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We got the pleasure to chat a little bit with Kelly from Great Lake Outfitters over on the Small Batch Dispatch today.  Check it out here, and Happy 4th of July, friends!

I had dinner with a particularly great friend of mine tonight. She’s one of those people who has seen me through it all– the ups and downs, the not-so-cute moments, the holidays when I was alone, and many of my most fun times.  We’re lucky enough to find ourselves working on a project again, so it affords us happy hour guacamole meetings and Sunday brunch design-a-thons. Tonight she told me something that I needed to hear, after I shared a side of my life with her that I rarely speak about these days. But most importantly, we talked as though we were family.  I shared with her all our great new plans to move the office officially out of my apartment, something that I’ve been struggling to do since early Spring when we went from a Flea duo (Sarah + I) to a family of 6 (with Gina, Heidi, Emilie and Emily). This baby business of mine is growing up, and it’s time to let go of the fear that it will fall apart and embrace the abundance that a team this talented can make for our city and the creatives we love.  Granted, we’re moving up slowly. We’re partnering with a local business who we love, and who we have great synergy with, who just happens to have a beautiful second-level space that needs a little bit of love. It’ll be a super fun design project, and we’ll also get to flex our muscles back into the on-site support we crave, with meet-ups, happy hours, workshops and lectures for our creative clients and colleagues. It’s exciting, and it feels about time. It’s hard to let go of the really big things you’ve been wishing for, but sometimes the small steps feel just as good. Today, I’m celebrating our leap into a real office, and of taking my personal space back for just me. How lucky I am to be right where I stand.

xo,

S

Tasting Tuesdays

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

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At Indie Foundry, we believe that creative courage is the foundation that you (as a creative maker and daring doer) need to get your dreams off the ground.  We also know that sharing that dream with others gets you closer to a brand that feels like “you”. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for years, your brand evolves just like your life. By asking our clients to talk about the passion behind their business, we reveal a lot about what their authentic message is and who they should be reaching out to as collaborators an customers.

And trust us, we love helping you get closer to living that dream life of yours just as much as we love tasting small batch goodies. So, we’re looking for artisan food businesses to share small bites and small talk with us every other Tuesday at our offices, or in your shop. We’ll get cozy, learn about what’s important to you these days and ask the right questions to get our readers and your customers to understand a bit more about what it takes to run this small-batch business of yours.

Want to start the conversation about your artisan food business?  Just email Stephanie to get on the schedule and into the studio.  stephanie@indiefoundry.com

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Well, we did it!  We recorded our first podcast. And I’ll tell you, it sounds like a first podcast. But that’s ok- it’s better to start than just continually think about it forever, right? You can listen to Gina, Sarah and I talk about the behind-the-scenes of the Flea, our recent Kickstarter campaign, why we don’t have a Flea every day and what it takes to run a small, creative business with big impact.

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Please join in our discussion, and let us know who you’d like to hear us feature on our upcoming episodes!  We’ll be releasing a podcast each Friday, and there will always be a special “FleaCast” during Flea WEEK.  So, look for us to talk all things June Flea next Friday, June 12!

Happy Weekend, friends.

xo,

steph

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So you may have noticed that we’re going through a bit of re-branding and re-building.  It’s time.  I’ve spent the last 2-3 years building The Cleveland Flea and now that we have a bad-ass team over there,  it’s time for me to turn my focus back to helping more creative dreamers turn that idea into something that brings them purpose and money.   We’re looking at building out an office very soon.  Legit, I know!  But that’s what I’m here to talk about today.  How can we help you feel legit as a business owner or daring dreamer?  We work with all sorts of creatives, from makers to champions of this fair city itself.  We help our clients tell their stories and share their passions with the world.  We arm them with beautiful graphics and well-written words but we also arm them with legitimacy that YES this dream is actually real.  Their passion can be seen on the pages and guides that we design for them, the booth spaces and interiors that we set in motion, the taglines and business cards that they proudly carry with them.  And most importantly, their brand supports the beautiful products and services they lovingly craft for their clients.  We also see so many aspiring to-be’s out there, chasing dreams and looking for a creative community to gain support and build their creative courage.  Well, we’ve got something exciting for you.

We’re turning our one-on-one Brand Blueprint into an e-learning course, to help more of you dreamers get out there doing, making and changing our world. If you’re interested in being in on our launch party, get special pricing for first customers or just want to know more, sign up for our newsletter here.  You’ll also be the first to know when we announce our creative connection events, launch this e-course and unveil our brand spanking new website!

