[interact id="5d10028d10a52c001489a7f4" type="quiz" mobile="false"]

Welcome to the first episode of Her Story So Far. I’m honored to share the mic with my beautiful, badass friend Autumn Geist. Autumn is a generous, driven, community-minded Black female entrepreneur. I just know you’ll appreciate her candid, insightful take on the experience of building a business. From nurturing the seed of an idea to dealing with sacrifice and setbacks, to becoming the face of a brand, Autumn has done it all. I’m sure you’ll be as inspired as I am by her wit, wisdom, and persistence.

About My Guest

Autumn Geist is an artist, teacher, speech coach, creative, elected official, community organizer, mother of three incredible humans, and grandma of one beautiful little girl. She’s the founder and owner of The Collective, A Lifestyle Boutique & Makery, in Lisle, Illinois.

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Explore The Collective, A Lifestyle Boutique & Makery, at https://thecollectivelhe.com/

Autumn’s vision for The Collective was inspired by the novel The Red Tent by Anita Diamanthttps://anitadiamant.com/books/the-red-tent/  


[00:00:00] Lesley Whitehead: Hi, beautiful. This is your host, Lesley Whitehead, and I am so excited to share this bold, brave, badass, creative woman with you. I hope our conversation inspires you not to let anything get in the way of your passion projects. I promise you, we need whatever is on your heart to create for this world.
[00:00:21] Hi, beautiful woman. I am here today on Her Story So Far with my friend Autumn Geist, artist, teacher, speech coach, creative, elected official, community organizer, and mother of three incredible humans and grandma of one beautiful little girl. Hi, Autumn.
[00:00:46] Autumn Geist: Leslie. Well, that is quite an introduction. Thank you.
[00:00:50] Lesley Whitehead: Well, you. are quite a woman.
[00:00:53] Autumn Geist: Thank you.
[00:00:54] Lesley Whitehead: I am so grateful to have you on my first episode of my new
podcast. It is such an incredible honor to me that you are the first one. For many reasons, one being that you are such a connector. You've been such a connector for me in my life and in my business. and especially in this project I just launched, which, um, you're well aware of.
[00:01:21] You're in the project. You also hosted the big launch party and, um, also connected me with many, many, many wonderful, amazing, badass, bold, brave, entrepreneurs. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for that. And for being here.
[00:01:39] Autumn Geist: Well, thank you. It is a pleasure to be able to support you and your
art. You have always been such a great supporter to me and I don't, and I don't say that lightly because many women will say I'm such a supporter of women, I'm a fierce supporter of women, but at the end of the day, you know they're not really acting on it in the ways that you do. Like you do it so selflessly. And so I'm very appreciative and I'm grateful to have been part of the project.
[00:02:06] And when we had the launch party, like I said to you to be in a room of women who all had so much, brought so much to the table. So much. We need to put, we need to put an insert in that table. What's it called when you put the leaf in? Yeah, the leaf, right? That's what we, we need to put like a couple of leaves in because they brought so much to the table, we need to keep growing it. Um, just a really dynamic group of women that you have collected in this project. So you should be really proud of yourself.
[00:02:34] Lesley Whitehead: I am looking forward to the spring launch of that book and, um, seeing it all to come to fruition. But for now, I want to spend this time talking to you about, um, all of your passions and what you're bringing to the world. The whole reason that I, I'm doing this podcast is to spotlight all these amazing women who, um, in some areas are invisible. They
aren't seen. And, you know, we're not celebrities, so it is hard to be seen. And especially for us
who are 50 plus. So I guess my first question is, how young are you?
[00:03:16] Autumn Geist: I am proud to say I am 54 years young. It, you know, it's a crazy thing
when you say that out loud though, because I remember being, you know, 17, 18 years old and
thinking 32, 37 was old. Like, how will I ever be that old? And now I'm like, wait, what just
happened? Time is a thief. Um, we know we've lived every single day of these years, right? It's
like, it just really goes fast. It goes way faster than I ever could have imagined, you know? And I
find myself just wanting more and more more and more time.

[00:03:50] Lesley Whitehead: Well, and also, you've lived so many lives in this lifetime. Like,
there's some people who have a little more, uh, straight trajectories in life, and, um, yours has
not been that.
[00:04:04] Autumn Geist: Not at all.
[00:04:07] Lesley Whitehead: But it's created this wonderful, the wonderful woman that you
are. So.
[00:04:11] Autumn Geist: Yeah, I think the experiences certainly have. I mean, when I look
back on it, you know, I was a young mother, um, and you know, I was doing professional theater
when I was young and auditioning for, you know, TV film. I was, I went from that and then I was
a makeup artist for Chanel . Then I somehow landed in IT for an investment bank, and I did that
for a number of years and stayed in IT and project management, moved into marketing.
[00:04:39] Every opportunity I had, opened the door to the next opportunity. But 100% to be, I'm
100% transparent with you. I was never qualified. for any of the opportunities I had.
[00:04:52] Lesley Whitehead: So what's the lesson from that?
[00:04:54] Autumn Geist: Well, what I will tell you is my ability to be a great communicator was
what managers would see over and over and over again. And those soft skills are not something
that companies want to spend a whole lot of time investing in. They can teach you technology.
They can teach you process, procedure. But the art of being a good communicator is what
secured opportunity after opportunity for me that I was not qualified for, but all those
opportunities culminated into the next opportunity and the next opportunity.
[00:05:25] So, I think the lesson for anyone is to learn how to speak your truth, like learn how to
be a good communicator. If someone has told you you're not a great communicator, work on it.
[00:05:37] Lesley Whitehead: Okay. So, that kind of leads me to my next question because this
is, um, an area that you are very passionate about, which is that you are a speech coach. Can
you tell us a little bit about that and what you're doing and how you help, um, women find their
voice and other people as well?
[00:05:57] Autumn Geist: Yeah. when I say I'm a professional speech coach, I think people
automatically go to like speech pathology. No, it's, learning how to be an effective communicator,
whether that's in a one on one communication or you're giving a presentation or you're self
advocating or, whatever the situation is where you're having to verbally communicate, I coach
people in the tools. And they're using the tools in their toolbox because we all have them and
they just may not realize they have them or how to use them. So I coach them in how to use
those tools to be more effective communicators.
[00:06:29] And, and what happens. Ability breeds confidence. And I still am nervous every time I
speak, so it doesn't mean that I'm so confident. I'm still nervous every single time, and I tell
people, it's okay to be nervous. You should be nervous. It means you care.
[00:06:46] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:06:47] Autumn Geist: And we should care, especially when we're communicating, you
know, we can have all of this great knowledge in our heads, but if we don't know how to, to
share it or, you know, impart that information, it kind of just gets stuck. Right.
[00:06:58] So I work with professionals. I work with community leaders. I work with youth
primarily. And it's really exciting because I've had some, from a competitive perspective, some
successful speech competitors through that. Uh, state and a national award winning speaker.
So, very proud of that. I know that, that's something you can't take away from someone, right?

