Bringing Home Clarity by Getting Out of Town

It’s the time of year that calls for a clean break from everyday life. The need is strong for one last injection of airy vibrancy into our lives as the seasons change to honor the close of a beautiful, warm summer and to welcome in an energized, yet calming fall. It’s the ideal occasion to seek out an adventure in the natural surroundings that lay just outside of the typical work and life region to build inspiration and motivation for the months ahead. To refresh the body and mind through an environmental escape is an experience, and it’s a necessity. My best advice: go to a place where the breathing room already exists, that’s inherently free from common distractions and obligations, that requires little to no work on your end to cause the recentering effect to take place organically.

Finding your place away
Everyone needs that sweet spot away from their normal routines where they can disconnect from technology and let the buzzing of their mind settle down enough to refresh. For the past few years, around this time, I head just a few hours outside of my loud, bustling city of New York to a charming town in the Catskills Mountains called Phoenicia. It’s actually amazing how much crisper the atmosphere becomes, how saturated in color the environment turns, and how delicious (and clean) the mountain air tastes. I am always amazed most by the silence. At first, I thought it was eerily quiet, like someone just hit pause on life’s soundtrack. Swinging in a hammock between two trees in the grassy, sun-infused yard of my go-to hotel, The Graham and Co., surrounded by heavily forested mountains, the sound of a car passing on the nearby road only comes and goes every five to ten minutes or so. Once in awhile I catch a wind carrying a piece of someone’s conversation from a few properties over, or notice the soft hum of a couple of bicycles as they pass by. For the most part though, there actually seems to be no sound at all. This is the perfect yin to the yang of my everyday life. This is the formula that must be sought out.


Lessons from your surroundings
When day turned to night during my last trip to the Catskills, and I had to grab a sweater for sitting out by the bonfire to stargaze, I noticed that I had adapted in some way to my new temporary environment. I started to realize that it’s not quiet here at all. In fact, it’s very noisy here too, but in it’s own unique way. There’s the loud cracks of the fire in front of me causing small sparks to jump around, the rustling of leaves on tree tops clashing into each other when the wind blows, the attention grabbing snap of twigs in the nearby forest as small animals trample around, and the constant buzz of cicadas all night long. Once my ears had let down their guard from typical, harsh city sounds, and opened up to this quieter place, I was more able to hear these subtleties. It’s a different kind of noisy, and it causes me to tune in instead of zone out. I think that’s the most valuable lesson I relearn each time I go out to that sweet little town. The change in environment makes me feel like I’m turning my brain off to refresh, but in reality, I’m fine tuning and refocusing my energy in an intelligent way. It’s shaking up the daily regimen that allows for a sharpening of the senses and for a refined approach to life to then shine through.

Bringing it back with you
The challenge always becomes finding a way to take the valuable lessons learned in your found state of clarity and make them applicable to your life back home, in a way that will really make a lasting impact. We get so immersed into our routines that sometimes it takes a diversion to allow ourselves a step back to redefine our path with a clear head. Finding a way to bring yourself back to this clarity can be difficult, but it’s an ability worth developing because once successfully honed you will become more adaptable to virtually every situation. I wish I had all the answers, but I am still working this one out myself, reflecting on what worked so well for me then, and how I can find that feeling again while I’m back in the city. The one thing I know for sure about this process is that the first step is skipping town.

Amy Hillock is a freelance writer and an executive producer at ASSEMBLY9. She finds inspiration from following her curiosity around New York City and exploring the latest trends in fitness and wellness. 

Finding Zen In Decluttering Your Space


We all spend a significant amount of time somewhere, whether it’s at an office for a 9-5 job, in our apartments cooking and sleeping, or at school buried under a pile of books and projects. Likewise, we all have measures in place to help us quell the stress from our workload and deal with our other obligations in life. From taking mental health days at work, indulging in a relaxing massage, going to a Yoga or meditation class, to using your lunch break for a walk in the park or taking a quick weekend trip to recenter. Acknowledging that we are consciously taking certain actions to positively impact our lives by stilling our minds and bringing clarity to our thoughts, doesn’t it make sense to also create an environment that supports these efforts? What good is a 60 minute Yoga class that completely refreshes you, if you return to a home or office that makes you feel drained of energy, crowded or anxious? Feng Shui is a system that enables us to calm our minds through creating a pleasant environment, wherever that may be. Using Feng Shui concepts in our homes, offices, or really anywhere that we spend time, is a way to enhance our energy flow, which has a tremendous effect on how we think, feel and act.

