Big News. Big Changes.

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So much is changing here that I'm not really sure where to start, but it's all really good and exciting things and I'm hoping you'll stick around to evolve with us and see how Knoxville's needs continue to shape our offerings in sometimes surprising and interesting ways.

I have been making jewelry and working in marketing for years and, for years, those two endeavors had been really separate. I didn't know how to marry those worlds until I began, little by little, investing in this handmade jewelry endeavor that I'd named after my two favorite ladies -- my grandmother and great-grandmother. 

The more I learned at the agency I worked at in Greensboro, the more I was able to grow my business through efforts like producing lifestyle photo shoots for my own jewelry line, which gave me professional photos to use when applying for craft fairs and wholesale accounts; working on product development instead of just making the same things I had been, so when I reached out again or re-applied, I could demonstrate growth and innovation; I completely re-created and revived what had been, for a long time, a mostly dormant website and created a low-key marketing plan to begin getting the S+B name back out there; and I began quietly and subtly planning my escape from the 9-5 life into a handmade life that I could build not just for myself, but to benefit all those around me.

Above: Photos from my first-ever self-produced photo shoot, in Winston-Salem, NC -- back then I was experimenting with lots of eyewear accessories.

It's not that I didn't love what I was doing, but I felt overwhelmingly conflicted. I had just begun this exciting advertising career after years of building enough skills to get my foot in the door, but I felt this pull -- an overwhelming pull to move away from this type of work life and build toward a less secure, but (in my mind at the time) more meaningful entrepreneurial, handmade and freelance-focused life. But there was no clear path and no financial support to help me on this endeavor. So I stayed the course, eventually getting recruited to an agency in Knoxville where I planned to continue marketing by day and making by night. Not a bad life at all. 

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I loved this new life in this new place, but still, I wanted my handmade life to take over more of my regular, daily life. And in addition to creating more revenue streams for my own jewelry-related endeavors, I really felt driven to help other artists and makers on their entrepreneurial paths as well. I had been working at building this, very part time, over 10 years -- while I was in school and working full time, while maintaining multiple jobs after college, while beginning a career -- and there are lots of mistakes I'd made that I wanted to help others avoid.

I didn't know what form this would take or where to begin, but as soon as I started thinking in this way, I began meeting tons of people who were openly asking for help, looking for guidance, and desperate for collaborative community-building opportunities. I knew there was a way to channel my professional marketing skills, passion for handmade, and extensive retail history into some sort of service package or incubation space, but the path just wasn't clear... until I got cast for a reality TV show and was asked to participate in Jewel's 2017 Handmade Holiday Tour.

Crazy, I know.

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That's me, getting on the first tour bus of my life, for the first time, and it was pretty much the coolest moment of my life. In order to be gone for the month, I had to quit my job. But I wasn't worried -- the show was going to air and I was going to get tons of e-commerce orders rolling in and S+B was going to BLOW UP. Which is why I opened a storefront. My plan was to create a beautiful showroom where I could feature and help grow other artists, give makers a place to exhibit their work, and create a production space so I could hire people who wanted a creative job making jewelry to help me fulfill all those orders that were gonna come rolling on.

  Me, just after signing the lease!

Me, just after signing the lease!

A dream come true, really. So I did it. I quit my job, signed a retail lease, and then went on tour. And when I got back, I opened the shop only to discover my segment had been cut and wasn't going to air. 

The windfall this business depended on wasn't coming. The windfall was the only reason I thought I would be able to financially justify this big, risky decision and suddenly it wasn't there, and I was in a part of town where there wasn't even a chance that foot traffic was going to carry me. 

But I carried on. I planned exhibits, began carrying the work of other artists and makers, started getting back on the craft fair market to make extra bux, and began thinking of ways to increase my revenue streams and build the business in other, less obvious ways.

And I also cried a lot, and ate a lot of ramen noodles, and asked friends for favors, and borrowed money. Following your passion isn't always graceful, people, and there were a couple months there where I really don't know how I would have survived without the grace and faith of a few key people who, for whatever reason, had decided they wanted to be in my corner. 

In one of my darkest moments, and the hardest months by far, I was wailing to a friend about how scared I was about the future and how unclear I felt about what to do next, so it really surprised me when she started smiling. She said, "You know what? This sounds like every meaningful success story I've ever heard."

I didn't understand at first, but then she continued -- "All the people I look up to, and entrepreneurs who are doing cool shit who are sharing their stories on podcasts, have all been exactly where you are..."

And our conversation became about how this really hard, scary part ends up being the best part, because it's where you learn and it's how you grow.

So here I am in the moment where I'm able to look back at that uncomfortably not-so-distant moment and say, "I get it." I had a very short period of time to figure out, now that I was in this space outside of downtown, how I was going to make $$ and continue serving artists, but with the help of my mentors and my right-hand woman Joanna, I've been able to make some important decisions about how S+B the storefront is going to function, and how I am going to continue developing a path to helping others. 

The best part about realizing that retail alone wasn't going to cut it, no matter how much marketing I did, was that I really got a chance to step back and ask myself what I actually enjoyed doing. I gave myself the chance to strip everything away and ask myself, "What gives you purpose?"

  Photo by Holly Rainey.

Personally, sitting in a shop all day waiting to sell things doesn't give me purpose. But I DO love planning shows, gathering people together for art events, and training others on how to improve their businesses. I LOVE developing creative business incubation opportunities, product development, marketing strategy, and coaching, and I actually really love out of town shows, but the day-to-day retail "business" pulls my energy from the efforts that really provide a return for myself (emotionally and financially) and for all those involved with S+B soooooo, this is what's happening....

  • We will no longer have TH - SU hours, but we will have two really fun shopping days a month that will be organized around art and creativity-driven events.
  • In addition to those special 'pop-up retail' days each month, we'll continue hosting free monthly craft nights as well as DIY Workshops led by a variety of instructors.
  • Our hours will now be:
    • 12-10p every First Friday
    • 12-7p every Third Saturday
    • Hours may temporarily expand nearer to holiday season, so stay tuned to Instagram for updates
    • We're still available by appointment! Need a gift? Want to experience that month's show? Don't distress -- we're usually there and live close enough to happily meet you at the space any 'ole time. Just DM us, call 828.707.8532, or email info@smartandbeckercreative.com
  • The retail collection will be whittled down a bit to highlight just a couple regular exhibitors outside of pop-ups and First Friday events, during which we'll add in more work to coordinate with that month's show -- this is especially exciting because it means things will always be fresh for those bi-monthly shopping days!
  • Joanna and I are creating two collections -- BUILD + LAYER -- that will be the foundation of the shop's offerings and we'll also be available for custom work, so, again, feel free to make an appointment to create your OOAK, handcrafted accessories.
  • I am personally developing HEAPS of programming around creative entrepreneurship and the incubation of maker-focused businesses, so stay tuned for information about all that.
  • Overall, the look and feel of the S+B messaging is going to change. The website has already begun transitioning, and there will be a much heavier focus on overall creative development and artistic inspiration, including business tips, artist spotlights, creative collaboration highlights, creative crushes, and inspirational eye candy.

In conclusion, S+B is going to focus more on serving through social media, helping through consultations and our marketing services, creating unique shopping experiences, and developing even more incubation opportunities for maker-focused businesses. 

This weekend will be our last full retail weekend and, in celebration, all clothing is 40% off! Come in and celebrate change with us -- it's a good thing.