EDITOR’S NOTE: This FACES interview took place well before COVID-19 arrived and impacted the U.S. Please read with that in mind. Thank you.
“Bland” and “predictable” are two words never used to describe Emily McCarthy. This vibrant shopkeeper, graphic designer, wife and mother, and all-around fashionista is known for her trendsetting store in downtown Savannah, GA. Her shop is filled with tabletop treasures, paper goods, colorful women’s clothing and a lot of cheetah print (some of which is used in Emily’s own licensed fabric and clothing), and it was recently named Savannah’s best place for gifts. Emily has gained recognition with her monograms and family crests by offering Couture Monograms as a way to celebrate a marriage, create brand recognition for a new company or give a home its own identity. Fans also enjoy following the adventures of her adorable red-headed family on Instagram as they live life to the fullest. Meet our newest FACE of the South, Emily McCarthy!
How and when did the Emily McCarthy business start? What did you want your store and services to offer that you didn’t see elsewhere?
I’ve been doing freelance design work and branding since 2006, and the product and Shoppe side of the business began in 2012. After many years of designing for other companies, I felt encouraged to follow my own creative path with our first product launch in 2012. My tenure in the personalized gift and stationery industry left me feeling that the market was oversaturated with the same options and products. I started the store to create a unique design opportunity to personalize products and gifts that felt a little more upscale and custom. Fast forward, and we have created a truly special experience for customers to brand their life, event, wedding and home from beginning to end.
How has your background led you to this point in life? Have you always been creative?
Yes! In my youth, I was classically trained in art by my grandmother, Lillian. I decided to major in art and graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in fine arts, concentrating on graphic design and photography. After graduation, I spent a few years in the stationery and gift industry before starting my own business.
Tell us about the custom monograms and crests you’re making for individuals, couples and companies. Why is it important for people to brand themselves visually?
Monograms and crests are a way to keep the old world traditions alive, using this as an opportunity to show your personality and style. Our clients are sometimes traditional, sometimes modern and sometimes in the middle. Our monograms and crests usually tell a story with the lettering style and additional design elements used. Whether it’s part of someone’s family history, architectural details of their home or meaningful things in their life, there are ways for us to creatively incorporate those into the final design. We love hiding things in the crest that are special to the client but don’t necessarily become apparent to others.
Who do you admire in the business world that helped pave the way for you — from afar or closer to your life?
I admire all of the lady bosses who taught me valuable lessons and hard work ethics along the way. I always worked for creative women who owned their own businesses (such as Kelly Plank with Swoozie’s, and Christine Marecki with the now-gone business Dabberdoo). Now that I own my business, I try to instill those same philosophies in the younger generations.
How does living and working in Savannah play into your brand?
Our customer base, which is very coastal and Southern, plays an important role in our product development. From colors, prints and patterns, we always have to keep in mind what our locals love. As an artist, I am naturally inspired by our surroundings and beautiful atmosphere.
What are some of the other items you sell in your shop?
We licensed the “Cocktail Candle,” which is a line of candles inspired by cocktails with a reusable glass after use. Our customers love starting a collection and adding to it over the years with new glasses. We also launched a clothing line — classic pieces with a twist featuring our signature prints. It’s currently available for purchase online and in retailers.
Any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Gain experience before going out on your own. The lessons and skills you will learn working for others will be priceless. I see a lot of creatives try to start their own businesses right out of college, but I truly value the experience I gained in my career. Start working in your field, striving for businesses that align with your future vision. Learn from them, grow with them and take away little nuggets to help you down the road. At the time, I didn’t see how my experience was paving the way for the future, but I look back now and see how it affects my decisions and growth now.
Part of your brand is your adorable family. Tell us about the McCarthy red-headed family and how you enjoy spending time together.
We definitely have our hands full with two little ones and both [my husband and me] owning our own businesses. We love to stay busy, especially to show our children all of the experiences life can offer. From spending time on the water to being outdoors, our kids have become pretty well-rounded and that was our goal as parents. In social media, my personal Instagram is what existed first, paving the way to the launch of the Shoppe. Followers love to see the personal side of our lives, and because of the growth of the products, we were able to open the store after online picked up traction. Our life is crazy and fun, so we just try to capture every part of it!
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and from whom?
Entrepreneur Whitney English guided me in staying true to myself and the importance of standing out in a crowded industry.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Exercise (I love Pure Barre!), lots of coffee and lots of sleep!
Thank you for chatting with us, Emily! And a special thanks to Kelli Boyd for the beautiful photos.
In light of COVID-19, Emily McCarthy has made adjustments to her business, offering appointments and limiting the number of people in the store. Products can also be shopped online for delivery and pickup, and $5 shipping is currently available for all clothing purchases. Learn more at emilymccarthy.com.
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