TPC member G. Willow Wilson is the author of books with and without pictures. From her memoir of life in Egypt, Butterfly Mosque, to her award winning graphic novels like Cairo and Air, Willow is known for introducing readers to stories and experiences that don’t often make the American spotlight. Right now she’s shaking-up the comic book scene with Ms. Marvel -- a series featuring a 16-year-old Muslim shapeshifter and superhero, Kamal Khan.Read More
In our last Small Business Spotlight, we featured menswear retailer, Division Road. This time around, we explore the process of bringing a physical product to market with Certain Standard, a Seattle based company that "believes in a higher standard of goods to equip you for a life less ordinary." Certain Standard launched this year with a beautiful line of incredibly well-made umbrellas and will be releasing other quality products in the near future. We caught up with Jason Sullivan, one of three founders, to learn more about the team, the company, and the launch process.
What’s the background of the founding team?
The best way to create something fresh is to come at it with fresh perspective. Well, we have that in spades given that none of us have a fashion pedigree.
Jason (Sullivan) spent 15+ years working at some of the world’s most successful advertising agencies on some of the world’s most famous brands. Most recently, he was Managing Director of Publicis Seattle, one of the industry’s most respected creative agencies.
Price (Eberts) started his career with a business intelligence startup before moving into more traditional management, brand, and technology consulting for big, blue-chip clients. Before Certain Standard, he was the COO of Conenza, a social networking technology company.
Clara (Mulligan) is a creative’s creative who is one of the most talented designers in the world. No joke. She’s owner her own branding firm, tinkered with her own fashion line, and has led the design discipline at some of the best agencies in the industry. She currently lives in London but still considers Seattle home.
What’s the mission behind Certain Standard
We don’t really get hung up on mission in the traditional sense, as much as we subscribe to a shared vision to raise the standard of the things we make and the way we behave as a brand. We make beautifully designed and incredibly well-made things that make people feel something. That’s why we’re maniacal on the design details. That’s why we’re sincere about the impact we make, and can make, on the world.
I can count the number of times I’ve opened an umbrella. I’m also probably too old to wear wet clothes to work. Can you convince Seattle locals to adopt the umbrella?
We certainly think so. Who’s to say that umbrellas and Gore-Tex can’t coexist? We own ski jackets and rain coats. We also use umbrellas. For us, it’s all about style and making sure you don’t have to compromise it because of a little weather. You want to wear that leather jacket, but it’s raining. Try an umbrella. Don’t feel like wearing a jacket at all. Try an umbrella. Not sure if it’s going to rain and don’t want to carry a jacket? Try an umbrella. Hiking in the Ho rainforest? Even we say go with the rain coat.
What is the giving program and how was it conceived?
Our giving program is simple. Simple, but focused. We wanted to support a couple organizations who are helping make the world a little brighter. The company you keep speaks volumes and we believe in putting that company out there. Not only that, we wanted to involve consumers by letting them choose which of our two partners their specific purchase supports. Our giving partners are Nest (buildanest.org) and Global Nomads Group (gng.org), two organizations that play in totally different arenas, yet share the goal of making our world a little brighter… better. Check them out when you get a chance.
There is something pleasing about watching a company do one thing and do it really well. What does the future hold for CS? Keep refining the umbrella offering, or add more products to the mix?
We’re an accessories brand. We’re starting with umbrellas but already have more products in the development pipeline. We’re thinking blankets as the next launch, but we’ll see. The art comes in finding the balance between diverse and fragmented.
Especially in Seattle, we hear mostly about people bringing digital products or services (e.g. coworking, restaurants) to market. What are the unique challenges of bringing a physical consumer product from idea to the shelves?
In general, making physical stuff is hard. It just takes time. Time to find the partners. Time to source the materials. Time to make the parts that are used to make the actual product. Time to prototype. Time to change or even start over. Time to get it all over the world.
