AT THE TABLE WITH DANIELLE AND JACOB FIRLE

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I met Danielle a little over a year ago, during my first time volunteering for her Secret Supper brand, that is a story on its own, but let's just say Danielle is one of the first people I met when I moved to Portland and she's been a real influence in my path of discovering my creative self.

Needless to say, I was really excited to sit down with Danielle and Jacob at Tendue, their brand new event space in Southeast Portland, to talk about entrepreneurship and how this new project came to fruition. 

Take this as a great excuse for a break from your holiday shopping or gift wrapping, grab a cup of hot cocoa and read on. Believe me when I say these two are a really inspiring and creative pair! 

If you'd like to see more images at Tendue, visit the work page.


+ Where were you two born?
Danielle (D): I was born in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. It is a town of about 3 thousand people.

Jacob (J): Thank you for asking, I was born in a city called New Ulm in Minnesota, that is 15 minutes east of Sleepy Eye, population thirteen thousand.

+ When did you move to the Portland?
D: Right out of college Jacob moved out to Hood River for his first job, then we got married and I moved there. We were in the Gorge for 2 years and then we were in Seattle for close to 7, then we moved back to Hood River a year ago and then to Portland in April 15.

J: We love the Northwest, this is definitely more our lifestyle. The culture, the food, the people, way of living, sustainability, the outdoors, the ocean, snowboarding… this is it. We’d love to live in Europe, we probably will at some point, but right now this feels right.

+ What do your parents do?
D: My mom is a teacher, my dad has passed away but he was in sales.

J: My mom was a secretary in town in a bank and my dad worked at a factory, they’re both retired now, after having the same job for about 30 years. Our parents live in very conservative towns, where you get a job and you stick with it. Even us moving is weird to them, that we don’t live close to where we grew up. Entrepreneurship and bouncing around career wise is like the opposite of our families.

+ Why do you do what you do at Tendue?
D: I feel that after we got the furniture here and we actually opened the space we started to wrap our heads around it. We really wanted to create a space that was fun and community minded where we had a lot of really cool things happening and I felt like we’d met so many interesting people in Portland through Secret Supper that it is a fun way to have those same people showcase their talents and then just have that amazing creative energy around. Having people with their families and their friends spend time here will give this place the most amazing energy because it’s all going to be laughter and happiness. That’s what I hope, although it sounds really sappy!

J: It got a little sappy… I think for me, I’ve always looked at how a place changes people’s energy so much, so as somebody who’s led meetings and groups a lot I’ve always played with the pieces and parts to create different outcomes, whether it’s the way it looks, the sounds, the smell, the temperature, it gets you somewhere different. So I feel like this space is going to propel a lot of creative ideas rather than if you just stay at a cubicle all day. So offering a space where people come in to create different ideas than if they had never walked in the door.

+ How did Tendue come about?
D: Over text message.

J: This has been a concept that we’ve kicked around for a very long time, the general premise that there’s all this creative energy but there’s no hub for all the for it is one thing that we wanted to try and explore, we were thinking about a co-working space. We want people to know and feel that we care. From a business perspective, there’s also a way to monetize it.

D: Honestly the space influenced a lot of where we took it to, when we found this space and settled on it, I think it changed what we saw in this space a little bit more too. We were looking for a photography studio but when we found this space, we developed this full event space concept. What it became happened organically, the very first time I walked in here I knew exactly how I was going to design it. I had to enlighten Jacob, because he was not convinced about the concept.

J: Although we decided in a 5 day period that we wanted to open a space, after I texted Danielle about it while she was away at a Secret Supper event.

+ Can you tell us a little more about the style and how the design process happened?
D: I didn't have a design in mind before viewing the space. I hadn't even thought about it yet at that point. Which I feel was a huge advantage for me. I went into the space with no ideas clouding my thoughts. So as soon as I walked into suite 255 (which was actually a different business at the time full of all things tech related) I immediately had inspiration. I got the idea for the wall molding and patterned floor immediately. Even the general floor plan is what came to me at that moment. I don't know if I have ever made a decision so clearly and quickly in my entire life.

I felt that the Parisian inspired design was a perfect feminine touch to blend and integrate with the Portland industrial look of the building. 

+ Tell us about an aha moment in your entrepreneurial journey:
J: For me, it was when we hung the very first piece of molding. The space was not coming together as fast as we thought, the deconstruction we thought we could do in about a quarter of the time that it actually took and a fraction of the energy, we just underestimated everything, so it was like banging your head against the wall because it didn’t feel like it was going to go anywhere but when we got to a point where we could hang a tiny piece of molding it clicked for me when I saw it and I felt that it could actually work. It was a glimpse into what would be.

The second aha moment was when we had the chandeliers hung and the furniture delivered the same day that Danielle had a commitment with Secret Supper and I was alone here sweeping and I was just thinking ‘this is going to work!’