Their voice. You can't take it.
[00:07:23] Lesley Whitehead: And... for you to be able to help them with that, that is such a gift.
Um, I'm interested in working with you as well on that because, um, I want to use my voice more
and speak as well and that's not something that comes naturally to me.
[00:07:37] And I'm also one of those people that when I get up in front of an audience, I'm much
better if it's impromptu but if I have to sort of plan what I'm saying, it makes me stop and second
guess everything. And I also turn very red, which makes me more anxious about it. So I'm sure
there are tips and tricks that you could, um, help me with in working on that.
[00:08:00] Autumn Geist: For sure. I will tell you this though, um, impromptu speaking is the
most difficult. So if you can master the art of impromptu speaking, prepared speeches are just
that much easier. So I,
[00:08:11] I always tell people don't memorize. Don't memorize your speech, know your speech,

[00:08:16] Lesley Whitehead: Okay.
[00:08:16] Autumn Geist: If you know your subject matter, then you should just be able to have
a conversation about that subject matter and that becomes the speech.
[00:08:23] Lesley Whitehead: Oh, I see.
[00:08:24] Autumn Geist: Right? As soon as we get stuck on the words, instead of the
message or the information or what we know, the knowledge we have, we get stuck on the word
verbatim and we lose one word.
[00:08:35] Lesley Whitehead: That's true. That's so true.
[00:08:37] Autumn Geist: And then we're frustrated and we're standing there flustered and
we're starting to sweat and our hands are clammy grabbing our, our clothes and tugging and
because you got stuck on the words instead of trusting that you knew what you were talking
about. So you have to know your material, not memorize it. It's very different.
[00:08:54] Lesley Whitehead: Okay. Cool. Okay. Well, I'm excited that you shared that part of
you with, um, all these listeners. I, um, also want to talk to you about, um, the collective and
makery that you've created in Lyle and where we hosted the 55 Women Project. So, will you tell
me about this passion project of yours and what you love about it?
[00:09:19] Autumn Geist: Oh, okay. So okay. I'll explain why I'm laughing in a minute. Uh, so
The Collective is The Collective Lifestyle Boutique and Makery. It's a lifestyle boutique, right? So
that means, what does it mean? It means that we have a little bit of everything. We have
products that touch various aspects of your life. So whether that's candles, tabletop, artisan
foods, uh, jewelry, baby gifts, apparel, whatever that case may be.
[00:09:47] Uh, and 85 percent of the goods in the store are woman owned brands, products that
give back to good causes, or small maker made. Yeah. So everything is very intentionally
curated, uh, to give you an inspired shopping experience. Because I believe you should shop
inspired. And so get off that A to the N word. And stop. But anyway, yeah, so that was the
[00:10:17] And then the other part, it's a two, it's a two fold business model. So shop inspired
and creating community. And so in our makery, so a bakery you make, a bakery, you bake. Uh,
in our makery we offer all types of experiences for people, from canvas painting to, uh, candle
pouring, beautiful Reese porch leans, gorgeous trays, you know, literally we do everything

