Life In Motion: A Conversation On Motherhood, Innovation, and Advocacy with Bea Apple
We learn the most from others when we sit across the table with one another – hearing their stories, what makes them tick, lessons they’ve learned. In the spirit of sharing, we recently had the pleasure of connecting with Bea Apple, who truly is a Jill of all trades. Mother, entrepreneur, biker, BIPOC advocate [and that’s just the short list.] Bea gives us everything, covering a range of topics including motherhood, creating + taking risks, business ownership, biking local trails, meditation, and more. We hope you walk away having learned something new the same way we did. Tune in below . . .
Aisle 9: Tell us a little bit about you + the steps you’ve taken to establish yourself as a voice x entrepreneur in the community?
Bea Apple: I am a Gen X baby, spent my childhood in the Bronx, and eventually landed in Rogers, Arkansas at 13 years old. I have worn many hats in my life, the daughter of immigrants, an artist, crafter, and engineer. A business owner, a mother, person who loves bikes, and more! All of these creative pursuits as well as my career and life path have fueled my passion for my community. My first real opportunity to get into entrepreneurship was when we opened the original Pressroom just a month before Crystal Bridges opened. I had spent decades gaining skills and knowledge of my hobbies and my career prior — Pressroom was my first creative outlet. I got to take my passion for art, food, and my unique background and create something new for Bentonville. As a Korean-American woman growing up in all kinds of challenging environments, I am intimately aware of the importance of advocating for the ability to take up space and be your authentic self in this world — even when it’s scary! Looking back on my path, I see how my ability to be a strong voice in the community comes from learning my self worth through authentic friendships, healing past trauma, and discovering the unique ways in which your story wants to get out there. I’m known for being outspoken in public forums, but 99% of the things I do are done behind closed doors, in rooms with other people who care about this community, in my friendships, in my work, and through the non-profit and entrepreneurial work I do.
A9: Can you share a little bit more about the story + vision behind Hillfolk?
BA: I am so passionate about access to craft especially because of the experiences I had as a child growing up in the Bronx. My biological father was a Korean War refugee and immigrated to the States in 1979. Due to his mental health issues, and the challenges we faced living with joblessness and abuse, my sister and I spent most of our childhood in the inner city figuring out life on our own. Opportunities for recreation and activities were highly limited, so as soon as I could read, my sister and I would walk to the library and I quickly fell in love with books, especially books about crafting! The resourcefulness of making something out of very very little has always resonated with me, and was one of the few things I could figure out on my own without adult help. I spent years pouring over books, teaching myself how to knit, crochet, and sew. Hillfolk was birthed out of my desire to create a space for the younger version of myself to find community and support in her crafting journey. What I love most about this role is working with my partner Trisha and our staff to create a beautiful, supportive community for people of all ages, races, and backgrounds to come together and experience the joy of making!
Photo courtesy of @arshiakhan
A9: What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced throughout your career? Any learnings you’d like to share?
BA: For the first half of my career, I worked mostly engineering jobs, and I gained so much valuable experience about how to navigate scary spaces with more confidence [even if I was faking it sometimes!] My first job out of college was working for a defense contractor building submarines in Connecticut, and needless to say, I was very very intimidated. What I learned is that confidence in these environments is not always about being the loudest, most aggressive person in the world. My particular style of showing up was to not be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes, build relationships with my co-workers to collaboratively tackle problems, and value the experience of every person on the team. I learned so much from just being friendly enough to ask questions. I also fully recognized that as a Korean-American woman working in this field, I was breaking new ground everyday, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself and others.
A9: You’ve spoken before about your journey as a mom. What does the word “motherhood” mean to you?
BA: This means so much to me, *I’m getting a little teary-eyed!* This motherhood journey first began for me when I was 3 years old. I witnessed my mother Agnes die from a choking accident that happened while she was in remission for esophagus cancer. At the time I didn’t understand what was happening, but that experience set off a wave of events in my life that has deeply affected my experience in this world and my experience as both a woman and a mother. For most of my childhood, my life was defined by the absence of a mother. Kind interactions with women in my community, neighbors in our apartment building, teachers at school made up most of my experiences of “being mothered” – to this day, I try to fill that role in the community for all the kids I interact with at home, work, coaching, all of it! When I became a mother at 28, it set off another wave of experiences that kicked off my healing journey. I have built relationships with a village of mothers who have taught me so much about what it means to be a mother. As I have experienced motherhood through all the stages of infancy, toddler, school age and beyond, my children have been my greatest teachers and have helped to draw out of me an ability I never knew existed. Motherhood is about the tiny ways we show up for each other in a thousand different ways every day. It is the cool hand on a feverish forehead, picking up your friend’s kids for a playdate while she takes that meeting, the snacks after school, the car rides, and the emotional and physical care we give to each other. It is rich in trust, authenticity, care, and connection.
A9: Tell us about your journey with cycling! Where does your passion + enthusiasm for this sport x its community come from?
