We had the good fortune of connecting with Makala Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Makala, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Well, I woke up one summer morning and it was unusually quiet in my house, which was odd because I have two small children and rarely is it completely silent! Lol! Anyway, I decided to meditate and take advantage of this peaceful moment, and I’m beyond grateful that I did because the end result was unforgettable. Soon after the quiet had passed, thoughts, ideas and strategies suddenly came to mind. The informal directives were clear and concise, so I wrote everything down in a journal and began planning what my business would look like from that moment forward. I still jot down notes in that journal to this day — in the margins, compiling sticky notes inside & out, it’s literally overflowing with creativity and travels with me everywhere I go in my big mommy-bag!
I had always dreamed of starting my own home décor accessories shop, yet I never could’ve imagined I’d be starting my business at what appeared to be the worst timing ever… but that’s a story for another time… Ha!! I will say, the best part of triumphing through adversity is that you always come out better on the other side, IF you’re willing to seize the opportunity for growth.
One of the most important developmental breakthroughs I stumbled upon in the process of starting my own business came to me while gardening, which I wholeheartedly believe is a metaphor for life. With the aide of my mom’s expertise (who should be a Botanist, btw!) I spent countless hours in my garden, pruning and nurturing the vast, tropical jungle I had curated over many years. During my time in the garden I discovered firsthand, what you water grows, and what you neglect eventually dies. What I mean by this is sometimes “foliage” needs to be pruned or cut back in order to create space for more robust growth to occur.
Clearing out “withered branches and debris” from our lives is often painful at first because those branches and debris are all we know and they feel familiar. But once we recognize that “unwanted pests” prefer to dwell in such “overgrown, unkempt” spaces we are able to initiate the removal process and continue it on an ongoing basis. In human speak, this is called creating and maintaining healthy boundaries — Ahhh!!! Yep, the heavens opened up and I was able to see life’s progression clearly, through gardening. Lol! I know this might sound silly to some, but in doing so, I was able to harness the freedom to create a “sustainable landscape” which perpetuates “long-lasting growth”, hence allowing my garden to reach its full potential. Like a well-groomed garden, we were designed to prosper in the healthiest of environments all along. The journey to discovering my own internal majesty is similar to a meandering path lined with bountiful blessings at every turn. Once I was able to recognize the hidden beauty within each winding pathway I began to blossom both personally and as a business owner. This is especially the reason that my business was named for one of my favorite places to seek refuge and clarity, my enchanted garden, also known as my Sanctuaire, spelled with a distinctly French flair!
Sanctuaire was launched with the central goal of someday providing employment for skilled women artisans from underrepresented communities who will manufacture the products I design. For many years, I had dreamed of establishing a business with the primary intent of leaving an inheritance for my children — resolving to alleviate the arduous task of building wealth for future generations of my family. But I quickly realized that I was on to something much bigger than my own personal intentions — I had been entrusted with a business that would generate wealth, not only for my family, but for many women in communities around the world. As I continue to build my empire, I am unrelenting in my resolve to hasten the economic empowerment of women, while encouraging women everywhere to be fierce and embrace their own inherent power and majesty.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I left for college at 18 years old I had no idea what I really wanted to do or become. I chose a major I felt was important and resonated with me, Comparative American Cultures, a history degree which is somewhat comparable to the DEI field of today. Fast-forward a decade or so, after working for several Fortune 500 companies, getting married and having children I began to think more about what I wanted to do in the future. I decided to go back to school, but this time I chose to pursue a career in Interior Architecture and I’m so glad I did. Design has brought me nothing but joy, it allows me to express myself and be as creative as I dare to be!
As a design student at UCLA I was introduced to the history of architecture, visited historic architectural sites from Malibu to the O.C., learned to draft by hand and with AutoCad, enhanced my freehand drawing skills, learned to sketch using Photoshop, and so much more. All the while making a ton of new friends and aligning myself with creative thinkers. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by collaborators, not competitors and I knew that going back to a traditional work environment was no longer in the cards for me. Design felt like home and I had finally found my people!
At this stage in life I couldn’t imagine taking time away from my family only to suffer through a 40-hour work week at a job I didn’t enjoy, to put it nicely! I understood that in order for me to be able to attend my kids’ activities and volunteer on the PA board at their school, I needed to become an entrepreneur — enabling me to formulate my own schedule, while generating an income at the same time.
Now to some people, building a business entirely from scratch, without a template for success, while maintaining my interminable position of full-time mom (i.e. driver, coach, tutor, personal chef… you get the drift!) might sound like a tremendous load. But for me, immersing myself in the fullness of who and what I was created to be has been liberating in the most soul-inspiring way possible. It was as if I gave a resolute “Yes!” to my calling and doors began to open all around me. Best of all, the waves of support have yet to subside!