except macrame.
[00:10:46] And then we also hold space for, um, different types of vendors to come in and offer
pop ups that we have permanent jewelry. We have a lip gloss bar. Uh, I do pop ups with small
brands. They can come in on a Saturday and, and have a six foot table. It helps them to expand
their reach. You know the saying, lighting someone else's candle doesn't dim yours.
[00:11:05] Lesley Whitehead: Yes.
[00:11:06] Autumn Geist: I believe in, in giving, sharing my space in those ways. So are my
whole purpose is shop inspired and creating community. And I think that we do that between the
collective, which is the retail and the makery, which is the creative workspace.
[00:11:19] Lesley Whitehead: Right, right. And we had that experience the other night when,
um, you hosted the party because we made candles with you. Will you describe that a little bit?
Because I know that's a passion project of yours as well.
[00:11:32] Autumn Geist: Well, it is, so I've been sort of, you know, testing the process out with
these different workshops because we, um, candles are the number one seller in the store,
right? So I'm recognizing that by, I love selling everyone else's candles, but I also love the idea
of my own line. And I have a candle club right now called Soie La Lumiere, which means to be
the light in French. And so the goal is to release, a candle line, you know, of that name. And I
don't want to talk too much about that because it's really special.
[00:12:03] But when the guests came, uh, to your event, they got to, you know, talk about what,
what did they feel about scents and what scents, know, really triggered like an emotion of
comfort and home because we were focused on fall scents. So we weren't. there were, we
weren't working with florals or clean or or masculine or anything. It was all fall sort of, um, warm,
warm, earthy scents. And, so they went through that process and they did their blend, and then
they did, they poured their candle and while they visited, they, the candles cooled.
[00:12:32] But something I forgot to share with you when I was telling you about the, the shop,
which I think is really important, is where did the concept come from.
[00:12:39] Lesley Whitehead: Yes.
[00:12:40] Autumn Geist: It was based on my experience of reading the book, The Red Tent.
[00:12:45] Lesley Whitehead: Oh, I read that.
[00:12:46] Autumn Geist: What was so beautiful about the red tent is that no matter what was
going on outside of the tent, whatever strife, jealousy, whatever, right? When they went into the
tent, women took care of each other. So whether they were having their cycle or had a baby or
they were ill, the other women came in and they fed you and they, they washed your hair and
your feet and they just loved you up. Right.
[00:13:08] I wanted, to create as much of that as I could in these walls. I want people to come in
and feel like loved up. Not here by my stuff here. Here's all my shit. Want to buy it? Can I say
shit on your podcast?
[00:13:23] Lesley Whitehead: Of course, yes, please.
[00:13:24] Autumn Geist: Sorry. So not that stuff'slf shit, but you know what I'm I feel like, you
know, this is not timeshare condominium sales. So people come in and they come in and they
go, I'm just looking. like, whoa, settle down, sally, look, I'm just saying hi. It's okay. And I do tell
them, I mean, I'm a very cheeky person, it's like, not like, this you know, but.

[00:13:50] But I say to them, well, this isn't Target and I'm supposed to help you. And so if you
don't want anyone to talk to you, you could go to Target and you could walk up and down aisles
all day, probably from open to close and nobody will say boo to you. But in here we're
[00:14:09] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:14:10] Autumn Geist: We are here to serve you, so we're going to talk to you, and we may
say, hello. Ha Don't be afraid. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Don't be afraid. Ha ha ha. ha
[00:14:22] Lesley Whitehead: That's funny.
[00:14:23] Autumn Geist: I say it in a loving way. I mean, it's cheeky. I am cheeky, but I still say
it in a way that lets them know, look, this is different, and I want you to know it's different, and I'm
not, I'm unapologetic about that. Right? This isn't a big box store, you know. And so when you
come here, no, you're not going to just be left to your own to fend for yourself. A lot of products
in the store have, have stories. There's a, there's a purpose. So if I don't engage with you, how
will you ever know? And then how we ever know how special that is. Right? So, yeah. So we
actually talk to you here. It's like a rule.
[00:14:56] Lesley Whitehead: And it's called The Collective for a reason. It's a collective. You
feel it. You also, are you still doing, um, I know that you also rent your space out for certain
events. Is that still available to people or...
[00:15:11] Autumn Geist: We do. Um, and I have, I've had people, it's really interesting. I had,
um, I've had like the U S tennis association rent my space. I had some guys come in from
Silicon Valley who rented the makery for four days. Four days, right? Their luggage was worth
more than my house. I don't know who they were, but I know they were important people.
[00:15:31] Lesley Whitehead: So know that if you rent this space, Autumn's going to keep it on
the DL.
[00:15:36] Autumn Geist: I didn't, I didn't say where they were from. What I will tell you, yeah,
but throughout the day, like, so they filled three six foot tables with sticky notes just so you know.
But they would cover it at night and trust me, I was tempted. I was tempted, but I'm such a good
girl. Like, I didn't, I didn't peek. I didn't peek, but they were lovely.
[00:15:57] But the point is, is we get a really interesting mix of people who use the space. Down
to someone, you know, like, like we have the pop up, you know, jewelry, we've got someone
who comes here and does, uses the peony lounge to do, you know, brow tints and stuff. So the
space is always in use in some creative, interesting way. And yeah, so people are always
welcome to contact me about how the, how they can do that.
[00:16:20] But I, I love that they chose to use this space. And when I asked them why, because
they could have been in any boardroom and any corporate building, right, for those four days.
They specifically chose the space because they liked that it was different. And the makery is a
creative vibe because it's a creative space. And we all know, I know they didn't tell me this. I
know this, that creativity sparks innovation.
[00:16:46] Lesley Whitehead: Definitely.
[00:16:47] Autumn Geist: I just wish I knew what they were innovating. Like,
[00:16:50] Lesley Whitehead: Ooooo.
[00:16:50] Autumn Geist: Maybe I could have been in on this. Like, you know, maybe this is a
big product release coming out that we didn't even know about, know, Maybe it was A.I.