Evaluate your belongings
Stagnation is the main culprit of a draining environment but can be easily avoided. In order to achieve this the flow of energy must be free to move through a space. One way to allow energy to move freely is to clear clutter. I’ll admit I hold on to a lot, and was only recently able to convince myself to donate half of a closet full of clothes that I haven’t worn in years, along with books on learning calligraphy and sign language that I somehow never seemed to have the appropriate time available to master. Taking an honest look at what you choose to surround yourself with is time well spent towards improving the overall feel of your space. The first step is to determine whether or not your objects still serve you. More often than not, we keep things around simply because they’re already there. But after considering a few questions, like: do I wear this satin Chinese cheongsam dress regularly? Is this rain stick truly useful in my life? Do I need this electric heater now that I have an apartment with actual heat or could I give it away to someone that will use it? Is my life better because this broken Polaroid i-zone camera from 1998 is in it? We keep a lot of objects for the memory they’re attached to, but it’s also okay to let some of that go too. This method of decluttering is a very efficient way to produce results and start to feel lighter and more receptive to new things.

Hold on to the treasures
There are certain items that are definitely worth keeping around and that will actually contribute to a more positive environment. I call them treasures. I love to travel, and I am happy when I look back at photos from vacations with friends and family. Personally, knowing that I love to keep a memento from each trip I take, and knowing I’d be taking many in my life, I decided early on that the souvenir I would collect from each country would be a work of art, rather than a trinket that would just sit somewhere taking up valuable surface area in my tiny studio apartment. I have a painting or a drawing from each place that I’ve been, and I use them to decorate my apartment and home office following Feng Shui guidelines for color, which is a strong option for manipulating the feel of a space. I have a vivid oil painting of the colorful houses in La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, that I have fond memories of haggling for in broken Spanish with my college friends Erin and Brenden, which I now use to brighten up my living room; a dominantly red oil painting of jazz players, that I bought from a very grateful artist on the streets of Havana earlier this year, hanging in the kitchen where red is said to stimulate appetite and inject a fiery burst of energy into a room (which I sometimes need for motivation to actually cook after a long day); and a painting of the lush green rice fields of Bali, that I trekked around in for hours with my long time travel companion Shannon, hanging in my bathroom where green is said to nourish health, calm the nerves and promote balance. Other things that may contribute to the cultivation of positive vibes besides artwork is anything that makes you feel joy; photos of family vacations or beloved pets, an important object that represents a piece of your life story and wild plants are all solid choices.

Be observant
We’ve all had the experience of walking into a room and noticing that it just feels good, even if we are unable to pinpoint the precise reason why. There are also spaces that feel cold and unwelcoming. All variables, such as color, scent, art, sound, and placement of furniture within a space can be adjusted to affect the vibrational energy. Starting with the basic principles of Feng Shui will certainly make an impact, but some experimenting on your own and evaluating how different changes make you feel will be the ultimate test. Start to make changes slowly and with good intention. Be genuine in your evaluations, and open minded to any changes you may make. Be experimental and a little adventurous. Throw away the 97 samples of face wash you’ve been accumulating for some unknown reason, and make it easy for your environment to serve you and your healthy choices.

Amy Hillock is a freelance writer and an executive producer at ASSEMBLY9. She finds inspiration from following her curiosity around New York City and exploring the latest trends in fitness and wellness. 

Sustainable Storytelling: How Luxury Branding Adds Value to Ethical Businesses

One of the biggest challenges today’s designers face is the ability to create a unique space in a crowded marketplace. These days, sustainability is fast becoming a buzzword for brands both big and small. So, when it comes to communicating the true value of your product, standing out can be difficult.

We’ve seen this issue time and again at Madesmith, where we work with emerging designers who are making beautiful products by hand. With a multitude of online advertising channels available and an even larger number of tactics to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming to find the most meaningful marketing strategies for your ethical business.

