Liliana is originally from Mexico but grew up in Oxnard, California, until she moved to Utah to gain her higher education. With a master’s degree in fine arts, she incorporates her passion for storytelling and visual art in everything she does.
Sam holds a degree in business finance and dreamed of becoming a business owner. He grew up tending and managing a ranch in southern Utah. He learned to be a jack of all trades while managing the ranch and now has the skills to perform most of the maintenance for the business.
When the two were married, they put their skills, hard work, and savings together to create a truly unique experience. Their boutique tiny house hotel next to Zion National Park is one place you won’t want to miss when visiting the area.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if
not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Working day in and day out as a couple has its perks and struggles. As husband and wife, it’s rewarding to build something up, work so hard and see it flourish. However, being together 24/7 has forced us to learn to work well. Patience is so important. We often have to look past our differences and focus on the end goal. At the end of the day, it takes discipline, love, and appreciation for each other in order for things to go smoothly.
Working in the desert also takes a huge toll on the body– the heat, wind, and harsh weather can push outdoor projects behind. Learning to hydrate well and take our vitamins daily is so important to stay afloat out here.
Over the years, we’ve had to learn as we go. Prioritizing projects, organizing tasks, staying on top of inventory and managing employees is no easy task. At first, we were very disorganized, and it made work very difficult. We’ve come a long way since then. However, we are still learning and growing in this area every day.
Finally, running a business without prior experience is daunting. Bearing all the responsibility in the hospitality industry is one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done! Keeping our units cleaned, guests happy, and schedules up to date can be a lot to juggle. We’ve had to wear all the hats- even house keeping when employees call in sick. Often people look at us and say, “You’re so lucky! Just living the Dream” – but no dream comes without great sacrifice. We’ve truly put our heart and soul into every inch of this project! We’ve also given up a lot of comforts, social life and vacations keeping in mind that in a few years our hard work would pay off.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
As a woman of color being operations manager can be difficult. The customer service, and the daily tasks of running a business make me miss my true passion. The creative side of me doesn’t always get to flourish when doing the daily tasks here. When I’ve had to hire handymen or older women, (because of the color of my skin, my age, and the fact that I’m a female) I don’t get the respect I deserve. My position can be threatening to some, and there’s been many occasions where my orders have been disregarded or ignored. It can be very frustrating and draining. Even my husband sometimes has difficulty executing my vision because of how artsy I can be. During those moments, how I miss being on set and filmmaking! Storytelling and networking with other artists alike makes me very happy. Though I do get to do some acting and film on the side, I still feel very blessed to be able to build such cool projects and continue to foster my creativity in unique ways.
At ZTO, I get to make all the creative decisions. I hire other artists, pick colors, design builds, name the units, do the interior decor and so much more. Though I never saw myself doing this for a living, I can see how my studies have truly come in handy. The coolest thing I get to do as an artist here is sketching unique builds. It’s really neat to have an idea, put it on paper, and with the help of my husband and our crew – see it come to life. Not only does it turn out beautifully, it’s also satisfying to see that others enjoy it. The most rewarding part of what I do is to see our guests reactions when they first arrive. For the most part, our homes bring out the child within. They almost resemble a doll house, tree house, or train- don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of having one as a kid?! So, these units are meant to be immersive and playful. They bring couples, friends and family together for deeper bonding, smiles and pleasant memories! All of our units have the Lily flare – they’ve been modified and changed to fit my eccentric style and branding.
The Ark Tiny House was our very first unit. We built it from the ground up and put so much love and attention into it. This is still our favorite unit to sleep in because of the peace and love that lingers in its walls. While in its early stages, we added positive messages to every inch of the house. At the base of the toilet in the infrastructure you would find words like – “release” under the tub -“ relax” the living room floor says “togetherness” and so forth. When you walk into this home, you feel like it greeting you – like a puppy; excited to see you. The Ark truly emulates joy and a fun loving energy!
King Solomon, our tiny house/shipping container is a one-of-a-kind hybrid! He has two magic wardrobes that lead into secret chambers – The King’s and Queen’s rooms. The interior design makes one feel as though you’ve walked into ancient middle eastern times. The porch has a vintage spiral staircase that leads to a balcony overlooking the canyon. The chandeliers and light fixtures were ordered from Egypt and Turkey. This is truly one of our most unique homes – built and modified for those who appreciate art and adventure.
Finally, our entrance gate is a taste of what we have to offer – built with much intent. The pillars were erected in 2019 with the idea of making a beautiful gate. When we finally got around to building it, Lily had already thought long and hard about all the details she wanted for it. Since we’re all about authenticity and organic marketing, the entrance gate serves that purpose. It’s an elegant design. It’s a classy presence that stands out from the rustic desert landscape, just as all of our units do. We’ve never had a sign or posters promoting our business near or at the property. Our gate peaks peoples interest; those driving past us will become curious and look us up on google maps. We are certain after they’ve discovered us (next time they visit Zion) they will choose us and experience what we have to offer.
The desert can be a quiet, lonely yet healing place. This is why our property facilitates a little soul searching! Not only is the tiny house experience a treat – but our property is very special! We are surrounded by sacred sage, red rocks and breath taking 360° views. If guests take time to be still, observe and listen – they leave with a little more color, peace and appreciation for nature in their hearts. We are very blessed and feel honored to share about our slice of heaven with you and our guests!
Sam (business / admin / maintenance)
I maintain the finances of the business and do most of the paperwork, taxes, permitting etc. I’ve also had to learned some web design skills and other business computer skills during the initial stages. I handle payroll and the time clock for the employees. My second job is to maintain the property. These are tasks like cleaning water filters, adjusting hot tub chemicals, and replacing anything in the tiny homes that breaks down. I fix things like electrical, plumbing, lighting, furniture, fences, and more. What I enjoy the most is doing excavation on the property. I’ve done most of the water, septic, power, and leveling the grounds for the tiny home pads. I have years of experience driving heavy machinery. Moving dirt around, making trenches, and adding pipe can be really fun, especially when it all comes together and functions properly.
If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I was a clown – always trying to make people laugh. I often stole my older sibling’s camera and made funny home videos with my sister. I loved dancing, singing, and socializing. I was a tom- boy and wrestled in high school. I always got in trouble with teachers for defending my peers when they were wrongfully accused. As a kid, I had three dream jobs. I wanted to be an archeologist, an astronaut, or an actress. I figured the last one would give me an opportunity to play the other two in a film role one day.
I was very shy and grew up an only child with older parents. Since then I’ve had, and continue to have many creative ideas; especially when it comes to building things! I made friends because people liked me, but I wasn’t too outspoken. I loved sports like basketball and tennis. I actually played a year of tennis in college and dreamed about going pro. To be honest, I love what we’ve created here, but I do hope to have more time off in the future, and look forward to reaping the rewards of all our labors.