[00:17:00] Lesley Whitehead: Could be.
[00:17:02] Autumn Geist: Thanks for asking about that though. Yeah, I love sharing the space.
[00:17:05] Lesley Whitehead: I know that's fantastic. Let's talk about a little bit about being in
our 50s and being entrepreneurs and the lessons around that, maybe we could share with the
women who are coming up.
[00:17:18] Autumn Geist: Yeah. Well, first and foremost, I would say do it sooner
[00:17:25] Lesley Whitehead: Wait, how old were you when you started?
[00:17:29] Autumn Geist: Well six it's been six years. I opened the store six years ago.
[00:17:32] Lesley Whitehead: Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:17:33] Autumn Geist: But I've been a semi entrepreneur on and off for years. But I what at
my point is I had this dream a long time ago that I wanted to create a space where women could
shop inspired and create in community. And, I, I just wish I had done it sooner cause I think I had
more energy before menopause.
[00:17:53] Lesley Whitehead: Menopause could be a whole episode and it's its own.
[00:17:58] Autumn Geist: 100%.
[00:17:58] Lesley Whitehead: We'll do that another day.
[00:18:00] Autumn Geist: Another day. But you know, just, I, I'm tired, I'm more tired than ever,
you know? I would have just liked to have been doing this when I was a little bit younger. And,
but also at the same time. Do I? I don't know, because I wouldn't have had all the experiences
that led me to know how to create the experiences that I create for people here, right? People
are always like, oh, how did you think of that? Well, because I've been around the block a
couple thousand times, and that gives you, those experiences build upon your ability to make
the choices you make, right? So if I hadn't lived all of these 9,000 lives... would I have as
effective? I don't know.
[00:18:41] Lesley Whitehead: Right, right.
[00:18:42] Autumn Geist: But yeah, I still think you could start sooner.
[00:18:45] And I think some of the biggest lessons that I would say to younger women is build a
tribe. I think our generation was much better at that. You know, really leaning into each other.
So, you know, but also we've had some experiences that sort of forced us to have to learn how
to do that. And maybe this younger generation hasn't had some of those experiences. I don't
know. Maybe because I was a young mom, I learned to lean into women a little, a little earlier.
[00:19:16] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:19:16] Autumn Geist: Find your tribe. And, don't just find them. Nurture those relationships
because those are going to be the people who, you know, really push you through. Because
entrepreneurship is not for the shrinking violet.
[00:19:32] Lesley Whitehead: No, is it is certainly not.

[00:19:35] Autumn Geist: And I know people say that and people probably listen to that and
go... no, we're legit. When someone comes in here and goes, oh, this is such, you know, I
always wanted to own a store. I'm like, well, have you ever wanted a store to own you? Because
that's what that's what.
[00:19:51] Lesley Whitehead: I know, I think it's interesting because I think no matter where you
are as an entrepreneur, whether you're, you? know, um, like it makes me think of Emily and
Friends, the card company and how she, you know, built this whole giant card company and,
you know, from a distance, it looked like she was on top of the world.
[00:20:11] And now she's telling everyone that it was a fucking nightmare. And yes, of course, I
mean, she enjoyed parts of it, but her health suffered and that she had no balance in her life and
all of those things. So I think having that tribe, like you said, helps us, maintain balance,
because at least we have other people to lean on and talk to about, hey, this is heavy, can you
help me carry this weight of this thing that I'm dealing with right now?
[00:20:39] Autumn Geist: I think it's 100 percent that. And I think it's also, I went to a leadership
conference a couple of months ago, and my biggest takeaway from the two days was
transparency. I think too often we are so embarrassed or, you know, we feel shameful if we're
struggling. We don't want to come across weak because we all want to be badass boss bitches
and we want to be able to do it all. And we can do it all and we don't need anybody and, you
know, we, we, we, we, but we do. You know, and I think when you can surrender and go, you
know what? Yeah, I don't, I don't have all my shit together and I'm dropping balls, like lots of
balls. Maybe I'm not even holding balls cause I can't pick them up because I've got so many
balls. I don't know.
[00:21:29] But when we can be transparent and feel safe to be vulnerable. You can do that when
you build a tribe. Right. Um. It releases so much, I think, because it's not easy. You know, you're,
you're marketing you're sales. You're, you're, you're, you're the buyer. You're the visual
merchandiser. You're the accounting, you're payroll, you're HR, you're social media
managemenyou'reour website management. You know what I'm saying? Like it's no joke, right?
If you can't admit that, this is hard.
[00:22:00] I see people all the time like, like, it seems like you said it seems like everybody has it
all together. I mean, even looking at all my pretty pictures every day, I'm sure people think, oh,
everything's going, it's not going great. It's not going great. Every day is a fight. But what the
difference is now is I stopped crying about it. And I stopped crying because I could just picture
my grandmother, when, when I would come to her crying about something. And my grandmother
is a huge influence in this space and the energy here and, but she, she would say, don't you
shed one more tear over that. And I'd be okay, you're right. But, but again, here in my, my ear
told me, stop crying.
[00:22:41] Soon as I stopped crying and just like surrendered into, yeah, it's hard. And it's okay
to tell people it's hard. And it's okay to tell people that you're afraid and it's okay to tell people
like you're, yeah, yeah, I'm struggling. And when they say, well, how can I help? And answer,
don't say, Oh no, it's fine. I'll figure it out. No, you're not going to figure it out. You need your
tribe. Lean in, you know? So I think that's it, you know, having a tribe leaning into it, being
vulnerable, you know, being transparent, people don't know what they don't know.
[00:23:10] Lesley Whitehead: Right. The other question I had was, um, you know as a black
woman, a black female entrepreneur, how has that been for you, especially in the last few years
with COVID and Black Lives Matter and frankly being in a predominantly, I think, white area,
right? Aren't, isn't, Lyle? I...
[00:23:34] Autumn Geist: I mean, I would say that it is predominantly, you know, I haven't really
struggled with that so much. What I have struggled with is, you know, historically black owned