But if communicating value is key, we recommend borrowing a few marketing strategies from the luxury goods industry. One of the most effective qualities of luxury brands is their ability to create lasting customer affinity. This comes from a commitment to selling high-quality products with a focus on exceptional design — both qualities your sustainable brand shares. If you are looking for a new way to make a creative mark on your industry, below are top luxury marketing strategies to boost the ethically-minded small business.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH


1. Communicate brand heritage

The most significant aspects of a luxury brand are its rich history, core values and iconic symbols that create nostalgia and establish credibility. By using effective storytelling, the brand builds a sense of prestige through its images, words and even design and packaging. Sharing stories of brand history and its founder as well as how your products are made creates an emotional connection with customers.

While this all may sound easy for an established brand like Hermès or Chanel, as a budding entrepreneur, you can still find interesting ways of creating a sense of history around your brand. Emma Bowen, founder of artisanal lingerie brand Najla does this wonderfully by incorporating the history of her Lebanese-born great-great-aunt Najla into her story. Najla owned her own handmade lingerie shop in Brooklyn in the 1920s and today Emma is continuing her great-great-aunt’s work by creating high-quality sustainably produced lingerie that supports local manufacturers.

Another maker who has successfully incorporated history into his brand is Neil Bardon of Saint Rita Parlor, a limited-edition eyewear and accessories line named after his grandmother Rita. As a child he would trade coins with Rita and she told him individual stories of each one of those coins from her collection. These coins became the starting brand element of SRP as Rita’s high school photo is illustrated in an antique brass coin embedded behind the right arm of each of frame of Neil’s eyewear collection.

A key aspect to keep in mind when connecting your brand to its heritage story is to always be authentic. The aim is not to create a false history for your brand and products, but to share the idea of longevity, traditions and values that establish credibility for your brand.


2. Make it personal

While it’s important for a sustainable business to prioritize the higher purpose of moving toward a healthier planet, it’s even more important to connect the big picture for the consumers on a more personal level. Even the people who care about making conscious choices when purchasing products are often unable to convert their values into concrete action.

An easy way of bridging this gap is by answering the “What’s in it for me?” question for your consumers. When your audience knows that you are paying attention to their needs, they are more likely to engage with your brand. It goes beyond providing product customizations and personalized shopping experiences to creating an overall brand experience that inspires your customers. This involves understanding what motivates your audience and speaking to them in a language that connects with them on a deep, emotional level.

Sustainable clothing brand Patagonia makes the idea of sustainability personal for their consumers through their blog Worn Wear. They share stories of the adventures their consumers have experienced with their old Patagonia clothing and accessories, thereby encouraging consumers to take interest in used and repaired clothing and establishing the fact that their products last the test of time. These personal stories cultivate a community of Patagonia owners by showing them there are other people who share their vision of the world.



3. Be aspirational

Another proven marketing strategy that’s consistently used in the luxury industry is creating a brand universe that has aspirational value for your customers. In practical terms, this means painting a realistic and attainable dream that your audience wants to be a part of. By aligning your brand with your customer’s identity, you can drive meaningful interaction with your brand. Communicate your brand universe visually through high-quality photography, videos and blog posts that feature you, your products, the process and your own lifestyle. Aesthetic coherence in all visual and narrative aspects of your brand is crucial in creating, sustaining and communicating this dream universe.

Lisa Hackwith of Hackwith Design House has successfully created an aspirational universe around her sustainable clothing brand that draws in people from around the world. She creates a sense of exclusivity around her beautifully designed clothing by producing less than 25 pieces in any design.

These limited-edition designs presented through inspiring lifestyle photography have a quality of desirability attached to them. In order to extend her dream universe beyond her brand, she collaborates with makers who create complementary products that share her brand’s aesthetic.

