A La // Besties & Business Partners
Meet Aly & Leigh
BESTIES + BUSINESS PARTNERS
From Day One working at Pure Salt, it was ingrained that the business was founded by two best friends. Not just two business partners who happen to be friends, but true blue besties who started this endeavor together in the light of that friendship. As a casual observer of Aly and Leigh's relationship through hours of work, I saw what everyone who interacts with them sees: two women who know one another deeply, who are so in sync despite all the quirks of the day-to-day, who are equally committed to one another and have built something incredible together, and maybe the most important, two friends who know how to have fun.
Like most employees, I realized I didn’t know too much about my boss’ lives. What got them here and how they remember all the moments in between. So I took an afternoon to sit down with each of them to interview one about the other. What I found was an uncanny look at what makes a best friend: someone who has been there through it all and who still shows up again and again. And what surprised me through my lines of questioning was how similar their responses were—sometimes down to the very word! (I asked them if they prepared in advance of our calls, and they both laughed and said no). They really are just that aligned with one another. I suppose that is something decades of deep friendship and care for another person does to you. Something anyone with a best friend can recognize in a split second. Something that reveals the heart of it all and the joy in knowing another in one fell swoop.
how did you meet?
Aly: It's all thanks to random roommate assignments at Cal Poly! We got our housing letters the summer before our first quarter. Lucky enough, we grew up living pretty close to one another, despite never having met. We both knew people who knew people, and were first officially introduced at a party thrown by mutual friends. Actually, it was less of an introduction, she came up behind me and bopped me on the head, and the next day we went shopping together and bought a mini fridge for our dorm room. We had an instant connection, but I never would have thought then that we’d find ourselves here at this point in our lives. We were just two 18 year old girls about to start college, just happy to have a friend to do it with.
Leigh: We were roommates at Cal Poly. We went to different high schools, but I had friends in San Clemente where Aly lived, so I asked them if they new a girl named Aly “lodge” (it was Loge but I didn’t know it then!) and they did. In fact, they loved her and loved that we were going to be roomies. They threw us a party and I think I came up to her to introduce myself. I don't remember exactly what was said, but I do remember we got along like a house on fire. We both have this we can do anything, won't take "no" for an answer attitude, and we saw that in each other right away—we really had the best night! We spent the next day together shopping for a mini fridge and the rest is history.
favorite memory from back in the day?
Aly: Gosh, there are so many. You know, the first thing that popped into my head was us in junior year of college. We shared a room in a house with some friends—it was such a cool space, we had our own patio and bathroom, it really felt like our own little house. We decorated it with some funky DIY art projects and made it feel really cozy and fun, our first real design project. That room was special to us. I remember that’s where we planned our trip to Europe together. All our friends were going, and our parents told Leigh and I there was no way they were going to foot the bill, so if we wanted to go we had to figure it out ourselves. And we did. We found internships for the summer, sorted out visas, travelled Europe together all on our own. Everything that would have seemed impossible to do alone was such a given when we were together. That room that year was filled with this can-do energy. So indicative of us from the beginning. And I just remember sitting there together planning and dreaming. We were so excited to get out there and do something, we were just charging each other up, feeding off one another's energy, with no stopping it.
Leigh: How am I supposed to pick!? There are countless good memories! What did Aly say?
*I mention their room junior year*
Oh yeah, we really did it all. A couple of stubborn kids, we wanted to go so we went. That’s the attitude I mean when I say we won’t take “no” for an answer. I remember when we were finally in Europe, we made it to Italy and there was this one song Aly was obsessed with. I can’t remember what is was, but she was so into it. It played a lot throughout our trip and in Florence we were outside enjoying the evening, maybe also enjoying a few drinks, and it started playing so she started dancing, trying to encourage everyone to dance with her. It’s so funny, I can still picture her dancing in the street, saying “come on guys” to every one around. That is so Aly. So much joy just spilling out.
I'm also remembering the time right after I had Audrey. You know, Aly was the first person I called when I found out I was pregnant—it was a bit of a surprise, I had just gotten married six months before, and Aly was the first of all our friends to have kids. I was a bit in shock and she was the only person I could imagine talking to. She was there with me right through it all, and pregnant herself! When Audrey was born, Aly had just had Livy a few months earlier and was right about to move to Saudi Arabia with her tiny family, but she stayed behind to meet my baby. There’s this photo I have of Audrey and Livy living next to one another, and Livy just looks HUGE next to newborn Audrey. I laugh every time I see it. And now the girls are their own best friends. Together from day one, really. I love that we have girls who have this forever connection, because of us.
how have you retained a friendship for so many years?
Aly: I think it’s acknowledging the commitment our relationship takes that allows it to grow. Especially now that we work together, I know everyday when I wake up and come to work I have to put in the additional effort to nurture our personal relationship to keep it strong. We have our moments, I think any relationship does, but we know how to talk to each other, because we’ve put so much time into understanding one another. This is years and years of work and love and it’s something I still am learning how to perfect, but it’s always paying off. Something that would have broken us years ago, is so trivial now. We know that we can always come back to one another with love, understanding, and the ability to talk through anything. That security, that absolute surety in another person is such a gift. And I make sure I honor that gift with the work it requires.
