Indie Foundry is nothing if not a community. We are influenced and inspired every day by the artists and makers we work with at the Cleveland Flea, and the clients we work for as branding specialists. On Thursdays, join our resident storyteller, Sarah Wilt, and our partners at Suzuran Photography as we profile some of our favorite Cleveland makers and small, creative business owners. This special series is meant to celebrate them. (Sometimes, we even have cake in their honor.)
One Sydney Road::Piper Toth
Why did you decide to start your own business?
What a crazy, strange, eye-opening journey it’s been! Since I was a kid, I’ve known two things about what I wanted to do with my life… be a dancer and start my own business. After my first year in college, I switched majors from dance to small business entrepreneurship so that I could pursue both. (The idea of being a starving artist with a dance degree and student loan bills freaked me out!) I spent 10+ years after high school doing the first thing. I coached dance teams, taught dance, and choreographed for local productions around Ohio. Hands down the best thing(s) I’ve ever done. But I still had this need to pursue my other dream of starting my own business. What I didn’t realize until very, very recently is WHY I wanted to do this. And honestly, it took starting and running a couple of businesses to get to the answer. Hello, lightbulb moment for me!!
I wanted to start my own business because I wanted freedom, the ability to create my own life and schedule, to work with, help people, and collaborate on ideas, and to pursue and explore all my ideas and interests. The catch-22 to owning a business, I’ve discovered, is that it kind of puts a limit on your freedom. So I look at things differently now. I need the ability to move from idea to idea, interest to interest, to be flexible. To create and run with a spark of an idea. Now that I know this… it is becoming a new way for me to look at my business(es) and restructure it in a way that fits me. I’m learning that thinking outside the box and figuring out a new way of doing things is what being an entrepreneur is all about.
How has One Sydney Road has evolved over the years?
See above! In actuality, OSR has changed and evolved so much. It was one of the reasons I came up with the name One Sydney Road. I loved that it had a sense of an address that could be anywhere. For me, that means OSR can be anything!! I actually started it as a blog in 2009. From there, it became a fulfillment of a long time dream of mine—to have my own home decor boutique. I started the online store in 2010 after spending years and years as a total design addict—I think I’ve read every interior design magazine that has existed!
Wanting a way to help more artists get the word out about their work in a creative way, I started doing online, curated, and travel-based pop-up shops in 2011. I had photographers share photos of a city to use as the backdrop and inspiration for each artist’s work. My favorite one was the ‘Under the Boardwalk’ pop-up. I had a photographer take photos of Coney Island in Brooklyn and it was so fun to play with Photoshop, the photos, and the artist’s products! In 2011, I also started consulting and working with artists and creatives on their marketing plans and developing their business. And finally, my last venture with OSR, feeling the need to create myself, I went back to my aromatherapy roots and started making all-natural coconut oil body scrubs.
What are your goals and dreams for One Sydney Road in 2014?
Honestly, starting and running One Sydney Road changed everything for me. I researched and researched every little thing before starting OSR. How to run a store, how to market it, how to build and use a website, how to find customers. What I didn’t have researched and in place was how to deal with being on your own, mentally and physically. And, it pretty much kicked my ass, so to speak. I was stressed, anxious, and unhappy for some reason. And what a let down to discover, after spending years and years dreaming and researching about this store… that I found it unfulfilling. But, at that point, I had made a bit of a name for OSR and felt a little bit locked in and compelled to continue with it.
So while doing these different ventures within OSR, I also did some soul searching. I went back to basics. I started moving and dancing again, meditating, creating actual things with my hands, simplifying my life and getting outside more. And I got real about what my priorites and values are and if my goals fit with them. I’ve learned so much from going through this, talking to other creatives and researching the connection between wellness and being a creative person. In one year, I’m a brand new person. For reals. And because it’s been so life changing for me, I want to help others in the same situation. I want people to know that they’re not alone in this!
I’m in the process of working on my first wellness retreat for this winter or spring. It’s all about bringing the inspiration and idea of a retreat to the city and making it affordable and something you can do regularly. A place to get recharged, move your body, work on goals, create, and be inspired. I can’t wait until it’s up and running!!
Who do you look to for inspiration…
- as a creative?: Anything and everything! I really get inspired by people who think outside the box or overcome challenges. And seeing ideas that other people have. I seriously love a great idea!! Plus the usual suspects… Pinterest, travel, talking to other creatives, as well as people who are working on things completely different than what I know or do, TED talks, books.
- and as a business owner?: See above!
Tell us the story of one confidence boost you received regarding the pursuit of your business—a moment that left you saying, “Yes, I can do this.”
I think it was when I was selected to speak at Alt Summit (that was it’s own confidence booster!) and right after my panel, I had a few people who came up to me personally because they were inspired by my story and had followed my blog. It gave me the biggest boost and made me realize the power of sharing your story.
How has the Cleveland Flea helped your business?
Getting to meet and talk to people in person. That’s a big difference from being online. You learn so much by just talking to customers, seeing what they like and what they’re looking for. Plus getting to work with and collaborate with the Flea team is so inspiring. Also, talking to the other vendors has been invaluable to me.
Have you learned anything about your business by participating in the Cleveland Flea?
I’ve learned that preparation is the name of the game!! The first show we did compared to the last show was night and day. We’ve got the process streamlined now! (And that helps when you’re carrying a giant desk and tons of boxes by hand and then see a vendor go by with their hand truck to carry product. Why didn’t I think of that?? Thank you vendors for that spark of genius!!)
What is the one thing that you will always pay full price for?
Coffee and dessert!
Who are some of your favorite Cleveland small businesses/Flea vendors/local creatives?
Too many to list but off the top of my head… Nathan’s Coffee, With Love and Whimsy Events, Borrow Rentals, Liza Michelle Jewelry, On the Lookout Jewelry, 23 Skidoo, Something to Be Found (Ah, I can keep listing them!!!)
What’s your biggest struggle from an artistic standpoint?
Getting overwhelmed with too many ideas and not knowing where to start.
What’s your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
Wearing so many hats!! Let’s see… accountant, marketer, help desk, customer service, production—you have to do it all in some form especially when you’re a solo entrepreneur. Thank god for my husband!!
Where you can find me…
- during the day?: I keep a pretty loose schedule so it varies. Some weeks is a lot of meetings and collaboration time with other creatives and business folk. Other weeks I’m at home researching, developing ideas, working on client projects, and creating. I also make it a point to walk and/or dance everyday.
- in the evening?: At home with my husband and dog!
- on weekends?: Get togethers with friends, traveling to visit family and friends, working on our house and some relaxation time.