• Hoboken Girl of the Week: Laurén Bienvenue of Once Upon a Laurén

    Our Hoboken Girl of the Week is a true fashionista, and can surely help elevate your style —— with her *stunning* hand-painted leather jackets. Introducing Laurén Bienevenue of Once Upon a Laurén. You might have seen her at the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival, stumbled upon her Etsy shop, or took a peek at her Instagram — but now you’ll really get to know her. Read on to learn more about Lauren and her company:

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    About Once Upon a Laurén, According to Lauren:

    I give new life to old leather. I transform vintage leather jackets and clutches into wearable, usable art by hand-painting them with original, one-of-a-kind designs. This not only keeps great vintage pieces out of the landfill but also gives them a new identity, purpose and look when it’s been hand painted.

    Florals are my specialty because I love to play off the contrast between a feminine print on a masculine jacket but I also love to incorporate hand-lettering elements, folklore prints, and even retro tattoo patterns. Most jackets have a hidden message inside the lapel, visible only to the person wearing the jacket, that say things like ‘Hello Beautiful!,’ ‘You look great today!,’ or ‘You are magic.’

    I was a corporate entertainment publicist for ten years and I always felt I had more to offer. I was creative and I wanted a life with more flexibility and control. I like to tell people that I worked backward into ending up in my current job; I envisioned the life I wanted before I knew exactly what it was that I wanted to do.

    I recently hit the year mark from leaving my corporate job and my business is expanding beyond leather. I might have to change my tagline to; ‘I paint! Mostly on leather… sometimes on walls, greeting cards, vintage paint-by-numbers, or whatever else needs a facelift.’

    On What Inspires Her

    Not going back to corporate! I love everything about working for myself, operating out of my home and being the dictator of my day. I feel like I came into myself a bit over the past year, like a portion of who I truly am was hidden by the stress, monotony and emotional insecurity of hating my day job. So keeping this one-woman show alive is exactly what keeps my mind whirling at night AND what gets me out of bed every morning.

    Goals + Passions

    Growth is the goal! Personally and professionally.

    I’d like to keep expanding the visibility of Once Upon a Laurén beyond my online Etsy presence and my in-person presence at local festivals. I definitely want to keep working with brides to create custom looks for their big day and I’d like to delve deeper into the world of leather to learn more about how I can bring my customers smaller, custom leather goods and accessories.

    I’m also really excited about partnering with bigger brands to create personalized gifts; from in-store activations like handmade greeting cards to more permanent items like limited runs of hand-painted leather goods.

    I’m passionate about being a responsible artist and business owner as well as a balanced person. Successfully working from home requires a lot of motivation, confidence, and balance and those are things I’m always working on.

    READ: Hoboken Girl of the Week: Tara Makhmali {CEO, Author, Mama}

    A Typical Day in the Life

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    I paint every day, five days a week. Peppered in with dreaming up new design ideas, practicing new techniques, answering emails, shipping orders, updating inventory and making sure I have that next social media post planned out and ready to go.

    The Highs + Lows

    The highs of my job are that the glory is all yours. I care deeply about making my customers happy and there is absolutely no better feeling than someone trusting you with an item they love and knowing you aced it.

    The lows for me are all about battling my own demons; feeling confident, capable, original, deserving, successful and well-liked all the time is hard, y’all! There are definitely days where I struggle with all of these things.

    Highlight of Career {So Far}

    The most rewarding part of my job is when someone says “I have this idea…”
    That means that they’ve been following my work, they like what they see and most importantly, they trust me to translate what’s inside their head.

    These are usually the most interesting jobs that sometimes have nothing to do with leather jackets. I did a wall mural at The Hair Room in Jersey City, a line of hand-painted majorette boots for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and an in-store hand-painted greeting card table at Lululemon … I would like to take credit for these brilliant ideas but they all came from other people that could see how to use my skill beyond ways even I could.

    Also, this role really lets me connect with my community in a way I never have. It’s so fun to make new friends and see familiar faces all around town. I love being a part of surprise gifts, I love seeing my jackets out in the wild and I love when someone comes up and introduces themselves because they follow my work.

    What a Day Off is Like

    I like to leave the house! My working days go by so fast that sometimes I never leave my little studio, so I like to get out and see what’s happening on the weekend. My husband and I enjoy trying all the new spots around our neighborhood and even getting upstate for some small-town antiquing, Airbnb-ing, and hiking.