Our process was far more difficult and took far longer because we were creating something from scratch. We didn’t want an off-the-shelf solution. We wanted to create a new, better designed umbrella using materials and looks that were new to the industry – natural cork handles, powder coated shafts, proprietary tips, custom colors, etc. These things weren’t new to the world, but they were to the industry and that took some time to do and do right without compromise.
What’s your retail strategy? Is the plan to follow in the footsteps of Warby Parker et al to use it as a showroom and marketing strategy, or do you expect to drive significant revenue at retail?
As much as we’d love to replicate the success of Warby Parker or Bonobos, those products are a bit different than ours in that fit is crucial part of the purchase. That said, we do subscribe to the showroom vs. traditional retail environment… at least for our branded store. We want it to be a place for people to interact with the brand vs. come to shop. Hang out talk a bit; and if you happen to buy something, then great.
As for strategy, we’ll continue to sell direct via our online storefront, and will be in other retailers soon – boutiques, department stores, and even some cool other nontraditional spots. In the end, it’s about the right retailers that fit our brand.
When can we visit you at the retail showroom? (3801 Stone Way N, Suite E)
Back to the whole things take time topic…, man, does it take forever to get into a new space. We hope to be in the new space and open in early June.
It’s easier than ever to serve highly tailored ads and find your target customer segment. It also seems that there are a lot of well-made products launching every day. For most of my existence online, I’d never clicked on a PPC ad. Now I order products from podcast sponsors and buy $50 towels from Instagram. With the proliferation of Shopify and small, quality consumer goods manufacturers, how do you separate yourself from the noise and compete for your piece of the disposable income pie?
Brand and Design.
Our backgrounds are in the brand marketing world, so we put a lot of stock into developing our own. What do we stand for? How do we behave? What’s our promise? It’s easy to copy a good product. It’s really hard to copy a good brand.
The other differentiator is design. It’s at the core of what we do. In fact, we’re as much a design company as we are an accessories company. We’re maniacal about the details that matter because great design is emotional. Our umbrellas should do more than keep you dry.
What has been the most rewarding part of launching this company?
Humility. Hands down. The amount of new stuff you learn, the process of moving from idea to application, and the pressure of controlling your own destiny, are all incredibly humbling.
What is the biggest mistake you made that you would never do again?
Assuming that you can make a great product in less than a year.
When you’re not working, your ideal day consists of ______?
To be honest, the good life is a lot of hanging out in the neighborhoods where we live. Going to shows and checking out new restaurants, walking dogs, and chasing kids. We’re all big into travelling, so maybe the ideal day is picking our way through an awesome new city on the other side of the world.
Since we opened the Pioneer Collective in 2015, we have attempted to learn from our customers, and refine our experience to meet demand. Audrey did an amazing job of forecasting back when the space was just a plan based on gut instincts and market research, but even she was surprised by some of the revenue streams that emerged, and some of our ideas that flopped.
Initially, we borrowed from the LEAN startup methodology, test, listen, measure, adjust, repeat. Essentially, if enough people requested a feature, product offering, or amenity, we would add it to the menu*. We ended up adding an HD television display to our conference room (though we still dream of one day having a gadget free think-room), free La Croix to the beverage fridge, and 5 & 10 day membership options. This strategy served us well in the early days, because it allowed us to find an audience (and revenue) while we searched for our audience.
After serious reflection, analysis, and debate, we've decided it's time to adjust our strategy to optimize our services and better serve our customers. Starting in 2018, we will be moonlighting our Punchcard, Community 5, Community 10 and Team Pool memberships. It's always tough to shut down a product that customers value, but ultimately we believe it's the best decision, both for our viability as a small business, our coworking members, and our awesome team of staff and community leads.