businesses do fail at a higher rate than white-owned business, because access to funding.
[00:23:49] Lesley Whitehead: Right,
[00:23:49] Autumn Geist: Right. So I think that's been my biggest challenge
[00:23:53] Lesley Whitehead: Did you get funds from...
[00:23:55] Autumn Geist: Oh, girl, I didn't get, I can't, you haven't, I got a dime, not a dime. And
I look at all the people who... I don't begrudge them that they were able to secure funds. God
bless. But if you secured funds and you didn't use it to just keep your, sustain your business and
you open second and third businesses, you should feel a little like a little like.
[00:24:17] Lesley Whitehead: Well, a little shame.
[00:24:20] Autumn Geist: Oh, you know, I mean,
[00:24:23] Lesley Whitehead: Well, then that is huge that you've been able to like manage all
this without additional funding going through COVID because I know, that was not easy.
[00:24:32] Autumn Geist: Well, I funded myself. So I guess that would be another, another
lesson I would teach any, any entrepreneur is do not self fund your startup.
[00:24:41] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:24:42] Autumn Geist: You know what I mean? Like crowd, crowd gather, crowd fund,
whatever. Look and research for grants for startups, start woman owned business startups. Use
other people's money.
[00:24:53] I remember one time I, uh, you know, my daughters and I would love to go from, you
know, manicures and pedicures together. And I'd been taking Keely for years. Right. And one
day she's like, hey, you want to go get a manicure pedicure? So we go. And it comes time to
check out. And we're both standing there. And she's looking at me and I'm looking at her. And
she's like, weren't you going to pay? And I'm like, you invited me. You asked me if I wanted to
go. Aren't you paying? You have money. And you know what she told me? That's how rich
people get rich. They use other people's money.
[00:25:29] Lesley Whitehead: I love Keeley. Lesson learned. Mic drop.
[00:25:37] Autumn Geist: So don't use your own money to self fund. Don't sit for your startup,
seek grants. They're out there. Make sure you're connecting with organizations that will mentor
you. There's a great one here in DuPage called Innovations of DuPage. I was not a member of
it, but I know some startup, uh, folks who have really had some great successes with them. So
learn what your resources are.
[00:25:57] When we launched this business, it was two friends going, hey, I have an idea. You
have an idea. I have an idea. Oh my our ideas are similar. Let's do this. That was our business
plan. You got 10, 000. I got 10, 000. And it's not, I mean, it's funny to
[00:26:17] Lesley Whitehead: Fly by the seat of your pants.
[00:26:20] Autumn Geist: What? Yeah oh, need a business plan. And not only do you need a
business plan, if you are going to go into business with someone, I don't care if you love them
upside down, sideways to the moon and back again, you have to have a system in place for
how you're going to manage when, um, things don't work. So when you have a difference of
opinion, when there's a conflict that's, you can't die on the sword for everything.

[00:26:42] Lesley Whitehead: Right. Right. It's like a relationship. Like a marriage.
[00:26:44] Autumn Geist: Yes, it's very much like a 100 percent like a marriage and, I
encourage seeking a business coach to help you work through some of those growing pains
that are going to happen. It's inevitable. It's human nature.
[00:26:56] So I would say that that's really important because that's something that I, you know,
we had leaned into. In our situation, things still, uh, went in a different direction, but that's
another thing. So have a plan in place. What happens if one person wants to go? What's the
liability on the person who stays?
[00:27:11] Lesley Whitehead: Right. Right.
[00:27:12] Autumn Geist: I've shared with you, that was the biggest mistake I made was taking
ownership of all of the debt at the brink of a pandemic and then not getting any funding. So it's
been a, it's been a battle, but have a system in place, have an agreement in place, have
everything well documented with an attorney so that it doesn't even have to get personal. It's
like, hey, this is what we agree to.
[00:27:33] Lesley Whitehead: Right, exactly.
[00:27:34] Autumn Geist: It's right here in writing.
[00:27:35] Lesley Whitehead: And partnerships are hard. I know very few partnerships that
have worked. Business partnerships. I mean, I had one when I started, it did not last a year. It
was the same thing. It was like, Oh, I'm a photographer. You're a photographer. Let's be
photographers together. This is a great idea. we didn't write down a thing. It was so, it just did
not end well.
[00:27:55] Autumn Geist: But I do think partnerships can work in business, but I think you have
to both be sort of... so for me, I knew that starting up a business was going to require late nights,
long weeks, like, right. Just long days, late nights.
[00:28:09] Lesley Whitehead: Right. Yes, of course.
[00:28:10] Autumn Geist: I was going to have to dig deep. I would be away from my family for
large periods of time. My family would suffer. My relationships, my friendships would suffer. Like,
I accepted that that was part of a startup. And not everybody is wired for those sacrifices. It
doesn't make you a good or a bad person. It's just, it's not for everyone. And you really have to
honest with yourself. How much are you willing to give? Like when, when people say, I would
love to own a store. No, the store owns you. You think that you with the entrepreneurship, that it
means that you have freedom. You know, when you work for corporate, you're, you're, you're
tied to their rules and their hours and you're limited. Your, your, um, income is limited to what
salary they offer you. Right. And so you think as an entrepreneur, well, I could do better. I can do
more. You're going to work harder and yes, you can have great success. And you could make
more than you did as a salaried employee and you could believe that you have control of your
own hours and time, but...
[00:29:04] Um, and I, I'm trying to feel bad. I don't want it to make it sound like it's like all bad.
It's beautiful too. There are relationships that have from this experience that I never would have
had if I had not done this. But it is hard I'm not going to lie.
[00:29:17] Lesley Whitehead: That's how I met you. I walked in the store.
[00:29:20] Autumn Geist: Right. See, see what the store did. see what the store did. I think, so,
you know, be prepared to sacrifice, you know, don't spend your money. Be prepared to sacrifice.
Have things well documented, have agreements well documented, have a backward past plan.

