Studio Talk #12: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen


In 29 days, Smart + Becker will be a living, breathing space, a short half mile from downtown Knoxville and it almost doesn't feel real.

The storefront is in the beautiful, newly renovated Electric Co. Lofts building by Dewhirst Properties, and it's located at the same intersection as Bird on the Wire Studios and Red Brick Market. Great neighbors, right??

As I began talking about opening a physical space, I got tons of feedback, let my mind run in a hundred directions, and felt conflicted, but most of all, I felt supported. And I quickly realized that if it weren't for the relationships I'd already cultivated, this whole process would be way more difficult, lonely, and expensive.

I was talking about this with my friend Grant, on his podcast, Who's To Say, and he made a comment about how beneficial networking is, and while he's absolutely right, I just want to piggy-back off of that and point out that the best networking is the kind that happens organically. If you're out there making authentic connections with like-minded folks, without thinking about what you might get out of it, those are the connections that are going to eventually bear the most fruit. And I think that's because there's room for intimacy in authenticity, whereas in a relationship that's clearly built on commodification, it's difficult to get past all the what-i-can-do-for-you's and what-you-can-do-for-me's. 

Think about it. You can tell when somebody is approaching you openly and authentically and when they're not. And don't you feel much more open to sharing/caring/etc. when you get open and authentic?

A few people who are making all the difference right now as I charge ahead confirming art shows, designers, and workshops are:



This talented illustrator is going to be installing an East Knoxville map mural in the space before the Mar. 15 grand opening, and she's doing it in exchange for biz consultation services, saving me some of the precious few dollars I have in opening this baby.

Additionally, we've done workshop and design collaborations, spent lots of time talking shop and coming up with fun new ideas for 'making' in Knoxville, and this gal continues to be a great source of inspiration and fresh ideas.

You can find her maps, bags, clothing, and get custom orders HERE.



Owner of RALA in The Old City, Nanci has been a huge support. Not only does she carry S+B work, she has also been hosting the DIY workshops I've been teaching, and those workshops have played an important role in establishing myself in and contributing to Knoxville's creative community. 

Additionally, she's given me so much amazing practical business-owner advice that only a two-time business owner would be able to share, and it's really saved me time I would otherwise have wasted on annoying and needless steps.

Overall, feeling really lucky to call her a friend, colleague, and mentor.



Where to start...

The first time I met Derek of Bird on the Wire Studios I could tell he was really interested in who I was, what I was about, and what I planned to do in the community, and I immediately felt seen, valued, and supported.

So as soon as I emailed him with my merchandising budget and quote request for him to work on displays for the space, he told me, with a smile, that my budget was insanely low. But he didn't stop there. We settled on a few pieces he would design and build, but he also talked to me about ways I could alter my vision to cut costs, substitute some pieces I already have to help fill the space (at least in the beginning), and some ways I could even help build/finish some of the pieces to lower costs even more.

So grateful to have his knowledge and be able to share time. Truly a maker's maker.



Unwittingly, I've been admiring Sarah's design eye for a long time, but I didn't realize the work I loved was hers / A Name Brand Co. until we met and I subsequently dove into her portfolio where I discovered some of my all-time favorite branding. 

It's funny how that works, and it happens all the time -- there's this way that we just become magnetically drawn to the creators behind the goods and services we value, even if we aren't immediately aware of the connection.

So I'm incredibly proud to say that she has agreed to create S+B's new brand look, which at least includes a logo and some DIY kit packaging designs.



Dani, Dani, Dani! What a gem of a person. We met during our shared adventures on Jewel's Handmade Holiday Tour and became fast friends. We taught DIY workshops together in a new city each night, hunted for the best Bloody Mary's in the country, and lamented over matters of the heart, and, after all that, how could you not become bosom buds?

She's a super talented multi-tasked with a great design eye, a passion for the arts and the maker community at large, and she has wholeheartedly agreed to intern for me for a few weeks and help me open the store! 

Stay tuned to find out when you can come by and meet her in person :)


Y'all, there are so many more people who have contributed to this evolution directly, indirectly, and peripherally, but I have been working on this blog post since 10a, so I gotta quit. 

Make sure to tune in next week to read about all the designers who have agreed to come on board!


With love,