This girl. Oh my goodness. Where do I begin?!
She is such a beautiful soul on the inside and out. I have admired her since the minute I met her. So kind, composed, and glowing with positivity. You can’t help but be enchanted by her. Grace Kim has a knack for following her heart and is an incredible example of a woman living life by design and not by default.
Grace, a creative lifestyle entrepreneur, owns two ventures – a photography business with her husband, GH Kim Photography, as well as Carpe Diem Collective, which hosts meaningful, real-life experiences to spark connection and creativity within the community. Some of the gatherings she’s hosted include the Fall In Love: Cooking and Dining Collective, Paper Flower Making, Yoga, and Calligraphy.
At the core, Grace lives by the motto “Carpe diem” — Latin, meaning to “enjoy the day” or “pluck the day” – or as it is most well known, to “seize the day”. Through some hardships Grace has faced, she is constantly reminded that life is short. And so, she chooses to wake up each day and live life with intention.
Name: Grace Kim
Location: Seattle, WA
Current Title: Creative Lifestyle Entrepreneur, GH Kim Photography and Carpe Diem Collective
Education: University of Washington and self-taught
What’s your story up until this point? Where did you grow up, what were major influences in your life?
I was born in Seoul, Korea and my family moved to the states when I was five years old. We’ve lived in LA, Boise, and all over the greater Seattle area. My dad, mom, late brother, and husband were (and still are) the major influences in my life. They’re all pretty incredible. I lost my brother to cancer, I lost my would-have-been brother-in-law to a drunk driver hitting him, I’ve undergone a couple surgeries, and my mom has had an undiagnosed illness for the majority of my lifetime just to name a few of life’s misfortunes… not to throw a pity party, but all this to say that you never know what tomorrow brings, or even the next minute for that matter. “Life is short” is not just an age-old adage to me, hence my life’s motto: carpe diem.
You never know what tomorrow brings, or even the next minute for that matter. ‘Life is short’ is not just an age-old adage to me, hence my life’s motto: carpe diem.
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
The summer after my freshman year of college, I got a job as a Guest Service Representative at Gene Juarez Salon & Spa. Shortly after, and to my surprise, my manager saw something in me and offered me a Supervisor position – I had to make a choice whether to accept it or to keep working part-time while continuing on with my education. I decided that it would be too good of an opportunity to pass up so I accepted and started working my way up the management ladder. I worked there for a total of about 7 years and the last position I held came full circle as a Guest Service Trainer at Corporate HQ, training people in the first position I started out in. I always thought I would finish college someday, but I haven’t had a reason to go back (yet). Plus, my textbooks were used more as pillows rather than study tools.
Have photography and blogging always been of interest to you? When did you decide to pursue it as a career?
Growing up, I have always had a natural inclination towards the creative arts like drawing, painting, crafting, music, etc. When I was in the 4th grade, they made every student draw something for a school-wide contest. I just drew something not thinking anything of it since it was a forced activity, but I unexpectedly won the cover of the entire school’s holiday program. I’m grateful for my parents who always encouraged me to pursue those things, which is very abnormal for Asian parents.
But somewhere along the way, there were people and subliminal messages in society that told me that those were just hobbies and I would not be able to make a living in the arts, so I made it a point not to pursue that type of career and headed toward a path of becoming an anchorwoman, specifically the next Connie Chung since we shared the same last (maiden) name.
But later, when my husband and I got married, I saw his amazing talent of photography which was just a hobby back when film was it. So I proposed that we start a business. I don’t even know where that came from since I didn’t have any experience, but I just saw something special in him and others did too as they were asking him to take their photos. He had a very comfortable job at Microsoft at the time so he didn’t want to leave the security in order to provide for us, but with a little push, he finally agreed and we made the leap of faith. With a steep learning curve, I ran the business for him while he did the photography, but after about a year, he saw that I had an “eye” for it and even though I strongly resisted, he bought me a DSLR camera and taught me the basics. I fell in love with the craft and challenged myself to keep honing my skills. Now I see the world in frames and can’t imagine not having this medium to express myself (thanks love!). Even though I initially veered away from the path of my natural strength, I’m so thankful that somehow it found its way back to me.
Tell us about launching your own business. What were some of the biggest adjustments or struggles? How did you overcome them?