I often joke about this time in my life laughing as I proclaim, “It was just me and God!” But it was actually true… lol! I had no blueprint, wasn’t sure what my product line would even consist of and had no access to substantial financial resources (other than a few coins I had saved in hopes of making my dream a reality someday?!!). So, it really was just me and God building the business together, one brick at a time!
It took some time but once I found my niche and started building, there was no turning back. I researched EVERYTHING from how to legally form a business (which was boring…), to which website builder was preferred (a little more interesting…), then moved on to the fun stuff, content creation! I could be found tucked away sketching and drawing day and night, making anything that came to mind. Just like my original journal, nothing was wasted I kept every little speck and eventually stumbled upon the brand I’ve honed into what you see today.
As a textile designer I knew I wanted my collection to feel authentic so I started there, asking myself questions such as “Which design style do I enjoy most?” and “How do I want my products to look/feel?” Luckily the answers to these questions were simple and I got to be unapologetically me. In this way, I’m able to introduce my love of clean lines and soft background palettes with eye-catching, pops of color, luxe texture and dimension. I enjoy creating bold graphics infused by contrasting color selections in each design, while incorporating pleasurable yet durable fabrics such as Vintage Distressed Linen and our Signature Luxe Velvet for starters. I resolved to create a modern approach to branding an AfroBohême lifestyle collection allowing customers to be themselves while embracing their unique individuality through my designs. Each piece in my collection is handcrafted and artisanally sewn in our Los Angeles studio. Like a beloved work of art, Sanctuaire textiles can also be framed and have been known to spark many thought provoking conversations. Some of Sanctuaire’s signature design collections are named for various Swahilii words such as Fuhara meaning Joy, Kabila meaning Family/Tribe, and Tatú which means 3rd born (because Sanctuaire is my 3rd baby!).
At times I feel my designs go against the grain, but I quickly remind myself I am in a lane of my own. Never in life have I been one to blend in and I’m definitely not about to start now! In a world where the latest interior design trends feature monochromatic, neutral tones (or as my daughter would say, “beigey-beige!”) Sanctuaire’s bold colors, patterns and fabric choices are timeless and I am beyond-thrilled about that! Don’t get me wrong, I am capable of designing a sophisticated collection of nude hues, if need be, but currently beige is not my go-to as a proud AfroBohême textile designer.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Breakfast Faves: Hilltop Cafe’ in Inglewood, J Nichols Kitchen in Marina del Rey, The Abbey in W. Hollywood, The Farm in Beverly Drive, Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in LA Lunch Faves: Wokcano in Downtown LA, The Boiling Crab in Westwood, Bottega Louie in Downtown LA, The Ivy in Beverly Hills, Mercedes Grill in Venice
Dinner Faves: Crustacean’s in Beverly Hills, Katana in Hollywood, Harold & Belle’s in LA, Katana in Hollywood, Javier’s in Century City
Shopping: Queen Los Angeles, Century City Mall, Topanga Mall, Brentwood Country Mart
Beaches: Zuma, Malibu, Newport
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My adorable kids, Jolie & Isaiah, have been my primary motivation and I’m thrilled to dedicate my first Shoutout to them! They have overseen Sanctuaire’s progress every step of the way, always providing honest feedback and undying support! From the moment the first box of samples arrived and we opened them together with excitement and great anticipation, to the everyday assistance they give in choosing which photos we should post to Instagram. My daughter has always told me how proud she is of what I’ve built and she can’t wait to see what is to come!
I would be remiss if I didn’t Shoutout my sister Tenesha for always being a constant source of support and encouragement through it all. She’s always stood by me and believed in me; through the good, the bad and the ugly! Whew!!! Nope, I’m not gonna cry…
I also have to Shoutout my dear, sweet friend Jen, Co-Founder/Owner of LuxAnthropy, for being one of the first people to believe in my designs, for jumping in my corner and staying there, for offering me countless business strategies, suggesting classes we should take together and referring me to fabulous entrepreneurial organizations. Jen has graciously extended her hand to me on many occasions and I will be forever grateful to her for her belief in me and my business, literally from day 1!
Last but not least, my business probably wouldn’t even be in existence without the incomparable leadership of Sarah Jakes Roberts, CEO of Women Evolve. The insight she gives is absolutely priceless, the resources she shares are positively life changing, but the most significant advice I’ve acquired from Sarah is to continue pursuing my purpose and calling because there are people out there waiting on me to show up and do what I was born to do. Sarah has taught me that having radical self-confidence is the most valuable tool a woman business owner must possess in today’s world.
Photographs © 2021, S A N C T U A I R E LLC