Kelly Furano is the type of person who seems to work with more than just 24 hours in a single day. While not balancing a busy career, consulting for some of the most prestigious luxury brands in the world and raising her two kids, daughter Everly (4.5) and son Leo (2), Furano is also currently working on a members only private club for families with 400 acres of land in Los Angeles. “As a mother, I am connected to this idea that it takes a village to raise a family. It became my creative obsession to architect this nature community, a place that embraces our desire to connect in real meaningful ways while still allowing space for independence and adventure.” We sat down with Furano to learn more about FORREST, the work trip that nearly broke her heart and the double edged sword that is tequila.
We understand you are building a new members club for families called FORREST. What was the impetus for that and what are you hoping to achieve?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to own land in the wilderness and move there with all my friends. I have been searching for the perfect land for a decade but as with everything in life (giving birth to two kids and two businesses simultaneously) the dream was put on hold. When Leo turned one we realized that air travel with two toddlers was a. expensive and b. painful. Road trips became our weekend MO just so we could get out and spread out. My land search and vision became more refined when I realized that we needed access to nature in under an hour. I found the appropriately zoned land in the spring and pooled my awesome talented posse together to support me with the diligence, development, F&B, hospitality, venture financing, and strategic partnerships. What started as a second home escape, became a business.
My professional background inspired me to marry this concept of community, connection, and nature with luxury.
What was it like starting a business with two little ones to manage?
I have always worked so don’t know what the alternative feels like. Every mother knows what guilt feels like and while starting a business is exhausting and taxing on all your relationships, the single most painful feeling is the guilt I carry when I get home at the end of the day and have nothing left. We have our routine down to a science and that helps us all function but I try to make space for the special moments that throw the routine out the window…like an impromptu dance party or a sunset dunk in the ocean.
What have been the biggest milestones / challenges of building a brand?
When Everly was 6 months old, I accepted an executive position with a prestigious brand that forced me to travel to New York, Paris and London several times/yr. I’ll never forget pumping in a bathroom stall on a 12-hour flight to Paris and storing that milk on dry ice so I could ship it back home to Everly. I look back at that time and it still breaks my heart. When I became pregnant with Leo a few years later I made the decision that I would shift my work and put my family first. That’s when I launched my consulting business. I committed to only working with a handful brands at a time and carved out specific time during the week to attend a baby class, and vowed to eat breakfast and dinner with my kids most days of the week. I have enjoyed growing other wonderfully creative people’s brands over the years but when Leo turned 1, I realized it was not enough for me anymore. I love my clients and feel crazy grateful for the network of rad humans I have in my life because of them, but I was finally ready to build my own dream; one that embodied my experience, global community, creativity, and family. As challenging as it is to jump off that cliff and go for it, I know my kids will one day recognize that I was just being courageous.
As a busy working mom, what is your best advice for other working moms trying to strike that balance between work and family? What is your biggest challenge?
Try to have breakfast as a family every morning, even if it lasts 10 minutes. Talk about the plan for the day and connect before the crazy begins. My husband and I both have our own businesses so putting the phone or computer down at the end of the day is hard. Every day I make a goal to use my phone less in front of the kids. We can all feel how our devices pull us out of any possibility of being present.
As a mom, which age (of child) do you think has been most challenging in terms of finding enough time & energy to balance everything?
Right now. A 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. If you asked me a year ago, I would have said then. It’s all hard and I find myself wanting to “get through it” but then I realize that this is the good stuff and I wish I could freeze time.
What does your typical day look like? Schedule-wise.
5:30 am rise. Coffee. Strong coffee. Keith and I nail an hour of work before the kids wake up. The littles wake up starving so it’s straight into breakfast. Followed by an occasional hot tub, dog walk to beach, prep for school by 8am. Nanny arrives, Everly and I are out the door by 8:30am to head to preschool. We cycle or drive depending on my schedule that morning. Leo has an epic day at the park with local buddies and nannies. Keith walks to the back house where he has 7 employees supporting him in the building of Parks Project, an apparel lifestyle brand that gives back to the national parks through the sale of products, branded media, and volunteer programs. After drop-off I squeeze in a call or 30 minutes of emails before I head to an hour yoga. If I am not on the property that day (where a several miles hike is inevitable) I must stretch, dance and move before I get into the mix. By 10:30, I am back on the grid heading to meetings with my partners, investors, architects, consultants and the like. The Malibu soho house is 15 minutes from my property and I use this as my basecamp for meetings, emails and strategy sessions. Depending on the day, Keith or I will do pick up by 4:30pm. We are all home, off emails by 5pm. Nanny leaves and we spend the next 2.5 hours until bedtime together. We head to the beach to fly a kite, eat a burrito on a sandy blanket and watch the sunset or, often, we order door dash and eat on a picnic table outside. We occasionally let the kids watch Planet Earth mid-week if we are knackered and want to lay down for a snuggle session. My friend is an amazing chef and she drops meals for us three days a week which allows me to come home from work and connect with kids without too many distractions. 6:30pm bedtime routine begins and kids are in bed lights out by 7:30 if we are lucky. Keith and I high five and depending on work load get right back into emails and or dive onto the couch for Game of Thrones or a Netflix gem. We are rarely up past 9:30pm. Total dorks.
