Annual Day of Giving: Nonprofit Love

Image from Big Day of Giving

Image from Big Day of Giving

Since I got introduced to several local nonprofits while interning at a local paper in 2011, they have always held a special place in my heart. It was my time at Vox Sacramento that motivated me to organize a fundraiser for them and blog for them when I could. I loved that I could embrace my love of writing and get involved with my community at the same time.

Of course, my life got kind of crazy in 2012 when I had Cecilia and everything else was placed on hold for a while. Now that she’s nearing two, I’m getting back into the community because it’s something I’m going to encourage when she’s old enough. It makes me equally happy and proud that Sacramento is home to so many different art, education, health and community improvement organizations.

I know how the dedication these volunteers have for their organization/charity and I know that it’s incredibly rare that they are financially compensated for all the work they do. But that’s not why they do it, they do it because there is something pushing them each and every day to give back to their community and help where they can.

The annual BIG Day of Giving is a 24 hour event that takes place from 12 am – 11:59 pm on May 6, where nonprofits can raise an unrestricted amount of money for their organization. Halfway into it, and Sacramento has already raised over a million dollars for various local organizations. Amazing!

I like to do my part by sharing nonprofits that are both local and afar that are shaping an amazing community. You can visit BIG Day of Giving to make your donation for a specific charity, or you can pick from categories like “Arts & Culture,” “Community Improvement” and “Education.”

Here are some nonprofits that make me smile:

Image from 916 INK

Image from 916 INK

Founded in 2011, 916 INK is run by volunteers that get the youth in Sacramento more involved in the literary arts. They hold readings featuring work by children, encourage grade school students to make comics (which appeared at the Sacramento Free Comic Book Day) and also work with Plaid Zebra Films to make short films of the young authors. Pretty awesome work, eh? You can find out more about them by visiting Giving Edge and you can donate to them directly on Big Day of Giving. Check out all the stuff they do and get updates on Facebook.

Image from California Food Literacy Center

Image from California Food Literacy Center

Also founded in 2011, the volunteers at California Food Literacy Center educate the community about food and making smarter food choices that will lead to a sustainable life. They teach classes, partner with other awesome organizations like Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and Soil Born Farms, and organize events such as the Sacramento Food Film Festival.  Donate to them directly on BIG Day of Giving and connect with them on Facebook.

Image from The GreenHouse

Image from The GreenHouse

Founded in 2002, The GreenHouse volunteers focus on the emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical development of under-resourced youth and their families in North Sacramento. They encourage active involvement in the community and participate in neighborhood beautification projects. They just renovated their Clubhouse (for which they are holding a Grand Opening on June 13th) and they are hosting Kids at Heart – Community Awards Auction & Dinner – on Saturday, May 31. Donate to them directly on BIG Day of Giving and see more of what they do on Facebook.

Have a favorite Nonprofit you would like to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +  and Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Bev Feldman from Linkouture

yo momma monday

Meet Bev Feldman, 31, from Cambridge, MA who is the newest mama I know, and the jewelry designer behind Linkouture – the modern chainmaille jewelry company that she started in 2010. She welcomed her first baby, Eve Lily Feldman, on the 17th of this month.

This interview was completed before Bev had her baby. You can read more about her sweet baby girl here. Her Etsy shop is currently in Vacation mode until the end of January for some mama/baby bonding.

Bev was first introduced the jewelry making business in the third grade, when she and her friends made and “sold” safety pin beaded bracelets to their classmates as part of a project for school. Then in the seventh grade, Bev participated in her very first craft fair – where she sold daisy chain necklaces and bracelets. It wasn’t until she discovered chainmaille on Etsy that she got serious about her craft.

“I discovered Etsy and went on a bit of a pearl-buying binge before I discovered chainmaille. I was instantly drawn to the look of it and decided to try it out myself. Before I knew it I was hooked and decided I wanted to open my own Etsy shop.”

Photo from Bev Feldman. Credit: George Diep

Photo from Bev Feldman. Credit: George Diep

With a background in both education and human services, Bev worked with Cambridge children and families who dealt with autism – organizing playgroups, doing outreach and general family support. Before she decided to take her business full-time, she traveled around South America for five months with her husband.

Bev initially started her blog as something she was supposed to do for her business and write a whole lot in the beginning, as she was more focused on the blog she shared with her husband – Flight of the Feldmans – where they chronicled their five month journey in South America.

“When I got back in June of 2012 I decided to focus more on my personal blog, and in the process realized I actually really liked blogging.”

