We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Buchanan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I am a huge believer in taking risks. Without risks we don’t grow, without growth we don’t live. If you take a risk and succeed then you grow, if you take a risk and fail then you learn and grow, if you don’t take a risk at all then you remain stagnant and then wither. I truly believe it’s as simple as that.
I cannot count the number of businesses I have started in my life. Most of them were duds and that was ok. I learned to pivot and get back on the horse. I launched CB Grey 9/1/2020 and I can’t tell you how many times someone said to me “are you really sure this is the right time to start a business – we are in the middle of a pandemic?” My answer was always “there’s never a ‘right’ time to do anything, but if not now, when?!”
There are always going to be obstacles and hardships in your life, but actually taking the leap and going after what you want shouldn’t be one of them. You just have to trust in yourself, not be afraid of hardwork, and always remember that you only fail if you don’t try. So, if you’re reading this and you’ve been considering doing something that’s a big risk, this is your sign from the universe telling you to just go for it! Who knows, you might just find yourself doing an interview like this 6 months from now!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
CB Grey is a luxury silk collection that offers scarves and other silk accessories that are truly one of a kind – because I personally hand-draw and illustrate each unique piece. The collection of designer silks are a fusion of bold color and abstract design with just a sprinkle of whimsy. Each design has its own unique story — inspired by everyday, yet extraordinary women, who embody characteristics that I value and admire. Characteristics that I want to inspire others to discover within themselves.
The idea for CB Grey came from my lifelong desire to share my art with the world. My original passion is not illustration though, it’s photography. When I was 13, I asked for a camera for Christmas and instantly fell in love. I became obsessed with being able to capture a fleeting moment in time. I’ve come to realize that my process in creating the designs for CB Grey is very much inspired by my background in photography, specifically this idea of telling someone’s story through a tangible and aesthetically beautiful form.
While photography was my first love, I’ve always been curious and dabbled in other forms of creative expression. As long as I’m creating I feel like myself. A few years ago, I bought an iPad Pro with the apple pencil. I was very intrigued by the possibility of being able to create digital art that was still drawn by my own hand. The freedom and possibilities at your fingertips were mind-blowing to me. Photography and videography had become my full-time career, but I began creating these digital paintings and illustrations in my spare time as a way to turn off my brain and just let my creativity flow through me. As I started sharing them with friends and family, the response was incredible. I realized I was onto something and I needed to figure out to turn this hobby into something. I tried selling them as prints but that just didn’t feel like the “right” avenue – I knew they were meant for something more.
On January 1st, 2020, I wrote my list of hopes and wishes for the upcoming year. The first item on the list “figure out what to do with my artwork”. I put it out into the universe that day and then when the universe responded, I was listening.
I’ve always been obsessed with silk. Ever since I was a little girl and would play in my grandmother’s silk scarf drawer. It just has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes you feel elegant and glamorous. As I grew older I was always frustrated at the high price tag on designer silk scarves. I was jealous of people who could afford them when I could not. Then I had an aha moment in February of 2020. I could actually share my artwork and my love of silk in the same vessel and at that point, there was no going back. I was going to create a brand that allowed me to share my art, provide a luxury product at an affordable price, and be a destination for inspiration and positivity!
I started researching everything I could about starting a silk scarf line. I had no background in fashion or manufacturing or e-commerce, but I was a sponge and I was determined. Little did I know, I was about to have a lot more time on my hands with the impending pandemic that was just around the corner. So while others were baking banana bread and putting together 5000 piece puzzles, I was diving head-first into the world of fashion and design. I started reaching out to manufacturers and sourcing samples of materials, while simultaneously conceptualizing the brand that I wanted to create. I knew I didn’t want to just sell scarves. If I was really going to do this I needed to create a brand with some soul.
The first design that I created that summer was one that was not intentionally inspired by a woman, but after I was finished it I realized it very much embodied my good friend, Kristen. I loved that feeling of being able to capture the essence of a person in my designs – just as I do with my camera. So I set out to design my second scarf with another friend in mind, The Sarah. Before I knew it I had 6 designs that were all inspired by real women. As that summer continued I spent early mornings and late nights designing scarves, building my website, photographing the product, figuring out my branding and marketing plans, and continuing to learn all the ins and outs of the fashion world. I gave myself an aggressive launch date of September 1st. I knew that the holiday season was going to be a make-it-or-break-it-time, so I pushed as hard as I could to create this business in just four months. And I actually did it! I am so proud of what I have created and how far I have come in just one short year. Moreso, I am so insanely and forever grateful for the overwhelming response and support I have experienced.
I truly believe that all of the stories behind my designs are so important. To me, fashion is more than just what you wear, it’s a chance to show the world who you are. Each CB Grey piece is intentionally designed to inspire you to feel beautiful, bold, confident, and fearless — because spoiler alert… YOU ARE!
Now dance your way over to the CB Grey shop and jump on this silky bandwagon with me!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Atlanta has become such an incredible city in the last 10-15 years with so many amazing restaurants and things to do! I would say, the Rooftop at Ponce City Market is a must. Eat at any/all the restaurants in Inman Park/Krog area – my personal favorites are Bread & Butterfly and Superica. Walk the beltline. Visit the High Museum and the Botanical Gardens. In Buckhead, I love getting drinks at the St. Regis and then dinner at Umi. For a perfect girls day, lunch and cocktails at Le Bilboquet then shopping around the Buckhead Village.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Impossible to pick just one, so I would have to say 1) my mom, Jane Brooks, for always teaching me to take risks and follow my passions and encouraging me not to give up when things got hard, but understanding and supporting me when it was time to let go. 2) Lauren Smith, for being the best cheerleader, supporter, ambassador, and most importantly, friend that a girl could ask for 3) Elise Lyon, for being my creative sounding board, my consultant, my model and the one that always says yes to getting weird for the sake of tik toks 4) my husband, Michael Buchanan for “investing” in me, letting me turn our home into a scarf warehouse, but most importantly for believing in me. Love you all to the moon and back and couldn’t/wouldn’t want to be on this wild, silky ride without ya’ll!
Tyson Horne, Courtney Buchanan