“Real Women, Real Work” is a Darling series about everyday women who work in various fields including business, entertainment, science and education. We want to get to know the WHY behind their WHAT and get an inside look into different industries.

Early on in her career, actress Nikki Reed set out to use her platform to put a spotlight on environmentalism and eco-friendly consumerism. After being unable to find clean and ethical products while she was pregnant with her daughter, Reed knew she had to fill the gap. Today, she is the founder of BaYou with Love, a sustainable and ethical lifestyle brand with jewelry, apparel, home and beauty products.

Founded in 2017 in an effort to mimic nature’s balance through fashion, BaYou with Love focuses on sustainable, zero-waste production, conscious sourcing and supporting local artisans. With a namesake inspired by the Louisiana Bayou, the brand offers a variety of products including loungewear, athletic-wear, accessories, bags, an organic baby collection, and the latest addition, an activewear line. In addition, the brand specializes in engagement and wedding jewelry, which has much to do with its partnership with Dell.

In 2018, BaYou with Love and the computer technology giant collaborated to create 10-18 karat gold jewelry collections. Reed designs each piece from recycled gold in downtown Los Angeles, most of which came from used technology from Dell’s U.S. recycling programs. Darling got to chat with Reed about BaYou with Love and what it’s like to lead a passion project as a full-time career:

What inspired you to create BaYou With Love? Did you have any fears when launching?

I started dreaming about launching a sustainable company when I was pregnant with my daughter, largely due to the fact that I couldn’t find the sustainable products I was searching for in the marketplace. I was vocal about eco-friendly conscious consumerism for years leading up to the moment I started Bayou With Love. So I knew that it would come with a long list of challenges.

Creating products that fall in line with my ethos isn’t easy because you almost have to go against the system. Producing in the United States using recycled materials that are organic, chemical-free, ethically-made, plant-dyed and cruelty-free, with low MOQs (minimum order quantities) was not as simple as one might think, but I was determined to find a way to showcase sustainable products in a way I hadn’t seen before. I wanted to create attainable luxury for people who were interested in sustainability but didn’t know how to make the switch. I wanted them to see quality and beauty, without the stigma of elitism that tends to surround conscious fashion.

I was determined to find a way to showcase sustainable products in a way I hadn’t seen before.

Describe a typical day leading BaYou With Love.

Ah! That’s a loaded question ha! We are a small company. I tend to do a little or a lot of all of it. I still oversee every aspect of the company from accounting, to production, to the creative. There is always a long list to get through each day!

Yet, I feel energized by it! I think it’s incredibly important to know every part of your business in its infancy. I am grateful for this phase. I also design each piece, and I do all of the product photography for both social media and our website, along with creating our product pages and writing our web copy. I feel fully immersed in the creative as well as the operations. I think I feel more connected to art now than I ever have, which is ironic because I worked in the arts my whole life!

What have you learned from starting a business? Perhaps about yourself, ethical production or business?

I think the greatest lesson I have learned is the importance of fully understanding your company, your goal, your ideal growth and your mission. I find that understanding the financial aspect of the company is invaluable especially as a female founder. I oversee every bill. I ask questions about our financial structure, taxes, etc. This process has taught me so much about what it means to build something from the ground up.

Also, setting energetic boundaries for work and personal life is something I am still working on! While it’s easy to work 13 hours a day and most weekends when you’re launching a company, it’s also important to not get lost in the company. I am quickly learning the value of rest, stepping away and knowing that things will get done. They don’t have to get done at midnight on a Friday.

How do you balance motherhood, marriage and your careers in entertainment and business?

The most important role in my life is being a mama. That comes first, no matter what. I want to be present, and I want to be sure she is getting my full attention, not my half-awake, overly exhausted self because I am so spread thin from trying to do it all. This year for me has been about setting limits within myself, and knowing that it is OK if I can’t do it all.

Learning to say no has been huge for me. Learning that there is only so much time in the day for work, life and philanthropy while raising a 2-year-old. I have to choose and prioritize because being a present parent is so important to me. I have pressed pause on some areas of life, especially in the activism space because right now I can’t do it all. I am OK with that!

Learning to say no has been huge for me.

What makes BaYou stand out from other ethical fashion and jewelry brands?

To the best of my knowledge, we are currently the only jewelry company using 100 percent recycled gold from technology, and we also offer our customers the option to purchase a diamond grown with solar energy in California for all of our bespoke and bridal. We are working toward a zero-waste model with the smallest footprint possible, and hoping that by doing so, we can pave the way for other companies to do this as well. It only works if we are all doing this. My goal is to make space for other companies to join, not to be the only company doing it.

What is your favorite BaYou piece? What piece would you suggest for Darling readers?

I have a few favorites! I love anything stackable because I believe jewelry should be timeless. We don’t often follow trends. The sapphire cigar band and gold ball huggies are my two, everyday pieces I never take off. I also love the Soleil Orbit Band!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to enjoy every moment and not to move so fast. I would tell her to slow down and take it all in. I would tell myself that someday, all I would care about is having less stress, less things, less noise and more time. Growth isn’t quantified by where you end up but by the path you walk to get there.

Images via Nikki Reed

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