Kyla Olives Laurel: Telling Stories Through Colorful Brands
Creative director, entrepreneur, and photographer Kyla Olives Laurel opens up about the evolution of her brands—The Olive Tree, Ola Haus, and Ola Bebe—as well as her evolution as a mother.
One look at Kyla Olives Laurel’s colorful brands and you already know that there’s an interesting story behind them. The first-time mom took over The Olive Tree in 2014. It was a business that her family had incorporated several years back but was left stagnant. At that time, she was fresh out of college and envisioned entering the art scene. However, as she settled into her role as the Creative Director, she saw the potential of the art of tablescaping. How it creates joy and timeless memories with people you share a meal with.
“I’ve always wanted to push the boundaries of what fabric and color can do to your table. Textures, shapes, stories—all of these things that can change the whole experience of dining,” she wrote in one of her Instagram posts.
Taking over the family business
When Kyla Olives Laurel took over The Olive Tree in 2014, she did not care much about table or bed linens just yet. “It was up to me to decide what the vision would be for the business. Table and bed linens didn’t interest me until I realized that I was my own market. I wanted to create a brand that would tell stories through table linens and such. Shake things up and experiment! That has been my goal ever since.”
Becoming a mother made Kyla care even more about the people who worked for the company—beyond the vision she had for the business. “Being a mother made me appreciate what mothers do each day to care for their children. I was pregnant during the pandemic and I felt the weight of my responsibility trying to figure out how to keep the business alive and give work to my people.”
Pivoting during the pandemic
Kyla’s businesses were one of those that the pandemic affected. To stay afloat, she created The Dreamers collection. It focused on designs that brought the outdoors in. Additionally, she pushed for online appointments for linen consultations. Her clients would walk her through what they needed before she would design for them. Another change she made was upgrading her website to make it easier for customers to shop online since she couldn’t do monthly pop-up stores.
“I’m lucky that my clients supported me all throughout the pandemic and trusted me to deliver the items to them even with the lockdowns. I am so grateful for my patrons!”
Kyla Olives Laurel on the art of delegating
On top of running The Olive Tree, Kyla manages Ola House and Ola Bebe with her husband Jay. Despite the full plate, she makes sure to still carve out time for herself and for her family. “I’m lucky that we have a really strong support group in our families and a yaya that I can fully depend on. I never understood what ‘it takes a village’ meant until I gave birth. In the beginning, I assumed that giving birth is just popping the baby out and then my life goes back to what it was before. I was so wrong. I had to learn to slow down my pace so I can be both a mother and a daughter. This was when I learned how to delegate and really decide how to split my time.”
“In my ‘previous life’ as a full-time entrepreneur and part-time photographer, I was always used to compartmentalizing a full schedule and never letting myself worry about what’s next until I need to. Some people call it procrastinating. I call it staying sane.”
Kyla Olives Laurel admits that she operates the same way but everything is planned out for the week. Moreover, she dedicates at least two to three days where she can have a slow morning with her daughter Barcelona. “This means having to say no to certain things or moving it to a later schedule when possible.”
Creating as a form of self-care
One way Kyla practices self-care is by keeping a work journal with her all the time. “I write down all the things I need to do during the week and sort of plan out how things will go. I also work after I put my daughter to sleep at night so I don’t feel pressured to rush through my mornings with her. If I don’t have an appointment in the morning, I do the whole breakfast and then play routine until she asks for a nap.”
“My favorite part of the day is being able to take a long walk with my daughter and husband. That’s when I feel like Jay and I reconnect as our thoughts run through our minds and we talk about our plans. In all honesty, I love the rush of having to keep creating—which is why my husband and I put up Ola Haus and Ola Bebe. It’s my small passion project that we created for our own creative output. That, for me, is my self-care. I love the feeling of making my ideas into actual objects.”
Before becoming parents, Kyla and Jay aligned on how they would raise their daughter Barcelona. They’re taking a more progressive approach as compared to traditional Filipino families—by practicing respectful or gentle parenting.
“We try and understand her needs, communicate with her as patiently as we can even in her tough moments, and treat her as our mini-me. We try to understand her situation by putting ourselves in her position. We’re both very hands-on and try our best to be part of every single part of her day. We’re lucky that our flexible work schedule allows us to be present. We are so grateful for that.”
“My husband is definitely quicker in giving her what she wants and I always try to negotiate with her which I think is a really good balance.”
As Barcelona grows older, Kyla hopes she’ll be curious about the world and travel. “It is the best way to learn. Never be afraid to explore and be outside your comfort zone.”
Kyla Olives Laurel: “Being a mother should never stop you from materializing your dreams or ideas.”
While some moms get discouraged easily from starting their own business for fear that they might not have enough time or that it takes away being present for their children, Kyla hopes to invigorate them. “It may not be as fast or easy to mobilize but know that you can always do both.”
“Sleep schedule is key. You need to make sure to make the most of the time your baby sleeps and get all the work you can do within those windows. Have a work desk at home, keep a work journal and write everything down, and schedule in advance,” she advises.
“Delegate when you can! Don’t feel guilty when you need to ask for help from a family member or your yaya when you can’t be present for your child. When you get back, be fully present for him or her.”
“Lastly, make the most of the days when you’re not running a marathon and really connect with your child. Put your phone down and disconnect from work. Take them to the park, go for a walk, visit a zoo, and make beautiful new memories with them.”