Love, Loss and Traveling the World

Q&A with Rhodes co-founder, Jessy

First off, give us a little background. How did you two meet?

It all started in 2006. We were 20 years old and both signed on for the most grueling summer of our lives, Warped Tour. I was working for Atlantic Records and ran the merchandise booth, and Perry was a vocalist for a band and loved to play shows. So here we are on Warped Tour... sick of sitting in the heat and dust all day, lugging around gear and listening to drunk people. All I wanted was to have a normal conversation with a sober person about anything but Warped Tour drama and bad music — about family, the future, wherever ‘home’ was, God, anything. Along came Perry, the one who would not only get me through the summer of Warped Tour, but the one who I would come to adventure with and now start a business with, and most importantly, spend the rest of my life with.

What were your dreams before Rhodes Wedding Co. came into play?

Both of our lives had revolved around music and that’s where our passion lived. I followed my dream of being part of the music industry by becoming a publicist for Atlantic Records. However, when I accomplished what I thought was my dream, I was completely unfulfilled. I knew there had to be more to life than 15 hour days pushing music that you weren’t passionate about to begin with. So, I started over. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t being a publicist. I wanted to do something that moved me, fulfilled me—I wanted to see things, feel more, live more fully and grow from my experiences.

Perry had a dream of creating art and music, and traveling the world. He was living his passion more or less—he was traveling through the United States, Europe and Asia with his six-piece band, playing huge venues with big names like Placebo, Bush and Coldplay. Being able to perform across the globe was fulfilling, but the tours were just too few and far between. He struggled during the slow seasons and realized he needed to come up with another way to make a life for himself. He still wanted to do something where he could create and inspire others with his work, so he tapped into a dream that he started to pursue when we was younger, hand-carving jewelry. So being the brilliant, creative mind that he is, he taught himself how to carve rings, set stones, metalsmithing… you name it. He created the most beautiful pieces and I helped him get the business side of things up and running so he could bring in money with his talent. He set up a workshop in Los Angeles, where we were living at the time and his business took off.

I was and still am so proud of him. And regardless of what I wanted for myself, a big shift happened due to a life changing event in my family. My grandpa—who was my rock, my everything—had cancer and he wasn’t going to be with us for much longer. I quit my job, Perry packed up his workshop, and we left everything else in Los Angeles and drove cross-country to Michigan to be with my grandpa before he passed. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, or where we’d end up, but isn’t it the journey itself that matters the most?

Thankfully, with my BA in Communications, I was able to make the switch over to the digital marketing world and land freelance gigs as a Social Media Strategist. This allowed me to stay in Michigan with my family during this very important time of need while still bringing in money. It also allowed me to live out my adventurous spirit and be inspired by the people I meet, the places I go, and the things I experience.

I’m so thankful that we both took a leap of faith and continued to follow our dreams even when we weren’t always sure what they were. We were just open to love, adventure and living an abundant life.

Where did the initial inspiration behind Rhodes Wedding Co. come from?

It really came about when we threw caution to the wind and took that trip out to Michigan. Growing up and spending a lot of time with my grandparents, I knew they truly loved each other. They had that kind of love that you think only exists in films—that fairytale love. They had been married 50 years, and seeing them during my grandpa’s last few weeks really showed the raw passion and vulnerability that only comes from loving someone with your whole being. They never loved another and were completely dedicated to each other for their whole marriage. It’s been over a year now, and I’m still brought to tears when I think about him and their love.

They have 13 acres in the farm lands of Michigan. My grandma’s father originally owned the property—she was born there in a small shack. After my grandparents finished college and began their careers, they bought land from Grandma’s father and my grandpa built a three-story house where the shack used to sit. This place is truly something special.

Spending so much time engulfed in my grandparent’s love in a house that was built with adoration, Perry and I gained so much perspective and clarity on life and love. We saw first-hand how love can truly take you places and how important that journey is to living a life of abundance. We knew we wanted to combine our talents and work together to create something where love’s journey could be celebrated, hence Rhodes Wedding Co.