As a sustainable business that is just starting out, your best chance of becoming successful is by setting yourself apart from bargain or commonly available brands. Your products have a purpose and a story that can be leveraged through some of these strategies. In fact, it is the only way to form a long-term bond with your customer and beat out your competition. requin pas cherHogan outlettn requin pas chernike air jordan pas chercheap oakley sunglasseslouboutin femme pas chernike air jordan pas chercheap oakley sunglassesnike air jordan pas cherchaussure nike pas cherJordan 7 Bordeauxnike roshe run pas cherjordan Bordeaux 7s air jordan pas cherlouboutin homme pas cher outlet
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A Life In Harmony With Nature


The importance of taking some time to experience nature lies in its ability to bestow a more healthy and happy life, both physically and emotionally. There is also something to be said about taking it one step further by not only appreciating your green surroundings, but making a conscious effort to contribute to the environment as well. There’s a level of involvement that will benefit everyone, from taking a walk in the park, helping out at a community garden or bringing the garden home and establishing your own green space. Finding tranquility in the midst of a hectic schedule means moving away from the belief that we’re simply too busy, and moving toward the realization that sometimes all we need is a breath of fresh air.

Taking time out to experience natural surroundings

Not everyone considers themselves to be the outdoorsy type, but the power of green spaces on our mental and physical state cannot be denied. I’ve always enjoyed living in cities, from the industrial rust belt metropolises of Buffalo and Pittsburgh; to multi-lingual international hubs like Den Haag in the Netherlands; to post-Soviet bloc capital cities like Prishtina, Kosovo; and of course the king of them all New York City. I think I will always enjoy and prefer the hectic, loud and fast city life. Despite this, I have never underestimated the power of nature. Experts say people who live in a greener environment tend to be happier than those who do not. Researchers have even found surprising results such as the recovery rates in hospital rooms with a view of the great outdoors being much higher than those without. Nature has a powerful positive impact on our well-being through calming and therapeutic properties that can be hard to obtain in a busy, bustling urban lifestyle. Spending some of your free time observing your natural surroundings will promote relaxation and clarity, and even help you refresh your perspective in life. Taking a weekend day trip to visit the botanical gardens and indulge in the lush landscapes can be the perfect resolution to a stressful week. Nature has this built-in ability to engage us in a meditative state, sometimes without our realizing. Even an act as small as taking a lunch break in a nearby park will yield favorable and noticeable results.


Contributing to your environment

The decision to grow and maintain your own plant life delves even further into the well-being that comes through nature. Gardening as an activity bridges a connection between two forms of life that deepens a certain appreciation for life in general. Investing your time and money into the upkeep of plants implies their significance. So seeing progress in your plants as they grow taller, produce flowers or yield fruits will bring happiness and a sense of accomplishment. In this way, we start to draw a parallel between the success of our plants and our everyday lives. It’s a metaphor that shows success can come from a keen attention to details, the right amount of patience, care and hard work. Having your own plants and knowing that you’re participating in their well-being generates a positive energy that can be carried with you throughout the day. But should you buy these plants or grow your own? I’ve done both, and while I really love randomly coming across a unique little plant being sold on a Chinatown sidewalk in the summertime, I always prefer to grow my own from seeds. Little compares to the suspense of waiting for the first sight of green to sprout up from the soil after days of watering patiently.

My favorite thing to grow are lemon trees. I use organic lemons regularly for cooking and realized one day that I could put the normally discarded seeds to use. Now whenever I slice a lemon for my tea, I save the seeds for planting. They first have to be cleaned of any pulp and acidity from the lemon, and as weird as it sounds, the best way to do this is by using your mouth. I like to think that the resulting (and almost unbearable) tartness of doing this builds a deeper connection to the soon-to-be plant. You can then either propagate them in a wet paper towel in the fridge for a day or plop them directly into moist soil. They grow pretty quickly and have beautiful, bright green leaves and a light citrus fragrance. Even people unfamiliar with feng shui cures would consider this to be a “happy” plant.


Creating a realistic green space

City life is often synonymous will small spaces. An apartment with an outdoor space of any kind, from an arguably deceitful juliette balcony to a shared rooftop or backyard is a prized commodity and hard to come by. I’ve been blessed with a terrace that turned me into a plant lady. If you’re lucky enough to have such amenities it won’t be difficult to spruce up any existing foliage or add the very first green touch. This often just comes down to picking a nice looking plant that fits into your specific availability of partial sun, full sun or shade. People with light facing windows may enjoy hanging plants, creating a window box for outdoor herbs, or styling the perfect selection of small potted succulents on the windowsill. Plants like mint, fern and succulents are the go-to for those of us that tend to forget about watering and need something low maintenance, at least at first. In any case, the best options for houseplants are those with bright, rounded and upward facing leaves. These will add the most vibrance and help to brighten up your living space. Try taking some time to create your own little botanical oasis with what your space allows and wait for the good chi to work its magic.

