First DIY Business Association Conference to kick serious creative ass

18 Mar

Meet the first-half of the event speakers who will inspire with killer advice and expertise for small businesses and freelancers

By Amy Schroeder

The first Brooklyn DIY Business Association Conference is an incubator for the DIYT (do-it-yourself-together) crowd.

The one-day event is a talent show for productivity, a swap meet for arty types, a crucial meeting of the minds, a think tank for the Creative New Economy. Scheduled for Saturday, June 25, the conference will spread its wings in several locations in DUMBO, including Etsy Labs.

Rumored to be one of the least boring conferences of the summer, you can score updates and registration details here on and Twitter at @diybusiness.


When attendees apply for the DIYBA Conference, they will answer questions that illustrate their skill sets, goals, and what they need help with. Conference administrators will carefully curate attendees’ experiences, teaming them up with fellow attendees and professional consultants who will provide connections, networking opportunities, and feedback. The application process is not meant to be exclusive—instead, it’s intended to ensure attendees obtain valuable resources and walk away with next steps to grow their businesses and freelance careers. Some may even start thriving businesses together!

The Brooklyn Conference will connect these communities:

• Visual Artisans: The Etsy community, crafters, painters, etc.

• The Music Industry: Musicians, producers, publicists, record-label owners, music publishers, recording engineers, booking agents, managers 

• Communicators: Freelance writers and journalists, editors, graphic designers, videographers, filmmakers, content producers and strategists, social-networking gurus

• Internet Gurus: Web designers, web developers, e-book and e-newsletter developers

• Support Professionals: Lawyers, business consultants, accountants, bookkeepers

• Individuals and companies seeking mad talent from all of these communities.


The Art of Craft and Commerce

Susan Gregg Koger, Founder, Modcloth. Read more about Koger in Inc.’s 2009 feature, “30 Under 30.”

Danielle Maveal, Etsy’s Education Coordinator, works to help artists, crafters, and makers earn a creative living selling their work. She shares tips on Etsy’s blog, in Etsy Success (a biweekly newsletter), and hosts live workshops through Etsy’s online classrooms. In 2007, Maveal started making and selling her etched jewelry on Etsy and has sold more than 1,000 unique pieces. Since then she’s been featured in magazines and shopping blogs, and her work has been carried by more than 50 galleries and boutiques worldwide. Her focus is to encourage, motivate, and educate crafters running their own small, independent businesses.

• Kimm Alfonso, Events Coordinator,

The New Music Industry

Chris Kaskie, President of Pitchfork, Pitchfork TV, and Altered Zones.

Gregory Jackson rocked many concert halls as touring bassist for Burning Spear a.k.a. Winston Rodney, in addition to performance and writing credits with the Brit, Mercury, and Amy Winehouse. He has a Source Magazine award nomination for best remix, through his work with Dead Prez featuring Jay-Z. Originally from Yorktown Heights, New York, he was classically trained on the bass violin by Dr. Arthur Davis. Jackson toured and recorded with the Westchester, New York State, and Toronto Youth Symphonies. He earned his BA and MPA degrees from Lafayette College and Rutgers University. Jackson’s experiences include extensive world tours, major festivals, and broadcast appearances across cities in North and South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Jackson’s performance, recording and writing credits include Eryka Badu, Amy Winehouse, Simply Red, Leela James, Joss Stone, Wild Cookie, Jeru, Midnite, David Banner, Dead Prez, and Snoop Dogg.

Who’s King? Content or Technology (or Both)?

Ryan J. Davis writes and video-blogs about politics and entertainment for The Huffington Post, and is a political pundit on The Hill. By day, he works as the Social Media Director for Blue State Digital, a full-service digital agency that develops engagement campaigns for advocacy campaigns; clients include American Red Cross, HBO, NAACP, National Geographic, and Vogue.