Coworking Streamlined: Our New Membership Options
Starting in 2018, we've combined the best features of all our membership tiers into two, easy to understand offerings:
Community Membership - $225 per month
- 8-6 M-F unlimited access to communal spaces
- 500/500 Mbps High-speed fiber internet (Wireless)
- 100 B&W prints per month
- 3 hours conference room rental per month
- Weekday access to showers, gym, bike storage
- Full access to lounge area and kitchen
- Phone booths and free long distance calls
- Complimentary gourmet coffee & tea, beer and wine
- 2 guest passes per month
- Member social events and networking opportunities
Resident Membership - $475 per month
- 24 hour / 7 day per week space access
- Dedicated desk, Herman Miller office chair, task lamp
- Drawer set, storage locker
- 500/500 Mbps hard-line Ethernet data port & WiFi
- 150 color prints per month, 300 B&W
- 5 hours conference room rental per month
- 24/7 private showers, bike storage, gym
- Full access to lounge area and kitchen
- Phone booths and free long distance calls
- Complimentary gourmet coffee & tea, beer and wine
- 3 guest passes per month
- Member social events and networking opportunities
- 25% discounted event space rental
- Discounted rates for 6-month or 12-month prepay
The Rationale Behind the Change
As a small business operator, you are at a consistent disadvantage to your larger competitors when it comes to customer intelligence, data and technology. Even if it is technologically feasible to collect data from all of your customers, your sample sizes are small and it's expensive and labor intensive to put those insights into action.
When we started building out custom management software, rather than trying to beat our competitors at their own game, we decided to question assumptions we had long held and challenge the conventional wisdom in the industry.
Early on, many prospective tPC customers asked for a flexible communal membership that allowed them to access the space 5 or 10 days per month. Our 24/7 communal membership was priced rather high at around $325, so it made sense to introduce cheaper options to capture this part-time demand. It worked in the short term, but it ultimately introduced a layer of complexity that became hard to manage once the program scaled, namely, how to keep track of and quantify use-days (e.g. if a member stops in for a 20 minute meeting, does that count as a day? Do unused days rollover? etc.)
We started by trying to replicate what most white-label coworking SaaS apps did: allow users to check in when they use the space. There are a few ways of doing this, including but not limited to RFID, WiFi authentication, iPad checkin, manual check-in, but what we found was that no matter what we implemented, these users were the least loyal, and the most likely to churn. We'd essentially positioned the use of the space as a commodity and encouraged our customers to value time based on hours in the space, rather than how productive they were while they were here. We were setting ourselves up to spend money and hours to engineer a solution for a customer segment that barely produced a positive ROI.
I thought back to my time as a customer of coworking spaces in 2011. People would often ask me, "why on earth would you spend hundreds of dollars a month on a desk when you can work from your kitchen table for free?" I would always respond with some version of the following: "I spent a year working from my apartment and coffee shops, and the incremental work I can get done (or revenue I can generate) in the focused time I spend at my workspace, is worth thousands of dollars a month. The value in my case is unquestionable." In other words, we can all divide our time into $10 per hour work, $100 per hour work and $10,000 per hour work (those key hours of deep work each month which are responsible for a disproportionate amount of productivity, whether that is closing on a new contract, knocking out a writing assignments or meeting a contact that opens up an entirely new line of business). We wanted to tap into that $10,000 per hour time and shift the focus back to output and away from hours. In order to do that, we decided to eliminate all part-time memberships. We also committed to lowering the price of our communal memberships to a level where two or three hours of focused output would justify the entire monthly cost for 90% of our customers. And those for whom the math didn't add up probably weren't ideal coworking users to begin with, and would be better off at the kitchen table until they had more consistent cash flow.
Members on the new Community Access plan can continue to use the space as little or as much as they need throughout the month, but they don't have to waste time counting days, and after they produce that single piece of high value deep work, the rest is gravy.
We are aware that there is the potential for unintended consequences and blowback when implementing change. While most part-time members were low LTV and high churn, some of our most loyal early adopters, joined at this tier. We've already had to deny requests from past members looking to re-up on the old plans. It's always tough to turn away revenue, but we're committed to seeing this experiment through. Naturally, we grandfathered in any existing memberships and will continue to support them as long at tPC exists. Moving forward though, we think the two membership tiers are the best product offering we can possibly put forward, and we're confident that they represent the best value in the Seattle coworking market.
Time will tell, but so far revenue and loyalty are both up, and our software engineer and front desk staff are loving the elegance of the two-tier system. We'll provide further updates at year-end.