Amy Hillock is a freelance writer and an executive producer at ASSEMBLY9. She finds inspiration from following her curiosity around New York City and exploring the latest trends in fitness and wellness. 

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West Texas Road Trip with “The Weekender”

tumblr_npr2mrHshu1qmyo68o5_r1_1280 It was a whirlwind trip of West Texas just to get away for a change of scenery earlier this month. With little time to spare, Sumeera and I headed due West from Dallas, stopping at numerous towns and interesting spots along the way before hitting Marfa. We’d heard about the eccentric art scene there and the amazing Boyz2Men Taco Trailer, none of which disappointed.


We were naively unaware of how big this state is with its wide open landscapes, we could literally drive for twenty miles on a road without seeing a single person. Endless stretches of wind turbines, oil pumps and asphalt that went on for as far as we could see, oh and a pickup truck in a field overrun with goats!



One of our trusty companions for the trip was The Weekender Bag created by Flux Productions for Madesmith. It’s gorgeous and the perfect size bag for a couple of days on the road. We loved everything about it. With tanned leather straps, waxed canvas exterior and all the pockets in the right places, it’s definitely made to weather many trips to come.

L1000630 Click here to buy The Weekender.





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Sustainable Fashion Business Incubator

This summer, we at Madesmith Academy is launching a first of its kind online Sustainable Fashion Incubator which is specifically created for designers making clothing, shoes, bags,  home textiles and accessories. Over the course of 8 weeks, designers will learn how to launch an ethical online business, tell their story, create and grow a smart customer list, and develop effective marketing and PR strategies.

You can save $600 by registering during early bird days from today until June 7, 2015. Regular registration will close on June 28, 2015 11pm and we won’t be offering this program again until 2016.

P.S. We know this is a big decision. You can read our answers to 5 most common questions here. And, if you’re still wondering or have other questions, just email us at requin pas cherHogan outlettn requin pas chernike air jordan pas chercheap oakley sunglasseslouboutin femme pas chernike air jordan pas chercheap oakley sunglassesnike air jordan pas cherchaussure nike pas cherJordan 7 Bordeauxnike roshe run pas cherjordan Bordeaux 7s air jordan pas cherlouboutin homme pas cher outlet
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An inspired and conscious life through food


Food is a significant part of what defines a culture, and it’s based on more than just the flavors and ingredients unique to different regions. Cooking styles and secret recipes are passed down from generation to generation, usually with a story to tell. Home-cooked meals have a remarkable ability to bring families, friends and neighbors together, and these food-sharing occasions have always been my favorite thing about any holiday or celebration. Today we are living in what is perhaps the most health conscious time period to date. There is certainly no shortage of tips on clean eating, warnings about the dangers of GMOs and pressure to buy organic, but aside from this purely science-backed information there isn’t much out there that shines a light on the more meaningful aspects of food that I’ve come to love. Becoming more in tune with this side of cooking will yield benefits that extend beyond the reach of just creating healthy meals, and move more into the realm of spiritual health and filling your life with positive vibes and fond memories through food.

Sourcing your food
While most supermarkets offer plentiful selections of organic, non-GMO, and even locally grown foods they are missing a key component: the human connection. Farmers markets on the other hand offer this unique opportunity to meet someone closely involved with your food; potentially even the person directly responsible for caring for it up until the point of purchase. This human connection is precious and rare. This level of connection is not possible at supermarkets and I think it can have a profound impact on the way we view our food and understand its significance. Personally, knowing that on any given Saturday if I don’t make it to the market early enough I could miss out on the delicious summer squash (that I’ve become obsessed with baking into bread) makes me understand that this edible commodity is limited, and therefore special. Often times, we treat things that we know to be rare as having more value, even if it’s just subconsciously. Picking out your food directly from the farmer adds to that value.