    Advice to Someone Trying to Pursue the Same Career Path

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    ‘I can do that’ and ‘I have an idea’ are powerful, life-altering phrases and you should chase them with everything you’ve got.

    Stay open – My biggest hurdle for years was trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. So keep that mind open, because ideas (even ones that are as obscure as painting on leather!) are everywhere, you just have to pay attention. 

    It’s totally fine to have fear along for the ride, as long as fear isn’t driving the car. Before leaving my corporate job I had to get myself to a place where I accepted that quitting a completely secure, well-paying job with benefits might be a bad idea, but that if I had to go back and beg for them to re-hire me in a few months, it was OK.

    Sometimes it’s helpful to specifically identify your fears when you’re thinking of taking a leap. I was honestly worried that quitting my job would instantly drain my bank account to pennies, rob me of all my professional skills and destroy my marriage out of stress. But when I wrote all of those things down together I realized how dramatic I was being. So be aware of your concerns, but don’t let them snowball you into a job you hate for the rest of your life.

    Also, never underestimate how supportive everyone will be of a move out of corporate. EVERYONE (even HR!) loves a story of someone who got out and made a new path for themselves. I don’t know that I’ll always be painting on leather for a living, but I will certainly never be embarrassed to put it on my resume. 

    Hoboken + Jersey City Favorites

    What is your favorite restaurant in Hoboken and/or JC?

    I find myself at Pet Shop all the time in Jersey City. I can’t stop eating the black kale Cesar salad with crispy chicken at White Star Bar and I think Latham House has a really solid wine list. I also just went to Hooked JC and was really impressed… especially with the hush puppies.

    My go-tos in Hoboken are Mamoun’s and Karma Café and the Old German Bakery is top notch for something indulgent.

    What is your favorite boutique in Hoboken and/or JC?

    Kanibal & Co does such an excellent job at curating unique, interesting, useful and pretty things. The atmosphere is like ‘Cheers’… everyone knows your name and they know exactly what you’re looking for. It’s the perfect place for gifts and I dare you to walk out of there without getting a little something for yourself.

    What do you love most about Hoboken?

    Its walkability and abundance of great delis.

     What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?

    I just got a bike this past summer so, although I’m still a timid rider on city streets, my favorite thing to get out and bike around. You can cover so much ground and see things you wouldn’t normally get to on a neighborhood stroll.

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    See More: Hoboken Girl of the Week: Maria McElroy of Aroma M Atelier

    How long have you lived and/or worked in Jersey City?

    My husband and I have lived in Jersey City for three years and I’ve been working full time from home for just over a year.

    What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Jersey City?

    Morris Canal Park, a tiny slice of pier between Paulus Hook and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, is my absolute favorite spot. It has the best view of NYC, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and every now and then you’re lucky enough to get the whole place to yourself.

    Where is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County?

    Hipfit dance fitness with Laura Miller is my thing! It’s a choreographed cardio and strengthening class set to hip-hop with low lighting, fun moves and a group of awesome women. I always leave with an ugly sweat and a smile on my face.

    She teaches in Hoboken and Jersey City, check her Instagram @laurahipfit or the MindBody App for class info.

    Where do you go out with friends in the area?

    Gringo’s for margaritas, Talde for a little dancing (and wings), White Eagle Hall for live music and Third and Vine when you just want some wine and good conversation.

    What is something you think needs to come to Hoboken or Jersey City?

    I wish Jersey City had better grocery store options and a good bodega with quality snacks and beers that stayed open late.

    Want to be featured or nominate someone as an upcoming Hoboken Girl of the Week?

    Email hello@hobokengirl.com about your/her story.

    Have you joined our Facebook group yet? Request here to gain access to even more local tips, and connect with fellow Hudson County residents.


    Written by:

    Briana, a born and raised Hoboken girl, has a strong passion for the town she knows and loves so much. She’s seen many changes and embraces both the old and new aspects of Hoboken. When she’s not working at Hoboken Girl as an Editorial/Marketing Assistant, she’s most likely in her pjs shopping online, eating her way through the Mile Square with her fellow foodie fiancé, or planning her next cruise or Disney vacation — but even more important is her love for cats (she has 3).


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