*Requests to which we've never acquiesced include members bringing their own furniture, storing items in communal areas, or picking music. It may sound dogmatic and/or pretentious, but we strongly believe that the physical space we inhabit contributes significantly to our well-being and productivity. If a hundred people store boxes and personal items around the space and the music randomly oscillates between Charlie Parker and Kenny Chesney, it becomes very difficult to maintain a peaceful and inspiring environment.
Laura and Laura are the founders of Flying Crow Creative, a branding and creative agency based in Seattle. Laura Figueroa Ware (LW) is Principal and Head of Strategy & Content while Laura Urban Perry (LUP) is Head of Design & User Experience. We caught up with the Lauras this month to discuss a variety of topics, including the state of marketing, design, and the city of Seattle.
LUP, you taught Web Design at Cornish and LW, you taught Business Storytelling and Brand Development at Georgetown. Is that something you would like to do again?
LW: Yes! I loved discussing marketing with professionals who were already practicing but wanted to expand their knowledge. I was terrified to teach, but I wanted to push myself to do something I’d never done before.
LUP: I really enjoyed teaching at Cornish but it was a lot of work to do along side a freelance
design business. I’d think about it constantly. How to express the concepts behind
wayfinding and what elements make for compelling user experiences. But the number
one thing students wanted to learn was how to make things move.
I don’t think I’d teach again in a college setting.
Are there any skills you developed in those roles that have helped you with your day-to-day work or client interactions?
LW: I never realized how challenging it is to prepare curriculum. The experience gave me a whole new respect for teachers. In developing the coursework, I was able to think more in-depth about the theory behind marketing and storytelling and why certain things resonate with people. I love theory.
LUP: People still love to see things move. Showing rather than telling always wins. Asking
questions to get to the real reason for their opinion, be it a student or a client, helps me
better explain why a solution works.
The tPC audience trends heavily toward entrepreneurs and freelancers, but also a number of remote workers who work for larger companies. What are two things, positive and negative, most people don't realize until they've started their own business?
LW: If people thought too much about starting a business, no one would ever start one. For me the positives far outweigh the negatives. It can be tough not to have a steady salary to count on, or not having a staff to delegate to. But owning a business makes you grow in so many ways, such as managing business finances. My quality of life has improved because I control my schedule. And I feel much more comfortable following my instincts because at the end of the day, I answer to myself.
LUP: One negative is how wonderful being paid while you’re not working is. Paid vacations
and sick days are a lovely thing. When you’re working for yourself, you’ve got to make
sure your HR person (you) works with your finance person (you) to set aside funds for
time off guilt-free to recharge.
The big positive is being intentional about the work that you do, the product you create.
Your business is an expression of your life. It took me out of autopilot mode of a secure
job in tech into a more intentional creative mix of being actively engaged in my kids'
lives and designing my business. And I don’t miss unnecessary meetings, the office
politics and gossip.
On your website it says you know branding, graphic design, content strategy, web design and development, and communications planning. How often does a client come to you looking for just a single service (e.g. migrating an old website to a responsive framework) and how often are you providing fully integrated strategy and creative services? Do you prefer one approach to the other?
LW: More often than not, clients are looking for a single service. But that service (or tactic) may not be the answer to their problem. At Flying Crow, we like to spend time getting to know our clients and their business challenges, so that we can make the best recommendation for them about their brand and marketing efforts. For example, a business reached out to me last year to develop a marketing plan for them. But after learning more about their situation, I recommended brand perception research instead. It was a good move that gave them quite a bit of insight into what their clients are thinking.
LUP: The integrated strategy is much preferred. Our added value is really understanding the full breadth of brand and marketing strategy as it is woven through every facet of a business. Helping our clients articulate and implement memorable creative throughout their business is really rewarding. We sometimes start with one project but often our questions lead our clients to consider a more comprehensive solution.
How has your trade changed since you began your career and what lessons and skills are just as important today as they were when you started out?