Honoring the process
The act of cooking is an artful skill that is often highly regarded and even treasured amongst families and cultures. As a food lover, I am most excited when I am offered a meal or dessert made from a recipe that has a history. The linking of food to a story or memory adds such a magical layer to the food that it doesn’t even matter whether it comes from a close friend or a complete stranger met while traveling. Being granted access to the guarded recipe for the family lasagna, or in my case, learning the special ingredient in my grandmother’s rice pudding, is a gift that is meant to be shared. Quality cooking equipment and utensils in the kitchen is a great way to honor this special process and I believe it is worth investing in high grade items that will make cooking more pleasurable. When you have the tools you need the focus becomes more on creating the food and sharing its story.

Creating with purpose
Knowledge and advice on cooking colorful, healthy meals is abundant. I have no trouble finding a recipe that includes ingredients known to boost energy, influence creativity, create calm or any number of other solves. But little is said about the actual process of creating this dish, aside from precise measurements and cook times. When you think of cooking as a celebratory chance to bring nourishment and happiness to others, rather than an obligatory task that must be completed day after day, you’ll realize that cooking can be joyful. The key element in this case is knowing how to create with purpose. Recently, I started organizing monthly dinner parties at my apartment and have found the experience of cooking with my fiance for a group of our close friends extremely fulfilling. Spending time to create food with the intention of offering it to loved ones builds a tremendous positive energy that becomes evident in the food. The process evolves from simply cooking into an act of developing attention and awareness of the ingredients and the people who will indulge in it later.

Most of us have made the effort to live life in a more healthy manner, but I encourage you to look beyond the latest food health trends and find a way to connect deeper with this lifeforce. Fostering a sort of respect for food and achieving a higher level of connection with the ingredients and with the people you share meals with can make all the difference. At the heart of food isn’t simply a purpose to sustain life, but an opportunity to bring people together and deepen our connections. It’s about indulging in the story behind our dishes. It’s about cultivating positive energy during the process of cooking and transmitting that energy to others. This is what truly brings our food around full circle.

Amy Hillock is a freelance writer and an executive producer at ASSEMBLY9. She finds inspiration from following her curiosity around New York City and exploring the latest trends in fitness and wellness. requin pas cherHogan outlettn requin pas chernike air jordan pas chercheap oakley sunglasseslouboutin femme pas chernike air jordan pas chercheap oakley sunglassesnike air jordan pas cherchaussure nike pas cherJordan 7 Bordeauxnike roshe run pas cherjordan Bordeaux 7s air jordan pas cherlouboutin homme pas cher outlet

Entrepreneurial Roadblocks (And How To Overcome Them)


Starting your own company is hard. So hard that roughly 95% of people don’t do it. Fortunately, no matter what industry you’re in, most entrepreneurs struggle with the same roadblocks – fear, lack of money and loneliness or lack of support. Read on to learn how I deal with these three suckers.

Based on my personal experience and from knowing several other small business owners, this is it – THE number one roadblock to success as an entrepreneur. Fear usually isn’t rational and you probably don’t even really know what you’re afraid of. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. May it’s failure, or even success. Maybe it’s of being laughed at. Maybe it’s of losing all of your money. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you let it affect you.

Fear can be all-consuming, paralyzing and joy-draining. Fear has gotten the best of me on countless occasions. It’s caused me to put off what I really wanted to do for months and even years. It’s caused me to sit on the floor looking at Instagram instead of actually doing something. It’s caused me to not want to talk about my business with anyone. And it’s caused me to almost thrown in the towel on a life that I so badly wanted several times. Luckily, I’m not alone. EVERYBODY experiences fear. And after several years of facing a lot of it, I’ve figured out a few ways to manage it.

Write it out.
Write down exactly what you’re afraid of. Your mind can own you if you let it. Putting thoughts down on paper takes the power away from your thoughts. It makes them feel way more manageable and sometimes even comical. I find that writing something down every night before bed works for me and helps to keep any negativity from turning into actions.

Think ‘fog’.
This may sound strange, but I’ve found that visualizing fear as a bank of fog is also helpful in diminishing it’s power. Fear is really just resistance to the unknown. When you think of fear as fog blocking the road in front of you, it opens up the possibility that once you step into it, you might find the most gorgeous place you’ve ever seen on the other side. Fog dissipates if you step into and through it. So does fear.