So how did that inspiration make the shift and become real—why did you decide to create Rhodes Wedding Co.?

It was obvious to us, really. We were in love, inspired by love, wanting to create something that celebrated love—wedding bands will forever be a strong symbol of love’s journey. We chose to specialize in men’s wedding bands specifically because love isn’t just about women. The journey and the story involves two. The love my grandfather had for my grandmother was so strong you could feel it bursting at the seams of his being. We wanted to give men a chance to have a ring created that was so much more than just a mass produced piece of metal. We wanted them to have a chance to create a ring that is a testimony of their romantic nature and a proud symbol of the love they have found. Their ring, hand carved, with marks of individuality to represent their one of a kind love. This is our chance to play a part in the world’s great love story.

What have the challenges been creating Rhodes Wedding Co.?

There are many challenges that arise when you’re building something from the ground up and you’re putting your whole heart into it. At first it took a lot out of us mentally and emotionally. We’re both perfectionists in more ways than one, and we didn’t want to tell anyone about the business or reveal it to the world until everything was ‘perfect.’ We worked really hard to let a lot of that go, and just commit to imperfect action. If we hadn’t done that, Rhodes Wedding Co. still may not exist!

It was especially challenging to get all the working pieces together. We both have other responsibilities apart from Rhodes Wedding Co. so we had to start a company from scratch while continuing to work on our current streams of income. Not to mention fit in our families—we’re both very big on family time, so we split a lot of our time between California and Michigan. Plus our hearts constantly yearn for adventure, so during the building of our company, we continued to travel throughout the United States, embarking on multiple cross-country road trips, weekend getaways and 4 beautiful months in Hawaii. Essentially we’re nomads, we travel as much as we can and we didn’t want to stop truly living and adventuring to create the business. We wanted to do both, and we did. Our travels are what fed our souls and inspired us to continue putting our all into the business.

What elements from your life together really inspire you to do the work you do?

So many things. Love, of course—love for each other, our love for life and new experiences and the love for our families. We both come from families that, where they lacked in finances, they made up for with the love they showed us. Our love is big. We hope to one day be able to take care of our families the way they deserve. That’s one of the goals—along with our never-ending thirst for exploring. We’re always searching for that next adventure. After my grandpa passed away last year we decided we’d travel the States to see where we wanted to put down roots. Each and every place we visit shapes us and builds our character in ways that nothing else can. We’ve visited incredible places and most are hard to leave but the only city that truly felt like we could call it home was Asheville in North Carolina. There was something special about Asheville. We thought about settling down there, but we just aren’t ready to stop living this life of adventure. Most of the time we aren’t sure where we will be from one month to the next, and that’s the beauty of it. Amelia Earhart said it best when she said, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” We’re constantly experiencing places for the first time together, and our relationship and business thrive off that. Perry has a traveling workshop that he brings with him whenever we head off to somewhere new. We usually try to find a ‘home base’ where he can set up shop for a few months at a time. It just works.

When you travel, where did you go? How do you choose where to go next?

That’s a good question. We’ve been to too many states to name them all, but our favorites have been Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Michigan and of course, North Carolina. We’ve also traveled internationally to England, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Thailand, Philippines, Mexico and the Cayman Islands. We want to do more international travel in the near future, but the last year has been focused on the States. Most are so quick to cross the ocean for adventure, but you’d be surprised the beauty you can find just a stone’s throw away.

When we visit a new place, sometimes our heart just calls us there. We don’t always know why, but we always leave feeling fulfilled. Some places really surprise us, like Reno. We didn’t know what to expect but we had a blast. We visited one of Perry’s childhood friends who he hadn’t seen in years. He took us rock crawling in his 4x4 over the snow-dusted mountains of Reno at dusk. It was incredible. What a feeling.

Before my grandpa passed, I talked with him for hours about his life and the adventures he had with my grandma, and recorded the audio of his storytelling so I’d always have a piece of him with me. One of the questions I asked him was, “If he could show me one place, where would it be?” He told me all about the summer road trip he took with my grandma and gave me a long list of places I must see. My grandma kept a journal while she was on the road trip, so I had her read it to me (recording the audio again, of course) and I gave her a map to draw out the route they went. We’re still in the planning stages of this trip, but I can’t wait. It’s going to be such a wonderful experience to visit places where my grandparent’s love grew while growing my love with Perry.

How has it been working together? How has it affected your relationship?

Even before we created Rhodes Wedding Co. we worked together on some level. I helped him with the business and marketing side of his company and he would listen to my woes as a freelancer. We’ve always made a great team. We can work together, travel together or simply do nothing together.

It’s really been great working together on Rhodes Wedding Co. We see eye-to-eye on most things, so it’s a lot of fun to see our vision become a reality. The only challenge we really have is when to work and when to play! Sometimes we get so wrapped up in Rhodes Wedding Co. that we find ourselves only having conversations about the business. We have to be mindful of creating a space to just be together as a couple who loves each other and not always be the couple that ‘works together.’

So how do you maintain that work/life balance?

It truly is a constant state of mindfulness. We aren’t huge schedule people. We do things when we’re most inspired to do them, and we can put our whole heart in it. You know sometimes, you’re just not feeling something, and why force yourself and take hours to do something and resent it, rather than waiting until your heart is open and you can get it done and enjoy yourself while doing it? That’s what it’s about for us...making the most of every second of our time. We want to get the absolute most out of everything we do. When I’m corresponding with people, managing our social media or writing a blog, I want my heart to be in it and 100% focused on the task at hand. Same goes for Perry. When he’s creating a piece, he’s putting his ALL into it. We don’t believe in doing anything half-heartedly. If we’re working on the business, we’re working on the business.

Same goes for the ‘life’ side of things. When we’re spending time with family, they have our full attention, and when we’re hiking or climbing behind waterfalls, we are doing just that. It’s important for us to keep separate spaces for work and play because, like I said earlier, it’s too easy for work to take over everything, especially when you love what you do. You think, “Oh it’s okay, it’s doesn’t really feel like work, just this one thing, it will only take a second.” and then before you know it, you’re aren’t giving yourself time to just be.

What do you do when you’re not working on the business or traveling?

If we aren’t working or adventuring, we spend most of time just being with each other. We’re really good at just doing nothing together. We’re both very ambitious people with big goals so a lot of times our days are full and it’s go-go-go so when we get time to just be, we do exactly that. We love to read together. We just finished a string of Haruki Murakami books and are switching gears with a book called “The Lady” that’s about Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who had been leading a battle for democracy and freedom in Burma. It’s not exactly bedtime reading material but we’re hooked.

We go on a lot of walks, sometimes those walks turn into “business meetings” but we try to keep it just about us enjoying the moment in nature. Coffee is a big passion for us both, so weekend mornings are usually spent sipping an incredible latte or an espresso con panna.

Sometimes we like to just go for a night drive and listen to some of our favorite artists like Sam Cooke, The National, Chet Baker, Bright Eyes, Elvis, Otis Redding and David Bowie. Perry is a beautiful singer and a talented musician, so naturally he loves to play music, and I love listening to his creations. And of course, we have our movie nights. Film is a big inspiration for us both. We cuddle up to a good Wes Anderson film from time to time. And currently we’re learning French together. Hopefully the next time we go to France we can put our new skill to good use.

What is your favorite thing about what you do?

Almost everything. We have the luxury of working together to create wedding bands that will stand as a symbol of love between couples that are ready to make that special commitment to each other. It’s truly fulfilling to be able to take part in such a beautiful event. We love being able to create something that he or they really want, that truly tells their story. It’s amazing to be able to work together and travel together and bring our inspirations from our adventures into our work. What a life.