Amanda Shine, Founder of The Setting
Entertaining is something that comes naturally to Amanda Shine. With a career in fashion PR and event planning for high-end, global brands it's no surprise she has a knack for setting a carefully curated scene. Amanda has since left the fast-paced world of fashion to be her own boss, turning a daydream into a reality. In just a year, she's done that in the most bright and brilliant of ways by creating The Setting, a brand and collection of hand-crafted products that elevate entertaining, allowing everyone to channel their inner Martha Stewart minus the frills and fussiness. Her goal? Helping women create moments and memories with those who matter most.
Can you tell us about the journey you've taken to launching The Setting??
When I first moved to New York, I definitely took that opportunity to be young. I modeled on the side, but then just got to a rough point with that industry. I have an older brother who I’m very close with, and one day he said, ‘I feel like you have so much more to offer than to have a job where they’re going to choose someone else over you because you’re not a redhead or have the look they are going for…that’s not really about your work and you’re too smart of a girl.’ So I took an internship, a very real, no-frills internship and worked really, really hard and loved every second of them telling me I was doing well. The company ended up hiring me after that.
When a girlfriend of mine told me that Theory was hiring, I wasn't going to let the fact that I didn't have a college degree stop me from going for the job. I figured I’d dress the part and do some research and I ended up going through a lot of rounds there, and was hired as a VP assistant in PR. That’s really where I cut my teeth, because I was around such powerful players in fashion. And it was a really exciting time.
My last job before launching The Setting was a big job, it was a global job and I traveled all over the world for it, but I kind of reached a point where I was like 'Huh, I'm working so, so hard doing these huge events, that are a ton of grunt work and maybe if I was working this hard for myself I could make something out of it.'
After that, I took a second to have some space, and went to take classes at this studio called La Mano Pottery in Lower Midtown. There, I met a girl who is a really talented illustrator and we then started collaborating together. We were like, ‘Let’s design on these ceramics’. So she would draw on hers and I would write on mine. And after some friends saw what we were doing, they were like 'this is so cute!' and started asking me to make more, customizing different wording that they wanted, and I just started to grow a collection from there. After a year of just creating pieces, we started talking about doing events, because at the time we were focused on the product and who we are as a brand and building an aesthetic we felt really strongly about. It's going to be exciting to put together events, because it's something I knew pretty well and like a lot and have a lot of passion for. I like to see women come and spend time together and I'm looking to create that space.
But here's the thing, I'm not an expert at anything, and I love to say that, because I don't have a college degree, and I don’t have a culinary background, and I don’t come from a place where we were antiquing every weekend. The whole concept of The Setting is that this is something that any girl can do. We are the voice of that girl who recognizes that she’s learning as she goes, the girl who has a very full life to live and if she wants to have a dinner party, she can come to us and know the five most simple ways to do so.
Even for me, I go to my girlfriend’s homes and its about the gathering and time we spend together. It will literally just be charcuterie and a spritz on the table, but its still the nicest thing I’ve ever been to, because they took the time and put love into doing it. And that's what's important — your napkin doesn’t have to be at 90 degrees or any of that. You can host something in your backyard, or on a NYC patio, and everybody will have the best night of the summer. That’s the inspiration behind the brand.
Where did your creativity, passion and drive stem from?
My mom is an illustrator and she’s illustrated about 15 children’s books. She is a true artist. My dad is very much a surfer, and he has his own landscaping business. He started it with one beat-up truck, and built it to now have golf courses as clients. He still surfs a lot and has a house in Puerto Rico that he’s at a lot. Both of my parents are such good people.
I always liked to write and draw, and I always loved to cook. I was very scrappy with cooking — it was just about being clever and using what was around me. When I moved to New York, I was like, ‘Whoa, it's crazy that I can literally go to the grocery store and make a chicken.’ There was so much freedom in that — in making whatever I wanted. I could burn stuff and ruin stuff but it was okay, because I’d just try again another time.
I’m just good with my hands. I’d always worked with clay when I was in school, but not formally. When I decided to pick it back up, I realized that I was good at it. The more I did it, the more I was like, ‘Okay, it feels so good to be good at something, even though I don’t know what I’m doing with my career’ Everyone was looking at me like, ‘What’s your plan?’ But I just followed whatever felt good, and went with that.
I think that it’s really empowering to say, ‘I’m going to try — let me fail or not, but I feel good about doing this.’ After a year of working that way, and noticing the traction, it felt really satisfying. I feel really happy about it.
Being completely self-sustaining is a huge deal, and something to be proud of. Nobody can take that from you. And a big thing for me is being ok with making mistakes, because, no doubt about it, you're going to make them. Now, I look at mistakes as takeaways. There's nothing more rewarding than fixing a mistake and then for the next time, to have the total opposite outcome happen, it feels pretty major.
Learning from all the experiences you've gone through this past year with launching a brand, are you approaching things differently now?