Take a step.
The only way to see what’s on the other side of a patch of fear fog is to take a step. Write out several small actions that you can take to get you an inch closer to where you want to be and then do one of them. I promise you that you’ll feel better.


Don’t breath, exercise.
Everyone always says to just breathe when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, but that never works for me. I’m usually too worked up to do that. What does work for me is putting on running shoes and hitting the pavement. Or heading to the pool and swimming laps. Exercise forces breath. Working out every morning is also a great way to proactively keep fear at bay.

Take care of yourself. 
Along the same line, fear usually gets the better of me when I’m comprised in some way. Maybe I’m sleep deprived, hungover, haven’t been feeding myself properly or haven’t been exercising. Before you take big leaps, take care of yourself. When you’re at your best, you can confidently (and joyfully) give your whole self to your endeavor

So you want to start a company (or you’re working on one), but you have no money. Maybe you’ve also got a lot of debt (I do! Hello Parsons degree). Lack of money might seem like a great excuse to not start your own company, but thanks to the internets, that’s no longer true.

Crowdfunding sites like KickstarterIndiegogo and hundreds of others make it possible for virtually anyone to fund their company these days. Not to mention, crowdfunding is great way to eliminate some of your risk as you’ll know if you’ve got a good idea or not based on how many people support you. (I’ll be posting my personal Kickstarter experiencehere on Madesmith soon, so stay tuned.)

Get A Loan. 
There are companies like Kiva and Kiva Zip that allow your friends, family and friendly strangers to help you receive a loan online. People pledge you money, you receive your 0% interest loan and your supports get paid back. Win-win.

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, it’s true. For the first year of working on Eenvoud, it was just me alone on my couch. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Work from coffee shops. 
As I’ve mentioned before, find a few spots in your neighborhood that you like and make them your own. Get to know the baristas and the regulars. Every time you go to that coffee shop, you’ll feel a sense of camaraderie and support.

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Find new friends. 
Your friends and family will surely support you (I hope they do!), but they may not be able to fully relate to the feelings or obstacles that you come up against. And that’s ok. The key is finding people that are doing similar things as you and creating a support system for each other. Search online for meet-ups in your industry. Network and ask people out for coffee or drinks. Organize monthly potlucks to shoot the shit with these people.

Incubate or Accelerate. 
Joining a 6-month accelerator program for made-in-the-USA designers is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It gave me structure, business knowledge and daily support from 12 other entrepreneurs who I now call friends. There are lots of other incubator or accelerator programs out there (like Madesmith Academy!). If you feel that something like this might help you, I strongly urge you to go for it.

Renting your own office or studio might not be feasible in the beginning, but that doesn’t mean you have to work alone on your mushy couch. There are co-working spots almost everywhere that will allow you to pay by the day or a with a much cheaper monthly fee than your own office would cost. Or check out Craigslist (and The Listings Project if you’re in New York) for makers in your area looking for people to share a studio with. Maybe one of your new friends will be the perfect studio mate.

Jesse Syswerda studied fashion design at Parsons The New School for Design, is a New York-based fit model with MSA Models and is the founder and designer behind Eenvoud. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her online at Website / Blog / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

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What does it really take to launch a fashion line – Best Practices for bootstrapping


Two years ago, I completed an Associates Degree in Fashion Design at Parsons. Since then, I’ve been working on bootstrapping a womenswear line called Eenvoud. Like most entrepreneurs will tell you, it hasn’t been easy. At times it’s felt like walking down an endless and treacherous trail leading into fog; with nobody to tell me what gear I need or if I should turn back. But at other times, I walk through that fog and I realize that I have nothing to fear. That the path is untrodden, but so damn fun. That I’m creating something that people believe in and that feeling is better than anything.

Throughout the past two years, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a creator, how to walk into fear and how to work when there’s nobody holding me accountable. Below are some of my lessons learned; my best practices. I hope that they might inspire you to take a step into the unknown.

Break Everything Down
You want to start a design company. Where do you even begin? It can seem insurmountable, impossible. Big things are built in very small steps. I have every aspect of my company broken down into parts. And under each of the parts I have all of the little steps that I need to take to get there. I personally use Asana for this, but you could use a basic spreadsheet. Everyday when I’m planning what to work on, I look through my lists and choose just a few things to focus on. I don’t overwhelm myself by trying to spend my energy on every category, everyday.

