Ava Moon (Communication Design, ’15) believes deeply in following her heart. A consummate artist, seamstress, and entrepreneur, Moon always knew that she wanted to work for herself, but her path to becoming a business owner was a bit abstract.

Daughter to parents who are artists, she moved to Chico when she was two years old and has been here ever since. Moon started taking classes at Butte College when she was just 17, and she gave birth to her first child when she was 21. She went back to school a few years later, this time at Chico State, and earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication design. Moon drew upon the skills she learned in school and her love for creating art, and after a few years of spearheading pop-up markets and art events around town, she opened Late Bloomer Vintage Boutique in October.

“Is it confidence or just dysfunction? I can’t work for other people, or at a job where I have to do the same thing every day,” said Moon. “I am grateful for the community and family support that has allowed me to be the weirdo that I am in a more professional space.”

You can find her most days behind her sewing machine at the cozy new shop, surrounded by a carefully curated selection of vintage and second-hand clothes, vinyl records, local art, and jewelry, as old VHS movies are projected onto a wall. Moon envisions the store as a revolving space that will look a little different week to week—she stays open late on Fridays to accommodate customers with day jobs, and often invites a DJ, a stick-and-poke tattoo artist, or a tarot reader to sit in.

“I am hoping to hire more help and expand,” said Moon. “My goal is to join forces with other makers and artists and offer more of a regular, weekly market to provide local, smaller-scale businesses a place to sell stuff.”

Moon lives in Chico with her two sons, Theo and Fentress.

How did you get from a bachelor’s degree in mass communications to opening your own vintage clothing shop?

It happened pretty organically. I’ve always been an artist, and I’ve always sold things, but I could never make just one thing because I have so many interests. I’ve been putting on markets and events around town to sell my art since I graduated, and I’ve been able to use what I learned in school to market everything I’ve done. Because I’ve studied so many things—clothing construction, photography, typography, design—I was able to piece together everything I needed to run a business.

How has your time at Chico State impacted your journey?

I loved school! There was so much energy, and I was able to challenge myself and try new things. There was this community of people that I could learn from, people who I wouldn’t have normally hung out with and who were more experienced than me. And I really liked my teachers, especially Professor John Roussell. He’s passionate about teaching and very real in his approach—I learned a lot from him, and still keep in touch with him and his wife.

Ultimately, I feel like my experience at Chico State made me more realistic about my expectations of opening a business. There’s just so much that you don’t know you don’t know. Taking accounting and marketing classes at least gave me an idea of where I was lacking.

What role does sustainability and affordability play in your decision to sell vintage and used clothes?

Sustainability is the reason why I never scaled my own designs into mass-produced clothing, and at the store we try to avoid “fast-fashion” brands. Growing up in Chico, there’s a lot of sustainably-conscious people. My mom rode her bike everywhere, and it’s always been a part of my value system to not over consume.

When I was a kid, I felt like, “Oh, we’re just poor and we have to shop at thrift stores.” But now I actually enjoy thrift stores and reusing. I want to tread as lightly as possible on the planet, so I would rather give new life to old stuff than contribute to the waste.

How do you “Do and Dare” to transform tomorrow for yourself and for others?

I make sure to take time to reflect upon my actions and interactions with people, and the impact that I leave behind. Learning to observe more than react is so important. It’s been key to my growth as a person.

What is your advice for today’s students or alumni just starting their careers?

Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances to take action, because there will never be a “right time.” You make it work by committing to doing what you love—just follow your heart and do it.