From angels in February to suddenly summer and I’m still not sure where the time went. Between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day 12 Small Things was busy showcasing hand-made hearts from Haiti, Kenya and Guatemala along with recycled glass necklaces from Ghana and jewelry from the forests of Colombia. To supplement website sales, I joined forces with friends for a three-way trunk show of handmade products at the Apollo Cafe and also made appearances at a couple of Appel and Frank shopping events including Babes and Babies at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. I don’t remember when I’ve ever seen so many pregnant and young mothers in one place before.
In between shows and sales I picked up some part-time work with Paul Terry and Associates, my teacher from The Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center where I attended the business planning classes almost two years ago. I enjoyed learning about fellow student’s business plans for opening new restaurants and clothing stores in and around San Francisco and remembered when 12 Small Things was just an idea on paper not that long ago. Partnering with By Hand Consulting and Hand/Eye Magazine was a great asset for 12 Small Things this past year, but I still needed a full-time day job to make ends meet.
While attending a party at The Liberty Cafe for my good friend Darcy Lee, the owner of Heartfelt, to thank her for her work on behalf or the Bernal Height’s merchant community, I met a mutual friend, Catharine Keena. I had first met Catharine when I was considering starting 12 Small Things more than five years ago, and we have kept in touch ever since, saying hi at gift trade shows. One conversation led to another and I am now happy to be working with Catharine for her manufacturer’s representative company Keena. Keena represents 30 different product lines featuring tabletop, decorative accessories, personal care and stationary to retailers west of the Rockies. And I feel very lucky to have as my sales territory, my own back yard of the Mission, Bayview, Potrero Hill and thankfully Bernal Heights.
My first week of working with Keena took me to the Stationary and Furniture shows in New York. It was great to be back in the hustle and bustle of the city and I saw some beautiful product design and met many interesting people with unique visions. One of the lines we represent, Teroforma, had a display of custom barware at the furniture show, over which was a sign that read, “Work with Good People. Make Good Things.” I couldn’t agree more. One exhibitor in particular caught my attention, Arxe , from Spain, featuring hand-crafted furniture and textiles made of recovered old industrial materials and antique linen. Following the trend of less is more and embracing recycled resources, this was premium product to lust after, having been previously worn and made better by age.
Landing back in San Francisco, I’m always happy to be greeted by the SFO Museum in the United terminal, this time featuring “Second Chances“, folk art made from recycled remnants. As the show’s curator explains, ‘industrial development and mass production supplies an ever-increasing quantity of goods. Almost as quickly as new products are made, old products are discarded, producing massive amounts of salvageable materials, which become raw material for the folk recycler—limited only by his or her imagination. In the words of artist Earl Simmons, from Bovina, Mississippi, “Everything I look at, I say, ‘I should be able to make something out of that.’ It’s like giving it new life, giving it a second chance in life.”
As the days of summer begin, I am grateful to be connected to such a creative community, involved in producing and selling product that resonates with the conviction of the maker and the interests of the customer. A push and pull, a give and take, and a giving back, all entangled in a life cycle that keeps us waking up in the morning to accomplish the next small thing, that could be big. In the midst of it all, let’s not forget to enjoy the seasons as they rush by, and those who make it all worthwhile. Happy summer!