Find a Tribe
I’ve got some pretty cool friends, but most of them can’t really relate to the struggles and the small triumphs that I come across on a daily basis. When it’s just you, there are no co-workers to turn to for advice about even the smallest of decisions (sorry mom, you don’t count). My momentum and confidence turned a huge corner when I decided to join a fashion accelerator program for USA-made designers. Although the program is now over, the 12 of us have become a tribe. I can bat even the dumbest of questions off of them and they’re there for me. Find a tribe for yourself. They will be the ones holding your hand, cheering you on and picking you back up.


Design a Daily Work Schedule
It took me awhile to figure this one out, but I have a daily work schedule that I stick to every single day. This makes it much easier for me to get up in the morning and feel calm and ready. There is always going to be work and you will never accomplish it all. Giving yourself boundaries will dramatically help you stay focused and not get overwhelmed. Below is my own personal daily schedule. I work hard when I’m working, but balance and happiness are just as important to me as the company that I’m building.

7 – 7:30 – Wake up and meditate
7:30 – 8:30 – Work out
8:30 – 9 – Shower & breakfast
9 – 12:30 – Work
12:30 – 1:30 – Lunch (no working)
1:30 – 3:30 – Work
3:30 – 4:30 – Break (no working)
4:30 – 6:30 – Work
6:30 – 7 – Catch up on emails and plan the next day

Of course, sometimes I keep end up working until late, but it’s a choice that I make because I love what I do.

Hire People
For the first year of working on Eenvoud, I tried to do it all myself – the draping, the patternmaking, the samplemaking, the web design. And surprise, surprise, I got me nowhere real fast. And I got so discouraged that I almost threw in the towel, which would have been really sad. Hiring my patternmaker and samplemaker, Iris, was one the best thing I’ve done so far. She was able to do in two weeks what I had been trying to do for a year. Hire the people that can do things better than you and focus your energy on momentum, instead of the minutia. It’s game-changing.

Save Some Moola
On that note, you will need some money. Even though I’m raising money on Kickstarter to fund our first production run, it took a chunk of cash to get to this point. I needed money to hire my web designer, to pay for my patternmaker and sample maker and to have my video made. For anyone planning to crowdfund, I recommend having $5-10k in savings before diving in. Trust me, you’ll need it, even if you’re bootstrapping like me.


Schedule Play
This is SUPER important. Make sure that your business is not your whole life. It’s not! Schedule dinners with friends / weekend trips / time to read in sun / sunset runs and hold yourself to them. Play time will fill your cup back up. It gives you the steam to wake up the next day and keep moving.

Find Your Spots
Up until now, I haven’t had a studio (I’m moving in with Seamly Co next week!), but it hasn’t really mattered. I try not to work from home as it often leaves me feeling isolated and overwhelmed. I mainly work from a few awesome coffee shops in my neighborhood and from Bryant Park when weather allows. People working in coffee shops during the day are often entrepreneurs themselves, and this lends a sense of camaraderie. The baristas at my spots all know about Eenvoud and ask me every single day how its going (Thanks Black Brick & Freehold!). Yeah, a coffee costs money, but it’s a small fee to pay for an ‘office’.

Jesse 1

Be Gentle
Well-made things take time. A lot of time. Be gentle with yourself and focus on slow and steady forward momentum. If you feel off one day and don’t get much done, it’s ok. Building a company is really tough. So tough that most people don’t do it. Take it one step at a time, keep moving and make sure to celebrate every single tiny success. As my boyfriend likes to say, ‘poco a poco’.

Jesse Syswerda studied fashion design at Parsons The New School for Design, is a New York-based fit model with MSA Models and is the founder and designer behind Eenvoud. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her online at Website / Blog / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

Autour du Louvre Lens Carnet

In order to promote the once-neglected, still negatively-viewed mining basin of Nord-Pas de Calais in Northern France, Pas de Calais tourism department has published Autour du Louve Lens Carnet for local shop-keepers and small companies in the neighborhood of the city of Lens, to inspire them to rediscover their mining identity. We are honored to be included in the Natural Products inspiration section of this beautiful booklet.