Capturing Lightning
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Mackenzi Farquer

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“When it’s just white
dudes, white dudes get
all the shit. It’s about
building diversity on
every level.”

Mackenzi Farquer, founder of Lockwood

Mackenzi Farquer opened the store that would become Lockwood, a boutique stocked with stylish items for the home, paper goods, other gifts, in 2007. Here, she reflects on just how far she’s come from opening the store as a twenty-something with a bit of naiveté, and talks about the necessity of a “thick skin” in the typically male-dominated entrepreneurial space.

What was your initial vision for Lockwood?
My initial vision was sort of like a neighborhood design store. It opened in 2007. It had a different name. It was called Site, and it was based off of an architecture site plan. I was an interior designer and I wanted it to be a place to buy cool things for the home. There was no place to do that. Over the years it’s grown into [items for the] home, gifts, paper [goods], and clothing. 

What drew you to that vision personally?
I had grown really frustrated with rich people being mildly abusive or problematic. When you work in the interior design space, they’ll call at any hour and for any reason. I was looking to get away from that sort of job. I was like, “What if I made myself things that I like that I’m already working with as an interior designer?” That was the idea. I call it the cocktail party plan. In 2006, I was finishing design school, and I was saying, “I am opening that store.” I think it's like prayer. We as humans have been trained to say what we need out loud. Just some of us do it.

Did you have any fears about becoming an entrepreneur?
No, because I was an idiot. Twenty-something Mackenzi who opened that store had no idea. I had nowhere to go. I was not far off the ground, so it wouldn’t be a big fall if I failed. 2019 Makcenzi that has multiple stores and a child feels very different about how she runs her business than in 2010. Even though I had a business plan and a design, there were things I didn't know. It didn't occur to me that I was going to pay myself. I should have been more afraid. At the time, I was freelancing a bit. I was making money on the side. When a lot of people open a store, it’s like a hobby or a passion project [for them]. I’m grateful that two passion projects of mine have blossomed into viable businesses.

What has been your greatest struggle in founding Lockwood?
Right now it’s a never ending paperwork problem. A lot of business owners can relate to it: finding a location, getting healthcare for myself. My job is supposed to be this, but a lot of people talk about struggling with employees and I think it’s all real. Every quarter, most businesses have a different struggle. I don’t think it’s coincidental that we all open in the summer. It’s when retail is dead. It’s not money, but we’re struggling with something else. It’s always something. 

You cannot keep a product under a certain size store. I knew it was difficult. There was a dark period in owning a business where things happened personally and professionally. I had to either close it all or double down. I Googled how to sell a business. I talked to my accountant. When your business is small, it's hard to take the next leap up.

What has been your greatest triumph in your founder’s journey thus far?
We haven't won an award or been featured in a magazine, but I am exceptionally proud of where we are. Having salaried employees is big for me—being able to pay people per week, offering healthcare, and opening additional locations. Seeing the Lockwood bag outside of the neighborhood in Manhattan is still mind-blowing to me. 

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“When I was building
this, my father told me,
‘Don’t let the perfect be
the enemy of the good.’
Sometimes you just
have to be good enough
and move on with whatever that choice.”

Mackenzi Farquer, founder of Lockwood

What has been your biggest sacrifice?
I rarely take vacation. I’m not motivated by time off at all. I had my first child at 39. I have put work first since I was 27. Many founders will tell you the same thing. I’m really happy with my life, so I can’t say that’s the way it’s supposed to work. It’s Lockwood, Lockwood, and Lockwood—then everything else.

What has been your biggest failure?
We’ve opened Lockwood locations and closed them. We opened at the Queens Museum, but it didn’t work out. We had that store for three years. It was the first one I had to close. I’ve had moments where selections and decor was a mistake and had to change out fixtures. There are moments I’m not proud of, but I am willing to admit and make the changes. And I'm willing to do them publicly. 

Did anyone in your life try to dissuade you from becoming an entrepreneur?
Yes. My father was pretty opposed to the idea. Before all of this, I studied finance. I worked for a brokerage firm. It was all well and fine, but it didn't suit my personality. He was tremendously disappointed that I was going to move to New York and open a store. When he came out to see the first one, I could tell he didn't get the location. He didn't see the vision. None of it jived. He died before Lockwood took off. He was never able to see all of this. I make 10 times now what I made as a broker. He couldn't have known it was going to work out. I guess it’s okay that parents are like, “I don’t know about that for you,” because if you are confident enough you’ll say, “I’ll show you.”

Has anyone in your personal life been a constant source of support?
My mom was always successful, and she's also very creative. This whole time we’ve always jived. She gets it—gets that the store jives with me. My wife is super supportive, as well, and she works in the same industry. So that's been an awesome synergy. 

Tell me about your work-life balance.
I will say that the more Lockwood is open, the less I have to work. The more we’ve grown, the more I’ve been able to bring on a great team, which translates to the less I have to oversee every choice. When I had my daughter, I went on a long maternity leave. I didn't check email or use my phone, and it was eye opening that that was possible. But it wouldn't be possible without the store. 

What would make you feel as though you accomplished what you set out to do with Lockwood?
I mean that has already happened and ten-fold more. Every other store and milestone is like gravy. Obviously, I have aspirations to be bigger or whatever it is. At this point, it’s beyond my wildest dreams. There are days where I just don’t want to go down from here.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
There are a few little things that are like age-old adages that are true. When I was building this, my father told me, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Sometimes you just have to be good enough and move on with whatever that choice. 

Tell me about your experience as a female entrepreneur.
Sexism is alive and well. I’ve had fellow business owners go in to get things at banks and other establishments and get asked, “Does your husband agree with this?” I’ve had to develop a tough skin. There’s a New York attitude. People are well aware that New York is a tough crowd. That has helped me realize that if you aren't willing to stand up and demand what you need, women get taken advantage of. They don’t get the funding. They get passed on for opportunities. It’s all still happening. I took a Goldman Sachs small business class and learned a stat that says that less than one percent of woman-owned businesses make $1 million or more a year. In the past decade, my banker at Chase changed my life. He’s also part of a minority group. It’s not just white men in finance anymore. When it’s just white dudes, white dudes get all the shit. It’s about building diversity on every level. The funding is a problem when you talk to female business owners. All in all, I feel grateful I can call a woman who understands where I’m coming from.

This interview has been lightly edited from an in-person conversation for clarity. Capturing Lightning is a project from Woden, a strategic storytelling agency in Philadelphia that helps organizations articulate who they are and why people should care. To learn more about how to tell your story, visit us at wodenworks.com.