What do you do to carve out time for yourself? Meditation / Exercise / Nights out with girlfriends, etc.?
I went to a workshop called the Hoffman institute a year ago. One week off the grid, diving deep into my negative patterns, exploring my heritage, what I want to work on and who I strive to be in this world. Heavy stuff but life changing. I learned tools that I’ve integrated into my daily life. A five-minute meditation check in right when I wake up or a gratitude check in before I fall asleep. these simple exercises seem to align me and ease the pressure I put on myself. Daily physical exercise is crucial for me. Keith and I go out together at least once a week just the two of us or to meet up with friends. I rarely have nights alone with my girlfriends these days and should probably work on that.
How do you balance your time between work, your child and nurturing yourself?
I know myself well enough to know that I become depressed, depleted and inefficient if I do not get 8 hours of sleep, eat well, walk in the woods, and lay off the tequila. BUT, I also know that I get fired up by being around inspiring people, great food, loud music and a margarita. Unfortunately, my pendulum swings and balance is a daily effort because it’s in my nature to do it all. I was raised by a southern bell and a rock star who taught my brother and I to work hard, love deep and play often. It’s the only way I know.
What are some of your specific gadgets, organizational tools or aids that help maintain a stress-free work/family balance?
I am obsessed with Shinola’s notebooks. I have a library of them. Shinola will inscribe the book for free so each of my notebooks has a theme: 2016, 2017, Kids, FORREST, “I see you and I love you” (Hoffman ☺), Goals, “Pockets of the world”…and on. I often carry at least three at a time.
If any, what changes did you make to your work hours/life in order to create more time with your kids?
Boundaries. 8-5 is work. Weekends, we stick together. Travel is no longer tagging on a weekend to a work trip to NYC. Keith and I get in and get out. He and I are a team and the whole machine doesn’t work if we aren’t in tandem.
To what do you attribute your strong work ethic? What do you hope your children learn from watching you work & run your business?
My mom and dad have both worked since I was born. They are both entrepreneurs, leaders and dreamers. They taught me how to do what I love. They have always worked to live, not the other way around. Family first, work second.
How would you describe your personal style?
My closet is a mix of vintage, comfortable basics and luxury designers that I work with. Now I only buy the occasional seasonal must-haves. I don’t take what I do for granted, it’s pretty sweet to tap into my client’s inventory and pay cost. When I do shop, that’s how I roll. I have always dressed feminine with a hint of tomboy and maybe a little boho (just writing that word though makes me cringe).
What is your beauty routine? How long does it take you to get ready in the morning
10-15 minutes. Wash face, brush teeth, sunscreen, mascara, maybe an occasional wand through the curls. If im going out I throw on tinted moisturizer and add a cat eye.
With less time to get ready in the morning, what is your go-to look in order to look chic and put together for a full day and possible evening events?
I love Rachel Comey jeans. She has these high wasted cropped flares that I pair with a tee for day or a lace camisole for night. During day I rock flats but I’ll throw on some form of a heel for evening. I have a red Giada Forte red velvet duster that is dope, or a yummy elder statesman sweater if it’s chilly.
What are your wardrobe essentials? Do you have a daily uniform?
Hat, jeans, tee, flats, my Kelly green Goyard briefcase that I’ve had for a decade, Celine shades and/or my Warby Parker eye glasses because suddenly I can’t see very well.
What is the most valuable thing motherhood has taught you?
This is a loaded question. Hmmm. I guess the realization that I was born to do this job and even if I’m not perfect at it, it’s good enough. Love fully, celebrate often and slow the “F” down. Be who you want them to be, they’re watching.
What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a mother?
That I am actually really good at it. I know that sounds weird but I never thought I would take well to sharing my existence so selflessly and putting them ahead every minute of every day. And wow, the love! The love is so full, so beautiful and so all encompassing.
What are your 5 Must Have Mom Essentials?
- Snacks 2. Water 3. Phone 4. Sunscreen 5.Deep Breaths
What are your favorite things to do with your kids in Venice?
We love to dance. A friend of mine (also an awesome mother) gave me crucial advice early on to play music I wanted to listen to. As a result, my kids love everything from Sista Nancy to Drake. These kids have moves!
We spend most weekends on a beach somewhere between Venice and Malibu with close friends, their kids, tons of toys (surfboards, paddleboards the works) and a lot of snacks. Keith and Everly like to surf together and Leo and I cruise around on a paddle board.
We chose to live in Venice because we wanted to live in a village. We love that we can walk or cycle to our favorite cafes and restaurants. We love a morning ride down the beach boardwalk to Gjusta.
Our house has become somewhat of a neighborhood hub for our friends and their kids. Most afternoons we all gather potluck style while the kiddos run amuck. The adults drink something alcoholic and attempt to complete a sentence. It’s hectic and beautiful and feels like community.
All images taken by Adam Secore and styled by Sheree Commerford