I'm not going to lie, "I've gotta get out of this town," is something I've heard, and said, over the years. I live in the smallish town of Tehachapi, California. Tehachapi is a quaint mountain town in Central California, composed of about 30,000 residents, in the heart of the last conservative county in the state, Kern County. Kern County is frequently referred to as the Texas of California, so it's no surprise that in recent years, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Texas. I've visited several Texas cities and landmarks for both work and pleasure, and each time I go, I find myself even more smitten.
Texas has a long larger-than-life history of cattle ranches, farming, oil barons, industry, US presidents, independence and pride. The state is known for Texan hospitality, out of this world barbecue and so much more. While Texas boasts a long line of impressive women in history, recently, some charming Texan businesswomen are staking their claim and taking social media, HGTV, their communities and the world by storm with their vision, style, spunk and entrepreneurialism. Joanna Gaines of the television show, Fixer Upper, from Waco and Aimee and Jolie the Junk Gypsy Sisters in Round Top, along with their families and teams are putting Texas in a new spotlight.
The phrase "everything's bigger in Texas" isn't lost on these spitfires. Their inability the think small has developed an international following. They are outspoken women of faith who have warmed our hearts and inspired us to express our personal styles in our homes, through entertaining and cooking and encouraged our desire to pursue our own dreams and the belief that anything is possible with a dream, taking some risk and putting in hard work.
During a recent trip to Texas, my husband and I were again blown away by what Joanna Gaines, her husband Chip and their Magnolia Team have done to completely transform their community of Waco, Texas. This is not an understatement, Joanna and her business partner and husband, Chip have leveraged the celebrity of their show and have invested in multiple commercial real estate business in Waco. At the center of The Magnolia Market at the Silos, is their gorgeous home decor store, Magnolia. On the property is also a garden store, The Silos Baking Co. and a bustling outdoor pavilion and courtyard that is home to numerous small business proprietors of food and beverage trucks. They opened a cafe in 2019, the Magnolia Press on the Silo campus as well. In addition to the Silo property, they have the Little Shop on Bosque that serves as a last chance retail shop at discount prices. In 2018, they opened Magnolia Table and have plans to open a store featuring their own furniture line in 2020.
Prior to 2015, an average of 25,000 average visitors came to Waco each month (those numbers are after two seasons of Fixer Upper had already aired). In 2018, Waco hosted over 2.7 million visitors. That's 225,000 people a month y'all! TripAdvisor ranked Waco No. 2 on its list of top destinations on the rise for 2018. Way to go JoJo!
After visiting Waco, we ventured southeast to the Texas Hill Country to visit my favorite "Big Time Small" town, Round Top, Texas, population 90. Round Top is the home of the Round Top Antiques Show, and the Junk Gypsies, two sisters who made junking a full time and prosperous endeavor. Their boho-meets-vintage-meets-yard-sale style has become all the rage. Their famous Airstream trailer renovations have garnered them national exposure and a reality TV show. They now have a gorgeous store, The Junk Gypsy, bed & breakfast, The Wander Inn and an incredible online retail endeavor.
Round Top has been home to the Round Top Antiques Show since 1968. It was founded by a visionary Texan lady, Emma Lee Turney. What was once a small week-long antique show with a handful of curated vendors, has now become a 2-week long antique festival, that takes place twice a year, and spans miles of Highway 237 from Carmine to La Grange, with Round Top at the heart of it all. It now attracts over 100,000 visitors each spring and fall.
While the Junk Gypsy Sisters moved from College Station in 2009 to raise their children in a small town, they didn't let their small town "fence them in." They'd been participating in the Round Top Antiques Show for years. One highlight of the event is the Junk-O-Rama Prom hosted by the gypsy sisters themselves. What started in 2004 as an ode to old prom dresses past, has turned into a star-studded evening with live music, dancing and outhouse-turned-photo booth, where fun is had by all!
Both sisters Amie and Jolie, have successful college backgrounds and were heading into promising careers in their fields of law and medicine, but the call to follow in their mama's footsteps and pursue the creativity of junking and design was too great. They quit their jobs in 1998 with $2,000 and a prayer to pursue their passion. That passion has landed them design gigs for the likes of Miranda Lambert and Green Day frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong. Their trash to treasure style, and Texan charm, also landed an HGTV show, Junk Gypsies, endearing them in the hearts of many of us, and putting Round Top in the spotlight for a new audience, including this small-town California girl. I'm currently planning my fourth trip back! Their style is so adored, they even have a custom line with Pottery Barn Teen!