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AND we’re starting a podcast, called Small Batch Dispatch.  It’s featuring the people behind the products and the life behind the business of our maker and creative community.  Mark your calendars and check back here on Friday, June 5th for our first episode.

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What an exciting year ahead! And we’d really like you to be a part of it. Do you know a friend who really needs to turn their passion into their business? If so, share this email with them! If that’s YOU, then go ahead on jump on that newsletter. We know how far a little creative courage can go.  Just look at The Cleveland Flea! It was built on a dream to support creatives and change the landscape of the city, but it started with a small voice saying, “Why not?”.  Let’s build this dream of yours together.

 

Trade services….like a boss.

Friday, May 29, 2015

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Hi Friends!  Stephanie here.  Today I’m sharing one of the most exciting moments of my life– when my hair stylist suggested that we trade services.  Trading services can get really tricky, and I don’t do it often, because, well, I HAVE TO PAY MY BILLS AND MY STAFF, YOU KNOW.  But here is my story, along with some practical advice on when to trade services and when not to.

I had been waiting for this moment for a while.  I’m always jealous of those stylists that have other stylist friends to change their hair for them at a moment’s notice, while I have to make an appointment weeks or months ahead of time, surely knowing that my sweet hair idea has passed or that once the appointment arrives, my hair looks good enough to me to just want to keep it how it is.  I know that this seems trivial, but my impulsive + creative personality lends itself to split-second big decisions (shaving one side of my hair, going pink, cutting 16″ off my hair the night of senior prom).  It’s part of what makes me feel alive.  Executing big changes or taking big chances is where I feel good, like I’m living my life. I’d casually throw out some thoughts to my stylists, like “Hey we should do a hair tutorial sometime,” to which they’d usually say, “Sure- that sounds fun!” but my attempts never amounted to anything solid.  Then, it happened. And then I realized I’d have to prepare myself to turn this possibly-tricky situation into my dream.

Here are a few reasons to trade services and also some practical advice for making it work well.

Trading services can teach you how to value your services more.

Instead of just booking my first appointment, I created a meeting for us to discuss our offerings, expectations and potential issues.  It was super helpful to let my stylist in on just what it is that I do for clients, and it made me better at talking about what it is that Indie Foundry can do for a creative consultant.

Trading services can be a lesson in collaboration.

Looking at this as a business transaction, rather than a “favor” is the first step.  Being serious about what you’re producing and what you’re getting out of it is the best way to set up this collaboration.  I drew up a list of exactly what it is that I do for a client, how much it costs, how long it takes, and what she can expect.  Basically, I treat this trade like any other job.

Trading services can give you some great feedback on client experience.

Because we’re already friends, I decided to bring in an aspect of open feedback that I normally wouldn’t with clients until after we’ve finished.  I’ve put aside some time and questions that I can candidly ask about where she thinks I can improve.

Send an invoice, track your progress and keep an open line of communication.

It’s really important to treat this kind of interaction as you would with any other client, especially since we’re already friends.  Creating a schedule, list of expectations and milestones and tracking time / money is crucial.  When entering into a situation like this, it’s best to know what the ground rules.  What days will she be available for me?  Is it off-schedule hours, or during her normal hours?  What’s included?  How will we track progress?

No doubt I’ll be sharing more on this exciting adventure, but in the meantime, if you’ve got any questions in the meantime, I’m setting up a private chat group for anyone who is interested!  Please let me know by sending an email to Stephanie {at} indiefoundry.com

Have a lovely day, friends!

xo,

steph

Create, Package & Deliver.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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Content.  It’s all about content.  Web designers won’t build you a site without it.  People at coffee shops can be casually heard asking one other, “What’s your content strategy?”  We create content for our clients.  We create content for the Flea.  So, what’s content and why is it so important?  Well, simply put, it’s all the things you say to your clients or customers.  It’s the words and the images that fill in the gaps and tell people how to buy you or what you do, but not in the “used car salesman” sort of way.  If you’re a maker, your content is pretty straightforward to package.  It’s photos and descriptions of your handmade goodies, and your behind-the-scenes process that got that cool leather passport cover out into the world.  If you’re a creative consultant, like me, your content might be harder to share because you might not have any.  And if you don’t have the graphic design capabilities, it makes it that much harder.  Hi friends.  Stephanie here, and today, I’m here to share a bit of our behind-the-scenes and how we help our clients create, package and share kick-ass content.

