It’s no secret that I’m a fan of small businesses. But combine small businesses, sustainable goods and fair trade and this girl’s ears are perked. Enter Anni Metz, a Chicago girl who provides design and marketing services for social enterprises and sustainable businesses to help grow their brands. You better believe I wanted to know more.
Tell me a little bit about your business. When did you start it? What inspired you to get it going?
I’ve only been a business owner for about 4 months! I started my business, Ethica Collective, in August after several months of freelancing in my free time. I work with fair trade and sustainable businesses on marketing, design, and branding projects. My goal is to help these small, mission-driven businesses increase their brand visibility and share their company story with a larger audience. I am passionate about using my skills to increase awareness about and access to ethical fashion brands.
How do you balance life and running your business?
That’s a good question. I quit my full-time job and launched my business less than a month after I got married, and my husband has been incredibly patient with me as I work to find a good work-life balance. I work primarily from home, and he has a full-time job, so I really try to get most of my work done during the ten (or so) hours every day that he’s gone, so we can spend evenings and weekends together.
It’s really easy to get distracted by things like unloading the dishwasher or throwing in another load of laundry when you’re home all the time, though—but luckily if I get too distracted at home, there are plenty of coffee shops nearby when I can camp out and use the WiFi! Then there are weeks where I’m going really hard at work and housework just isn’t a priority. So, I’m still figuring this out. (Has anyone figured it out yet?!)
Does being a woman effect your business?
The world of fair trade is really heavily dominated by women, actually. A lot of fair trade businesses are run by women and a lot of the brands work with women artisans in developing countries. So far, all of my clients have been women! I really like working with women though, especially women entrepreneurs. It almost feels like a sisterhood or a community. We all want each other to succeed, and I think help build each other up. I’ve become good friends with several of the women I’ve worked with over the past few months.
styling for Fair Earth
What inspires you creatively?
Sunshine, warmer climates, colorful textiles, intricate beadwork, recycled or upcycled materials, innovative economic development projects, and artisan stories. I love the stories of all of the products and product lines I’ve been able to work with over the last few months. One client works with artistans in South America who craft gorgeous jewelry from seeds and nuts. Another works with a community in Mexico that’s been weaving intricate textiles for generations. I love getting to share these stories in a creative way!
work in progress for La Pucara
Do you have any procrastination techniques that you always fall back on? How do you break out of them?
It’s really easy for me to get lost in the black hole of the internet, but I’ve started following mostly industry-related blogs, so even scrolling through my Feedly reader is technically productive work time! If I find myself getting too distracted, I’ll take a 5 minute break to get a chore done (normally knowing I need to get something else done is what’s distracting me) or to do a little bit of yoga. I’ve found that a quick stretching sesh can do wonders for my productivity. If all else fails, a change of scene is very effective—whether moving from my desk to the couch or to a nearby cafe or restaurant.
Do you have any tips for other ladies who are looking to turn their passion into a business?
Start building your professional network now. Every connection matters. I was able to leap into this venture full-time because a woman who sits on a non-profit board with me set me up with a client who wanted me to do 20 hours of work per week for them—minimum. Without that guarantee of steady work, I wouldn’t have been able to freelance full-time.
The majority of businesses I’ve worked with so far are companies I’ve been acquainted with for years, and over time, I’ve formed relationships within the fair trade world and made a name for myself among the community. I’ve connected with other clients via social media. A seemingly innocuous connection, conversation, or tweet can lead to the start of your very own business!