I'm a project manager by nature. So what is the plan if things don't work out? How do you, how
do you back out of it?
[00:29:44] Like have a whole system in place and then give it a hundred percent. And be willing
to listen and ask questions. You know, if things aren't working at your business, have an honest
conversation. Is it your website? Is it your employees? How are they talking to people? How are
they, how are they addressing people?
[00:29:59] I listen to how my employees talk to people all the time, you know, and their
messaging needs to be the same. It can be in their own voice, but the message is the same. It is
consistent who we are, what we are, how we want people to feel when they shop here. That's
consistent. And I think as a result of that, you know, we have very few returns. We have very few
issues in the store. And, you know, I'm cheeky.
[00:30:23] Lesley Whitehead: Right. I love that.
[00:30:25] Autumn Geist: if people come in the store crazy,
[00:30:28] Lesley Whitehead: I know. Well, they're looking for you I mean, it's, it's, it's almost
like a double edged sword. Um, entrepreneurship when you own a store like, or a boutique like
yours because you are the store. So when people come in they'll specifically ask for you. Is
Autumn here? Is Autumn here? Is Autumn here? And...
[00:30:47] Autumn Geist: It's not inaccurate. And I would say that's probably another tip. Maybe
you have to really decide what is the face of your brand and does it have to have a face, you
know, because you're right. Then, people get very bonded to the face of the brand so that if that
face isn't there. Oh, okay. I'll come back later You know, so be really you have very careful that
[00:31:14] You know Michelle at 16 suitcases has done a really great job at that. Like she's got
this beautiful brand well curated goods a really strong following but she's not the face.
[00:31:24] Lesley Whitehead: No, she's not, you're so right.
[00:31:25] Autumn Geist: Right, whereas I am the face that does that does present some
different challenges for me. But I think that's also part of the charm of the store. I had met with
angel investor, I don't know, probably two years ago. And his, him and his wife. And the wife said
to me when I was like, I just don't understand why the online sales aren't, you know, matching
what's happening. You know, if everybody wants to shop online, whyaren't they clicking? And
she said, well, you're not on the website.
[00:31:53] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:31:54] Autumn Geist: So the experience people have when they come to the store is with
you. They want that time with you. They want to talk to you. They want to connect with you. And
that is all part of the experience. It's not transactional here. It's very relational. If you go to
Target. No, I'm not dissing Target. I love Target. I can't leave Target without hundred
[00:32:13] Lesley Whitehead: I know me too.
[00:32:13] Autumn Geist: spending a hundred dollars.. I wish people would come in here and
say I can't leave without spending a hundred dollars. But anyway, I Target and I go and I buy the
detergent and I go to the checkout and I pay for it and I go home. That's transactional, right?
[00:32:27] Here, we're relational. I know their children's names. I know where they vacation. I
know if their mother's ill, you know what I'm saying? Like I know them. It's, it's a very relational
experience here. So you're not just, I'm not just saying, here, buy all my stuff here, buy my stuff.

You a lot of times I tell people, you don't need that materials person. You don't need that They'll
try to buy like multiple of something in different colors or something like, nah, you need
[00:32:54] Lesley Whitehead: You don't need all that.
[00:32:56] Autumn Geist: I do need it. No, you don't. Like, aren't you, aren't you supposed be
selling me things? I'm like, yeah, but I'm also authentic.
[00:33:03] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:33:03] Autumn Geist: And I don't want you to get home and have buyer's remorse.
[00:33:06] Lesley Whitehead: Exactly.
[00:33:07] Autumn Geist: I also don't want husbands cutting you off from coming here, right. So
I have to be like, really mindful of that too. Like, I want you to be able to come back.
[00:33:17] Lesley Whitehead: Okay, I have to ask this question, um, because it was in the
group of questions, I asked for my project and I thought that it brought out the most interesting
answers from everyone. So what is something that people would be surprised to know about
[00:33:32] Autumn Geist: I have a irrational fear of bridges.
[00:33:39] Lesley Whitehead: Uh, okay. Tell me about that.
[00:33:42] Autumn Geist: I have an irrational fear of bridges. And what's interesting about that
is I've had that fear for as long as I can remember. And my husband used to like, when he was
alive, used to make fun of me about it. Like he's like, you're so ridiculous. It's so irrational.
Bridges are strong. They're not going anywhere. And then remember when that bridge collapsed
in, collapsed in Minnesota.
[00:34:03] Lesley Whitehead: Right? Yes,
[00:34:04] Autumn Geist: See?
[00:34:07] Lesley Whitehead: It does, It does happen. It happened in florida. It yes, it does
[00:34:12] Autumn Geist: But being such a brave, bold person, I think people would find It like,
interesting that, like, I would be afraid of something so, not silly, but, you know, unlikely.
[00:34:23] Lesley Whitehead: So, what do you do? Do you avoid them? Do you go over them,
close your eyes? How do you handle that?
[00:34:29] Autumn Geist: Well, it would be bad if I closed my eyes driving
[00:34:32] Lesley Whitehead: Well, no, not if you were driving, but if if you're in the car.
[00:34:38] Autumn Geist: That Sunshine Bridge, I'll tell you, that Sunshine Bridge in Florida,
like, you know what, you are like, you, if anybody ever expected me to drive a car over that
bridge, they're dead to me. Never. You will never, like, put me in a boat. I would rather go by
boat from one side to the other than cross that bridge.
[00:34:57] Lesley Whitehead: But you know that's the one that was hit originally. Okay, so this
is what happened when I was, I think, either in high school or in college, um, we had a barge, or
big boat that hit the pilings on the bridge that was the original bridge and it collapsed. But there