Content speaks for you when you’re not physically there.  Content lets your clients really get to know you and what you do.  Without it, you’re silent and that’s not really helpful if you’re trying to cultivate an online presence.  Think of content as your brand ambassador.  Good content introduces your customers to what is meaningful to you, in a way that is helpful and meaningful to them.  It doesn’t merely try to sell things or provide basic information (which is most likely boring or annoying to read).  We’re getting better over here and at The Flea about sharing content that matters.  Check out Gina’s latest Flea post on Cinco de Mayo and one of our favorite food trucks, Wholly Frijoles.

Indie Foundry has always been my place to share content that felt very close to me, in a sort of personal blog kind of way.  But now that I can focus some time and effort back into the consulting business, I decided it was time to step up my game.  In fact, I recently hired a content coach and a website designer, so that I can not only create, but I can package and deliver awesome content here on Indie Foundry.  My first step (almost 2 years ago) was to hire a branding firm to help me sort out who I was.  After a good year or more of putting in the work, I finally felt ready to pull the trigger on a full site re-build and also step up the content I’m sharing.  If you’re struggling with sharing content, think about it in these 3 steps.

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Create.

It helps me to answer a few questions about who it’s for, what it is and how it brings value.  Is it for the budding entrepreneur or the sophomore business?

Package.

This is about the look and feel, as well as the tone.  How does it come across?  Modern?  Vintage? Serious?  Funny?  You should draw from your own personality or the personality of your brand for this one.

Deliver.

I’m working daily at creating content for this blog, so my content usually lives here.  But I also like to share a snippet on facebook, instagram and twitter.  You’re limited by size there, which is a good thing, because it should just be a compliment to the deeper content here.

If you need help crafting meaningful content, we offer a pretty awesome product, The Brand Blueprint, that will help you address these 3 steps with poise, purpose and polish.  We’d love to get you on the road to creating, packaging and delivering bad ass content to your customers, clients and collaborators!  If you’d like to know more, just contact our Brand Manager, Heidi at Heidi@indiefoundry.com.

Have a great day, friends!

 

Why Morocco?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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Morocco is a magical place.  The smell in the souks is a mix of dates, spices, mint tea, anise, oranges and incense.  It’s a geographically and culturally diverse place, with coastlines on two seas (Atlantic, Mediterranean), mountains, desert and influences from many cultures- African, Spanish, French and more.  One of the most striking characteristics of Morocco is how ancient and modern live side by side, everywhere.  There is a sense of “this is how it’s been done for centuries”, that lives very much in the food, culture, people, architecture and economy of the place, and that unapologetically coexists with the more modern, fast-paced life of commerce, tourism, technology and transportation.

Hi friends, Stephanie here, and I recently returned from a 2 week trip to this magical country.  I’m here to share some of my journey, along with practical tips for those who are interested in Morocco or would like to plan a trip of their own.

Why I chose Morocco:  Many people ask me this question.  I’m not exactly sure why I picked Morocco, except that it was so different in many ways from my life at the moment.  I had never visited an Islamic country before.  I also wanted to be out of my own comfort zone.  Plus, all the colors and the design and the spices and architecture contributed a sense of amazement that I truly wanted to experience.  Also, Morocco has it all.  They have the Sahara Desert, the ocean, mountains, cities, and old and new living in such close proximity.  I truly wanted an adventure on many levels.

How much I packed:  Too much.  One carry-on duffel, one leather back pack, one purse.  I was lead to believe via various fashion blogs that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by bringing a rolling suitcase through the Medinas (winding streets with cobble stone paving).  That’s total bullshit.  Bring what makes your life easier.  I definitely stood out in more ways that one, and I wish I would have had an easier time managing my luggage on and off trains and through winding streets.

What I wish I didn’t take with me:  3/4 of my clothes.  I didn’t need any of my “dressy” outfits.  No one goes out in Morocco!  Maybe in Marrakech, but even there, I didn’t have the opportunity to be out at any places that would require anything fancy, much less travel through the dirty streets with heels.  Cute flats would make more sense than heels, and even a pair of flat boots would have been nice.

What I wish I did take with me:  Arabic and French translation books.  A giant map of the country.

My weirdest moment:  On my flight back home, I ended up renting an apartment in Paris from the son of famous designer, Max Azria.  No joke.  And I didn’t know that until I met him for a glass of wine to get my keys.  You truly never know where your life’s decisions will lead you.  I booked this Air bnb right when my flight landed at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

My best moment:  I loved Marrakech.  I left with a few amazing friends, and with a feeling that I could conquer more than I had ever imagined.

What I carried back with me (physically):  Rugs, blankets, dates, spices, orange essence, nuts, poufs, handmade shoes, pillowcases, mint tea, tiny serving dishes.

What I carried back with me (spiritually):  A sense of accomplishment.  A decision to take more breaks, to rely on my team more, to write more, to be online much less.

