from New York and be shocked that we were in Florida. Shocked to a hilarious point of how can there be a successful business that’s not in New York? It just didn’t compute in their minds that someone could build something they thought was cool and it’s not in New York or L.A. That to me has been really fun and exciting. The cost of business in Florida is so much cheaper and it’s easier for us to hire people quickly.

On dealing with negative comments from readers…
GRACE: The thing that gets under my skin is whenever I jump in and defend a homeowner or my point of view, which isn’t actually all that often, people jump in and go, “SHHHHH!! This isn’t your place! This is our comment section, you shouldn’t be talking here! First Amendment rights.” And I’m like, I pay the bills here, yes, I can talk and me talking isn’t violating your First Amendment right!”

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

How to Build a Brand Your Own Way: Grace Bonney + Anna Bond

On coming out on the site…
GRACE: I’ve come to this place where talking about my personal life, within limits, feels normal and weird not to talk about those things. So holding that back for a while was a weird process and I eventually felt moved to say it because it felt like I was keeping something from people and a part of myself back. My site doesn’t make a ton of money and it’s not this super famous thing. It’s about passion and being able to be honest and real and when that wasn’t happening, I didn’t want to go to work anymore. I needed to make a change that made me happy to be there again and that was simply coming out and then moving on and that was it. It was like a one week thing and next week you’re back to talking about houses and that’s the way it should be.

On the idea of “You can’t be what you can’t see”…
GRACE: At a certain point, I thought about what about all of the little girls of color and are they seeing examples of interior, graphic or fashion designers or whoever else in our community they can look up to and see themselves in. So I started making this list of people I wanted to be able to look to this book and see themselves reflected and that extended to race, age, religion, stage of career and even as far as people who are still working part-time jobs while also still having their companies. All of those entries points are what made the book so important for me because I really wanted anyone to be able to pick this book up and see at least some part of who they are reflected back on a page.”

On accepting imperfection and not having it all figured out…
GRACE: No one in this book is perfect. Everyone is imperfect and talks about that and embraces it and so often when we think about role models, we put them on this pedestal of, they’re done, they’re finished, their life is figured out! I love Eileen Fisher and she is constantly talking about things she’s still course correcting and changing and figuring out and I’m, like, man, you can be that far into your career and still have stuff to figure out? Then I don’t feel so bad about still having a lot of questions I don’t have answered yet.

pardon my french anna bond grace bonney garance dorephoto

Special thanks to The Standard, East Village. Grace’s book tour dates are below and you can find ticket info here.
Oct 13: Atlanta / Oct 16: Chicago / Oct 17: L.A. / Oct 18: Seattle / Oct 22: Rhinecliff, NY / Oct 25: Washington, D.C. / Oct 27: San Francisco / Oct 28: Marin, CA / Nov 10: Philadelphia
Find more episodes of Pardon My French here, and subscribe on iTunes to catch up with Garance every Thursday!



Add yours
  • Murielle October, 13 2016, 9:58 / Reply

    Intervieuw interéssante.
    Ce que je remarque chez toi Garance, c’est que tu recommences à faire des chignons…c’est ce qui arrive quand on laisse repousser ses cheveux…

  • Garance, tu dis que c’est incroyable que les lecteurs qui te lisent depuis le début t’aient suivie tout ce temps, car tu te sens comme une personne différente de celle que tu étais.

    C’est aussi vrai pour moi, qui te suis depuis le début :-) Et ça me fait du bien de voir que je ne suis pas la seule à changer, de voir que nous avons tous nos phases, nos moments qui nous font grandir, réagir, prendre du recul.

    Je trouve impressionnant que les lecteurs aient apparemment un peu de peine à s’adapter – pas tous évidemment – aux changements sur un blog, un site web, une marque, etc. Je trouve au contraire positif, cela nous force aussi à repenser notre propre manière d’envisager les choses, de nous demander s’il ne serait pas temps de suivre son temps, etc.

    Le plus drôle, c’est de revoir des archives de sites web, d’articles, de photos d’il y a 4 ou 5 ans. Dans le moment, tout le monde est persuadé que c’est LA vérité, mais l’épreuve du temps démontre que s’adapter est une tâche quotidienne que l’on fait tous, consciemment ou non.

