Right now, things in our world are uncertain, but small businesses are also finding ways to stay inspired right now. We caught up to some amazing, empowered business owners and entrepreneurs who are keeping it REAL and positive in their spaces. Here’s what they had to say!

Meet Reiko, small business owner and ceramics superstar.

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.

I make functional pottery and jewelry for everyday use. Ceramics has been my love forever but I have been running it as a business since 2012, while I was pregnant with our second child. It was a slow start as I was the primary care-taker and had to steal time during naps and after children’s bedtime but fast forward a few years, I feel so grateful that somehow I get to call this my job!

How have you had to adjust during these uncertain times?

I moved the studio back to my basement for the time being, and like everyone else, I’m trying to balance home/work life. My time in the studio is now very limited as we have two school aged children, which is challenging. But the studio has always been my solace and keeps me moving forward.

What good things have you learned that you may use going forward?

In the first week of school/business closures, I felt quite helpless, unfocused. I wanted to contribute to the community somehow , that’s why I launched the #tinysmiles fundraiser for those most affected by COVID-19. It feels great to use my craft to make a difference, I want to explore how I can continue to give back to the community as an artist, beyond this current situation.

Thoughts on future?

That’s a tough one! There are so many uncertainties that thinking about the future makes me anxious. How long will social distancing continue? How many of our small businesses will survive? How many deaths will our world endure? There will certainly be a sense of grief that will go on for a long while after the virus settles. What gives me hope is seeing our community come together in so many ways, and I believe that together, we will come through the other side.

Meet Leslie, small business owner, tarot reader and vintage fashion expert!

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.

Juju started as an Etsy shop in 2012 selling vintage clothing.  As a fashion merchandising graduate, I always had a vision for retail.  Fashion (and tarot) has been in my blood, generations back.  Merging the two made the most sense. I opened the brick and morter in 2016. Since then, I have moved the vintage to an online platform (Instagram @ceremonial_vtg)  and focused on tarot + ritual in the shop.  I call it a ceremonial lifestyle store. 

How have you had to adjust during these uncertain times?

Flexibility is key here.  I’ve moved to a complete, virtual platform.  Which has been necessary, but also, these are areas I have been working to manifest; expansion. So this has forced me to do things I have been meaning to do for a couple years. I am available for virtual tarot readings on an international level now.  I have an online offering where people from all over are able to shop. I have rippled out and been able to work with a vast community.  This has always been important to me and now I am able to really reach and share across the globe.

What good things have you learned that you may use going forward?

I love the virtual readings.  It has been a great way to connect with people all over.  Already, I have had readings in Spain and New Zealand. I create ritual space when I do these readings and it has been a beloved, sacred practice.  I have shared tarot messages on Instagram and TikTok doing one card pulls for the day.  Many people have shared with me that the messages are soothing and resonate with what they are currently feeling.  Which is why I have done more IGTV.  I’ve been reading and doing small ritual to bring us all together.  People are seeking the connection to others now, more than ever.  We used to have a love/ hate realtionship with our phones and now its a touchstone. 

Thoughts on future?

I think it’s really hard to say.  I would love to say that it’s all going to be ok, but we have some miles ahead of us.  People are experiencing great loss. I think what’s more important is to focus on right NOW. What can we do today that can ease our minds?  What can we do today that can help someone else?  What is unfolding beautifully is that people are realizing what’s essential, and coming together to help one another. Yes, this a major transformation for all, in that, what we learn throughout this will change us. For some, that may be spiritual.  For others, maybe not. Personally, I am hopeful.  I have had beautiful dreams of an abundant Earth.  One in which we all live side by side, harmoniously. 

Meet Christina, small business owner and artist advocate.

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.

Pullproof Studio is a membership-based screenprinting studio, artist collective, and gallery space based in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My 4 friends from college and I started Pullproof in early 2018 because we collectively wanted an affordable screenprinting studio to work out of that we could also share with our community. We got started by finding a space we loved, running a crowdfunding campaign where we raised over $17,000 in 2 months, then using the funds raised to fix up the space and purchase screenprinting equipment. It’s been a blast ever since we officially opened our doors to the public in July 2018. As of today, we’re made of 10 members, and exhibit a new artist every month in our gallery.

How have you had to adjust during these crazy times?

Since we still have a lot of work to do, we’ve been meeting via video chat. We’ve closed our space to our members and to the public for now, so we’re figuring out ways to adapt our business model to these crazy times. For example, since we can’t host art openings or studio visits, we are thinking about ways to share art through digital means, such as livestreams or social media.

What good things have you learned that you may use going forward?

Good things I have learned during these times is how to communicate better and being flexible. Since we physically cannot be with each other right now, we’ve had to rely on email, instant message, or video chat to talk to each other. I’m starting to learn how to incorporate more of myself and my feelings through these modes of communication, which is a new skill that I will carry on to the future.

I’ve also learned to be more flexible during these times. The world has been changing on a daily basis, and to be a good teammate at Pullproof, I’ve had to become as flexible as possible to help make tough decisions such as closing our space to the public and postponing our future events. It’s been a wild ride, but we’ve come together to be adaptable and understanding so we can go through these times in stride.

Thoughts on future?

For the future, I hope we get through these times stronger, healthier, and smarter. Ultimately, I think people will revisit their passion for art during these long periods of time at home, and there will be more public support for Pullproof Studio than ever before.

Meet Gab, small business owner and baker extraordinaire.

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.

I started Pigeon Bagels as a pop up wholesale bakery.  After messing with bagel recipes, I started selling to coffee shops in my area and sold at farmers markets for two years before settling on a retail space.  Now Pigeon is a cafe where we sell our bagels in bulk as well as a selection of sandwiches and coffee.

How have you had to adjust during these uncertain times?

Initially, the shop operated pick up only style, however I ended up closing after realizing the obligation to keep my staff and customers safest at this time.  With baking supplies at an all time high demand, I have been selling our flours and some other home baker essentials. Our merchandise is selling faster than ever and a lot of customers have shown their support by buying gift cards.  Customers are also able to support the staff right now by contributing to our virtual tip jar.

What good things have you learned that you may use going forward?

Going forward, I am learning that anything can happen and you have to be ready to adjust.  My business is so young, but already it has changed forms many times. I feel like this has made me particularly flexible to accommodate challenges such as this.

Thoughts on future?

I am looking forward to opening my shop back up and to see the community come back together.  It is so hard to be missing all the smiling faces of regulars at this time. It will also be so great to get back together with my amazing staff.

We want to hear from you, Aerie Fam! How are you staying inspired in today’s uncertain world? What is inspiring and empowering you? Let us know in the comments below.

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