Will I go back?  Absolutely!  I hope to live in Marrakech for a few months next year.

Favorite place:  Marrakech as a bustling city that puts new in direct contact with old.  It’s absolutely fascinating.  Chefchaoen for the beautiful blue colors and mountain locale.

Least favorite place:  The desert excursion.  Seemed rather touristy, but it was also an absolutely stunning backdrop.  I’d recommend it, but I’d also just do a bit more research into a company that might provide a less touristy option.

What surprised me most:  How close of a culture the people are.  People that don’t know each other still act as though they know each other well.  There’s a feeling of brotherhood that I could really sense.

The biggest pain in the ass:  Carting all my stuff with me from place to place.  Also, getting taxi drivers to give me a proper price.  I was told that whatever rate people give you, cut it in half and then start negotiating.  True.

My impression of Morocco before I visited:  Everyone I told was pretty scared for me.  It’s kind of crazy the stereotypes that we carry with us of foreign places.  I was just excited to see, in person, all these beautiful landscapes and markets and cities that I’d seen when researching.  I also thought it would be more tropical, but I’m not sure why I thought that!

My scariest moment:  When I was lost in the souks of Marrakech, at night, without a map and with no access to GPS (thanks ATT), I was a little terrified.  I knew that eventually I would find where I was going, but it was also raining and there was really no place to get under any canopy without then drawing more attention myself and inviting a bunch of young (and harmless) guys to follow me around offering “help.”  It was dark, the streets are small and winding and very much like a maze.  But I found my way!

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My itinerary:

I flew into Casablanca, since it’s quite central to Marrakech and Fes.  I knew I wanted to see the North (Chefchaoen) and the Desert (Rissani) and a few awesome cities, Fes and Marrakech.  There are a few ways to do this, but a friend of mine was already in Fes, so I went North first.  After changing some dollars into dirhams, I jumped on a train from the Casablanca airport (buy ticket just outside the platform) to Casa Voyageur, the main Casablanca station.  I got off that train and bought a ticket to Fes, which turned out to be about 4.5 hours by train.  Ticket cost Casa Voyager to Fes was about $15, I think.  I had to wait in the main station for about 40 minutes.

Tip:  Buy first class tickets for the train.  You’ll get a nice, comfy cabin and assigned seating.  Keep your ticket on you, as the conductor will come around and check it.  Also, grab some snacks and water at the Casablanca station, for your long ride.  They do sell stuff on the train, but I found that it’s a bit cheaper outside the train.

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I’ll be following up this post up with in-depth accounts of each city, but until then, here are some really beautiful moments.  And GOOD NEWS I brought back a small but mighty selection of amazing Moroccan goodies that I just couldn’t pass up.  My first sale will be tomorrow, starting at noon.  If you’d like to get access to the very select items (rugs, baskets, blankets, textiles) just head on over and support our Kickstarter in an amount of $25 and you’ll receive a password to our shopping page by this evening.

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So, what’s creative courage?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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I recently learned how important creative courage is when I lost my way in the middle of the souks, in a rain storm, at night, in Morocco, alone.  Sounds awesome, I know.  I didn’t know the language, there are no road signs, and it seemed to me that everyone around me knew that I had lost my way.  Isn’t that always the case?  So, this is what I did.  I found a small spot out of the rain, I took a deep breath, resolved to find a place that felt familiar, said a few encouraging words to myself and ventured back out into the maze of small, winding streets of Marrakech.  Because if you want to get places, you just have to jump in and find your way.

I’m having a similar feeling today, friends.  At the moment, for me, that maze of winding streets is this crazy awesome Kickstarter that I just launched.  This adventure is so grand, and I can tell you that it also feels a lot like getting lost in those market streets.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.   I’m ready for this and I’m not backing down.  Because, if I’m being honest, I love doing things that matter.  I don’t like the safe, easy, well-marked paths.

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And I know that what I have surrounding me– a vibrant small business community that I helped create and a city with so much pride– will carry me through this.  I know that the sweat equity that I’ve poured into making The Cleveland Flea a launching pad and a support system for Cleveland’s small creative businesses has not gone unnoticed.  30,000 people showed up on Saturday to remind us that they’re in love with what we’re doing.  I know in my heart that you, The Cleveland Flea family of vendors and shoppers, will support my efforts as I have supported yours.  Because a rising tide lifts all ships, right?

