New Crafty Gathering Space: Workshop

workshopI really respect doers.  As a thinker-planner-worrier-maybe-eventually-doer I admire people who seize opportunities immediately and run with them all the way to the finish line.  Kelly Malone of Indie Mart is one such doer.  Last night I attended an open-house event at her new space called “Workshop,” which is a community art and activity space that holds classes, get-togethers and large-scale craft equipment.  It’s already got furniture, signage, and an awesome room divider made of old windows.  A week ago she didn’t even know about this space!

I think Workshop will be a fantastic addition to the San Francisco creative community, so I really want to see it succeed.  It’s set to officially open on September 19th, but in the meantime they need more stuff to make it fully equipped. If you have any of these items, you can drop them off almost any time in the next two weeks. Workshop needs:

-crafty, sewing & art supplies (scissors, thread, fabrics, yarn, bedazzlers, patterns, machines,
paints, brushes, anything rad you can think of)
-screening supplies (ink, old screens)
-building supplies & tools (hammers, drills, hardware, levels, saws, etc)
-light bulbs…we need hundreds for our light installation
-old saw blades, yard sticks, wooden vintage bobbins….for an installation
-dining room style chairs (that can be spray painted black for seating)
-DIY, how to & design books/ magazines to build up our inspiration library (Martha
Stewarts, ReadyMades, Dominos, you get the idea)
-pillows & cushions we can recover for our movie nights
-patterns
-an office chair
-a computer
-speakers, turntables & stereo goodness
-an ipod for sale:)
-jars for storage (mason, baby food, etc)
-old drawers from small to medium size

To check out Workshop for yourself and to drop off donations/congratulate Kelly/try to steal some of her mojo for yourself, swing by the corner of McAllister and Baker streets during normal store hours.

Recession Guilt

On November 30th, I participated in the second annual San Francisco Holiday Bazaar Bizarre.  I asked many of my fellow vendors how they were doing and I got the same response from all of them: “It’s going well, but not as well as last year.”  Many of them acted apologetic for having said this, abruptly adding qualifiers like, “But last year was crazy,” as if they didn’t deserve such a singular event to repeat itself.

I admit, I felt similarly.  I felt guilty for the moderate success I was having during one of the worst holiday shopping seasons on record.  I felt guilty at the Mission Bazaar the following weekend, and guilty at the Unique Los Angeles fair the weekend after that.  Even if sales were slightly down from previous years, it didn’t seem right to be turning a healthy profit when other vendors were slashing their prices to wholesale or cost.  Three-color letterpress cards were 6 for $10 at at least two different stationery booths!  You can’t even buy cards at the drugstore that cheaply.

Now this may not be p.c., or even totally true, but I’m going to say it: I think we’re feeling undeserving because we’re women.  Generally speaking, I believe that a man would be more likely to attribute his success to talent and intelligence than to good fortune.  Why?  Because as women, we can’t abide the opposite.  I don’t want to believe that my fellow Biz Misses are having trouble because they are being naive, inert, or unsavvy.  They are my sisters-in-arms, and it seems mean to imply that they are responsible for their own troubles.  It’s much easier to attribute my success to random factors like booth location.

Of course, luck has something to do with the success or failure of every business, but I guess the lesson is to make your business hardy and flexible enough to withstand unanticipated events.  Start slowly, build slowly, and have a diverse set of products, markets or sources of incoWhen sales are slow, use the extra time to focus on marketing strategies, product development and setting up infrastructure, so that when the market turns around (and it always does), you’ll be ready to take off.

Worth Its Weight: NWBC Town Hall Meeting

Today I attended a San Francisco Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the National Women’s Business Council — an advisory council that reports to the offices of the President and Members of Congress the issues that women in small business face every day.  While it is obviously important to make your voice heard to your representatives in government, our concerns as small businesswomen could have been collected via e-mail or online survey.  Such a method might have gotten more more responses (today’s event was limited to 200 participants) and certainly would have cost a lot less than holding a full-day conference in a hotel.  But I’m glad the NWBC didn’t go this route and I’ll tell you why:

  1. Networking.  It’s true that as one speaker said today, “women love to help other women.”  I had many more people approach me wanting to offer advice or moral support than wanting referrals or publicity.
  2. Resource sharing.  I have four pages of notes filled with nothing but the names of web sites, organizations and business services that other women at this event have used and can personally recommend.  I will be sorting through these in the next few days and reporting back which ones live up to the hype.
  3. Brainstorming.  I can come up with several issues I confront every day about which my elected officials should be concerned, but there are also some I almost never think about that are nevertheless important.  One example: a woman in our break-out section on micro-business mentioned something about sustainability, which reminded me that sometimes I feel frustrated that there are no incentives for greening home-based businesses.
  4. Sharing ideas directly.  I was able to speak directly to a member of the NWBC about my green home-office issue and she told me that this was an issue on which immediate steps could be taken, and would therefore be sure to bring to Senators John Kerry and Olympia Snowe of the Senate Small Business Committee.  Wow!  Also, an outreach member of the I.R.S. listened to me gripe about their web site: that the completeness of available information was excellent but that it is extremely difficult to navigate or search.  She recommended I use Publication 910 (her professed favorite) to find a list of the I.R.S.’s free resources for small businesses, and a full index of their other publications.  I suggested that this publication be made visible in the Small Business section of the web site, and while I was I surprised that she seemed suprised by this suggestion, she nevertheless thanked me for it and said she’d pass it along.  You just can’t beat direct results, folks.

Sure, the NWBC could have conducted an electronic survey, or just directed us Biz Misses to Obama’s new web site, but even in this age of online sales and networking, there is still no substitute for being in the company of your sisters.

p.s.  If you didn’t a get chance to attend one of their Town Hall meetings, you can e-mail the NWBC at [email protected] with your concerns.  There are only four women in the office, so they will read your message and get back to you.

Event: NWBC's San Francisco Town Hall Meeting

Want to have your voice heard by the folks who make the laws?  Register for the (free) San Francisco Town Hall Meeting thrown by the National Women’s Business Council.  This event will function like a short, one-day conference, in which small business women will have the opportunity to learn from experts and one another, as well as share concerns about small business policies.  There will be a general session followed by two break-out sessions, covering a number of topics.  I will be attending the session on “Micro-business,” and I have suggested a session on intellectual property, since that is an issue that many Biz Misses have sopken to me about, particularly in creative or innovative industries.  Barring the creation of that special session I will attend the one on Taxes.

So just who is the NWBC?  According to their web site, they are:

…a bi-partisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners. The Council’s mission is to promote bold initiatives, policies and programs designed to support women’s business enterprises at all stages of development in the public and private sector marketplaces — from start-up to success to significance.

Cool!  We have advocates!  This Town Hall is happening two days after election day, which means that our concerns as small business owners will be some of the first issues submitted to our newly-(re-)elected officials.  So do your civic double-duty this election season and vote on November 4th, and get your voice heard on November 6th!

When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Closet

I was saddened to learn recently that San Francisco’s Stitch Lounge is closing its doors for good.  Though it will continue to operate as an online entity, offering tutorials and a blog, their fantastic, in-person classes are coming to an end on September 12th (click here to sign up for one last class).  Here is a snippet of the announcement the lovely Biz Misses of Stitch posted on their website:

Some 4 and a half years ago, three hopeful soon-to-be-Stitch-B*tches held hands and jumped and opened the first sewing lounge ever….We achieved so much more than we ever imagined and so it is with pride that we look to our next life chapter where we focus on our families and (non sewing) full-time careers. To make room for our new experiences, the time has come for us to close the San Francisco lounge (the brick and mortar portion of it, that is). While the physical studio will no longer be available, we will keep the virtual lounge alive and continue to post free downloadable tutorials and keep you up to date with the goings on in the sewing and fashion world and with the crazy B*tches!

But as they say, when God closes a door, he opens a closet, sometimes in the form of a tiny fiber arts studio.  On August 25th, Jamie Chan, the organizer of my favorite craft fair, Bazaar Bizarre, and the person who introduced me to needle felting (i.e. wool sculpture) announced the opening of Urban Fauna Studio, the brick-and-mortar entity of her business, Mary Jane’s Attic.  UFS is located at 1311 16th Avenue (between Irving and Judah) and has hours Friday - Monday 10-6:30 PM and by appointment.  Like the Stitch Lounge, Urban Fauna Studio is an open workshop that hosts classes, sells supplies and runs a consignment boutique.  But whereas Stitch emphasized sewing, Urban Fauna is all about everything fiber arts, from spinning to felting to weaving, and only carries eco-friendly, socially responsible products by independent designers, like Biz Miss favorite, Girl on the Rocks.  I am VERY excited to stop in this weekend.

Also on my list of must-see shops this weekend is WhizBang Fabrics, in the Mission/Potrero Hill neighborhood.  WhizBang also opened just this year and were responsible for this summer’s RockMake Street Festival, which combines my two most favorite things: rock and roll and crafting.  I couldn’t decide whether to apply as a maker or as a musician, but then I found out I’d be on my honeymoon then, so that settled that.  Located at 3150 18th Street, Suite 113 (on Treat @ 18th), WhizBang carries mostly printed cottons, both vintage and modern.  Though I have yet to visit, they carried many WhizBang fabrics at the Stitch Lounge and from what I’ve seen, the designs are really fantastic.