I’ll refer to my newest business venture, Carpe Diem Collective which launched last October (2014). My biggest struggle starting out was my own insecurities. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t ask myself, “What am I doing and what did I get myself into?” It was easy for me to promote our first business, GH Kim Photography because I was promoting my husband and his talent, but it was a totally different story with Carpe Diem – even though I had a business partner, the company was built around me and my vision so I had a harder time promoting it. I still struggle with it at times, but it helps to have an amazing core team made up of my husband and some of my closest friends. And I keep reminding myself of my purpose and the why behind it – which is to spark something in people, help them see value in themselves, and inspire them to live the most meaningful and beautiful life possible. The second biggest obstacle was lack of time. Juggling two businesses, an ailing parent, and somewhat of a personal life is no joke, but it’s all about doing the best I can while taking one day at a time.
What tools do you use to continue developing and growing yourself? What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?
I have an ingrained tool called perfectionism. Haha! But seriously. I’m my own worst critic, so I’m constantly trying to better myself and better my work. It’s good in a way to push myself, but it’s definitely a huge downfall too as it often hinders me from doing all that I want to accomplish. I’ve been working hard on letting it go though, and this quote says it perfectly for me, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” Another thing is that I also seek to learn from all people and all experiences, good and bad – I try to find a lesson in everything. As for inspiration, I can find it pretty much anywhere – in nature, fashion, food, design, people, beautiful spaces, etc. And it’s easy to stay motivated when you do something you love and really care about. Hearing the positive feedback and testimonies from people helps too. I think my biggest motivator though is the fear of someone not seeing value in themselves… I believe with my whole heart that every person has value and is put on this earth for a purpose.
What advice do you have for others looking to make major career moves such as starting a business or changing career direction?
- Think about what you makes you come alive and what skill or characteristic you get complimented on the most. If you can’t think of anything, don’t be afraid to try new and different things.
- We’ve all heard the sayings… Just start somewhere. Just do it. Carpe diem… these are wise words as there will never be a “good time” and there will rarely be a perfect or ideal situation. That’s just life.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. All the most successful people have gone through it, and most likely many times. For example, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for “lacking imagination and having no original ideas.”
Think about what you makes you come alive and what skill or characteristic you get complimented on the most. If you can’t think of anything, don’t be afraid to try new and different things.
Walk us through a typical day. Give us a glimpse into your day-to-day life!
Gosh, everyday is a little different, especially since I’m juggling two businesses. I might be editing a wedding, having meetings with different people, scouting locations, sourcing items for a Collective, and so on… no two days are the same. It’s sort of a reflection of my personality where I love so many different things, so I actually don’t mind having an inconsistent schedule. Keeps things fresh!
What personal characteristics would you say have contributed to your success thus far?
Patience, wholeheartedness, and generosity. All things my parents taught me through their actions.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
This is the hardest question for me because I like to think of all our moments in high regard equally. We’re so grateful for having had the honor of receiving some pretty nice awards and shooting some higher profile weddings, but we wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities without every single client (GH Kim) and every single attendee (Carpe Diem) who have supported us from the very beginning.
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
Funny you ask. I recently wrote advice to my 19 year old self on Instagram which I would keep along the same lines with just a slight adjustment… Pursue what makes you come alive and what helps people, not what makes logical sense to make money in this world. And don’t beat yourself up over choosing your career – you are not stuck with one career for the rest of your life.
If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Can I invite Oprah and Martha Stewart? These women have paved the path of helping and inspiring others through their God given talents, and I would love to thank them and maybe even some of their magical powers could rub off on me.
Favorite Instagram accounts?
Too many to choose just one, but here are a couple favorites:
“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” -Vincent Van Gogh
“You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, the breath of fresh air, the brightest light and darkest corner. You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every single day. So drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and let the colours fill your mind.” -Jac Vanek
You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, the breath of fresh air, the brightest light and darkest corner. You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every single day. So drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and let the colours fill your mind. -Jac Vanek
What are some of your favorite things to do in Seattle? Favorite spots?
I pretty much enjoy doing lots of things and trying new things. We’re lucky to live in a city with so many good and diverse restaurants and coffee shops too. My go-to spot in Seattle is The London Plane because of the overall experience and aesthetics, and one of my dreams is to open a beautiful multi-purpose space one day where people can come to commune and find inspiration.
Favorite way to treat yourself?
I splurge on a massage about once a year, but I think my aging body is telling me to go more often. Something that I have started doing more recently – I let go of my practical side and buy/forage some blooms to enjoy their beauty in our home.
You can learn more about Grace and her work in a few places: