The idea of going into business with your sibling may not be initially appealing to everyone, but for Jenn and Sarah Pearsall it’s what differentiates their company and drives their passion.
After sticking together through college and eventually the Peace Corps in Central America, the twins decided to take their partnership corporate and launched Sefte in 2009. Viewing the home as a sort of inner sanctum where people unwind and reconnect with themselves and those important to them, they sought to create a line of home goods that emulate those ideals.
Despite being based on opposite sides of the country —Sarah lives in New York City while Jenn lives in Marin— the sisters work closely with artisans in Peru and Vietnam, and their company resembles a family more than anything else. Through bed linens and accessories, they’ve created a range of multifunctional products that can be used year-round. Even better, each Sefte piece is handcrafted with the most luxurious materials that blend modern styles with traditional techniques to ensure that quality is always a top priority.
We spoke with Jenn and Sarah to hear more about their business, get their best tips for caring for linens, and see how we can repurpose our winter throws and knits in the summer months.
How did the idea for Sefte first come about?
Jenn: Sarah and I were inseparable throughout our childhood, college and even into our experiences living and volunteering abroad in Latin America. It was when we came home and entered the working world that something changed. We found ourselves on different coasts and we lost a connection with each other and the work we had done to assist the incredible people of Central and South America.
Sarah: It wasn’t long before we decided it was time to slow our lives down, and we decided that the best place to start was in our home! We started Sefte. Being bi-coastal, it’s also a great excuse to be connected and on the phone with one another all day. We probably talk to each other more than we do with our husbands.
What’s the best part about working with your sister on a project so closely (yet so far in terms of geographic proximity)? Are there any challenges?
Jenn: Sefte is absolutely the thread that keeps us connected while living cross-country from each other. I’m in California and Sarah’s in New York. There is something calming about running a business with your other half. You know there is unconditional support. Unconditional love. That’s really hard to find in business these days. Most people are out for themselves. Sarah looks out for me, wants my success independently and within this business. It’s an incredible foundation for building a business.
Sarah: We are true design partners and collaborators - we’ve been this way our whole lives and sometimes she’s knows what I am thinking before I have a chance to say it. My style’s a little more modern while Jenn’s leans more boho - mixing these creates some alchemy.
The time difference is definitely a challenge, however. I’m with my family when she’s working and visa versa. We’ve been making it more of a priority to be side by side lately, as we’ve noticed that Sefte’s heartbeat is stronger when we’re together. I bring my family out to Tahoe each summer which definitely helps.
Have your travels and work in the Peace Corps impacted the way you create and the way you went about setting up your business?
Jenn: We’ve always hungered for our work to be about something bigger than just beautiful bedding. There’s a higher purpose in what we’re creating with Sefte. When you purchase a Sefte throw, you’re not just buying a blanket. You’re providing the opportunity for a woman in Peru to literally weave her way to financial independence. It’s not just philanthropy. It’s also good business.
Sarah: Made by hand using only the finest materials and artisanal weaving techniques, every one of our pieces tells a story beyond its luxuriously soft touch. Knowing that something you’re putting on your bed is ethically sourced and has a soul to it… that’s something different. Something extraordinary.
Can you tell us a bit about how the partnership with Peruvian and Vietnamese artisans came about?
Jenn: Sefte was born out of a father-daughters trip to Peru that piqued our interest in handcrafted textiles. Today, we refer to the artisans that we work with—primarily Peruvian women—as our “extended sisters of Sefte.” By providing these female artisans with jobs, we help them stay near their homes instead of having to move to the city for other work. They’re able to stay where their entire families are based. We like to keep the sisters together.
Speaking of the “extended sisters” has having a close-knit company changed or influenced the way you see commerce at all?
Jenn: I think there is something very real about the circle of abundance. When you promote and support those around you, that abundance and success is returned in kind. Our "sisters" in Peru pour their hearts into their weaving and knitting. They take a huge amount of pride in their work. I think our customers feel that authenticity.
Sarah: I also think people respond to a brand that stands for something more than just its product. We are about sisterhood. We are about women supporting each other… believing in each other…helping each other. And, it’s not just with our artisans but the many women who have supported us all along - friends, family and other female entrepreneurs.
How can people repurpose their favorite winter knits and woven throws in the summertime?
Jenn: In the Bay Area, we can have a fair amount of coastal fog and wind. It can almost be colder in the summer in San Francisco than it is in the winter.
Sarah: The mornings and evenings are crisp here in California - and certainly in Tahoe, where Jenn and I grew up, and where I now spend my summers. The easiest way to transition a winter throw into summer is to simply take it outside, next to the fire pit, onto the hammock, or around your shoulders on your morning stroll.
What are your favorite outdoor uses for throws and blankets?
Jenn: We love using our cotton blankets as picnic blankets. My favorite use for our throws is to hand them out to my friends when we head outside to sit under the stars after dinner. Everyone gets one and they all stay warm and cocooned. My husband and I share one.
Sarah: Wrapping myself in a throw with a cup of tea or for meditation outside is a nice way to gear up for a hectic day.
What materials or fabrics do you recommend most for the summer?
Jenn: We work with a tanguis cotton that is ridiculously luxurious. It’s definitely the throw you want to be wrapped in as the summer evening breeze encroaches. Most people associate alpaca with the winter months, but we think this natural fiber is great for the summertime as well. It’s very lightweight by nature and used year-round in Peru.
We both also swap out our bed linens for a thin, crisp cotton percale. It’s a super cool weave that is divine in the summer months. I love our Acara sheets for the summer.
Let’s talk throw maintenance: what are the dos and don'ts of caring for woven throws?
Sarah: We encourage our customers not to be afraid to use our throws. They are made of natural materials, so they will age, but that’s part of their beauty. We recommend dry cleaning our throws, but you can also use a cashmere wash and throw them on the gentle cycle in your washer. Don’t put them in the dryer though —lay them flat to dry.
Shop the new Sefte summer collection online at sefteliving.com.
I loved this story about how your company got started and working with your sibling. I really love the basket in the photo with the throw and hats on the hooks, the whole photo was beautiful. Is there somewhere in particular I could get more information on the basket?