TRIBEZA's 10 to Watch 2015 | Chelsea Staires Sun

Ten years ago, Chelsea Staires Sun had just graduated and moved to Austin to begin her post-collegiate life. She replied to an ad on Craigslist for part time help — an ad that just happened to be placed by Dan Graham on behalf of his just-launched startup, BuildASign. Over the next seven years, Staires Sun worked her way up at the uber-successful start-up, and in 2012, left BuildASign to launch Coterie Market, an online marketplace that curates, collects and delivers locally-made products to your door. In September, Coterie Market launched a subscription box service that features the best products from Austin makers, as well as special collaboration projects from local culinary superstars like Counter 3 Five VII pastry chef Sarah Prieto and Ben Edgerton and Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo and Gardner.

Catch us up on your past year:

2014 was the year of survival with our newborn daughter, so 2015 has been the year of get it together. I spent the year experimenting with different products and services, honing Coterie Market’s focus and working towards the best version of the business model. We grew our offerings, expanded corporate gifts, and launched The Coterie Sampler in September, which we’re hoping to grow.

Part of getting it together has been checking back in with my work in the community. It’s very important to me, and it’s grounding, inspiring, challenging and always instructive. I’m privileged to be able to give my time serving on the boards of Big Medium and Slow Food Austin, volunteering with Mayor Adler’s food access sustainability initiative, participating with my husband as SVP partners in Mission Capital and serving as the Live & Silent Auction Chair for the Thinkery’s Imaginarium, which raised nearly half a million dollars for our Open Door Initiative. Coterie Market supports many outstanding organizations like FARFA, Foodways Texas, and The Girls Guild, and I’ll make any shameless plug to help spread the word about them!

It has been an amazing year at my real job with my little one who has learned to walk, talk, put on her shoes and count to twenty. It’s awesome and hard, and so great now that she generally sleeps through the night. I thank my lucky stars that I can’t wait to get to work in the morning, and can’t wait to get home to my family at the end of the day.

Why Austin?

The standout thing I love about working in Austin is the people in my community. Makers and other types of entrepreneurs are so friendly and ready to talk shop, trade tips and give of themselves. I love to collaborate and am grateful for this open culture. I started Coterie Market knowing that, if I did it right, I could see myself doing it for the rest of my life, and a big part of what makes that possible are the people I work with.

Is there anything that frustrates you about living / working in Austin?

FOMO and traffic. With so many options here, it can be hard to be okay with leaving time unscheduled. But I think that’s a good problem to have.

Who/what/where inspires or drives you?

I’m always considering whether what I’m doing is helpful to people, and why I believe in it. To me, the independent entrepreneurs in our city are the magic that we love and what is drawing so many people here. As long as I feel that what I’m doing is improving lives in a worthwhile way, I’ll keep doing it.

How do you get it all done?

It’s never done! Each day I prioritize what’s most important and what I cannot leave unfinished at the end of the day. Some days I can only get to the bare minimum, some days I can get ahead. I try hard to keep it simple, which means continually editing away in order to focus on what’s most important to me, what energizes me and what I enjoy.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle this past year?

Professionally, it continues to be marketing and customer acquisition. Personally, it’s been finding balance.

Who is your style or creative icon?

Anything that is a fresh take on timeless appeal is inspirational to me. I love to learn from people who are taking risks, but keeping it simple and focused at the same time. Ideas often flow for me from learning about an innovation in a different industry and how it can apply to mine.

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you 5 years ago?

When starting a business, try hard to find one to two fantastic partners before you take the leap on your own.

How do you relax?

Taking a beat for myself. A mug of great coffee (that’s still warm) in the morning does wonders for my day.

What are you proudest of professionally?

The amount of revenue that Coterie is helping to keep flowing through the local economy, my relationship with my employees, and good volunteer work.

What makes you laugh?

My kid. Everything is magic to her, and she says or does something hysterical about every 8 minutes. Also, the @millenials_of_newyork Instagram account.

What helps you get through creative blocks?

If I can, I sleep on it.

Tell us what to expect from you in 2016:

The two phrases I love to hear most at Coterie are “Oh wow, this is made in Austin?” and “Everybody loved their gifts so much!” so I’ll be working hard to hear them as often as possible.


Portraits by Bill Sallans | Styling by Ashley Horsley | Hair by Gabrielle van Der Meer | Make up by Bethany Renfro of Lip Service




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