• Mary S. Butler is a Senior Content Strategist for Razorfish, one of the world’s largest interactive agencies. She is the content-strategy lead for consumer automotive site-content requirements and oversees a team of content strategists and content-strategy deliverables across project lifecycles. Butler collaborates with other discipline leads on social-media content strategy, consumer lifecycle strategy, user experience, and user research to create engaging consumer-focused experiences that surpass user expectations and align with business objectives. “While it is relatively easy to create a Twitter profile and a Facebook page, creating content that will engage your audience and achieve your business objectives is more difficult,” Butler says, discussing her thoughts about planning the panel. “Without the money to hire a content strategist, copy writer, and social media specialist, what should DIYers do?” In short, Butler will provide examples of ways that creative small businesses and freelancers can maximize their budgets with engaging content.

• Scott Lindenbaum is the Co-Publisher and Editor of Electric Literature, a quarterly anthology of top-notch short stories, delivered in every viable medium. Electric Literature uses new media and innovative distribution to return the short story to a place of prominence in popular culture. Lindenbaum’s roots are unconventional in the field of publishing; for almost 10 years, he was a half-pipe snowboard competitor who rode for Burton. It was only after a near-fatal collision with a birch tree in 2001 that reading, writing, and editing became central in his life. In 2010, Lindenbaum was included in L Magazine’s “Young New Yorkers Who Are Better Than You.

Moderator: Dixie Laite, the Senior Editorial Director for MTV Networks’ TeenNick, has been working in (and watching way too much) television for over 20 years. Laite has put the “broad” in broadcasting for a host of TV and Web brands, including PBS, Oxygen, Oprah, AMC, WE, the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and Nickelodeon’s digital channels for teens and preschoolers. She works with producers, marketers, and writers on branding, scripts, promo copy, and the occasional song. (Laite created, and wrote most of the songs for, popular animated hosts Moose A. Moose and Zee.) Laite also works as an editorial and social media marketing consultant.

Gurus of Communication and Content

Jessica Delfino is a controversial singer, songwriter, and comedienne. She has won numerous awards, including beating out Flight of the Conchords to win the Best Musical Act at the 2005 ECNY awards, and a 2005 Village Voice “Best of” Award, in which the Village Voice declared her to be “fall-off-your-chair hilarious.” She has appeared on Good Morning America as a finalist in a national comedy competition. She has also won many other competitions, some of them unusual, such as The Stoned Spelling Bee in Brooklyn, the Madagascar Institute’s Catholic high school talent competition and the Arlene’s Grocery “Gong Show,” which later became The Gong Show with Dave Attell on Comedy Central. Coincidentally, she’s been publicly denounced by the U.S. Catholic League, for some of her viral videos, alongside other performers, such as Bill Maher, Marilyn Manson, and Sarah Silverman. Follow Delfino on Twitter

Justin Bilicki is the 2000 winner of the prestigious Locher Award, and his cartoons have appeared on the cover of Congressional Quarterly and inside The Los Angeles Times, amNewYork, Metro, New York Press, San Francisco Examiner, Cincinnati Enquirer, New York Press, and hundreds of other publications you’ve never heard of. In addition to editorial, he has illustrated advertisements for Citibank, Absolut Vodka, Snapple, DSW, TBS, and Toyota. He also teaches summer journalism workshop on editorial cartooning at Michigan State University.

Moderator: Shaina Feinberg is a jill-of-all-trades. She works as a contributor to This American Life, collaborator with comedian Dave Hill, freelance editor for the New York Observer, a writing and life coach, and inventor of hyper-crafting.

Creating a New Way of Work: How to Embrace, Empower, and Maximize Your Creativity

• Marcos Salazar is a psychologist, certified leadership coach, and entrepreneur. He is an author and speaker on psychology of life after college, Gen Y, and Millennial topics with an emphasis on career and psychological development. He is the owner of the NYC hyperlocal clothing company and is co-founder of the new social change start-up His third book, out in 2012, is about social innovation and maximizing the three essential steps of creativity.

Jessica H. Lawrence is a columnist, blogger, nonprofit leader, Seth Godin MBA recipient, Regret Me Not Creator, ROWE warrior, event curator. She is an expert on co-working spaces and the future of the self-employed economy.

