Crafting a Better Life for Themselves: The Will-Do Spirit of Female Artisans
by Katherine Kotaw
Women don’t give up.
If there’s one fundamental reason why women succeed as entrepreneurs, it’s that they simply refuse to be defeated.
No matter what their circumstances. No matter what obstacles stand in their way.
I know a lot of men who have never recovered from the severe economic recession that technically ended in 2010. Many were in great financial shape when they lost their six-figure salaries – they had summer homes on the beach, winter homes in the mountains and enough money in their bank accounts to live modestly for the rest of their lives.
But they could not, would not adjust. They couldn’t find jobs that paid as well and, by the time they looked for lesser positions, it was too late. When the unemployment rate reaches 10 percent – as it did in October 2009 – employers don’t wait for older, overqualified workers to forfeit their egos for a steady paycheck. They hire someone younger and less desperate instead.
I know men who lost their homes and their wives (not always in that order) because they didn’t react in time to their changed circumstances. I see some on street corners, dressed in worn khakis and Polo shirts, carrying neatly-printed signs asking for spare change.
When Life Gets Tough, Women Get Tougher
Life dealt them more than they could handle. They gave up.
Women suffered severe hardship in the economic downturn too. Some lost their mortgages and their health. Some undoubtedly failed. But I’ve never met a woman who did.
Nearly every day I meet a woman whose path to entrepreneurship was inspired – or powered – by difficult circumstances. I’m honored to introduce you to a few of them:
Tabatha Payne, owner of Inspired by Karma, a handmade jewelry company
In 2011, Tabatha lost a corporate job she’d held for 10 years. She also lost her house and car – everything, she says, “except my sanity.”
She put what she had left in storage but somehow misplaced her beloved jewelry, a collection of yard sale and thrift store finds she could never replace. A single mom, Tabatha became resourceful at providing for her family – from cat sitting to flipping treasures – and one day a friend suggested Tabatha put her entrepreneurial spirit into something she loved: jewelry.
Tabatha thought her friend was crazy. But the seed had been planted and, with a $60 yard sale find, Inspired by Karma was born. Tabatha only makes jewelry she would wear herself and among her favorite pieces are the ones she makes for military wives, moms and girlfriends.
Jennifer Broderick, owner of Jennifer! Designs
Jennifer has lived with two constant companions for most of her life: mental illness and art. Her art, which includes commercial designs and fine art that will be displayed at the Miami Art Biennial in August, are messages of triumph.
She refused to be defined by her disease, which includes ADHD, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and strong borderline personality traits. She has instead spoken publicly about her struggles and her art in the hope of helping others.
“Making art to me is as important as breathing,” Jennifer says. “It pulled me out of a dark place during my childhood and led me into a world of hope, happiness and opportunities. I want my art to convey the feeling of an unquiet mind that became restful, focused and undisturbed.”
Jennifer embarked on a “One Doodle a Day for One Year” challenge, and designs from that project can now be purchased on tote bags, rugs, shower curtains and other items. She also co-owns STATIONTeen, a company that makes a whimsical stationery line for girls.
Rochelle Witt, owner of Earth’s Own Bath & Body, all-natural skin care products
Rochelle studied cosmetology in high school and medicine in college, but abandoned both disciplines for a career in sales. She felt purposeless until she gave birth to a severely ill daughter whom doctors gave three months to live. The 12 medicines the infant was prescribed destroyed her immune system, making her allergic to everything. A popular brand name baby product made Rochelle’s daughter break out in blisters over her entire body.
Determined to save her daughter – and make her more comfortable – Rochelle researched natural alternatives to shampoos, conditioners and lotions for her daughter, who is now 8 years old.
Rochelle’s born-of-love mission led to the founding of Earth’s Own Bath & Body, which has expanded to include makeup and anti-aging cream. Earth’s Own Bath & Body products have been gifted to celebrities such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Leonardo DiCaprio and Renee Zellweger.
Rochelle personally makes each product. She would love to strike a deal with a wholesaler but has turned down two offers that included adding preservatives to her organic products.
“I want to help people,” she said. “I won’t sell anything that I know could cause harm.”
Kathleen Sciola, owner of Rockin Wrapper, which sells handmade jewelry and decorations
Kathleen forfeited an active lifestyle – including scuba diving when she was in her late 40s – after suffering chronic illness that included fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis of the spine and hips and a blocked artery that required a cardiac stent.
Mostly housebound, Kathleen turned to her love of crafts, including crocheting and jewelry making. And then she turned her hobbies into a business called Rockin Wrapper. Like many entrepreneurs, Kathleen wants to grow her business with a company that will help her maximize sales without sacrificing the integrity of her handmade items. She says she is eyeing The CraftStar as her new home because of the company’s publicly stated commitment to selling only handmade items and nurturing the entrepreneurships of people who are too ill to work in a corporate environment.
Too Many Inspirational Women, Too Little Space to Name Them
My list of women whose spirit for entrepreneurship (and life) inspires me is too long to complete in this limited space. This is a blog, not a book after all. And the best thing about a blog is that it’s a conversation. So my parting question is:
What woman do you know who, despite difficult or traumatic circumstances, triumphed in business and how does she inspire you?
Katherine Kotaw — Branding Strategist and Storyteller, KOTAW Content Marketing, Los Angeles, CA
Meet Katherine, a song lyric mangling, dog loving, iced tea guzzling CEO and entrepreneur who’s inspired by the words of Dr. Seuss, the spunkiness of Mary Tyler Moore, and the wardrobe of That Girl’s Ann Marie.
Katherine is the founder, spirit and Chief Storyteller of KOTAW Content Marketing, a Los Angeles-headquartered international boutique digital marketing company specializing in branding through storytelling.
KOTAW is Katherine’s passion project, the culmination of over 20 years’ experience in journalism, marketing, and business.
KOTAW was built from the treasured memories, lessons, experiences and stories collected by Katherine throughout her professional career, which has included an apprenticeship with advertising legend Steve Frankfurt, covering the Olympics as a reporter, writing two New York Times acclaimed books — one, a best-selling business parable, the other a memoir recently adapted for the silver screen and greenlit for Fall 2014 production.
Fueled by dark chocolate almond clusters (by the fist-full) and an unwavering lifelong passion for words, Katherine spends her days and nights creating marketing and branding magic for individuals and companies through the power of storytelling.
Connect with Katherine!