THE LILLS BACKSTORY
Although we were both creative and gearing ourselves toward artistic futures, we still took meaningless nine to five jobs. In November of 2005, we worked and met at Abercrombie & Fitch, which was super ironic, as the two of us didn’t agree with the brand and what it stood for. Somehow, we were both recruited and worked full-time. The moment we met (one was interviewing the other for a job), we were stuck like glue.
Although all of the employees had to sign an agreement to not socially interact with superiors/inferiors within the company, we broke the rule that day and secretly moved in together the first week of meeting. About a month later, the A&F district manager found us out. One of us was fired and the other one quit.
Within a few weeks, we had gathered our minimal belongings and finances together, “borrowed” a family member’s car and high-tailed it to the edge of America (also known as Folly Beach, SC). We moved into a tiny 1 bedroom bungalow, two blocks from the ocean and began our first company, screen printing original designs on organic tees to sell by the beach. We created our own little brand, with self-produced product photography, web and graphic design and even a video that was pitched to MTV. We learned so much about owning and operating our own creative business, but we still had a lot to experience before really getting it together.
Although we were in love with working for ourselves, we certainly weren’t making enough to cover all of our expenses. We felt outside pressure to obtain the normal American lifestyle and an income that would support it, so we took sales jobs together in South Carolina. We made good money, learned a bunch and lived in a beautiful place, but sales wasn’t personally satisfying to either one of us and we still dreamed of working together creatively.
We moved back up North and worked in creative industries in Manhattan. The big apple rocketed us into the fast-paced, money making mindset. We took subways, trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries and walked our butts all over the island, working for television commercial production companies and casting agencies, an animation studio, an event coordination company and more. This time, we made more money, but our living expenses were through the roof, we only worked together occasionally and keeping big jobs in a big city ultimately wasn’t something either of us wanted to maintain or build a foundation upon.
We left the bright lights, money, respectable jobs and city-life, for a challenge that would make or break us. We high-tailed it to Florida in a U-Haul truck with our minimal belongings and found a house to rent (the same day we had to return the truck). We arrived with no jobs in sight and we were already running low on funds. Money was now the priority and it didn’t matter what jobs we’d take, we had to eat and live. We eventually found nine to five jobs that were mind-numbing, not inspiring and kept us in an unhealthy state. We barely saw one another anyway, but we were truly put to the test as individuals and as a couple when we spent almost a year apart for work.
A long distance relationship morphed us into different people, literally living completely separate lives. It was the polar-opposite of what we were used to after five years together and it was painful to watch the distance between each other grow as time went on. The only thing that kept us communicating, other than talking online, phone calls and small trips, was working together on creative ideas from afar. Ultimately, the experience taught us far more than we expected.
It was important to experience what life would be like without the other person. We took risks, made mistakes, broke each other’s trust, failed ourselves, failed one another and somehow like magnets, came back together, stronger than ever. We brushed ourselves off, organized, prioritized, began appreciating the little things and got back on track to building a simple life with big adventures.
We finally had learned, it wasn’t that we needed to obtain an income to support a normal American lifestyle. It was that we needed to change our lifestyle and how we make money in order to obtain the life we dreamed of.
We moved back to South Carolina, said “I Do” and crossed the threshold with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We organized a $1,500 wedding by designing our own invitations and receiving flowers from a neighbor’s garden. We gave each other $50 rings, signed our marriage certificate on the back of a Volkswagen and began life as newlyweds, with nothing to our name.
The first year starting up our business, we lived in a little 1 bedroom cottage on a farm for $600 a month. There was no a/c or heat and you could see through the cracks of the floors. It didn’t matter to us. The whole property was drenched in Southern charm and it was the perfect place to begin again.
We worked day and night building The Lills Design, our web, graphic, social, photography and video company, as well as networking and promoting the brand locally. As a husband/wife team, we were now able to wake up and go to sleep every single day knowing we were building our future truly together. Even if we had very little, what we were able to create was limitless.
Life became super simple and we spent all of our time building our design business, rewiring our brains, restructuring our lifestyle, building clientele and creating a plan for our future. We made very little money in the beginning and there were moments we were down to nickels and pennies and just made do. We experienced life without a car, there were times we couldn’t pay rent, we had our electricity and even water turned off and oftentimes, it felt like we were fighting an uphill battle. In any case, we still didn’t take jobs that were meaningless to us or kept us apart. We pushed through, miracles occurred and finally, we were in business.
Once some money came in the door, we didn’t change our lifestyle. We stayed minimal and today, all of our belongings fit in our VW bus. For over eight years we have thanked the universe and each other for having figured out a way to live and work together creatively.
In 2017, we took our design company and life on the road. We went completely minimal, reorganized life, packed up our 80 square foot VW bus and hit the road to explore the U.S. On the day we left, we launched TheLills.com and began telling our story, sharing our thoughts and travels. We hope everyone enjoys our posts and comes along with us on this journey! Peace & Love – The Lills
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