The TKMLS Story
Hello! Thank you for stopping by Top Knot Modhemian™ Lifestyle Shop! I am so glad you are here! My name is Chauntel Papallo and this is my online shop. Top Knot Modhemian™ Lifestyle Shop is a true Mom & Pop (plus our boys) Shop. It is constantly evolving, as life does.
About pages are tricky so someone suggested an interview format might be a lot easier and more fun. So, here’s that interview!
Interviewer note: I put together these questions for Chauntel and I was truly touched and entertained by the responses. It is hard to get this busy BOSS lady to sit down for even a moment. She’s always on the go go go! I think this gives a really great behind-the-business perspective of how unique, fun and loving everything from TKMLS is!
Where are you from, where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Laramie, Wyoming until about 10! From there we spent a little over a year in Florida before moving to Connecticut where I reside now with my husband and 3 boys! Our 5-year plan now involves relocating to Tennessee!! I have lived in CT the longest but WYO has always felt been “home.” So much of our family is still in the area and those were some of our first, formatting and favorite memories!
What kind of behind the scenes things does your family help you with?
Everything. No, but really, there isn’t too much that doesn’t get a helping hand. When I was doing more vinyl, my older boys did the part that drove me the craziest for sure. My youngest has seriously taken such an interest in anything I’m doing. Next to the studio downstairs, he has a trampoline and often he will just drop everything and tell me it’s time to go down to jump and work. It’s some of my favorite time for sure. My husband, he does so much, he executes all my crazy plans, he puts finishing touches on all things and is always so eager to learn new things and how else he can help. The one thing that NO ONE is allowed to go near is shirt production!! That is where my OCD measuring eyeball and controlling nature comes into play and there is one square of the studio that doesn’t get touched!!
I know you have kids! How many, how old?
Oh Boy! (Literally!) I have THREE BOYS! Aidian just turned 14 in April and is starting High School this year! Kaleb is our middle son who, at 12 now, is also entering his last year of middle school! Our youngest (and most wild!) is Elijah and he is now 6!!!
What’s your family’s favorite activity to do together?
We just love/hate to be together! Kidding! (mostly) We love being outside and exploring and learning. We are super frequenters of museums and campfires, we love nature shows and ice cream!
Who’s that guy with the beard in all of your videos?
That handsome hunk is my husband!! The beard has been my 4th child for only about 6 years now though.
I know you just had an anniversary (congrats!). How many years?
Here is the thing about anniversaries…. I don’t know what I’m doing! I have known my husband for a third of my life now and he has been a crucial part since day one. We were married…. I want to say 2014 (don’t quote me on that...more on this later). We decided finally on a very small ceremony in Cape Cod right on the beach and officiated by my father! We spent the weekend at one of my favorite places and with our favorite people so it was pretty magical!
We try to get back there as often as we can!!
Funny story… even up until this year… I don’t know how many years or even what day it is! (To be fair, we ha da “city hall” marriage that we needed to make official before the Cape which was less than 2 weeks before our ceremony...and Cinco de Mayo is in between those...tacos and tequila yall!) It became clear very early on that my husband was going to be the one who was going to be who was going to keep us on track as I tried to celebrate on the wrong day. THEN, I put out one of those obligatory sentimental anniversary posts saying I loved X amount of loving years of marriage with Lou...he said nothing for hours… turns out I was WRONG on the number of years. I mean I even went out and bought that coordinating gift (I think it was Paper?) but it was like a year ahead...or behind? You see what I’m saying here!?
Moral of the story is I love my husband and our lifetimes have intertwined there is no start or end and we just are. We just exist and I tell him always that we didn’t exist before! Haha
Where did you meet?
I wish we had a cute story but really we met at a corporate job. Booooring! We were friends for quite a while and then I always say he just started coming over on his own one day help take out my garbage and such and then just started coming over every day...then just came over one day and never left. Seriously. I mean He kept his apartment for essentially just storage for nearly a year. I was a tough egg to crack but always say I’m so grateful that he knew how much I needed him before I knew I wanted him. He’s the best thing I never knew I needed. <3
Before there was Top Knot Modhemian™ Lifestyle Shop(or Simply Elegant) what did you do?
So, I started with some vinyl to get back in the swing of personalization but coming from a background of engraving...it was a definite learning curve! I spend about 3 months putting vinyl on everything I could get my hands on around the house, I made sure to play with different surfaces and different vinyl material. That then lead to fabric vinyl. Needless to say, the weeding (removing of excess) and things of that nature weren’t for me but the designing and customization were still my happy place so I found ways to make it all work!!
What made you decide to start your own business?
I’m not exactly sure where to start here but 13+ years ago I got my (then) “dream job” at a local chain store in the mall that got to personalize products. I very quickly went from Assistant Manager to Store Manager to District Trainer, traveling, etc and realized that there wasn’t much further in that lane that I could actually go PLUS I was missing a lot of the actual customization and person-interaction that I loved. I ended up at a corporate job that used a security badge and desk clocks for you to punch in and punch out including bathroom breaks, literally TIED to a desk with a phone cord. It was NOT for me but it was the responsible option for our family at the time.