LW: The most significant changes have been rooted in technology. I remember working for an ad agency and having to Fed-Ex commercials to TV stations. Technology has forced marketers to be agile and to constantly be thinking about what’s next on the horizon. For example, social media has completely changed the way people interact with brands. In the past, the extent of our interaction was buying and using a product. Now people expect that brands will communicate with them, including addressing grievances in real-time. What does not change is the need to be a critical thinker and a problem solver. Good marketers are both analytical and creative, and they know when to let one supersede the other.
LUP: I know the old ways. So if the internet broke, I could still design. The importance of a strong concept and meaning always wins over a polished generic idea. I love the craft of arranging information and ideas in ways that makes it clear. A good layout, white space and visual hierarchy are really important in web and UX work. And I still take time for excellent typography that people don’t see unless it’s not done.
As a small creative agency, I imagine you are constantly trying to balance the pressures of business development with the real deadlines and pressures of client work. How do you juggle finding new business, servicing current clients and finding time to appreciate success and the little wins along the way?
LW: It is always good to have business in the pipeline, but my first priority is always our existing clients. They are already invested in Flying Crow as a partner, and I don’t want to let them down. It is important for business owners to make time for networking and business development, though. For better or worse, I evaluate wins and losses every day. It’s good to pat yourself and your team on the back when something goes well. You have to take the time to acknowledge a job well done rather than just jump the next thing that needs your attention. People need to know they’re appreciated.
LUP: Client work always comes first. It gets the best part of my day. We get most of our work through referral so taking time to tend our network is important. Making personal connections is our best sales tool. Does going out for cocktails count as celebrating the successes along the way?
FILL IN THE BLANK!
A perfect weekend starts with _______ and ends with __________?
LW: A perfect weekend starts with happy hour and ends with dinner and a movie or good book.
LUP: A perfect weekend starts with a glass of wine on our rooftop deck with friends or a paddle in our kayak to our island cabin and ends with a nice home cooked meal with family.
_____ is totally underrated.
LW: Sleep is totally underrated.
LUP: Being totally disconnected from tech for a while is totally underrated.
_____is totally overrated.
LW: Orange is the New Black is totally overrated.
LUP: Snapchat is totally overrated.
If I could eat any meal in the world, it would be _______ prepared by ______.
LW: If I could eat any meal in the world, it would be Beef Stroganoff prepared by Albert Einstein.
LUP: If I could eat any meal in the world, it would be Halibut prepared by David Beckham.
If I got a surprise day off tomorrow, I would _____.
LW: If I got a surprise day off tomorrow, I would go shoe shopping
LUP: If I got a surprise day off tomorrow, I would pretend I was a guest at a downtown hotel, use their rooftop pool and then have lunch and write and sketch in the bar.
1:1 WITH LAURA URBAN PERRY
It says on your bio that travel always resets your compass and fills you with new creative energy. I feel the same way. What is the most memorable trip you've taken and is there anywhere you find yourself returning to for inspiration?
LUP: I won the parent lottery when I was a kid. My dad was a pilot for Pan Am. Do I have to pick one?
New Zealand fishing with my dad and brothers when I was a teenager.
Japan teaching art directors how to use Photoshop, Indesign when I was creative director for Adobe
Going to Spain and France with my husband and kids. We started in Madrid, then from Santiago de Compestela in the northwest corner to San Sebastian up to Paris to stay with a very dear friend and then to an island off the coast of France where her family had a summer place. We were there during the World Cup. In Spain when they were winning and then in France when they were in the semifinals. The whole city was crammed into the metro and the Champs Elysee chanting “Allez les Bleu.”
Though I haven’t returned in a long while, Japan is always inspiring. Everywhere you look things are artfully arranged and there’s plenty of the unexpected and odd to keep me laughing.
You were a creative director at Adobe. Is there anything you miss about working for a large organization, for instance extensive financial and human resources?
LUP: Budget for travel to conferences and being able to work with the design luminaries. I miss the team I pulled together, though we’ve stayed close over the years.