Increase Your Income: How to get paid what you’re worth, how to tap into funds that you don’t even know exist, and practical ways to earn extra income

• As the Editorial Director for Yoxi (pronounced “yo-see”), Joshua Fischer specializes in storytelling, content strategy, and idea and concept development. Yoxi is a creative competition to discover big ideas and bright stars to solve social problems; the winning team scores start-up funds, mentorship, and connections to put their idea to action. Fischer first got a taste for social innovation at the global digital agency Razorfish where he helped create two pro-bono projects for TED, the “nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” His work for the rebrand of the Razorfish company site was featured on the cover of Communication Arts magazine and received a 2009 HOW Interactive Design Award. Having served as a Senior Writer for a variety of leading creative agencies, Fischer has crafted digital experiences and ideas for Microsoft, Hulu, and Universal Music, among many others. He has also acted as a Senior Writing consultant at 19 Entertainment, the company known for creating American Idol. Fischer has a master’s in journalism from NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, and his music and cultural writing has appeared in publications such as Salon, Nylon, and Zink.

Moderator: Mauricio Garcia is the Fellowship Program Manager at The Financial Clinic, an organization focused on building the financial security of working poor families and individuals. A native Detroiter and corporate convert, he has been involved in the New York nonprofit community for more than five years, providing program development, grants administration, and financial-management services for the likes of Business Outreach Center Network, LISC, and The Financial Clinic.

The DIYBA will begin to accept registration applications in April 2011. If you have questions, plesae e-mail Follow the DIY Business Association on Twitter at @diybusiness.


How to create your dream job

14 Mar

Catharina Bruns of workisnotajob. won’t let you hate your work

By Amy Schroeder

Catharina Bruns creates print and screen designs, logos, illustrations, and brand identities for a living.

But with the moniker workisnotajob., her company is more than just a design studio—it’s a movement inspiring people to live a creative life and fall in love with their work. With her inspirational shirts, posters, and other cool products, workisnotajob. aims to ignite a paradigm shift in how people approach “work” so that they’re not just reporting to a “day job,” but, rather, contributing their skill sets and passions to the world.

After graduating from Universität Hamburg, Bruns moved to Canada, Austria, and Ireland, working in search marketing and visual design for other companies. “I was chasing the one career that would let me contribute and allow me to create something meaningful,” she says.

“But then I came to terms with the fact that everything that was expected from me in my nine-to-five did not make me happy,” Bruns says. After two years of working for a large Internet company, she resigned in August 2010 to start workisnotajob., and she never looked back.

“I had to learn that you must create dream jobs yourself, because no one else knows what you dream of,” Bruns says.

So how, exactly, do you create a dream job?

“It’s rather simple if you love what you do—you’ll never see it as a job; it’s your lifestyle,” the Hamburg, Germany-based Bruns says. “Do the work you are born to do.”

DIYBA: How did you come up with the concept of workisnotajob.?

Catharina Bruns: My former job looked great on the outside, but there was little self-fulfillment on the inside. When I think about it now, I always lived by that concept but looked in the wrong place, and that’s why I was always unsatisfied with my “career.” It’s that thing people have who are unhappy in their jobs not because of what they take from them, but because the jobs don’t offer the opportunity to give any of what really lives inside of you. Soon your job doesn’t matter enough, and you feel you can’t contribute in the right way.

What are your tips for loving your work?

1.     Work. Find something you love and work on that. Live your art, feed your heart.

2.     Be yourself. To be your most authentic and inspiring self, all you need to do is do it your way.

3.     Make time to explore and play. This is crucial to the creative process.

4.     Conquer convention. Be flexible and willing to think new thoughts. You can reinvent yourself and how things are done anytime.

5.     Have fun. Enjoy yourself and trust the process.

How to make a plan you can stick to

9 Mar

Christen Carter of Busy Beaver Buttons kicks butt(on) with setting goals for business growth—and actually makes them happen

By Amy Schroeder

Christen Carter works with her brother, Joel Carter

Whenever I need a surefire example of a successful creative small business rocking major indie cred, Busy Beaver Button Co. comes to mind first.

Christen Carter founded the Chicago-based custom button-making company in 1995, with encouragement from the band Guided By Voices, who signed up to be her first customer. At the time a college student, Carter targeted independent record labels, which eventually led to Busy Beaver becoming a household name in the independent arts community.

