Bay Area mama Kellie Menendez is causing a stir in the design world. Her company, Half Full, has taken the much beloved wallpaper trend to new heights by bringing her love of nature indoors. Her papers are inspired by the beauty she finds in her surroundings and she is committed to giving back to the creatures that make cameo appearances in her designs. Here she shares what it’s like co-founding her company with her friend, how she finds strength in her mama tribe and what’s coming next with her business. Here’s a hint… you’ll soon be able to drape yourself in Half Full from head to toe. Read on…
Kellie, you left the tech world to focus on your dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Did you always have this dream or did it evolve over time?
The pull to create a company of my own and to be true to my creative spirit was always there no matter how much I immersed myself in my roles at other companies. So I would say that dream was always living within me and over time, I crafted the knowledge of how to start a company of my own.
You now have a wallpaper and textile company that focuses on the beauty found in nature called Half Full. Tell us more about it.
I started Half Full in 2015 with my friend and fellow artist Ondrea Vicklund. We create home décor that celebrates unique experiences and environments and combine our love of nature with original illustrations to bring the beauty of the Earth and all its creatures into your home.
Your wallpapers are gorgeous! We especially love the Endangered line, focused on animals that run the risk of endangerment. Why is this so important to you?
Thank you, we believe we can improve the world by creating beauty and have a commitment to protect the future of the living beings we illustrate. In an effort to give back, we proudly support the conservation of the wildlife and wild environments that inspire many of our designs.
What aspect of start-up life do you find most rewarding? Most challenging?
The results directly correspond to the effort you put into it. As long as you are making choices you believe in and following through, you will be rewarded. In other words, if you are starting something that is authentic to your knowledge and beliefs, you know what to do and the effort you put in gives expected results. I love that.
The part I find challenging is being patient. It takes time to craft something special, but I see where we are headed. My excitement to actualize and experience that place is sometimes overwhelming.
We have to ask, how did you know what to do to start a wallpaper line? Did you have a mentor help you figure it out?
I did not know how to create wallpaper specifically, but both Ondrea and I knew how to create art and had printing experience from various design projects over the years. In my search to learn how to create wallpaper and to find people that produced it, we were able to meet Erin Minckley of Relativity Textiles, who was instrumental in helping us gain knowledge of the industry. She is a fellow mom and I am so grateful for her help in the beginning of our venture.
You mentioned you co-founded the company with your friend Ondrea Vicklund. When did you realize you could take your relationship from friend to business partners? Was there a pivotal moment?
We always knew we wanted to do something together that involved an art focus. We always shared the same vision and the idea evolved over time. Our first idea was greeting cards. We even named the company, Nambi Pambi, but we never launched it. When the idea for Half Full was discussed we both couldn’t help but execute on it. We even said the name in unison, so I knew this was the right thing!
What is the hardest part about running a business with a friend? The best?
It is very much like a marriage. You get to know your business partner on all levels and you get to intimately know their strengths and weaknesses. But, like raising a child, you learn to use those differences to balance the scale.
Tell us more about how your strengths differ and how this translates into who manages which part of your business?
We both create art so that part is a delicate balance but there are differences in how we execute on the business. I come from a background of building companies and helping them grow, so I manage much of the strategic/creative direction and operations side. Ondrea comes from the world of video games and has experience with production so she handles that side and the art direction. It has evolved and will continue to as we bring on new people.
You are also a member of Pipeline Angels, a company focused on raising capital for women led business. Tell us more about that and why you got involved.
I worked in Tech for a long time and a majority of that time I supported and helped male founders and investors achieve their dreams. That also meant that I never experienced making an investment on my own. Leading due diligence and signing the legal documents that go with selecting a start-up or seed stage company was interesting to me and Pipeline Angels gave me that knowledge. Aside from the boot camp to train Angel Investors, they also only invest women and non-binary femme founded companies. So, short answer, I love the mission of changing the face of Angel Investing, the education and the companies they support!
Why do you think it’s empowering for women to collaborate and work together? What have you learned most by working with other women?
Well obviously women have an inherent knowledge about what it is like to be a woman, so that difference is off the table and that is empowering in itself. It allows you the ability to create and support each other in ways someone wouldn’t be able to without walking in your shoes. Working with women gives you the power to be yourself, and live as you are with all forms of expression.
What’s next for Half Full? Do you have plans to expand beyond wallpapers?
Funny you should ask, we just launched fabrics! Soon we will be launching pillows and other decor items and then we will be expanding into fashion with scarves and pocket squares. You will be able to fully immerse yourself in Half Full. Also, our second collection will be named after the women that inspire us. I hope one day we will be giving back as much as we create and continue to meet inspiring women along the way.
Running your own business and being a mother is all consuming. How do you manage your time between work and family? Do you have any favorite “life hacks” or “non-negotiables” you’ve picked up along the way?
My husband also owns his own company, so we are both busy. I really just try to be present in each moment. If you have 20 things to do, focus on them one by one, do the best you can with each and then move on to the next. And make sure to schedule a little “you” time each day. A clear head is so important for alignment and staying calm.
3 pearls of wisdom
Include your children. I do not feel burdened by Adrian. He is a joy to have around, and because I have included him in so many ways I rarely feel conflicted about my schedule or planning. One example would be when I make art for Half Full, he makes art with me.
Be patient with yourself. Having children creates a natural stream of constant change, those changes can be overwhelming but if you embrace them they can be a source of inspiration. Half Full came about because I had to adapt my schedule to make it work for me and so many new roads have been created because I am a mom.
Embrace the community. Mothers are makers. They not only made life but they make things happen. Helping out your fellow mothers opens up a world of opportunity to yourself.