Leigh: We work at it. You know, it’s not always easy. We fight, we are truly like sisters. But there is so much love there too. That’s why we are always able to come back together and work everything out. We have learned how to communicate and that goes a long way in making sure we get to the heart of one another. It’s so funny, I say all the time that I work harder on my relationship with Aly than I do with my own husband. And I think that’s because friendships, no matter how strong, always have this element of precarity—you can lose someone so easily. So I never want to take her for granted. I always want to put the work in to keep us each other’s number one supporter and biggest advocate.
what's the story of Pure Salt?
Aly: After we moved to Saudi, I was so creatively burnt out. It took a while to come back into myself and rediscover what makes me happy and fulfilled, and one day it all of a sudden clicked that I wanted to do this. And while I could do it alone, I wanted to do it with Leigh—someone who gets me and gets it, who really works as hard as I do and would get scrappy and get after it and love that kind of work. I knew from our history how well we could work together, so it was as easy as deciding that was the path I wanted to take and as hard as waiting for her to say yes. To me, it was the prefect marriage of our two goals: mine to be an entrepreneur and make something, and hers to build something of her own. And we are both so creative, we had talked in the past about a business together, maybe in event planning, but that never got off the ground the way that Pure Salt did. There was just so much more meat in this design business—truly starting from the ground up, creating and connecting, making something unique, it was infectious how much possibility was in this idea. Leigh saw it and felt it as much as I did.
Leigh: I remember after Aly moved, she came home for a trip to see family and we went up to a cabin in Big Bear. I had just missed (or was about to miss) Audrey’s third Halloween in a row. I really was flourishing in my LA career, but I was missing the Big Things at home. And it was breaking me. And when Aly came home, she was in a similar boat, where she felt a bit lost on what would fulfill her in all the areas: work, creativity, family. I remember telling her she could do whatever she wanted, she had it in her (little did I know that little pep talk was also aimed at myself). But Aly really took that advice and ran with it! I got an email from her after she got back to Saudi outlining the idea for Pure Salt. I sat on it for a few days, talked to Dustin and he said to go for it, so I replied with a big fat YES. You know, I don’t know if Dustin really thought it would amount to this. That I’d actually leave my career and go all in, but that’s how Aly and I work—we decide to do something and we do it. Fully and completely. I knew what I was betting on when I signed on and I know she did too.
favorite thing about one another?
Aly: Nothing is impossible to Leigh. We need something to happen in the business? She knows who to call. We want to create something new? She has a hundred ideas. I love that tenacity. It’s in line what we always say about one another, that we won’t take “no” for an answer, but taken to a whole new level. She does’t take the “no” and she gives you the "here’s how” instead. That solution-finding eye is so natural to her, in a way I admire because I operate a bit differently. I think that’s a big part of why our relationship works so well in the business lens—we can recognize what one another does well, and uplift it rather than try to make ourselves embody it. This is a lesson I still work with, competition is such a natural instinct, it can be so so hard to break out of that innate habit, but we are so much stronger when we celebrate one another instead of compete against each other. The things I love about Leigh make me stronger. We fill one another’s gaps and have built such a solid foundation to grow from.
Leigh: This is good question! I want to make sure I articulate what I’m thinking right . . .
I’m the type to try everything and not worry about if I fail. Like, if something doesn’t work out, it’s whatever, I can try again and do something else, no problem. But what I love about Aly is that she can be so thoughtful and protective of creativity and what she wants. My plough ahead attitude can result in me missing things that matter, or not seeing the full picture, and Aly is always there to light the dark—she can run with ideas in a direction that I never fully appreciated or guide me in a more well-rounded way, I love her eye for these details and her care for creating.
where do you see the two of you in the future?
Aly: I’m so ready to start enjoying our everyday. We’re about to be next door neighbors again, which means unlimited time for our kids to play and us to spend the simple times together. That’s something that I really miss when we are apart—to decompress from work and then reconnect as friends. To talk about our lives and experience them together. We are going to be soccer moms in the fall, and then we’ll have the holidays to cook and entertain together, and then we’ll start a new year full of play dates and spur of the moment wine nights, watching our kids run around while we sit in our driveways chatting and sunning—all the little things that make up a life, I’m so ready to experience them all side by side, day in and day out.
Leigh: We’re finally getting to a point with the business where we can let go of some reins here and there and take some time to enjoy ourselves. We love to travel (with and without the kids) so that’s something I’m looking forward to more. Aly’s always wanted a boat, and I love airstream life, so maybe in the future we’ll have one of each and we can take trips by land and sea together!
if you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Aly: I think it would be that this relationship will be my biggest teacher. I will learn so much about myself and how to love another person. And this relationship will also be the vehicle to everything I’ve ever dreamt of. So I’d say to cherish it. And appreciate every single moment. All the best parts of my life are wrapped up in us, but I think younger me already felt all of that.
Leigh: I had the thought when we met that I can guarantee that this person will be in my life forever. And I’m sure so many college-bound kids maybe feel the same about their roommate. And it’s true, they are part of your story indefinitely. But I think I’d tell myself to thank God for giving me such a blessing. How lucky am I to have found this life partner the first go around. I really do feel blessed that the first moment I was setting out alone I was given this love of my life. I think I’d tell myself that.