The vision these women, their partners, families and teams share has spanned beyond their businesses and bank accounts. When driving through Waco or Round Top, there is no denying the impact these ladies have had on their communities. As a businesswoman, entrepreneur and developer, I reflected multiple times throughout the trip, and now back home, on the risks they took, the purposeful way in which they are living out their callings and the support of their families and communities in which they are thriving. After graduating from high school, I couldn't get out of my town fast enough. I needed to spread my wings and see what the world had in store for me. After my husband, Buddy (also from Tehachapi) and I started our family and business, the calling to relocate back to the roots of our hometown grew stronger and stronger.
We've been back home nearly nine years now and it's been a blessing. Don't get me wrong, there are some negatives to small-town living. I love the saying, "The nice thing about living in a small town is, if I don't know what I'm doing, someone else surely does." I know that people have always had their own opinions, but social media seems to have empowered people to more freely express their unsolicited negativity about our community's progress and our personal investments in it. I know that our town isn't unique to these rants. It happens everywhere. I read something recently that explored the concept that when you post online, versus speaking directly to someone you free yourself of receiving the expression on the person's face to whom you are speaking. You dodge the responsibility of witnessing the impact of what your cruelty has done to the other person. It really struck me. Daily, I've been reading more and more posts, primarily from women, encouraging one another to shake off such judgement and to "straighten each other's crowns." I love seeing this outpouring of encouragement, especially from our community of female small business owners. It's inspiring to see these ladies taking a stand, exerting their power, exercising their voices and loving on each other! You go girls!
Yes, the occasional, uninvited small town critic can be annoying, and downright hurtful, but my trip prompted me to consider all of the opposition and negative feedback these pioneers have surely received throughout their journeys. They didn't let it stop them. They didn't shrink or move to somewhere more metropolitan and ready for such visionaries. No, they stayed right where they were planted and blazed ahead in pursuit of the callings of their hearts. Not only did they and their careers blossom, but they undeniably enhanced the communities in which they live and invest.
I came home radically inspired. Inspired to pursue the desires of my heart and my family's, which involves continuing to invest in the community where we're planted, where we are raising our children, where we were raised. Where my family has resided for four generations and my husband's for six. We aren't going to make ourselves small, because some vocal minority on Facebook wants to criticize our design choices or investment strategies. And, neither should anyone else. We're going to stay right here and grow where we've chosen to be planted. As we journey into this new decade, my prayer for my family, friends and community members is that we'll all be inspired to meditate on our callings, to intentionally pursue that purpose, for relentless focus and to make 2020 the very best year of our lives. Heeding the calling of your heart can have a profound impact on your life, your family, your community and even the world! Let's go!
Side note: There are a couple of Texas ladies who aren't included in this blog, but I'd be wildly remiss to write a blog about today's strong Texas women and not to give them honorable mention:
San Antonio native and University of Houston powerhouse, Brené Brown is a professor, speaker and author who has written four New York Times Best Sellers. Brené specializes in studying, and coaching on, courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She works with C-Level leaders, high ranking military personnel and business organizations all over the world. Her philosophy encourages leaders to view and embrace vulnerability and transparency as strength and courage in leadership. My only wish is that I'd discovered Brené's books earlier on in my career. Her "no-nonsense" style gets right to the heart of addressing the responsibility of leadership when it comes to creating a successful or failing culture. Her philosophy and "grab the bull by the horns" tactics speak right into my heart. I encourage you to check her books out.
While Rachel Hollis, is a native Californian, she's originally from Kern County, so as previously mentioned, she's pretty much a Texan already! She and her husband chose to move to Texas as a strategic decision to headquarter their business and an emotional decision to choose the best place for them to raise their family. Our girl Rach lights the hearts of literally millions of women around the world on fire from her home in Texas. She has taken the personal development world by storm and is revered for her positive message that we are: Made for More! Her Texas roots continue to grow deeper as her company, The Hollis Co. announced plans at the end of 2019 to acquire land and build a large campus for their team in Austin. Rachel's daily social media videos, posts, podcasts, books, journals and emails are a part of my everyday motivation and have literally changed my life!
Believe it or not, both Brené and Rachel have their own documentaries. Brené's, The Call to Courage can be seen on Netflix and Rachel Hollis Presents: Made for More can be viewed for free with Amazon Prime Video.
We're a family who loves living life to the full. We try to live each day with intention in an effort to find gratitude, seek wonder, show love and a experience a ton of laughter.