We were fortunate to meet Summer Meek at The Soul Project which is her gorgeous retail + event space in Laguna Beach. It’s warm and inviting and comfortable. We attended her The New Girls Network gathering and were surrounded by supportive female entrepreneurs who had gathered to share their stories. Now, we’d like to share Summer’s story:
Q. Since you are a native, what are your favorite childhood memories of Laguna Beach?
A. Some of my favorite memories are of course long days spent at the beach, exploring the tide pools, hiking the hills. And my parents were both early Sawdust Festival artists and I have a lot of memories of time spent there. I think that’s where I caught my entrepreneurial spirit. Even then I had enterprising endeavors going on.
Q. We love how you ventured out to create + celebrate spaces that feel like home. Was this something you had always wanted to do?
A. I have always believed in the energy of space. It’s challenging to explain and sounds woo woo to talk about but it is my super power. I love creating experiences I am passionate about it and add love to everything I do.
Q. You’re cottage-esque space is so warm and inviting, do you know the history behind it? Any interesting stories?
A. My understanding is in the early days of Laguna Beach artists would come and build their cottage, live in the back, create during the week and then open the doors on the weekend for tourists. Before I moved in, The Knitting Store habituated the space. But during one Art Walk a woman came and shared that she once lived in the back and had her art gallery in the front it–was probably 25 years prior to me opening. She brought me pictures it was so fun.
Q. You began your business through creating graphic Tees for artists (and still do), but you are also constantly growing, evolving and exploring. What is it that drives / pulls you? Any advice for others?
A. When I opened I really wanted to create a community space and have people come have an experience, it’s interesting because that was five years ago and now experience is trending. I just saw it as an organic way to cultivate a community of like minded individuals. I am a curious person and I love to learn and I am always seeking new information and love learning about people and love to incorporate that into what we’re doing at the store whether that’s through product or new experimental offerings. Sometimes I meet these really an amazing people that I really want to work with because were aligned. Like when I met you.
Q. Your latest adventure, The New Girls Network has brought some exciting and energizing opportunities to your community. Where do you want (hope) it to lead?
A. We just celebrated a year since we started meeting, we meet the third Thursday of the month at The Soul Project, it’s a free networking even but it’s really more than that, it’s a place for woman entrepreneurs to gather in a supportive environment. There’s not posturing, you don’t have to be a certain kind of person and wear a certain outfit. You can show up as your authentic self. I don’t know where it will go and I don’t currently have plans to make it anything other than what it is. I have watched woman connect, make business happen, grow into an idea and bring it to life.
Q. It is fitting that The Soul Project is located in the revitalized “Hip District ” of Laguna Beach. Are there any behind the scene changes you are inspired by?
A. We have come together as a neighborhood and are really trying to breathe life into this part of town. We have some really amazing g retailers and new stores opening. I fell we are becoming the new Abbot Kinney.
Q. Thank you for opening your doors to lark! We can’t wait to dine in your “landscapers” garden, under the stars–have you always been a foodie?
A. I have been a foodie most of my life. I remember one day asking to be driven to the store so I could buy all the ingredients to make a chocolate cake from scratch. My mom asked how I knew how to make it and I didn’t know, but I was inspired to try.
Q. What is your most memorable dining experience?
A. There are so many it’s hard to pick just one. But the most recent one that comes to mind is a farm to table dinner put on by my friend and farmer at Blue Bird Canyon Farms in Laguna Beach. He works with a woman named Chef Jen Alvarez. It was the most beautiful setting, and the most delicious sustainable food. I could still describe every morsel I ate that night. There was also a very memorable drive up to a castle in Italy with a view to die for and a dinner that was some of the most delicious food.
Q. If you could dine with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
A. Julia Child because she loved food, was cooky and zany, loved cocktails and didn’t seem to uptight. I had the pleasure of dining next to her not too long before she passed, that was most definitely one of my favorite star sightings.
Q, It’s an interesting and exciting time for female entrepreneurs – who are your current hero’s?
A. Oprah Winfrey still impresses me on a regular basis and it’s inspiring how she has stayed true to her message and hasn’t seemed to sell out. Gorjana Reidel is a local CEO that I have watched evolve her business and it’s really impressive.