What tool, software or hardware, digital or analog, is most vital to your craft? (other than your computer)
LUP: A printer. I know dead trees. I still like to print things and remove them from the distraction of the screen, get back from them and look at systems as a whole or a logo design from across the room.
And now the camera on my phone…for photographing inspiration.
1:1 WITH LAURA WARE
What is the biggest mistake you see small companies and startups make when it comes to branding?
LW: Understandably, they don’t have the resources to invest in marketing, so many of them don’t have a strategy. Then they realize they need a logo or website, so they ask their cousin Bill who worked at a print shop in 1987 to design one for them.
They want to sell a product or a service, but they don’t really know what they stand for, which is what branding is all about.
I see a lot of freelance and independent service providers ignoring marketing. Designers, architects, and photographers seem to get it, but how should solo attorneys, engineers, and contractors approach branding and positioning?
Many businesses, large and small, think marketing is a nice-to-have that you can build up to when you have excess cash, and that you can dispense with when times are lean. Marketing is, and should be, a key part of a business’ strategy. Through marketing, businesses learn about their audience, and formulate strategies for how to engage them. I would advise the professionals you mention to develop a business plan with growth goals clearly stated, determine how they need to shape and market their business to achieve those goals, and define what makes them different than others that offer the same services. These businesses likely obtain many clients through referral. But referrers have to understand who you are and what you do.
You grew up in Texas at attended UT. What do you miss the most about the Lone Star State? If you had to leave the PNW tomorrow, what would you miss the most about this region?
LW: There is an unexplainable pride that comes with being a Texan. It’s in your blood. I miss my family and friends quite a bit. I also miss good Tex-Mex, BBQ and frozen margaritas. If I had to leave Seattle, I would greatly miss the friends and family I have here. I’d miss the incredible beauty of the area. And I’d miss having four seasons, which allows me to have a much broader wardrobe.
Seattle provides a generally favorable atmosphere for entrepreneurs. It boasts a vibrant economy that balances traditional industries, an international port, a thriving tech scene, aerospace, art, Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. The city is home to multiple public and private universities and has a wealth of engineering and business talent. All that being said, there are no shortage of taxes you'll face as a small business owner in Seattle. While larger firms can often negotiate, lobby, threaten, cheat and hide their way out of paying taxes, you as a small business owner will be stuck paying 100% of what you owe. Unfortunately, it's not always clear exactly what is required of you by law and in most cases, the government(s) won't send you an invoice or a reminder, so if you miss out on something, you'll end up owing late fees and back taxes. It's probably a good idea to hire a Seattle based tax accountant for official advice, but for starters, we've tried to come up with an exhaustive list of the taxes you will face while operating a business in Seattle and in the State of Washington.
City of Seattle taxes
- City of Seattle Business License - Official City definition: Each business engaging in business activities in Seattle must obtain and annually renew a City business license tax certificate unless the business activity is specifically exempted from licensing and taxes. Anyone engaging in business activities within Seattle is required to obtain a Seattle business license whether or not a place of business is maintained within city limits. A branch business license is required for each additional venue doing business. There are three ways to apply for a business license tax certificate: online, by mail or in person (42 nd floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower). In most cases, licenses cost $110 per year; small businesses with total revenues of less than $20,000 annually pay $55 per year. If you have more than one business location in Seattle, you must pay an additional $10 per year for each additional branch location. If you start your business in the second half of the year, after July 1, then your license tax certificate fee will be reduced by half. All licenses expire on Dec. 31. See more on how to get a license and who needs a license at http://www.seattle.gov/licenses.
- Regulatory License - Official City definition: Regulatory License The City of Seattle further regulates specific business activities, e.g., the taxi/for-hire and transportation network company industry, marijuana businesses, tow companies, adult entertainment, amusement devices, pawnshops, etc. (see Businesses regulated by Seattle). Unless the business activity is specifically exempted, these businesses require both a standard business license tax certificate and a regulatory endorsement on the license. The application process varies for the different business types requiring a regulatory endorsement. See more at http://www.seattle.gov/business-regulations .
- Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax - This is a rather controversial tax, as it is applied whether your business makes, money, or loses it hand over first. We found this out the hard way our first year in business because although we had negative net income, we had a reasonable amount of revenue. One would imagine the tax is structured this way to disincentivize excessive write-offs. Official City definition: Every person or entity doing business within the city limits is subject to the business license tax unless specifically exempted by the Seattle Municipal Code. The Seattle business license tax, sometimes called the business and occupation tax (B&O tax), is applied to the gross revenue that businesses earn. Businesses with an annual taxable gross revenue of $100,000 or more are required to pay the tax. You do not pay the tax if your annual taxable gross revenue is less than $100,000 or if you have no business activity for the year. You are still required, however, to submit a return reporting your gross revenue, even if zero, to the City of Seattle. The Seattle business license tax rate varies by business type (see Tax Rates and Classifications). When filing your taxes, you may be required to fill out certain forms or worksheets depending on your business activities and gross revenue amount (see Special Tax Situations). There are a number of other taxes the City collects for applicable businesses in Seattle, including commercial parking, firearms and ammunition, gambling, utilities and admission (see Other Seattle Taxes). Businesses are also subject to property and sales taxes, though the City does not collect these taxes. See more at http://www.seattle.gov/business-license- tax. Deductions & Exemptions from the Business License Tax A deduction is revenue that you can legally subtract from your gross revenue amount. Although you must list the deduction amount on your return, you do not pay tax on that amount. Only deductions specifically defined in the Seattle Municipal Code are allowed (see the Deduction List). The costs of doing business cannot be deducted from your gross revenue amount. This includes: rent and utilities, insurance, material costs, employee wages, employee sales, cost of products purchased for resale. Exemptions are different than deductions. Certain organization and business types are not required to obtain a Seattle business license or pay the business license tax. Certain types of revenue are also exempt. You qualify for an exemption if your business or revenue type is defined as an exemption in the Seattle Municipal Code (see the Exemption List). You do not report exemptions on your tax return; you must report deduction amounts.
- Business Improvement Area (BIA) Taxes - This one came as a surprise to us. In our neighborhood, the BIA funds the Alliance for Pioneer Square, which leads some great initiatives around the neighborhood. The problem was, no one was required to disclose this to us when we signed our lease, so we were hit by a surprise bill of over $1,000 right after we opened our doors (and were already hemorrhaging money). This is billed annually based on square footage, so it hammers coworking spaces. It was previously assessed based on gross receipts, but retailers protested and it was changed. Official City definition:
Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are funding mechanisms for business district revitalization and management. Specifically, the mechanism is an assessment collected from businesses and/or properties within defined boundaries. The funds collected are used to provide services for the mutual benefit of the businesses and properties being assessed. BIAs include programs and services such as marketing, public area maintenance, security, parking, streetscape improvements and professional management. In Seattle, BIAs are enacted by the City Council, using the authority of state law (RCW 35.87A) and the City Charter. The legally required process for creating a BIA is fairly simple, but it is important to have the support of most of those who will pay the assessment in order for the process to move forward smoothly. This means a well-organized effort in the neighborhood that includes a focused dialogue with potentially affected ratepayers about the district’s needs and proposed services. Once there is general consensus on a work plan and budget for the district, the organizers work with City staff to prepare a formal proposal and petition of support for signature by prospective ratepayers. The group then presents these to the City Council, which will hold a public hearing before considering the proposed ordinance. BIAs can be renewed or terminated through a similar process. How long a BIA stays in place is up to the local organizers. BIAs are governed by a Ratepayers Advisory Board, made up of those paying the assessment, which prepares an annual work program and submits it to the City. The City sends invoices to ratepayers, collects the assessments and reimburses the board according to the work program. BIA operations can be managed and implemented by a stand-alone BIA organization or through a contract with an existing organization. Services can be provided by BIA employees or through independent service providers.
