By now, you’ve heard of Chauncey and Coco and you’ve seen their gorgeous handmade jewelry and art. I had the opportunity to speak to Mahek Ahmed at the VERY cute Mint Creperie and Coffee Bar in Katy where we spoke about beginning experiences, the value of a girl tribe and what it’s like to work with her sister.
Let’s start from the beginning; Tell us who Chauncey and Coco is.
M: Chauncey and Coco consists of my sister, Nida and I. We were born in Houston, and raised in Alief. Growing up, I was always an annoying extrovert but Nida, who is three years younger than I am, is the opposite. She’s always been really chill and introverted. We’re kids of some really awesome parents, our dad is a graphic designer and our mom is in Art History, and we have a really smart younger brother. We’ve been around for a while but two years officially.
Where does the name ‘Chauncey and Coco’ come from?
M: Chauncey and Coco, came from a puppy video. We’re night owls and so one night, a few years back, we were up late sketching and making stuff. At around two in the morning Nida ran into my room and was like, “look at this puppy video!” It was about two siblings named Chauncey and Coco. In the video, someone opened the backyard door, and one puppy started running and jumping around in the sun while the other walked out, walked right back in and chilled. We were like, ‘this is perfect, that’s us!’ Before that we had a list of names but none of them fit the way we liked. We’re not even dog people, we have cats in the family. And now it’s funny because when I talk to people, they’ll be like, “oh, your name is Coco” and I have to be like, “no.. it’s not”.
What’s Nida like and what’s it like to work with your sister?
M: My sister travels around the world a lot, which is why she’s not here [laughs]. She sketches a lot, does drawings, prints and digital artwork. She’s really good, so this is nice for her because she’s making money off of her art which is every artist’s dream. All our artwork and prints are by her. She’ll make stuff for us then leave for six months, like, “be back soon!” Which is why I’m usually the one at the markets.
Working with her is really fun. We’re three years apart, so we’re pretty close but growing up, we hated each other [laughs]. It wasn’t until high school that we started getting along. There are videos of us fighting at birthday parties while in grade school. For about six to eight months, before we registered the name, we had planning sessions and experimented, painted and asked each other, “what do you think of this?’ There’s a lot of stuff that we have written down that we haven’t done yet. Just recently we made jewelry for the first time together. Usually, she’s in charge of the art and I’ll make the jewelry but we did it together. Of course, she was instantly amazing at it while I struggled for about a year and a half to get it. We’re wanting to do more metal and clay and we’re doing it together now, like a real collab so I’m excited.
What does ‘handmade’ mean?
M: Handmade can be different things. In Austin, there are a lot of women who are metalsmiths, that melt their own silver and brass and have a full working studio. You’ll see them on Instagram with blow torches and goggles, actually welding their own jewelry and it’s awesome. Maybe one day I’ll learn, but as of now, I don’t know how to, so I put everything together, hand make everything, at my IKEA desk with my little pliers and use the the time that I have. All our clay and wood pieces are made from scratch and are our own original designs. And to test it out, I always give my sister a pair and I’ll wear a pair and we’ll wear it out for about a week or two.
What was your first sale experience like?
M: It was awesome. Britney from Pop Shop America, (she’s like the OG of markets) put together a big two day market two years ago at one of the studios. I wrote her this whole essay asking if I could be in it, she said yes, and had me fill out the application. The first day was amazing because a bunch of our friends stopped by to support. Women of all ages, and backgrounds showed up and that’s what we want. Then the second day, it thunderstormed, the lights got cut and they had to shut the market down because The Heights area started flooding. It was really sucky but making our first sale felt so awesome, we felt legit, like this wasn’t just a lemonade stand anymore. That was our first market and we’ve been doing it ever since.
How did you learn to make your own jewelry?
M: I taught myself. I’m not from the generation that had access to Youtube to learn these things. I experimented and still do. I’d go to random thrift stores and would see something and think, ‘I can use this.’ I used basic pliers and chains to experiment. I learned how one specific material reacted to another, what wouldn’t tarnish and what sealant helped. Now, I feel it’s so much more rewarding, like learning and making it makes it my own.
On having a strong girl tribe behind her –
M: I owe it to people like Carla (@CarlaSueHouston), Ellyse (@Statelinedesigns), Tasha (@TeamJeminiDesigns), Denora (@Dbakescakes), Gabby (@Miradela), Yvonne (@tierra.yvonne), Indy (@tribeandsol) and all my friends. They’ve encouraged me so much. Honestly, my whole tribe for the last year has come purely from them. They do this full time, have interns, photographers and I just want to eat tacos and Netflix binge. They’re so great at what they do and I’m still trying to get on their level.
What first steps should someone interested in starting their own business take?
M: Take care of your legal stuff first. Get your DBA, LLC, and get your name copyrighted. Go to the tax office (they’re very helpful) and get your tax information in place. If you want to be in a market, you have to fill out an application and pay a fee. Have your tables and all that ready and set up your square account.
What have you learned from your journey so far?
M: I’ve learned to enjoy the process, the process is what it’s about. You grow by failing, You have to fail, you have to struggle. You have to see all ends of the work to really appreciate it. That’s with anything in life. It sounds real cheesy and Hallmark-y but it’s true. Self doubt is a killer. You see all these people on Instagram, on shows and they don’t show everything. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. We all do it, but we shouldn’t.
Mahek is seriously the friend everyone wants to have. She radiates positivity and support and is so fun to talk to! We didn’t get a chance to meet the second half of Chauncey and Coco because she was living her best life, ACROSS THE WORLD (yass girl) but her beautiful art speaks for her and Mahek talked her up (sister of the year?)
I always love hearing beginning stories from business owners and seeing Chauncey and Coco’s success now should serve as reassurance for any beginning business babe that the best thing you can do in business, is to “just do it” (her words).
You can find these Pretty Ladies at markets all over Houston but especially on their website and social media! Don’t forget to show them so love! ❤