Naturally, Bev’s pregnancy altered her work, especially in the first trimester and by the second trimester, she was feeling more like herself again. Once she hit the third trimester, it more affected the physical aspects of her work – like lugging around heavy tents at the local craft fairs she attended.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“I’ll admit, the first trimester was tough. I was exhausted, nauseated when I wasn’t eating, and it totally messed with my emotions. I really didn’t feel very motivated and wondered how I would ever work on my business… Also, I realized it wouldn’t be realistic for me to do holidays shows since I am due right at the start of the holiday season. Thankfully I am able to sell my jewelry at the Boston Handmade Holiday Gallery–amazingly things worked out really well and I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome handmade group!”

Bev has always loved going to craft shows and knew that was something she needed to participate in to really get her business rolling. Like anyone who is just starting out, Bev was nervous about applying and says she has been rejected from a couple of shows. However, she has also been surprised by the shows she did accepted into.

“It is a lot harder than I thought it would be (both getting accepted and actually participating in them), but it was well worth it in regards to exposing my work to more people and connecting to the handmade community in the Boston area.”

Depending on what’s going on that week, the amount of jewelry Bev makes per week varies. If she has a craft show one week, she will focus on creating new pieces and restocking her inventory – meaning she will average about 30 pieces per week. Other weeks, she will focus more on blogging and less on creating jewelry.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“Some days I am more focused on blogging, other days it is preparing for a show and making jewelry. Each day is so different it is hard to say what a normal day is for me! The one thing that is consistent is how shockingly fast each day goes by.”

Bev’s workspace also doubles as their kitchen table, which she says drives her husband a little crazy, especially when she is making jewelry! The large size and brightness of her kitchen makes it a good space to work, although she would love to have a little studio of her own, one day. She says her inspiration for designs can either come from wandering around a bead shop for a while and looking at all the different beads, and sometimes an idea might just pop in her head.

“Other times I will pull out a bunch of supplies and just see what I come up with.”

Jewelry wasn’t the only thing Bev started as a child – she also got into knitting in the fourth grade, when she was home sick for a day. Her mom got her some knitting needles and yarn, and taught her the basics. She didn’t pick it up again until she was sophomore in College and saw some people doing it, then she got a book and retaught herself. Now, she will do it as a social activity but says she never got into it the way she did with jewelry.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“It’s one of those activities I’ll do for awhile and get bored with and not touch again for a year or two. Unfortunately as a result I have several started projects and way too much yarn!”

She also took woodworking when she was in middle school and loved it, and would like to take a class again. Another hobby she has wanted to try for years is glassblowing.

For Bev, the best thing about running her own business is learning new skills that she probably wouldn’t use otherwise, and making her own schedule. The scariest part is identifying herself as both a jewelry artist and a blogger.

“I have also gained a lot of confidence in myself and surprised myself with what I am capable of doing…for the longest time I felt like a fraud and was going to get called out on it.”

She recently started a series of interviews with a variety of makers because she wanted to support other handmade businesses, something she knows needs to be done as a small business owner herself. She was inspired to start this because she is always amazed at what other people are doing and wanted a platform for sharing what she found with a broader audience.

unnamed5

Photo from Bev Feldman

“I definitely learn a lot from the people I interview–I think they offer great advice, which is actually applicable to more than just other makers.”

Looking into the future, Bev dreams of putting a book together for children and parents. Through her, she hopes that people will find inspiration to start businesses of their own.

“When I tell people what I do, I often get “That’s so cool! I would love to do something like that.” Just a couple years ago I would have never imagined I would be working for myself. I hope to inspire people to see that anyone can do it.”

You can find out more about Bev and Linkouture by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have an idea for Yo Momma Monday, let me know by posting in the comments or using the hashtag #yomommamonday in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instgram. Visit my Pinterest to find more awesome mama inspiration!

Meet the Maker: Jess Van Den from Epheriell

meet the maker

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Meet Jess Van Den, 32, from Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia, who runs her own handmade jewelry line, Epheriell, and also founded Create & Thrive, an excellent resource for creative business owners. Create & Thrive has become a huge part of my research and reading for both my blog and my creative business projects I’m working on, and I’m so privileged to share her story with you.

Jess has not only one Bachelors degree, but three of them – in Science, Arts and Education. Before she decided to turn her love of jewelry making into a full-time career, she worked as a traveling Science communicator for the Queensland Museum and her last position was a Manager at a Math and English tutoring center for two years.

She got into making jewelry in 2008 and started out buying components at Spotlight (the Michaels of Australia) and stringing pieces together.

“I didn’t really have any skills, but I slowly learnt more and more – and after taking a weekend silversmithing class, my course was set!”

