I love behind the scenes of anything So I thought it would be fun to start a weekly series, “Behind the Brand” where I will share Top 5 Facts (a la High Fidelity) from our vendors to other local & global brands I think you might want to know about.
Mayta Collection is a lifestyle brand, designed in Chicago and brought to life in Mexico, Morocco, and Peru. Each of our collections embraces and strengthens cultural traditions while focusing on quality. The designs are influenced by my love of colors and textures I see in markets throughout the world.
1. How did you come up with your name? Mayta is an Inca ruler from the Cuzco region of Peru. My husband is from there and therefore I always wanted a connection to the country for our family and most importantly, our children, so they can appreciate their heritage and culture.
2. Why did you start this business? Or what drew you to it? My love for Latin America began in high school. I still have my Mexican movies on VHS that I cannot let go of! I decided in college to study abroad in Mexico. My professor brought our class to markets in many cities. From then on I fell in love with textiles, traveling and discovering items that were not typical in the US. Of course, when I met my husband, it was natural for me to focus on Peru. Most recently, I was fortunate enough to go to Morocco and connect with a textile artisan that I now work with on designing my pieces.
3. Favorite & least favorite thing about running your own business? My favorite is incorporating all the textiles, colors and traditions into the pieces. My least favorite is that I am the only employee so it is difficult to manage everything.
4. Who or what inspires your work? It might sound cliche, but my husband and kids inspire me. My husband and I agreed that when we had kids we would want them to embrace Peru, but to also be curious about cultures and experience travel at all levels. Something as simple as going to the local grocery store or taking the public bus can be such a great learning experience.
5. Podcasts or books you are currently listening to/reading? I am really into Audible right now. Before that, I had not read a book in probably 5 years. But I discovered Audible and started with my favorite book - Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I have read it 3 times!
*Bonus*: Tool, app, service your business can’t live without? I wish I had a good answer for this, I am not sure about tech and stick to the basics with things, but probably need to explore!
Catie is a wood artist, physical therapist and mommy loving life in Chicago. As a lifelong lover of math, puzzles and color, it's the perfect way for her to draw from urban angles and rural scenes to keep creativity and handmade art alive in a busy world. Each piece is cut, stained, painted and configured individually by Catie. Her pieces for the shop are stunning and would add interest to any wall or shelf.
1. How did you come up with your name? I grew up in Wisconsin but have been living in Chicago for about fifteen years. Sweet Home "Wiscago" is a combination of the two - both places I identify myself as being "from" and feeling like home.
2. Why did you start this business? Or what drew you to it? This is my creative outlet! I didn't intend for it to be a business at first, but over the years a few commissions turned into a waitlist and here I am!
3. Favorite & least favorite thing about running your own business? I actually work full time as a physical therapist - benefits for my family and consistent, reliable income remain key since my husband started his business a few years ago. I build artwork on the side and feel like I strike a balance most of the time.
4. Who or what inspires your work? Math, architectural lines, tiles and textiles inspire pattern. I love color and find inspiration mostly in nature.
5. Podcasts or books you are currently listening to/reading? I just read Hamilton and loved Chernow's writing so much I followed up with Titan, his book on Rockefeller. I also try to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo) at least once per year as a reminder to purge and surround ourselves with only the things that bring joy!
*Bonus*: Tool, app, service your business can’t live without? Instagram. As much as I don't like how social media has become a platform of showing off unrealistic, unattainable lives, I have to admit it's a great tool to reach people. I try to keep it real - life is messy sometimes and that's ok!
Sandpiper Imports is a fair trade company based in Chicago that offers a unique & classic collection of high quality .925 sterling silver jewelry designed and handcrafted by artisans in Bali, Indonesia.
1. How did you come up with your name? I love birds and the freedom they can symbolize; leaving a full-time gig and feeling like I was diving off a cliff to start my own business seemed to fit that. I also love the water, so choosing Sandpiper (a water bird that is found in many different geographic locations) also felt right.
2. Why did you start this business? Or what drew you to it? My entire career prior to Sandpiper was in corporate retail management. I was not only burned out with the corporate climate and lack of freedom to run my stores as I saw fit, but also grew increasingly uncomfortable with the quality and origin of the products I was being asked to sell. I also disliked the labor practices I had to follow - for example, cutting the hours of (already) low paid hourly wage workers off the schedule mid-week per corporate directive because the company was sluggish on sales that week. So many things did not feel right and did not adhere to values I held personally. I wanted to continue doing a lot of the things I do love about sales - sharing the stories behind beautiful products from another culture, honoring the craftsmanship of the artisans, and building a strong personal connection with people (both artisans and my customers). Running a fair trade business allows me to do just that!