D: That was one of my favorite moments ever, I was gone with a client and before I left this place was a mess and when I came back Jacob had the entire place set up, clean and perfect and I walked in, I saw it and I cried. I sat in the quiet for half an hour. And I just felt ‘wow this is great’, it was awesome!

+ When did you launch Tendue?
D: Unofficially, the first user of the space was here September 30, we were pushing to be ready for him. By the way, his shoot was recently featured on Style Me Pretty, which was so great, to see Tendue in one of their articles. Officially, we opened November 10th.

+ What is the branding differentiation between Secret Supper and Tendue?
D: Secret Supper at its core is adventure dining. It is always rustic. Tendue is indoors, it’s intimate, it’s classic and the vibe is totally different. This is definitely a little bit more old world.

The connection between the two businesses is that they are both about bringing people and creativity together.

+ What is the main use for the space?

J: The number one use has been photoshoots so far, the space is essentially a photo studio that’s already set up. We’ve had wedding photoshoots, product shoots, headshots, etc.

+ What is your favorite brand?
D: I really like Lauren Conrad, I of course love Martha Stewart, she’s kind of amazing… Which one should I pick? Probably Martha Stewart, I started reading her magazines when I was 16. I love Martha Living, Martha Weddings, her show, I love it all, so I guess I should go with that! I had a Pinterest board before Pinterest was around, I just had magazines and made binders where I would create a Thanksgiving book or a Christmas book, with all my inspiration.

J: So I have two that I’ll tell you about, the first that came to mind is Patagonia, just because they do business the way that I think you should which is they make a really good product, sustainably. People buy Patagonia and they’re proud of the brand. People believe in Patagonia, even when it’s more expensive, because it’s business done the right way, because they won’t sacrifice what matters for profit. The big thing for me is, whether I’m an employee or an entrepreneur, I have to be doing something I care about because if I don’t care about it I lose energy really fast. So we want to do that, we want do business that matters and be a place where people want to be.

My second one is Virgin, just because I identify really well with crazy entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and Richard Branson that have their hands in a thousand different fields. For me the best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is forget all the rules, because the rules are what’s going to hold you back, you have to be able to not look at things the same way others do.

+ How do you financially support yourself and your business?
D: It is a combination of different sources, between my job, Jacob´s, our savings and the business that Tendue is bringing in, we make it all work.

+ How do you stay motivated about your brand and its future?
D: Honestly, now that we’re open and people come in and react to the space, that’s the motivation that I need. We’ve had really engaging, positive feedback.

+ What would you say has been the biggest challenge in this journey?
D: Painting the floor! Just the physical labor of remodeling the space was really hard.

J: This was much more involved that we ever imagined it would be to get to this point. So not burning out was a challenge, for sure.

D: It was also a challenge to figure out our working relationship, because I need breaks, I need life time, marriage time, and Jacob could talk about business 24/7.

J: It’s been hard figuring out how to divide and conquer and not be too critical when we don’t get as much done as we’d like to, because we will always want to get more done. We both look at this as an opportunity for many things to come. I think we’ve both realized we’ve worked way harder than we thought we could.

+ What would you say has been the best resource throughout your journey?
D: Basecamp, we use Basecamp a lot. It helps us plan, we just put our ideas on there and then we don’t have to worry about them or talk about them right away.

J: It’s a great tool to just put things down and not have our ideas rattling around.

D: Also Orchard Supply Hardware, I never thought I would go to a hardware store. They know me, they welcome me back every time.

+ Where do you see Tendue in the future?
D: We’ve talked about doing this in different cities. We are testing out the concept, if it works here, it’s going to work in other places. It won’t necessarily look the same, though. We are both so hospitality minded, we both love to entertain, so it would be so great if we could always just have spaces to entertain people.

J: I think the general idea is to replicate the concept, a space where people come to create, learn and connect with others.

+ We are about to wrap up guys, is there anything you’d like to share with other entrepreneurs about what you’ve experienced in your journey?
J: You have to go the extra mile, when building your business you have to make sure that you’re making the right choices to create the concept you want. Sometimes it is exhausting, and you probably think that you can let that one thing go, you sure can, but if you let another thing go and then another, you’ll end up with a business that’s not what you envision. What may seem like a small choice that doesn’t really matter, actually does, all decisions collectively create your business.

The number one thing that I want to make sure of is that if this business fails, it won’t be because of effort. Do the things that you can control, the one thing you can always control is the energy and effort that you put into it. You can’t always control whether or not your idea is good but you can outwork others, some really great ideas have failed because people were not willing to put in the effort.

D: I think there’s a misconception with entrepreneurs and people starting their own business about how much work it actually is, there’s no sugarcoating! Whatever your business is, your level of success is always directly linked to the amount of effort you put in it. You have to be ready for it.

People that are thinking about doing their own thing, just do it! You can’t move forward unless you take the first step forward.