Whole Planet Foundation | Empowering Entrepreneurs: Interview with Christie Zangrilli
Christie is a new partner of Whole Planet Foundation whose design-forward and fun furniture provides inspiration and is a unique way of “lending”. Through her leadership, Party at the Moontower loaned and styled Whole Planet Foundation lounge furniture for our 2017 Annual Benefit & Live Auction. On Saturday, June 2nd, Christie is a panelist at Whole Planet Foundation's Power Her Potential Women’s Expo, speaking about Taking the Leap into Entrepreneurship.
As a co-founder of a company run by two talented women, were they your inspiration to support women entrepreneurs? Where else do you find inspiration?
My core inspiration comes directly from my parents and growing up in a very DIY household. My dad is a restaurant entrepreneur and my mom is an artist/maker/builder who helped make his restaurant visions come to life. My mom’s realm was the visual presentation and whatever they needed she simply created, from the menus to the art on the walls. It wasn’t a big deal—she would just do it as her initial instinct versus looking to the outside help. Whether it is innate, or learned through watching my mom work in her backyard studio, the instinct to create and seek solutions in myself first is a driving force. In terms of more daily inspiration, I get to collaborate with a ton of amazing other women business owners, which there are a lot of in the events industry. Seeing other women succeeding at running businesses while having families and still making it out for networking events is what gets me through the tough days.
How did you progress past wanting to do what you love to loving what you do and supporting a charitable cause at the same time?
From being the head of “Earth Club” in junior high (still got my sweet “save the manatees” t-shirt), to working on the clean energy movement in grad school, I’ve always been drawn to causes that help our planet and people. Having a strong creative drive brought me to graphic and web design, which I practiced for 12 years before starting Party at the Moontower. In 2008, my efforts to merge what I loved and charitable causes, culminated in the co-founding of Tribe Creative Agency, a worker-owned business which provided creative services only to “common good” clients. Fast forward to today… Party at the Moontower, while not a social business, has integrated giving back to the community into our business model. Each month we are dedicated to sponsoring up to two charitable causes. Although it’s a small role, we are grateful to be able to help organizations make their fundraising events look their best and make donors feel special. In addition, we have year long partnerships with a couple organizations that we particularly align with—Boss Babes and Big Medium. Both are groups that support women and art! And finally, at least once a year our staff takes a community service day—a way to get hands on and out of the office.
Tell us how design-forward rental furniture collections help Moontower make people happy and why that’s important to you?
Who doesn’t like to feel like a VIP? Helping to create that special feeling for guests drives what we choose for our furniture rental inventory. Creating delightful spaces for people to interact in is one of the ways to make their experience more memorable. An example in our case might be sitting in a beautiful lounge area, bubbly in hand, laughing with friends at a wedding. We love creating environments that help transform those moments into memories that last.
What makes each day an opportunity to make a difference for yourself and women around the globe?
Growth is super important to me. Every day is truly a new chance to progress in your life, be it personal or professional. On the bad days, maybe there is little to no movement—or as wise people tell us, those are the times we learn and grow the most (sigh). The good days are when we feel we’ve made some steps forward, big or small, and have come out at the end of the day somehow better than before… happier, successful, healthy or simply contented. For me, just recognizing that all of these feelings are signs that my life is steadily progressing is what makes a difference in my daily life and attitude. Growth is a process not an end result, so focusing on that as a benchmark for “happiness” is more rewarding and realistic.
Your bio lists you as Brand Builder. Pattern Lover. Can-Doer. Type Geek. New Mom. Likes to Party. How do you incorporate these personalities into your daily life, especially with a growing family?
A graphic designer by trade, my approach to most challenges from a visual perspective. If you create something and present it to the world, then it is! Within reason, you can do anything if you say you’re doing it. Your idea, a good logo, simple website and business card… Boom! You’re in business! This is how I’ve approached the businesses I’ve started. I guess its sort of a fake it ‘til you make it approach, but important if you’re ever going to get anything off the ground. And now that I’m thinking about it, isn’t this how EVERYONE enters into motherhood for the first time? My husband and I don’t know what the heck we’re doing, but we love our little bean and will do what is necessary to keep it alive, healthy and happy! As for partying, we still manage to squeeze that in too, albeit not as much.
Moontower is growing in pace with Austin. What’s your 5-year dream?
We already have a retail arm in the works (stay tuned!) and will eventually design some furniture and decor pieces ourselves. Our dream also includes opening our own showroom/venue space and expanding to other cities. Then world domination, of course.
What’s your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to embed a cause in their business strategy?
As in our case, you don’t have to be a social entrepreneur in order to do good for your community and world. Of course, if you can afford it, you can just make regular donations to non-profits, but I think it’s better if your contributions 1) make sense for your business and 2) are aligned with what you do. For example, if you have an ice cream truck, maybe you commit to using only organic milk. Or maybe you donate your product to fundraiser events supporting the sustainable food movement or whatever cause resonates with you. For us, what made sense was to commit to sponsoring rentals for 1 non-profit event per month. It’s a way of contributing what we have to offer to our community while making relationships and getting our face in front of varied audiences.