3. Favorite & least favorite thing about running your own business? Favorite: the relationships I’ve developed with my artisan group and other friends in Bali & also with my customers here. Least favorite: cash flow issues!
4. Who or what inspires your work? I’m so fortunate to be a part of a strong community fair trade business owners in Chicago - every one of them inspires me!
5. Podcasts or books you are currently listening to/reading? I love the podcast 99% Invisible which talks about so many different aspects of design in our society. Also, The Moth is inspiring - you laugh, you cry, you just get to relate to real people baring their souls and being honest on stage which I think takes such courage. Two fantastic books I just read were A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) - the characters were beautifully rendered - and Killers of the Flower Moon (David Grann) about the tragic (and not well known) history of the murders of many Osage Indians for oil money in the 1920s and 1930s in Oklahoma.
*Bonus*: Tool, app, service your business can’t live without? Chicago Fair Trade business membership!
Ethica Collective is a creative consulting agency elevating ethical and sustainable brands through storytelling, brand strategy, and digital marketing. Co-owners Anni Metz and Allison Geitner work collaboratively with their clients to create beautiful visuals, craft their company stories, reach new audiences, and grow their brands. They have helped me immensely. Maybe they could help you?
1. How did you come up with your name? I originally started freelancing as a side hustle under my own name, but I knew I wanted to eventually build a full-service creative agency, so I'd need to choose a name that wasn't.... my name. After weeks of agonizing, I literally sat straight up in bed in the middle of the night, and the name Ethica Collective came to. I like it because the name says exactly what we do: we work collaboratively (or collectively) with ethical brands.
2. Why did you start this business? Or what drew you to it? After 5 years of working for fair trade brands, I got a job working in the accounting department at a non-profit. The organization did great work, but I hated my role there -- accounting is mind-numbing. I wanted a creative outlet, and I missed the fair trade community, so I started doing freelance work for some local brands in the evenings. After a few months, @greenheartshop brought me on half-time for a project, so I quit my job and dove head-first into entrepreneur life.
3. Favorite & least favorite thing about running your own business? My favorite thing is that I have complete control over my work -- who I'm working with, when I'm working (for better or worse), where, when, and how I work. My least favorite thing, I can say without a doubt, is accounting. But I'm hiring that out within a few weeks.
4. Who or what inspires your work? Women and children. I want my work to elevate and empower women, and I want to do work that creates a better world for the next generation. Plain and simple.
5. Podcasts or books you are currently listening to/reading? Currently obsessed with @cohesivehome podcast, about creating an intentional family life (I wrote an ode to them on Instagram a few weeks ago because I love them so much! ) and @hellbentpod, which is unapologetically political and swear-y. I'm currently reading "The Martian," on my husband's suggestion. I'm not really inter outer space, but he is, and I'm surprisingly really enjoying it!
*Bonus*: Tool, app, service your business can’t live without? Acuity for scheduling appointments, Google Drive for sharing docs with my business partner and clients, Planoly for scheduling Instagram posts, and TeuxDeux for keeping my sh*t organized. Currently testing client management systems, so if anyone has any thoughts on Dubsado v. 17Hats, I'd love to hear them!
Week 1: My Sanctuary Shop
1. How did you come up with your name? It took AWHILE. Probably 4-5 months. I wanted something that expressed the mission. Given all the domain names out there, finding a name is not easy. Every time I think I had one I would look it up and it either existed already or the domain name did. One day I was looking at the Refugee One website and the word ‘refuge’ hit me. Yes, that’s what I want this to be. A refuge. I looked up synonyms and saw sanctuary. And knew that was it. I asked some trusted friends and everyone liked it. The rest is history :)
2. Why did you start this business? Or what drew you to it? I really, really wanted to do something more creative. I felt pulled to do it. But I couldn't imagine not helping people anymore after being a social worker for 15 years. It is part of who I am. So I had to figure out a way to do both. That took a while! The result is MSS. Which I hope and dream will evolve into more than it is right now. But that part will come in time.
3. Favorite & least favorite thing about running your own business? Favorite: Flexibility. Least favorite: Flexibility! I am not great with time management so while I love that I can work and be home for my kids whenever they need it, I find it challenging to set boundaries, schedules, deadlines, etc. I’m working on it constantly!
4. Who or what inspires your work? I’m really drawn to unique design and bright colors and textiles. I have a very boho vibe going and always have. I am also inspired by so many women out there doing their thing. Making, creating, putting themselves out there, balancing work and fun. I follow so many women like that and they keep me going and motivate me. If they can do it, I can do it!
*Bonus*: Tool, app, service your business can’t live without? Shopify obviously, IG, Mailchimp, Font Candy, Google Calendar, Google Docs.
Thanks for reading!