Well at Home Series: Striving for Harmony w/ Alli Okumura
Updated: Jun 4
Alli Okumura is one of those rare breeds who can truly do it all - master of DIY crafts, successful business owner, plant expert, and most recently discovered, excellent Thai tea maker. I’ve known Alli for about two years now, and I can say much of these talents come from her willingness to try it all, even if it does not stick. Perhaps this curiosity, or rather ambition, to dig her hands into anything, is what has rooted her into entrepreneurship. Alli runs one of the most celebrated small businesses in Sacramento - the cutest plant shop known as Propagate. I have had the privilege to work alongside Alli and witness her brave spirit and head-first attitude to problems.
Over quite possibly one of the best Thai teas I’ve ever had (recipe at the bottom), Alli shares her passion, her goals, and how she keeps pushing through challenges.
Balance, Peace, and Prosperity
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about self-growth and discovery. I believe our relationship with ourselves is the most important one of all. It doesn’t only affect how we show up in the world, but also how we show up for others.
What do you think drives that passion?
I would say it’s my desire for inner peace, or harmony, that drives this passion. Like many, I struggle to cope with anxiety, stress, and sometimes bouts of depression. The more I look inward and work on myself, the more capable I become of navigating the ups and downs of life.
As we prepped for this interview, Alli brought me into her kitchen so she could make us a cup to tea. My curiosity lead to me to ask about about the contents inside her jars on her open shelves. Her countenance brightened, excited to bring out the Thai tea and tell me a story.
My best friend Rachel introduced it to me in high school. She used to go to a place called Tapioca Express, and they made blended Thai Tea with Boba. It was SO sweet and creamy –– the most delicious. However, it looked so foreign to me at the time and I was hesitant to try it. It’s naturally orange in color, and the boba sits at the button in a clump of pea-sized brown balls. My life changed forever when she let me try it before swim practice. It’s been our thing since then, so we always seek it out when we’re together. I wanted to bring that joy to my home, so I found loose leaf Thai Tea and make my own version of it. It’s not nearly as yummy, but the indistinguishable flavor of Thai Tea instantly takes me back to those carefree days.
As Alli poured the Thai Tea for her and me, I asked about what she’s most proud of and what her goals are. Growing up in Sacramento, Alli has built a life for herself here and she’s proud of what she has achieved.
I am surrounded by people who support and lift me up. I have the solace of a home. I have access to the care and supplies I need. And I have the privilege of doing something I love for a living.
As for her goals, she circles back to her passion - harmony. I’m striving to find balance, peace, and prosperity.
The thing about working with plants is that digging your hands into dirt almost everyday does not leave room for a fresh manicure. Working alongside Alli, I quickly learned that getting your hands dirty and not hesitating before jumping in there is engrained in her core personality. Perhaps what has made her successful in her business, is that Alli does not hesitate to dive in - whatever hypothetical or literal mess needs to be dealt with - Alli goes all in - hands first.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’ll keep this one surface level. I never get my hair done (maybe a cut once a year) and I never get my nails/toes done (also maybe once a year). Having nice nails is not an option in my profession anyways!
Alli is constantly exploring, boldly willing to experiment. For Propagate's first Halloween, she built Audrey II from the Little Shop of Horrors movie out of items she found around the shop and her home. I was taken aback to learn she used broken ceramic pots to make up Audrey's teeth. Audrey II was on display for the whole month and became so popular with customers, Alli brought it back the following year. From this instance, I learned that Alli does not hesitate to step out the normal boundaries some of us have been confined to - whether it is running a business, building a prop, or designing her home.
She does not, however, forget about the architectural designs of her spaces. Her business, Propagate, occupies an art deco building and its very logo pays homage to its history. Her home is a beautifully aged craftsman where, on the surface, you can see the tribute to the mid-century modern home with some of the selection of furniture. But on further investigation, she intentionally merges classic and vintage artifacts to allow a gleeful freedom of design.
What makes your home your very own?
The style and function (which is why I love the concept of Well Rounded). I don’t like to get pigeonholed into one look, because I like so many designs. I have found a way to merge different aesthetics into cohesion, which is something I am proud of. I also love for spaces to make sense and provide what you need.
Do you have a favorite room or place in your home? What makes it so special?
I love our kitchen. It’s space we got to remodel and make our own. I love natural light, and it gets the best in the house (which means lots of plants). We added a skylight to make it even brighter. We also opted for exposed shelves instead of upper cabinetry.
The house came with a “butler’s pantry” which is typical of our home’s era. We were able to stash our fridge in there and added larger cabinets to create a pantry to store everything else we don’t want to be exposed. There was even enough space for me to create a coffee nook that overlooks our backyard. It’s my favorite spot to get the day started. I let the doggies out, and they usually play while I watch them and make my coffee or tea. It’s also where we keep the doggie treats! I have many fond memories of my pups from that little nook. :) They mean so much to me!
How do you like to spend your time at home?
Chillaxing! I truly find such solace in my home. It’s actually kind of hard to leave it. I love cuddling on the couch with my husband, puppies, and a good show. On the weekends we love to put on a record and hang out on the porch with the windows open. I feel a lot of gratitude in those moments.
Trial and Treasures
Are there or are there any objects in your home that offer a sentiment to you? And why?