Busy Beaver Button Co.'s Chicago headquarters

Fast-forward to 2011, and the company has grown steadily and surely, with 17 employees on payroll. The boutique-size company still produces buttons for bands and artists around the world, and it has grown to make large quantities of buttons for clients including Third Man Records, The Onion, Bumble and Bumble, Missy Elliott, Adidas, Threadless, Burger King, and Microsoft. 

So what is Busy Beaver’s proudest button moment? It’s hard to pick just one, but a commemorative glow-in-the-dark President Obama button ranks high on the list—it’s part of the archives at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Here, Carter shares tips for making a plan you can stick to:

DIYBA: You’ve told me that you are “a person who used to wing it a lot.” Can you give an example of “winging it” at Busy Beaver?

Christen Carter: There are just so many ideas and opportunities, and sometimes it’s hard to know which ones are worth doing at all, and which are worth doing now or later. For instance, we want to make our own line of buttons, but, ultimately, we want to help our customers use buttons in a way that complements and supports what they are doing. At the same time, we have so many creative and talented people at Busy Beaver, so we are starting with a button of the month for now. Kinda win-win!

Christen Carter packs a plan

When and why did you kick your planning methods up a notch?

Though we’d done a SWOT [method for evaluating the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a business] session before, we really acted on it in a real way for 2010. We came up with annual goals based on our SWOT and big company goals—and everyone on staff comes up with their own.

How successful was the plan?

We surpassed our 2010 financial goal by a little bit! But more than that, we made a big internal goal to make sure we were all on the same page about supporting the company’s financial growth and developing our staffers’ personal/professional goals.

What’s more difficult—making a plan or following it?

For me, making a plan. Following a plan is just putting milestones in a calendar and getting them done. I’m a doubter, so while planning, I’m always questioning whether I’m doing it right. There’s a lot I want to do, so focusing on key components is critical. I run my goals by my mentors and other business owners—they always say I should cut down my expectations for myself. When I do, I’m happier and see my friends more!

Etsy SXSW 2011 buttons

What is your advice for creative types who need a plan, man?

  1. Think about where you want to be a year from now.
  2. Write down the things that will get you there. Set deadlines, and do them.
  3. Along the way, ask for help. If you don’t have a boss, get accountability buddies—find people who are doing what you are trying to do well. People are usually complimented that you even notice their talents! When you speak with them, ask concise questions.

Do you have advice for creative small business owners and freelancers? Awesome. Post it here.

Duplicated Efforts

2 Mar

Designer Laura Strom takes black-and-white approach with her rendition of the DIY Business Association logo

When it comes to design, Laura Strom is the opposite of haphazard. 

So when the DIY Business Association invited her to put her touch on the organization’s logo by Mat Daly, she was very careful in replicating it. “I think part of what the DIYBA offers is cutting out of the duplicated efforts,” says the New York designer. “Through sharing how we do business ourselves, we are more efficient.”

Laura Strom, a member of the DIYBA Board of Advisers, is an independent freelance art director based in Brooklyn. She got her start at The Chicago Reader and Venus Zine before working for Time Out New York, where she art directed photo shoots, conceived covers, and collaborated in the overall redesign of the magazine. 

Strom assisted in the implementation of Latina magazine’s redesign, which was recognized by the Society of Publication designers in 2009. She also has developed marketing materials for Travel + Leisure and Saveur, page design for Elle Decor, and packaging, album art, and environmental signage for clients engaged in arts and culture.


“Always give your client what they ask for and give them something smarter, something special, a design customized for their unique needs. To do that, you must know their business just as well or better than they do. Sometimes they’ll go for the big idea, and you both win.”

This is the second rendition of the DIY Business Association logo. View the first rendition, by Denise Gibson, here.