BA: I love this story! I discovered cycling as a stressed out mother of 3 in her mid 30s running Pressroom. In those days, we were located in downtown Bentonville right next to the bike shop, Phat Tire. When the cycling scene was just getting started, it was hard not to want to explore this thing that looked like a ton of fun. I had never learned how to ride a bike in NYC or in Arkansas, and it was definitely a bucket list item for me, but also, I wanted to get my kids on bikes too! Running Pressroom helped me conquer my fear of getting on a bike because I had so many amazing friends and customers who helped me get plugged into the scene. Delivering lunch orders to Phat Tire everyday got me acquainted with all the mechanics next door, serving beer and cortados to group rides, and finally, meeting Kim Seay and Jordan Garner, making friends, and having them take me out on my first mountain bike ride changed my life! It was all over the first time I was flowing through the woods on my first full suspension mountain bike.
Photo courtesy of @kcross3
A9: We’ve love following along with your non-profit work at BIkePOC. Can you tell us more about how it got started + your hopes for the future?
BA: So much of my work in my career and personal life has been about expanding access to people like me, who because of social and economic barriers haven’t been able to experience the transformative power of movement, especially cycling. From the time that I first got hooked on cycling and discovered how transformative it is, it became my mission to get involved in advocacy. I started volunteering with FAST Kids, became certified to coach NICA, and have spent countless hours talking to people about bikes, doing group rides, and getting more people hooked on the sport. BIkePOC grew out of that passion. In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, Kim and I recognized the need to get out there and lead the region in having serious discussions about equity and access to cycling. We recognized that as two women of color existing in this space, we needed to be vulnerable and transparent about the issues facing our communities so that we could collaboratively work with all of these amazing partners in the region to create more equitable spaces in cycling. We started with a BIPOC Solidarity ride in the summer of 2020, and since then have grown to a full fledged initiative with Trailblazers to continue to push for equitable access through open and honest conversations like Pass the Mic, creative community engagement through the Critical Mass Summit, and community activations to share resources, provide mutual support and community care for marginalized communities in the Northwest Arkansas region.
A9: From parenthood, small business, and non-profit work, how have you personally been able to step into those different worlds + find balance in your life?
BA: I’m currently trying to figure that out! Real talk, as a trauma survivor, I have been operating in this hustle and grind culture for decades and I’m tired! This year has been the year of me dedicating time and money to seriously work on my personal healing journey. The way that I’m navigating these continual challenges not just in my work and personal life, but also the world at large is the same way I’ve dealt with all of the previous challenges in my life – I get loud and I try to build community. I try to create space for myself and my community to talk about the very real challenges that face us, and I have worked really hard to cultivate authentic friendships where I can be vulnerable, share my joy and struggles, and ask for help. I would also say that physical and emotional practices like therapy, bike riding, meditation, being in nature are all tools in my toolkit for finding small moments of groundedness through the business of the day. Therapy has taught me a lot about the importance of strong boundaries, and I’m working on that in my personal and professional life, but it’s a process! Ultimately, I have been working on being kind to myself and to my children as we navigate these messy times. We have to remember that there is nothing normal, nor should we normalize the things that are happening in the world right now.
A9: What does “rest” and “play” look like for you?
BA: I’m so thankful for discovering biking because I had never really experienced play and joy in the outdoors until I experienced my first mountain bike ride! That adrenaline rush and being in the woods is absolute magic. And doing it with my friends, that is *chef’s kiss*! Right now, rest looks a lot like me spending time by myself, taking naps, good smells, and naps!
A9: You’re such an inspiration to not only our team, but the community. We’re curious, who is someone that you admire x aspire to be like?
BA: I am currently inspired by Grace Lee Boggs, she died in 2015 at the age of 100 and was a lifelong humanitarian + community organizer in Detroit. I’m reading her autobiography and so much about her experiences resonates with my own. She is Chinese-American, and her grassroots leadership style comes from a deep well of love for her community. Her story has provided me with great comfort and inspiration during challenging times.
Also, I am endlessly inspired by Octavia Butler and her Parable of the Sower Series. I am so inspired by the ways in which creative pursuits are instrumental to social change, and hope to continue to fuel that passion!
A9: What’s next on the horizon for you?
BA: Whenever I talk about my life, the one consistent theme is change! At BIkePOC we are working on ways to expand our capacity to do more good things in our community on bikes. I’m always looking to innovate and get creative, so we are deep diving into ways to diversify and expand the grassroots network of people passionate about advocating for better infrastructure for bikes, not just trails, but safe routes for all members of the community to be able to walk/roll/ride to wherever they want to go. With the challenges facing our region around affordable housing, rising gas prices, and congestion, figuring out how to continue the fight for safe infrastructure is at the top of my mind. With Hillfolk we are working on some very exciting projects that I hope to announce in the next few months, but my biggest desire is to use Hillfolk as a platform to get more tools and resources around craft into the hands of people who need a wonderful creative outlet!!
About Bea: Bea Apple is a mother, Co-Owner of Hillfolk, and Co-Founder of the non-profit BIkePOC [plus so much more]. A multi-hyphenate woman, residing in the Northwest Arkansas area, she is respected within her community as an advocate and pioneer for building an inclusive community through recreation and creativity. When she’s “off the clock” you can find her spending time by herself, taking naps, enjoying good smells [like this one], and naps!! Follow along with her journey on Instagram.