When I first started, it was literally about just trying to get the site live. I was shooting a bunch of product shots and was so fixated on every little thing, and figuring out how to get good lighting and all that stuff. Throughout the year, there was a shift around spring when I brought on a partner — her name is Rachel — and she has a very different background than I do. She was in finance and went to Harvard Business School. We’re very yin and yang.
The shift was going from being so in the weeds to scaling and growing and understanding what that means with production and lawyers — the kind of things that sometimes get lost when you talk about turning an idea into something. The office stuff and the administrative stuff is really important because they are the backbone of your business, and without them, you’re not going to really be able to take the idea anywhere — that’s been my shift.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I seek out inspiration, but it’s subconscious. I have a good friend who’s such a talented writer, and she’ll come and clunk down in front of me and be like, ‘I literally can’t even open my laptop today.’ Sometimes, you have those days where you have to let yourself chill, because when you need to be creative and create content, it requires a lot of your brain.
Sometimes, I just look to other women and their aesthetics for inspiration, and I love reading about women in business. When I read about Emily Weiss, I was so inspired. To really be a businesswoman, it goes back to those logistical things, and mixing them with feeling inspired while being organized and prepared.
And no one should ever say that you can’t or shouldn’t, or that it’s weird or self-promotional. Because who cares? Let me do me, and let me try something. Another woman I really love is Chrissy Teigen — she is just so visceral with her words. I think she’s brilliant. The way that she puts herself out there is authentic, but also feels creative. I think that with social media, the coolest thing is that somebody can see something and comment and it starts a conversation — I love writing back to people. That didn’t even exist 10 years ago, and it completely changed the game.
Okay, so we have to ask, what is the perfect hostess gift and is one always necessary?
Good question. I think that a useful gift is the best kind of gift or a gift that you wouldn't buy for yourself. I always, tried and true, bring a really good candle. You don't always have to reinvent the wheel here.
And as far as always needing to bring a hostess gift, I want to say no, because sometimes I have really amazing friends over and they’ll be so thoughtful in asking what they can bring, but I tell them that just their presence is the present, and I mean it! Sometimes, just being there and being present is more important than bringing something. I think that if you’re going somewhere nice and someone is making a big spread, then it’s great to bring something, but if it’s more pared down, I don’t feel a need.
I want to say no. I have really amazing, amazing girlfriends who are so thoughtful and they'll always be like, "What can I bring?" I'll, literally, say like "Your presence is the present." And I mean it! I think sometimes just being there and being present is more important than always feeling the need to bring something. I also don't want my friends to always feel the need to stress out about one last stop, you know? I think if you're going and you're spending the night somewhere or someone's really making a big, big spread, then ok fine, but otherwise just show up with love.
And what about some Amanda Shine life hacks? Any daily rituals?
I’m really into vibes right now and creating a feeling. I’m really not into having trash in the house and I’m not into having dirty dishes in the sink. I really believe in energy. Marie Kondo is now such a guru. She's all about looking at something and if it doesn’t bring you pleasure, then you don’t need it. That would be my number one thing — just keeping things simple and clean. I think that’s a really good foundation, because life gets messy, and you have crazy days, so it's good to come home to a clean foundation.
As I’ve gotten older, self-care has been a big thing for me, especially in business. There’s something so nice about feeling like you’re clean and ready. When I was younger, I was such a wild child. I had long hair and never brushed it. Now, I wake up and brush my teeth and brush my hair and I do my face routine — that’s such a good way to be prepared for whatever the day has. Good or bad, at least you feel like you’re with it. And I would say lipstick. Because I’m a very plain dresser and I like to wear a uniform- it’s always the same silhouettes, black or white and jeans. The one thing I think that always make me feel a little bit extra is a lip.
And a third thing for me is patience, and I think it’s such a double-edged sword in this social and digital world. Patience is so lost and one way that I really clear my head is through exercising that virtue. I don’t need to be banging on everyone’s door all the time. You have to be able to ride the wave a little bit. Also, on the side of having no fear, is having faith. I think that having faith kind of lends itself to patience.
And what about your idea of legacy for both The Setting and yourself...?
For myself, I love New York so much, but I would love to see more of the world on my own terms. I’ve traveled to amazing places for work, which expanded me and helped me understand how big this place actually is. I want to make traveling a self-priority. I’m so cheesy, but in 10 years, I would love to have a couple of little ones running around — that’s probably my biggest personal dream.
And for The Setting, I would love for it to evolve to be more of a communal entity. I want for it to be an actual space where people can come and get coffee in our mugs and eat off of our plates and hang out and it’s going to be very effeminate, but not overly so. I don’t just want to carry fancy food, but yummy good staples like small baked goods and sandwiches. I want it to feel like a place where people can have events, as well as come and be a local at a coffee shop or bakery — like a hybrid. That’s the physical dream for the business.
I've really been on such a ride so far and it's been amazing. I've tumbled and wiped out but I've gotten back up and kept myself going and really learned to not be afraid to put myself out there. And I'm not traditionally the toughest person. I think having your own business, you very quickly realize you're either going to make it or you're not, and if you are, you're going to have to be tough. And you can be tough with lipstick on. It's fine.