At first, Jess was simply selling jewelry because she had so much of it scattered around and thought “maybe I can sell some.”  Her decision to make it a career was accidental, and might just be one of the best stories I’ve heard to date. She and her husband got married in 2009 and wanted to travel around Australia in a camper for a year.

“We converted an empty courier van into a camper over summer, but I had a huge saga of dental problems at the same time that prevented us from leaving. I had no job, so I just threw myself into the biz… and, well, the rest is history as they say. We never did get to go on that trip… but we will, one day!

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Her decision to name her jewelry line Epheriell was easy and simple, as it was an online alias she used for many years. She says it’s the mash-up of “ephemeral” and “ethereal,” meaning “lasting for a very short time” and “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world,” respectively.

A “greenie” from the way back, Jess ran a now-defunct blog called Sustainable Suburbia before starting her jewelry line, so its only natural (no pun intended) that she is dedicated to finding recycled sources for her jewelry. She struggled to find sources at first, but finally found a 100% recycled silver.

“I was keen to find a recycled source. All my sheet and wire is now 100% recycled. I’d love to find a source of recycled sterling silver chain, too, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Like many small business owners, Jess loves the freedom that comes with running her own business, but does admit that she does panic a little when business slows down a little, which fortunately does not happen to her too much anymore.

“Enough years have taught me that things always pick up again!”

After running her jewelry business for a few years, Jess decided to start Create & Thrive as a source of practical advice from people who thrived (again, no pun) in their handmade businesses. She wanted to get writers that were a part of the handmade business community and she will actually be welcoming six new writers in 2014!

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

“There is a lot of advice and info out there written by coaches, consultants, and marketers… but not so much written by people actually walking the talk of running a handmade business day-to-day.”

Jess and her husband, Nick, work in two rooms in a converted barn (she really is a greenie!) and her studio takes up the wall of one room. She has a desk with her computer and another desk for all of her jewelry work. She also has a soldering and buffing station outside.

She recently took a digitial sabbatical for a few days, which she credits for improving her workflow and she wrote about all the changes she is making here. She says that her routines, calendars and schedules ensure that she stays on top of everything, and even though it may not all go smoothly, she is usually able to get everything done.

Yup, that's an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

Yup, that’s an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

“I also have a fabulous Assistant Editor for C&T – Megan Eckman – and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Jess names jewelry designer Megan Auman and Business Strategist and writer Tara Gentile among her many mentors, but she can’t pinpoint where her inspiration comes from. She says that sometimes an idea will pop up fully formed in her head.

“Other times I’ll sit down with my sketchbook and deliberately doodle until I come up with something I want to turn into reality. My morning walk is always a good idea-generator, too.”

When Jess is not busy creating beautiful jewelry and motivating small business owners with Create & Thrive, she loves to read and is currently on her third Kindle. She’s mostly drawn to the indie fantasy/paranormal romance genre and science fiction, her first love. An amateur triathlete, she also runs, swims or cycles almost every day.

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

She and Nick also love going hiking, and traveled through all of the National Parks down the US West Coast this year. They have traveled all over the world, and Jess takes a little something from each place she has visited.

“There have been so many amazing places – each one with something unique. I loved snorkeling off the islands in Fiji; taking a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef at sunset; walking the streets of Paris and New York; hiking amongst the Redwoods in California; swimming in Crater Lake in Oregon; playing in the snow in Whistler, Canada… and the list could go on. The world is endlessly beautiful and I only wish I could see all of it before I die.”

Jess says that anyone who hopes to venture into the world of silversmithing should simply “just start playing.” She recommends taking an in-person course (something you might be able to find on Skillshare) and she also recommends checking out Flourish & Thrive for the business aspect, as she says they are focused on helping jewelers grow their businesses.

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Looking into the future, Jess hopes to grow Create & Thrive and to reach more people with the same mindset she has now – to give them practical information and advice to make their handmade businesses a success. When asked what she liked the most about the handmade community, she said “the warmth and support.”

“People are part of our community because they have a passion for what they do, which I love.”

She wants people to realize that they don’t have to stick with the same day job day in and day out, if it’s not something they love and enjoy doing.

If they have a passion or an idea that they want to turn into a business, they owe it to themselves to give it a red-hot go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and keep doing that job. But if you make it work, you get the satisfaction of waking up every day knowing you’re doing something you love, following your own path. No-one’s going to do it for you – it’s up to you. If you want it, go for it!”

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Find about more about Jess and her beautiful jewelry by visiting her at both Epheriell and Create & Thrive. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. My Meet the Maker series appears every other Wednesday and you can find out more about these lovelies by visiting me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I would love to keep this going as long as I can, so if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, let me know!