was also fog, which is why that happened in the first place. And so, unfortunately, buses and
cars went over before they realized that there was a hole in the bridge. And so, yeah, we lost
quite a few people and you know, finally they realized it, obviously, but, uh, so that. that second
bridge that they built towers over the first one. The first one only has, like, the beginnings of it
sort of showing and people fish off of it. But you're right, that big tall one, my mom won't go over
it either.
[00:35:47] The thing that I don't love about it is that it doesn't have high guardrails on the
outside. I don't understand that.
[00:35:54] Autumn Geist: Thanks for pointing that out.
[00:35:55] Lesley Whitehead: LAUGHS
[00:35:57] Autumn Geist: See, my eyes are closed, so I didn't notice that before, but I really
appreciate you bringing that to my attention. I probably couldn't have lived day without knowing
[00:36:05] Lesley Whitehead: I'm doing the complete opposite of what I was hoping. Well, I, I
have an irrational fear of elevators and I have been, um, addressing it for, for a while. I avoided
it. I would just go up the stairs and just completely avoid it. But yesterday I had to have a, just a.
Um, I went to CDH just for an appointment and it was on the fourth floor and I thought, oh my
God, I was kind of running late, so I'm like I don't have time to find the stairs or to wait for
someone else to be in this elevator for me with me. So I just hope it doesn't stop and I don't
have a panic attack and die because I feel like if it stopped, I wouldn't know what to do. Even
though rationally, I would, but I just feel like I would be in the fetal position. So, uh, I hit the
button and it closed and opened on the fourth floor. So I somehow made it, but I understand that
feeling. I really do.
[00:36:56] Autumn Geist: Yeah. Even those little bridges, like on 55, when you're heading
South, it's like a little tiny bridge, So little.
[00:37:04] Lesley Whitehead: And you don't know where you don't know where it came from.
Did you watch some TV
[00:37:09] Autumn Geist: No, but you know what? read a book here in the shop. Cause we do
something called meeting of the minds where we'll like read a, you know, read a book or watch a
documentary and talk about it. And we read a book called Inherited Trauma.
[00:37:21] Lesley Whitehead: Okay.
[00:37:22] Autumn Geist: And so did you know trauma can be embedded in your DNA? So like,
if you have like irrational, like
[00:37:28] Lesley Whitehead: strongFears of elevator.
[00:37:30] Autumn Geist: Yeah, so it could be something that was, you know, you know, in here
that your DNA may have happened like I and I believe that, you know, because, um, it makes
[00:37:43] Lesley Whitehead: It does make sense. It does make sense. So if it's embedded, is
there anything that, you can do to overcome it
[00:37:51] Autumn Geist: Well, I probably could get therapy
[00:37:53] Lesley Whitehead: No, I maybe did the, did book make any recommendations? No.

[00:37:58] Autumn Geist: I don't remember it doing that. it just kind of honored like that, you
know, trauma is embedded in generations, you know, so just, you know, when people say, well,
you didn't experience it, like you're, you know, that was generations ago. Yeah, but it's
embedded in my DNA.
[00:38:14] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:38:15] Autumn Geist: I don't have to have experienced it firsthand. It's part of me. It's part
of your soul, you know? So yeah, no, it didn't have a solution, but I mean, I've had other, you
know, fears too. And there's some great podcasts you can listen to to try temper it. But I think
the best thing is just not to drive it. Just letsomeone else drive it and close my eyes. I mean,
that's my solution. Leslie, I don't know why I need a different solution. don't like my solution.
What's your problem with my solution? Are you judging me?
[00:38:44] Lesley Whitehead: I have no problem with your solution. I can't avoid elevators,
unfortunately, as much as I would like to, um, so I just keep facing them and dealing with it,
[00:38:55] Autumn Geist: Well, isn't that the whole point of being brave is doing it even though
you're scared? So you were scared to get in the elevator, but you got in anyway, which made
you brave. I am scared as hell to get on those bridges, but I get on anyway. I just don't drive it,
but I get on it. I like, sometimes I think, just stop the car, just stop the car. I'll just get out and
walk. Oh, I won't. That'd be worse. Way worse.
[00:39:16] Lesley Whitehead: I know, but this is kind of interesting, um, talking once again
about our fifties. I've found a lot of women, um, who develop irrational fears later in life. Um, I
met one woman who, um, couldn't drive on the, all of a sudden couldn't drive on the interstate,
just could not drive an interstate at all. And now, um, and she's, you know, work towards getting
back on it and,
[00:39:43] And, um, or not being able to fly. My mom who worked for Pan Am at one point, um,
just stopped flying. She just had an irrational fear of flying and for the rest of her life, she hasn't
flown. So I I think there, I do think there's something about age and fears, but I'm not sure if it's
tied to having children and being worried that you weren't going to be there for them or what it is.
Do you, have any thoughts about that?
[00:40:10] Autumn Geist: Wow, you know what? I think that could be some of it. We start as we
get older, you know, we start to recognize our own mortality, right? So we're starting to see our
friends pass. We're seeing our parents pass, and we start to realize, oh wait, I'm not invincible,
like we believe when we're children, like they have no fear. They don't
[00:40:30] Lesley Whitehead: Right. Right.
[00:40:32] Autumn Geist: They don't have fear of the end or that like, but like the deeper into
our life we go, we realize how fast time moves and we realize how tragedies happen and you
know, just unexpected incidents happen that take people's lives and we begin to realize like that
could happen, to me. And so then I think that that, that could be the root of some of the
irrational, fears that happen. You know, maybe they're not so rational. Maybe it's just like being
like aware,
[00:41:01] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:41:02] Autumn Geist: You know, maybe the other people just aren't aware yet.
[00:41:06] Lesley Whitehead: I think you're right. I think you're right. I think that's it.
[00:41:08] Autumn Geist: Yeah. Which is crazy.