Though neither Urban Fauna Studio nor WhizBang are a substitute for the Stitch Lounge, they both give me something new to get excited about and it’s nice to still see Biz Misses blazing trails out there.  Rock on, ladies!

What's green, warm and fuzzy all over?

The feeling you get by giving a gift, getting a tax deduction and helping someone start their new business all at the same time.

This week I was introduced to Kiva, a non-profit that allows you to contribute funds to start-up loans for individuals in developing countries. Unlike many of us, who start businesses to have more creative freedom or to be our own bosses, the entrepreneurs in Kiva are mostly starting businesses to get themselves out of poverty.

There are many ways to contribute to Kiva. You can loan money to an entrepreneur directly, donate funds towards Kiva’s operating costs, or purchase a gift certificate for someone else. If you choose to lend funds directly, you can read through the profiles of all of the entrepreneurs and choose the person or group you feel most connected to. Once they have received all the start-up capital they need (usually less than $1000 altogether), you’ll receive updates via their journal entries about how things are going. If the business is a success, you’ll receive your loan payment back.

I think this is a fantastic organization to work with. It’s great karma, fulfills the highest level of “tzedakah,” and makes a thoughtful, tax-deductible gift, which is especially great for colleagues in your small business world.

Great Publication: Venus Zine

Yesterday I was browsing the magazines at Booksmith in the Upper Haight. I felt a little bad because I didn’t intend to buy anything. I was just there to page through all their glossies and write down the ones to which I might be able to send press kits. But then I stumbled upon an awesome publication called Venus Zine: Emerging Creativity (women in music, art, film, fashion, d.i.y. culture) and I finally had something to justify using an independent bookstore as my personal research library. The perpetually surly counter clerk looked especially pissed that after half an hour of standing around I put $4.50 on my business Amex, but I didn’t let it get me down.

I don’t know why I’d never even heard of Venus Zine. It’s apparently been around since 1996 and it rocks — quite literally. This issue’s cover stories include a run-down of the best female guitarists of all time and how to start a DIY business. Though I’m a little beyond many of the most basic suggestions (yes, I have already read Craft, Inc. from cover to cover) there were enough informative tidbits for even an experienced business owner to get something from the articles. For example, I learned about indiebizchicks.com (which has some great articles even if the site is not super well maintained), Sublime Stitcher Jenny Hart’s monthly “Crafting a Business” column, and various free communal workspaces for when you want to get out of your home office. New York’s Jelly (now also at other locales), Philadelphia’s Cream Cheese and San Francisco’s Citizen Space all sound like great places to work somewhere productive (and collaborative) without having to spend $3 an hour on coffee and pastries.

So if you’re an artist, musician, businesswoman, DIYer, or like me, you consider yourself a little of everything, check out an issue of Venus Zine. It’s both informative and inspiring to the woman who’s trying to make her own way.

Portland and Seattle d*s Biz Lady Meet-ups

Portland and Seattle ladies! Whether you have a successful design business already or are just thinking about making your craft hobby a full-time gig, you have to go to the design*sponge Biz Lady Meet-up.  This is one of the most useful informational events you will ever attend, not to mention one of the best networking opportunities available.  The San Francisco meet-up is what inspired me to start this blog in the first place, so GO GO GO!

The Portland meet-up is tomorrow, February 26th from 7-9pm at Design Within Reach Portland and the Seattle event is on Thursday, February 28th from 7-9 pm at Design Within Reach Seattle.

You’re supposed to RSVP but at this point, the ever gracious Ms. Grace Bonney is letting folks in anyway.  The event is free, but it is polite to bring a snack or drink to share with the group.

The meet-up is structured as a round-robin.  There are four speakers, who will speak about business financials, press and marketing, retail/wholesale, and successfully balancing life and work.  Everyone divides into smaller groups of four and spends about 20 minutes with each speaker before rotating to the next.  Bring a notebook and a lot of business cards with you and get ready to meet a lot of other very cool, like-minded BizMisses.  I met the super funny and very talented Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop at the SF event.

I cannot stress the awesomeness of this event enough.  If can go, go.  I promise, you’ll thank me for it.

Where's Wanda?

I challenge you to find a single woman in this picture.  It’s a shot of the keynote speech audience at last year’s MacWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.  Are there really no female technology professionals in Northern California?  I find that hard to believe.  Why do you think this photo shows only a sea of dudes?  It could be a shot of the priority seating rows in the audience.  You have to pay a minimum of $1,495 to get those seats.  Perhaps there aren’t any women in high enough tech positions at the few companies who can afford these passes.  Maybe that’s why those companies are so successful!  Then again, maybe it’s just that only a guy would pay $1495 to see something you can get for free on the Internet.

macworld 2007