While most mothers teach their sons about sports, manners or how to help around the house, Stacey Lancaster taught her son how to be a businessman.
From a young age Michael Miller, president and owner of LA2LA Designs, watched his mother as she learned the ins and outs of running a business. Lancaster started her company, Lancaster House in 1999 when she began selling birdhouses out of materials her husband would bring home.
“My daddy showed me how to use woodworking tools at an early age,” Lancaster said. “Both of [my] parents fostered an attitude that we could do whatever we wanted in life — they always supported us in business as well as life.”
In 1999, Lancaster was teaching. When she started making the birdhouses she started by selling them in the teacher’s lounge. Once she discovered how much people enjoyed them, she started making other household goods and décor and selling them to other buyers.
“I started selling them to local businesses then expanded statewide throughout the South,” Lancaster said. “I purchased a trailer, and I would drive to stores and sell the birdhouses.”
Miller and his sister Heather would help remove nails from the fence boards used to build the bird houses, help design stained glass and participate in selling the merchandise.
Lancaster began selling her products at local craft shows and said her participation in Vera Martin with the Broadmoor show was instrumental in helping her get started in the show business.
In addition to working locally, Lancaster went to Mexico and began importing ironwork, pottery and home décor. In 2004, she went to India and began importing pewter and then went to China and began importing home décor.
In 2016, Lancaster House is now a wholesale company that directly imports home décor merchandise and its two locations are open to the public three days a month for retail sales. Lancaster House creates most of their designs in the U.S. and has them reproduced in both the U.S. and overseas.
“The biggest high I get is designing something that someone else would want to have for their home,” Lancaster said. “[It’s] very satisfying!”
While not designing home décor, her son Michael didn’t fall far from the tree.
LA2LA is a wholesale fashion company that Miller started in 2015. Miller was working as a hair stylist in Los Angeles and was on the phone with his mother when he came up with the name for his company.
“I was standing on top of Runyon Canyon and was talking with my mom and someway or another it just kind of spouted out—Los Angeles to Louisiana, LA2LA,” Miller said. “It was one of those surreal moments where it felt like it was supposed to happen.”
Miller moved back to Louisiana to focus on his company. In the beginning, his mother acted as a mentor and helped guide him in the right direction in creating a successful business. She was there to set the groundwork and prevent Miller from making the same mistakes she made with her company, Miller said.
“Me and my mom kind of have that unnatural bond where I can literally consider her my best friend,” Miller said. “I looked up to her as a mother and now as a business partner/friend, and I can call her up and tell her anything.”
Watching Lancaster’s business begin and expand set the tone for his own business, Miller said. His first ever job was pulling nails out of cedar wood, which he said he still can’t believe that was the beginning of something so large.
“Whenever she was starting the company, eventually she started filling up her trailer and we would go to different businesses, and she would pitch to them,” Miller said. “ I would always be there and I heard the way she spoke with people, dealt with people and approached people, and it had a huge influence [on me].”
Most of LA2LA’s sales come from word of mouth. With more than 2,000 followers on Instagram and over 3,000 likes on Facebook, LA2LA is expanding quickly.
“As with the new generation, [Miller] is very up on the latest social media and he has helped me with keeping up with the latest,” Lancaster said. “I am very proud of him.”
Miller, 25, said through his company he would eventually like to be able to give back to charities and inspire young business owners.
“I want to inspire people to start young and not think that something is too big to tackle,” Miller said.
At an early age, Miller showed interest in business and designing, Lancaster said. He loved traveling, was willing to work hard and they talk about business 90 percent of the time, Lancaster said. She said one day she thinks LA2LA will surpass the performance of her own company.
“As a result of her success, I feel very capable [to run and expand a successful business]…the sky’s the limit,” Miller said.
Photo by Greta Jines.