[00:41:11] Lesley Whitehead: Well, Autumn, I don't want to take up so much of your time, but I
am so grateful that you have been here today. It has meant so much to me that, you were my
first guest. And um,
[00:41:22] Autumn Geist: I'm so glad. so excited.
[00:41:25] Lesley Whitehead: I know, me too.
[00:41:27] Autumn Geist: Did we, did we get all your questions answered?
[00:41:29] Lesley Whitehead: I think so I didn't, I didn't list questions. The only one I listed was
the one about, um, what is something that people are supposed to know about you. But let me
ask you this is there anything else that you want? Wanted to talk about.
[00:41:44] Autumn Geist: Um, I think one thing just as a, as an entrepreneur, as a woman, I
just want to impress upon other women and just people, you know, um, the importance of giving
the small guys a shot at their business, especially this holiday season. You know, um, Amazon
will still be here tomorrow.
[00:42:03] Lesley Whitehead: Right.
[00:42:05] Autumn Geist: You know Hobby Lobby will still be here tomorrow.
[00:42:07] Lesley Whitehead: Right. So what's the best way for everyone to support you?
Because I want to see you thriving through this season.
[00:42:15] Autumn Geist: Yeah. Well, I mean, events are really helpful. We, know, we love to
create events that, that could be with you and, you know, you and friends, you and family. We do
some great team bonding exercises. So maybe your work team, you know, goes to lunch for the
holiday. know, how about come and create here and have lunch? You know, there's some,
those, I would say that that's one really great way.
[00:42:35] And then of course, shopping with us, we love doing, um, we love doing corporate
gifts. We love putting gift sets together. We can help with any of that. We're very good at
curating creative ideas for that. Uh, we are at where the collective is located at 4724 Main Street
in the heart of downtown Lyle, uh, five minutes from either expressway, um, a two block walk
from the train. So very easily accessible, free parking.
[00:43:02] Uh, our website is www.thecollectiveLHE.Com. We're on Instagram and Facebook.
um, the shop is The Collective Lifestyle Shop and the makery is the Makery TC. So, those, you
know, come follow us. You know, that helps us fight the Facebook, instagram algorithms. It's
having, don't just follow us, engage. It's important. Not just with us, other businesses.
[00:43:30] I'll, I'll leave you on that note. You know social media is intended to be social. Not
supposed to be passive scrolling, you know, it's intended to be social. You're supposed to
engage. That means you're supposed to like and comment, you know, on posts and engage
with them because that's the point of being social. So I would say, yeah, don't just follow us, get
in there, ask questions. If you like something, say you like it. If you really love something, share
it. Right.
[00:43:55] That costs nothing. There are so many wonderful ways, not just for us, any small
business. Those are the ways you can support a small business without spending a dime. Not
everybody has, you know, disposable income. Okay. But you're on social media, like our posts,
comment, share it. That way, maybe the people who do have disposable income will see it. Help
a girl out, right?

[00:44:15] Lesley Whitehead: One thing I want to, last thing I want to add is that um, you know,
you are a beautiful writer. I hope someday to read any book you write. I can see that in your
future, I really can. Um, but I actually love your newsletters because I feel like they become very
personal, and they're interesting and inspiring, and so how do we sign up for
[00:44:37] Autumn Geist: Yeah, you can just go onto our website, www.thecollectiveLHE. com.
And I think if you scroll to the bottom, there's a button to subscribe to the newsletters.
[00:44:46] Lesley Whitehead: Good, good, good. That's fantastic. Autumn, thank you so much.
I'm so grateful. You are such a beautiful human.
[00:44:52] Autumn Geist: Grateful. You are a beautiful human. You're a seed planter, I don't
know if you recognize that. So you planting seeds that you don't, you'll, I don't know if you'll ever
really understand the value of, the fruition that comes from it, because I don't know if you, cause
you're, you know, you're moving, right. But you know, just know that, just know that you make a
difference every day. And you know, if women really want to empower other, other women, and
really, you know, live that truth, they should follow your example.
[00:45:21] Lesley Whitehead: Oh, and you know what? Right back at you. Right back at you,
my wonderful friend.
[00:45:26] Autumn Geist: Good luck with this new venture.
[00:45:27] Lesley Whitehead: Thank you so much.
[00:45:29] Autumn Geist: It's going to be great.
[00:45:30] Lesley Whitehead: I see, I see in my future you being on here again.
[00:45:35] Autumn Geist: I'll be back.
[00:45:37] Lesley Whitehead: I love you.
[00:45:37] Autumn Geist: I would love it. Thank you.
[00:45:39] Lesley Whitehead: Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you found this
episode inspiring as well as entertaining. If you want more out of the box wisdom from boots on
the ground, creative, brave women like this one, subscribe to Her Story So Far podcast
wherever you listen, and please share this link with anyone who needs some inspiration. To
receive more wisdom in your inbox, sign up for my weekly letter at lesliewhiteheadphotography.
[00:46:08] Her Story So Far podcast is produced in conjunction with mad talented executive
producer K.O. Myers at Particulate Media.
[00:46:18] Thank you to all my beautiful bold guests, without them there would be no show.
[00:46:24] Until next time, get out there and make yourself visible to the world. We need you and
your creation. If no one has told you today, you are beautiful.

Her Story So Far

Her Story So Far focuses on outside-the-box conversations with badass female creatives. These women are birthing amazing passion projects in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of their lives. Host Lesley Whitehead is an artist, visual storyteller and multi-passionate marketer. She believes age shouldn’t stop you from achieving your dreams or make you invisible to the world. Join us to be inspired by the wit, wisdom and one-of-a-kind experiences of these amazing women.

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