My tables. I have quite a few of them throughout our home – patio, living room, dining, kitchen, and backyard. I love to have different places to lounge and entertain. Each of these tables has hosted many special moments with loved ones and they mean so much to me.
Do you collect any items? Why do you collect those?
I can’t help but bring home “treasures” from hikes. I tend to collect moss-covered sticks, rocks, driftwood, and shells. I also love thrifted treasure finds, like bowls, platers, and trays.
Unbeknownst to her, Alli has been a great mentor. I have so much gratitude and appreciation for the many lessons she’s taught me. One in particular is that taking no for an answer is simply not an option, which has been an incredibly valuable lesson - especially for women in business. Another one is to own your anxiety and struggles.
When I first got to know Alli, she was open and honest about her mental health struggles. It was perhaps the first time I had ever met anyone who was so confident and comfortable about it that made me feel open to explore therapy as well. She is a great advocate for seeking therapy in whatever way works for you. She acknowledges that at any time we are all dealing with some crisis and there should always be space to feel down about it. Through her work, she’s found what brings her joy and keeps her going every single day.
What are you focused on right now?
Addressing my childhood trauma. I wanted to keep this light, but authentic and I can’t help but bring this up for this question. It has become such a big part of my life in the last couple of years, mostly because I found a great therapist. So much of my childhood made me who I am today, but there are parts that no longer serve me. Coming back to question number one, I am passionate about self-growth and discovery.
What are your rituals and what do they provide to you?
I make a cappuccino every morning. I used to struggle to get out of bed (re: bouts of depression), and that is the one thing that makes me excited to get up. If I’m over of coffee and want to spice things up I’ll switch to a fun tea.
What other things do you do for yourself as a treat?
I also love wine. I love to drink with friends or cozy up on my couch and watch my shows (love trashy reality TV and true crime anything).
One other interesting thing to learn about Alli is that she likes to color. She colors on an as-needed basis. At times it could be every day for a month, every other week, or every other month.
When I can’t quiet my mind, I pull out a coloring book. I also love to bring it traveling. Sometimes idle time can make me feel anxious, so it helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something. It also makes flights go by so quickly!
What about coloring brings you joy?
I think I like the feeling of control I have when I color. I also have the ability to stay in the lines and make perfect strokes. In a way, it shows me how capable I am, in the simplest way. I almost feel proud of what I accomplish when I complete a page.
As we chatted over what her living rituals are, I recognized that Alli’s rituals are closely correlated to joyful memories that take her to a place. Thinking about that a bit deeper, I realized that our behaviors can be related to memories in the past. For example, I grew up eating baked sweets every Sunday as a treat. As an adult, I often find myself treating myself to baked sweets as a trip down memory lane. Alli’s Thai Tea gives a joyful reflection of her time spent with her best friend. Her initial hesitancy turned affection towards the drink represents her freewheeling attitude towards trying new things. Many of her objects she surrounds herself with tend to represent something meaningful to her. These objects of affection, such as her tables and hiking treasures are correlated to joyful memories with people who love and support her.
Looking into the future, I imagine Alli expanding her business portfolio. Not only is she self-motivated, but she is determined. I have no doubt in my mind that she will conquer anything she has ever dreamed of. With the focus on herself, growth and development, Alli is focused to conquer her next goals.
Running a business is quite the overtaking. How do you balance work and home life?
By a thread! Just kidding, but sometimes it feels that way. I am blessed with an incredible team, supportive partner, great friends, and again, an incredible therapist. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the people surrounding me.
What keeps you going every day, even when things can be challenging?
I do not want to fail. And failing looks like letting the people who are important to me down. My employees, my partner, my vendors, my landlord –– these people have invested in me, either emotionally or financially, and I do not take that lightly. I also don’t want to let myself down after coming so far!
What advice can you offer to a newbie looking into one day running their business?
There is so much I want to advise, and one day I hope to be able to offer this service to people. At a high level, these are good questions to consider in the early stages:
Is there a void/need for what you want to provide?
Can you ease into it? (Can you test out the concept while you have a steady income?)
Are you capable of wearing multiple hats? (Sales, marketing, design, accounting, photographer, HR, etc?)
Why do you want to do this? Is it a passion? Is it for ego? Is it just simply a good idea?
What is the first step you can take to make it a reality?
Regardless of how you answer these questions, you can make anything a reality. All you need to do is start doing it. I always say, every opportunity leads to another opportunity. Just start doing it, and things will snowball.
And of course, what is your favorite plant? (at least right now!)
Any plant that cooperates! I really can’t pick one because I love almost all of them, but I do favor those that are adamant to live, regardless of my busy and neglectful lifestyle!
Alli is on her third year operating her plant shop and is constantly finding ways to support the local community of Sacramento. She's a talented artist, entrepreneur and an incredible friend. I invite you to visit her shop's page @Propagatesac to follow along for all things plants.
Craving Thai Tea? Alli shares her recipe below, ya welcome!
Alli's Thai Tea recipe
I eyeball pretty much everything I do, so here’s a recipe from the first google search I did (with my alterations)
1 cup (80 g) Thai Tea Mix
4 cups (960 ml) hot water
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar (I use monk fruit sweetener)
3/4 cup (240 ml) half and half (approximately), (I use at least 3 cups of oat milk)