There are stories all over the Internet about dropping everything to get on the road, travel the world, and somehow make tons of money by building a business at the same time.
We love these stories because they give us the sense of wanderlust and the idea of ultimate freedom and glamour; working on a beach in California one day and from a coffee shop in Portland the next.
But here’s the thing: no matter where life takes you - whether you’re sending emails from the kitchen table in between your kid’s naps or creating jewelry in hotel rooms - building a business from the ground up offers similar struggles.
That’s something Pangshua Riley, a jewelry designer, creator, and founder of Lue + Riley, has realized on her journey across the nation. Dedicated to pursuing her promise of living her life to the fullest, she embraced minimalism and dropped everything to travel with her husband as he goes from city to city for his career.
Along the way, she’s embraced her fun personality through thoughtful and colorful jewelry designed to make women feel as good as they look. It hasn’t been easy - she’s learning to become more flexible and adaptable as she creates new designs in messy hotel rooms - but she’s enjoying every step of the way.
So, without further ado…
Read her inspiring journey in the full interview below:
Ashley Hoffman (AH): So, tell me about the path that brought you to starting Lue + Riley?
Pangshua Riley (PR): For years I had my heart set on becoming a journalist. My dad infused in me, a love for public libraries. The rows and sections of newspapers, books and magazines. I loved it all and the stories it carried. So, as I continued in my youth to watch my parents take an active role in serving and leading others in our community, I knew I wanted to do the same.
I fell in love with volunteering, being a voice and advocate for others through my writing, and encouraging people (especially young girls and women) through my creative gifts. All of this to say, the dream through each season from pre-teen Pangshua to post-journalism-degree and working professional, has been that I believe everyone has a story and every story is worth telling.
Some days, I struggle with living my own story out -- we all do to some degree -- but it doesn’t lessen the truth that we are worthy. We are treasures. We are living stories, getting to our destinations. So launching lue + riley was something that “just happened”.
In a season of learning to love myself better, and giving myself the space to fail + to try, I took leaps that I otherwise wouldn’t have. At the end of the day, what I want to be a reminder for me is the vow I made 6 years ago.
My brother Lue, at age 27, unexpectedly passed away from a heart failure. The summer following his death, I went to India for a mission trip to work with Angel House (orphanages). I wanted to see my brother’s legacy lived out somehow. I wanted his story told. I made a vow to cherish every year, every moment.
I was proud to have spent the last 12 years working with nonprofits helping youth and families in need. But in the midst of all that busyness, I lost focus of this vow: to live in each moment. Having the space to create with my hands really energize me.
It’s a long way of saying, every step of the journey has led me to this moment in starting lue + riley. Crazy how the journey unfolds!
AH: What gave you the idea to start a jewelry company?
PR: Three years ago, I started this journey in downsizing my closet. The dream was to have 8 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of jeans, and 8 interchangeable outfits. At the time, I had maybe 25 pairs of jeans. It was an issue. Ha!
I loved the idea of living minimally and still making outfits look chic + stylish. So fast-forward, the beginning of this year my husband and I set our hearts on traveling across the country with Chick-fil-A to help grand open new stores.
I left my dazzling career to embark on this journey with him (on the road, full time). We live in/out of bins, suitcases and hotels. It’s fun, challenging and refining. However, that goal I made 3 years ago has come true. I have had to simplify my wardrobe and bring things that matter most to us.
Early on in this nomadic journey, I wanted to find affordable accessories that had quality, color and a luxe feel. I made several pairs and would wear them out to socials, events and people were receptive (almost pushy about getting me to sell my earrings). I started with making custom designs for friends and family. Shortly after that, I took the leap to launch!
AH: Your designs are so fun and exciting! What inspired them?
PR: For as far back as I can remember, I have always been a girly-girl. Quick example, when I was 8, I fell in love with this purple winter coat with fur trimming from Limited Too. It had to be mine!
My dad bought the jacket… and one cold wintry morning, I set my wet coat on top of the space heater and no longer had a purple coat. Whomp! In the back of my mind, I am still reminded of the feelings that purple coat gave me. Confidence.
I’m a firm believer that you should wear what makes you feel confident. Don’t chase trends. Be you! So my designs, while it may not be for everyone, it definitely is a reflection of my love for women empowerment and fashion.
AH: What has been one of your biggest struggles so far?
PR: One of the funniest things I made up in my head was that there would be extra hands around to help with the work and process. Nope. I am a one-woman show.
I’m completely okay with that… but for some reason, I had this imaginary idea that little elves would show up to help with the small details like invoicing, accounting, content building, photography, etc.
Being a creative, it’s sometimes overly challenging to remember I can’t sit around just creating while important tasks are waiting to be completed. Also, the mobile workspace is challenging. Seeing cluttered spaces stress me out so working out of a hotel room can be stressful at times. It’s really teaching me to be adaptable.
AH: In your mind, what makes your designs stand out from the rest?
PR: All of our tassels are handmade. I go to actual brick and mortar stores to look and feel the quality of the materials I use to make my earrings.
There are other online options/vendors that I can use but I love to handpick gems, stones, silk and beads! So fun!
The statement earrings at lue + riley are guaranteed to be colorful + fashionably elegant. One of the things I love most is working with clients on customized designs for a special woman, whether it be for your mom, wife, bestie or bridesmaids.
AH: What's your favorite part about running your biz?
PR: I love the flexibility and the ability to work from home (or in this case, temporary home). It’s nice to pick up my work and literally take it with me across the country with ease.
Beyond the flexibility, meeting incredible women has been the most inspiring and rewarding part of all this. From the Instagrammers, Facebookers, new clients to the mom-preneurs and fem-preneurs. I definitely feel like I have finally arrived to my sweet spot in life.
AH: What is your biggest learning point so far?
PR: Where do I start?! Social media is a monster. On the outside (pre-business), I assumed businesses and influencers took little time to build their content. It has been humbling to see the work of creating intentional captions and curating the “right” photos. Just like most things in life, you get what you put in.
Putting in the work to show up on social media, has been extremely rewarding in a personal and professional sense. This recent truth from wedding designer Elle Ellinghaus has really made me appreciate the hustle in running a business.
“Be ready first. Make the plans, not the goals. Be ready, and set go!”
This has helped me focus on where I want to go but not staying stuck on goals. Action steps, action steps -- even if it’s one step at a time.
One last thing that has really challenged me is the “understanding your buyer persona” resource by Ashley Hoffman. I thought I gave thought to my audience but this resource really helped me get to the specific details of why I love the women I serve… understanding who she is, what her challenges are how we can journey together. (Thanks, Ashley. I needed this resource like six months pre-launch. Ha!)