    Merci pour cette belle interview !

  • Such an inspiring story, especially for someone like myself, who’s trying to learn and build their own site!


  • What a wonderfully intelligent interview!
    Two things are very similar between this site and DesignSponge:
    –Original content (not just a bunch of links and copies of other people’s work)
    –A focus on individual creators and their stories.
    Bravo to all of you!

  • I loved this Pardon my French! Very inspirational to hear women who share their own business experience and help for girls empowerment.

  • Très belle interview et très intéressante !

  • Inspiring, thought-provoking and funny interview.
    Please more of this!

  • Thank you for this, inspiring and fascinating. I’ve found myself in a job that feels soulless and I’m just plucking up the courage to be brave and do something new, this has really helped me realise I don’t have to be super perfect at it but be true to myself and vision. So lifting to hear such honesty. Thank you! Katie x (England)

  • A few women I admire and am inspired by the most. What a wild week of coincidence. It seems like all the women I follow and admire are getting together and talking. Thank goodness I can listen in and be a part of it-I wish I could literally be there and have dinner up at Grace’s. I have been following the two of you for close to a decade and how we all have grown and blossomed…

  • Courtney October, 14 2016, 4:43 / Reply

    Loved this episode. I really wanted to know what you all think about copycats so it’s great you covered that, particularly Anna. I’ve seen so many Etsy shops trying to BE Anna and it bothers me.. so I’ve wondered how Anna feels about it.
    Keep up the great work.

  • Caroline October, 15 2016, 9:04 / Reply

    Super interview, hyper riche et intéressante!

  • Stephanie Wu October, 15 2016, 2:18 / Reply

    So interesting. Plus, as a seamstress it was a delightful surprise to learn more about the designer of the gorgeous Rifle fabrics on this blog!
    Thank you for the in depth interviews.

  • Claere Kay October, 17 2016, 6:02 / Reply

    This podcast was THE BEST EVER. Thankyou! Well except for Linda Rodin which was the best ever too. Loved them both :)

  • Anolivia October, 17 2016, 1:14 / Reply

    Really really inspiring conversation, you ladies rock !

  • I love stories about female entrepreneurship. It is so refreshing to see intelligent women thriving, who feel compelled to take the time to be a source of inspiration to others by sharing their journeys and providing resources to help others succeed. We need to see more women elevating their counterparts. Bravo!

  • Katelyn K October, 20 2016, 7:36 / Reply

    this was my absolute favorite episode yet of PMF. “You can’t be what you can’t see” was such a deeply, personally touching moment for me. It means so much to hear about women that inspire me who, like me, are also gay. I immediately bought Grace’s book (and Julia’s, and I already own yours of course)! And also immediately went straight to your site and searched lesbian and gay because I want to know so much more about your story.

  • I loved this episode, have listened to it three times in a row. When I was in college we had a course in how to be an entrepreneur and my take from that was that I never wanted to be one. Not in that venture capital kind of way. But I have always done frelance gigs on the side and never even thought about it as another way to start something. And listening to this episode made me realze that there is a way for me to combine all the things I want to do. Thank you so much!! <3 <3 <3

  • I was in art class while listening to this episode. I had to hold back tears when Grace talked about “you can’t be what you can’t see.” I’ve always felt marginalized by my race and religion and it is difficult for me to see how I can make it in the fashion industry because I have no one to relate to. For Grace to be self-reflective and admit that she was contributing to a problem, it is truly humbling and inspiring. It is hopeful to see that there are more people like her who active in making empowering changes for women. And because of what you and Grace shared, I feel hopeful that someone like me (Filipino-American and Mormon) can succeed. Thank you for this podcast. Now I need to stop listening to it so I can stop crying!

  • Louise Hvidegaard September, 16 2017, 11:59 / Reply

    Hi! Love love love your podcasts, but can’t seem to find the first 4 podcasts (this one, the one with gwyneth, for the love of books and phillip lim) in the podcast app or in itunes. Is it only me having this problem?
    Thanks for great conversations

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