So, back to my “girl lost in the souks” story.  So, how did I find my way?  I changed FEAR to ADVENTURE.  I got out of the rain, I closed my eyes and told myself, “You can do this, girl!  You HAVE to do this.  And actually, YOU LOVE THIS.”  You see, there was no other way.  I had to find my way out.  One way or another, I would find my way.  I entered back into the arena with a new mindset and began to re-trace my steps.  With fresh eyes and lots of adrenaline, I began to scan the winding alleys for signs that I was on the right path.  And then I saw it.  Though it looked different at night, I knew that I had seen this Mosque before.  Though I still had a trail of “helpful followers” on my tail, my confidence rose and I picked my head up.  Instantly, I knew I could rely on myself.  And that feeling was BADASS.  I had found my way home.  Well, not exactly home, but I knew that from here I could go step by step, landmark by landmark, and find my way in the dark to where I was going.  It might take a moment, but I knew that I would get there.  And then I felt like a total boss because I stepped up, and I didn’t let fear defeat me.

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And that’s what I’m feeling now as I sit before you today, sharing my story and asking for your support.  I’m crazy confident in this project, and I know that sharing my story personally with you all is the most badass way to put some energy behind it.  Writing and connecting with you IS my only way home.  I cannot build this thing alone, but I know that you would not expect that of me.  Each month, you’re a huge part of making this city great.  So, really, we’re already in this together.  See how I’ve brought you along on this mighty adventure of mine?

So, I’m here today, asking you to support yourself (ok, yes, and me) by donating to this campaign.  I’m asking shoppers, vendors, this city, the businesses that I put my dollars into and the neighborhoods that we support to step us and show me that you see our effort and you’re here to claim your place in this victory.  Together, we can #MakeItGreat.  Let’s do this, fellow badasses and bosses.

xoxo,

Steph

Hey guys! We’re rounding back to Facebook today, because it’s kind of a big pain in the ass that’s also basically mandatory for small businesses, AND can be one of your strongest assets if managed correctly. But that’s easier said than done.

So let’s look at two Facebook-centric questions I’ve received.

Is social media really the way to reach/promote a small upstart “maker” type business? It seems so fleeting for lack of a better word. Take FacebookI will see a post I feel is interesting and tell myself I’m going to look into that later. Seems when I go back, sometimes in just a few hours, it’s buried, or worse yet, I can’t even find it. If a potential customer has to deal with this in the instant world we live in, hasn’t that opportunity to engage a customer been missed?
—Social Thinker in CLE

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook for my craft business. The new method of showing (or not showing) posts to followers… aaahhh!! What is your advice about working with the Facebook corporation? Is it worth it to pay to boost posts? 
—FB Depression

So, for starters, let’s lay it all out on the table. Facebook is not perfect. Facebook for Business is a lot of trial and error. And the minute you feel like you’ve got it all figured out, they’re going to change one tiny piece of code on the back end, and you’re going to lose your mind.

If you can accept this now, you will save yourself headaches, heartbreak, loads of time, and probably a mouthful of crow.

So how do you interact with this necessary evil that refuses to be tamed?

My suggestion is that at the start, you set the terms, not the goals. Facebook is goal-oriented and can very easily seduce you into pursuing 1000 likes. Or 15 shares. Or 3 dozen comments.

But they will thwart your efforts. And even when they don’t, pursuing those numbers will most likely result in too much of your time spent stalking your own page.

So set the terms. Decide that you want to share these 3 (or 5 or 7) things on Facebook next week and carve out a time on Friday to write/schedule those posts. And for the following week, rinse and repeat. Then, after a month or so, look at your analytics, try to determine which types of posts and which posting-times are most successful, and adjust to align with those.

Respond to comments/questions and Facebook messages within 24 hours, but otherwise, let it be.

If you’re interested in paying to boost posts, I would do so for posts that contain important information and/or have potential ROI (i.e. “Our grand-opening is THIS SATURDAY” or “Tickets for our exclusive event are ON SALE NOW” )

Also, engage other forms of social media. Facebook is not the be-all end-all. Instagram is more visual. Twitter is more forgiving (in that you can post more often without annoying your followers; you can’t get away with saying terrible, bad things on Twitter; Twitter is all about holding you accountable; but you’d never do that anyway).

So, in summation:

  • Stop chasing likes/comments/shares
  • Consolidate execution of your weekly Facebook posts by writing and scheduling them at once
  • Utilize Facebook analytics to determine your best post types and post times
  • Direct the energy your saving by not obsessing about Facebook into exploring other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter

Over time, you will get more comfortable with Facebook and you’ll find your rhythm. But to get there, I think it’s necessary to pull back and set your own terms for engaging with the social media platform.

I mean, you run your own company. So don’t let Facebook run you.

As always guys, please use this form to submit your own questions for The Sarah Project!

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