Then came the opportunity as they were consolidating buildings that they offered another position, relocation or severance package. I took the severance and never looked back! I know, that’s awful but to be fair, I had my three boys at home who I was missing immensely working 11-9p and Elijah was just 6 months old! I kept busy with “room mother”, party planning, and there was always something fun to do that would involve cute little gifts or favors for someone and I wanted to take it to the next level so as a holiday was approaching I decided that there actually WAS something on my wishlist.
Now, although a $1.2 million machine wasn’t in the budget at the time (ever??) like I’d worked with previously, there was one I was interested in. So as I started working on items and perfecting different things, friends and family made requests, then they started to pay me, then they told their friends, THEN the holidays came. I made a simple page, using an old business name that I’d already had a small logo for aside business a decade previous because I really REALLY didn’t think much would come of me just playing around though I was happy to keep busy and to be doing something I loved while contributing a little extra to our family funds!
I read an article once that ⅔ of small businesses fail in the first 6-12 months and more than half don’t make it more than 2 years! As I was collectively increasing requests and orders, I did some cute small holiday items and really boomed. Once I realized that what I was doing had actually become a real business at some point I started to treat it like one and off we went!!
Many seasons have had items overtake our home, we have had all hands on deck, I’ve done research, training and expanding. I also started to realize that there was becoming some “copy” competition… same items, same designs, same advertising platforms so instead of feeling defeated I learned and researched and practiced and added more techniques, machines, new items that NO ONE around was able to do because I believed in myself and my abilities! A whole lot of things happened from there to here but there was also a point where people who tell people who told someone else started buying a larger amount of items and I realized I was now having people request MY item in their boutiques, NATION-WIDE! So that entity has taken on a life of its own and been its own beast of a project but I could not be more proud and excited to motivate and do my part in having (now hundreds) of Boutique Owners... small business owners like me, be SUCCESSFUL!
Essentially I have gone from defeatedly playing with some material at my dining table, gifting or accepting cash when meeting people for local pick up of an item to dropping an image in an organized file and my assistant uploading to an awesome fully functional professional website where THOUSANDS of people access and view to order them…. Producing THOUSANDS of items every month, having my items all across the country and (as to date …. England, Australia, Canada, and Ireland!)
It is a dream that I am still navigating but I am so excited and proud of myself to pursue and excel at my passion, contribute to my family, integrate my family into this business and do it THE RIGHT WAY and I will continue to do so, focus on being the best me and making others as successful as possible rather than dwelling on those in the world who try to dim another’s shine in order to bring more attention to their stale flames!
What is a favorite quote or saying to live by?
Imitation is the Best form of Flattery.
Putting out another’s fire doesn’t make yours brighter.
Never make a choice when you can have it all.
If you’re going to be late, at least look good when you show up.
What’s your favorite Bella+Canvas color/style?
Oooohhh A Bella Black Marble TriBlend!! Or the Next Level raglans with EVERY color sleeve!!
Screenprint or sublimation? Which is your favorite?
Sublimation because it is so readily available and I have more control over the design!
What is the most important tool/machine that you use?
THE COFFEE POT!!! Also, my heat press because I use it for shirts, hats, mugs, and different materials like sublimation, screenprint, and vinyl! I also use it to press some wrinkled clothes as we get ready to leave the house! Haha!
What is your favorite color?
Glitter! LOL Paradise / Tiffany Blue. Hot Pink. Black. I mean, anything that makes me feel good for the day!
Cat or dog?
DOG! Cats are too moody for me.
Bentley is our resident family mascot and he is an English Bull and Pit mix we saved within 12 hours of being put down when he was just a few weeks old. He’s been a part of our family for…. 7 years now!!! He is aging...gracefully? He’s never been a typical “dog” though…. Bentley thinks he’s part human, part cat, part squirrel? He has a CHOCOLATE ADDICTION which gives me anxiety and his pastimes include laying on his back, kneading pillows and blankets (like a cat) and following me around. Also begging for food at the table (we are still people-training Dad).
However, I used to do lots of work at our local animal shelter in my teens and ended up bringing home 3 very unique cats though! LOVED them! Smokey was double pawed on all 4 paws (so it basically looked like she had a standard paw AND extra “thumb” on each leg). Peanut was my cat...long haired and probably had some mental instability. She was good for running down the hallway to jump to the top of a doorframe...then get stuck up there. She would wait for someone to walk by and land on their head to help get down.
When is your birthday?
May 21st!! Gemini with a smidge of Taurus as my husband will attest.
Sweet tea or unsweet tea?
What is your favorite food?
TACOS AND TEQUILA! No, seriously though. A favorite is Enchiladas del Puerto? ((Seafood enchilada!!!)) but in general, any Spanish food!