Would you like to submit a logo design? Get in touch to talk shop at amy [at]

Tell someone what you need and see what happens

23 Feb

This lit magazine’s art direction makes me want to get busy and do stuff

By Amy Schroeder

MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine has been making cool concepts and covers for years, but the last few issues are really doing it for me:

MAKE issue 10

MAKE issue 9

The freelancer’s survival guide

22 Feb

Journalist Frieda Klotz shares six not-so-secrets for success

By Amy Schroeder

You’d think that a University of Oxford education and a prestigious position as an ancient Greek literature lecturer would keep someone on a path as a lifelong academic.  

Though that was Dr. Frieda Klotz’s life at age 29, the native Irishwoman left her job at King’s College in London to embark on a “freer life” in New York. In 2008, Klotz accepted a scholarship to New York University’s journalism school with the goal of becoming a freelance journalist.

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t focused on one topic,” she says. “My first experience as a journalist was covering Skin Two Expo in 2007. I interviewed a guy wearing a tutu and a cast on his leg. I realized being a journalist was not work in the traditional sense, and I loved it.”

Fast-forward a few years, and Klotz has attained her goal. As a U.S. citizen, she is able to earn a living stateside as a freelance culture and lifestyle reporter for publications including the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times,, the Irish Times, and the Irish Sunday Independent.

Some of her favorite pieces to produce include the controversial “Two Men and a Baby,” about a gay Irish couple who had an American woman act as a surrogate mother for their child, “Irish prose through a cracked lookingglass” in the Independent, and a review of a book of conversations with Seamus Heaney for Prospect Magazine .

Here, Klotz shares her tips for a successful freelance career.

1. Work for people who pay properly and on time.

Klotz prioritizes high-paying assignments. “If an article covers my rent, I consider that being paid well,” Klotz says. “I have a friend who writes for Cell magazine, and he gets paid something like $5 per word.”

As for unpaid and underpaid opportunities, Klotz says they’re OK so long as they make strategic sense. For example, when Klotz was cutting her chops as a writer, she interned for the Erotic Review in England for three weeks—and the experience quickly led to paying assignments.

2. Work for people who provide feedback.

Granted, it may be difficult for deadline-pressed editors to provide detailed critiques, communication is key to a strong editor-freelancer relationship. “Good feedback builds up my loyalty to a publication,” Klotz says.

3. Work in attractive places.

A clean, well-lit location boosts creativity and productivity. Klotz’s favorites are the Schwarzman Building at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn coffee shops Glass Shop and Sit and Wonder.

4. Stick to a routine.

Whether you prefer to work in the wee hours of the morning or find that you’re most creative following an afternoon nap, create a system of regularity. “A routine will minimize stress and help you avoid freelance madness,” says Klotz, who works from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.

5. Work on topics you care about.

If a job challenges your morals in some way, turn it down. “It might seem painful to lose a payment, but it’s worth it in the long run, because you live or die by what’s attached to your name,” Klotz says. “And a joy of freelancing is that you’re free.”

6. Collaborate.

It’s fun to work with people, right? Plus, you never know what brave new idea, contact, or experience might arise when you work with fellow creatives.

Follow the DIY Business Association on Twitter.

Fathers and fashionistas

21 Feb

Vogue-discovered priest raises sustainable-style awareness during Fashion Week 2011

By Amy Schroeder

What do you get when you mix two priests, eco-friendly fashion, a mother-and-daughter model duo, and a Central Park South apartment?

A not-so-religious fashion experience, that’s what.

On the evening of February 17, 2011, Rev. Andrew More O’Connor showed his Goods of Conscience line, at the apartment of Coco and Carey Ramos at New York’s Plaza Hotel. The Bronx priest’s separates, which start at about $100, are made from organic cotton cloth that is hand-woven by Guatemalan Mayan Indians.

Father Andrew started Goods of Conscience in 2005, and became an overnight hit when parish member and Vogue Market Editor Devon Schuster asked to see his work. After that, Vogue editor Anna Wintour arranged for Cameron Diaz to wear a pair of Goods of Conscience shorts for the June 2009 cover shoot.

Read more about Father Andrew here:

An Irish Girl Abroad, by Frieda Klotz: “A Truly Divine Fashion Show”

New York Daily News: “Bronx priest Rev. Andrew O’Connor gives fashion design an organic twist”

Follow the DIY Business Association on Twitter.