See more at http://www.seattle.gov/economicdevelopment/business-districts/business- improvement-areas
Part 2 will include information on:
- King County taxes
- Business personal property taxes
- WA State taxes
- Federal taxes
Phil Keller, a tPC member and founder of makethemost.com, has launched a pop-up LEGO retail shop in Seattle's Madison Valley neighborhood. The shop will sell new and used sets, vintage collector sets, minifigs, and feature a large "pick-a-brick" bulk section.
The store is located on Madison, across from City People's Nursery at 2914 East Madison Street, Suite 103, Seattle, WA.
Keep any eye out for special holiday promotions and deals in the days leading up to Christmas.
Check out the beta launch of Phil's revolutionary app that helps LEGO fans make the most of their collections at makethemost.com
After a battle with cancer, Emily McDowell launched an empathy card that was irreverent, emotional and unlike anything on the market. Her eponymous company leveraged the success of that card to build a successful and beloved brand. The company has since expanded into greeting cards, gifts, totes, notebooks and more.
Alison Keefe and Rachel Powell work for the company in Seattle, and when they are in town, get work done at the Pioneer Collective. We caught up with them for this month's member spotlight.
First of all, what do each of you do day-to-day for the company?
[Alison] I am the production and supply chain manager for Emily McDowell Studio -- which means I wear a lot of hats from inventory management, to designing catalogs and marketing materials, to coordinating with all our domestic and overseas vendors. (For context, we're a team of 7, located in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Illinois, plus a baller warehouse crew in Las Vegas.)
[Rachel] I'm the wholesale account coordinator for EMS, which basically means I do all things customer service on the wholesale part of the business. My duties range from order entry, phone calls to and from customers with questions, coordinating large orders from our distributors, and managing a territory map to make sure that none of our stockists are too close to each other.
While reading about the history of the company, it seems like Emily McDowell's empathy greeting cards struck a cord and received an enormous amount of press attention and earned media right away. That seems like any small business' dream, but I imagine it can also be hard to respond to from a production standpoint. Was it difficult for the company to keep up with demand initially?
[Alison] The Empathy Card release was actually before both of our times with EMS, but I joined the company shortly after. It was truly an explosive moment for the brand. At the time, the team was still fulfilling orders from a studio in downtown LA (we hadn't yet expanded to our Vegas warehouse). It provided some logistical challenges, for sure, but fortunately we work with a great local LA printer and had a dedicated team of people to make it all happen. Also, I know everyone was really encouraged by the massive out-pouring of people who contacted Emily to express their gratitude for creating a line that was so lacking in the greeting card world.
It also seems like a massive wave of press could lead to a sort of "sophomore slump", where it's difficult to match that initial fever of interest. How did the company maintain a sustainable wave of demand?
[Alison] Emily's voice is what drives this brand. She has a real insight into how people think, feel, react. It's what makes the line so relatable. In our catalog, we have a line that says that "we find it creepily satisfying whenever a customer asks if we’ve been reading their diary, because it means we’re doing something right." People gravitate to things that make them feel understood. It's a reminder we're all in this together.
[Rachel] I agree with Alison that Emily's voice (she's so clever!) is definitely the driving force of the brand. I'd also add that expanding into gift items after beginning with just greeting cards has kept customers excited about what's coming next! Part of any successful brand is knowing what people want - and being able to capture the same "feel" of the greeting cards in fun things like gift bags, pouches, and enamel pins, I think, has been a great move.
My aunt has spent her entire career in the greeting card industry. I remember asking her about threats to the industry when CreateACard kiosks started popping up and again with websites like Paperless Post and eVite gained traction, yet it seems that tactile paper cards are still the medium of choice for expressing grief, empathy, thanks, congratulations etc. Will there always be a place for that level of thoughtfulness and formality, or will we eventually submit to sending valentines written by a neural net?
[Alison] As a paper-lover myself, I am probably somewhat biased, but I think there will always be something special and more meaningful about a tactile object you send to someone. Our customers seem to agree! And the fact that there are so many amazing brick and mortar stores we work with all over the country -- and the globe! -- further proves there's tons of us paper freaks out there.
[Rachel] I'm pretty biased towards paper goods also, but I do think that anything that takes more effort than typing on a computer/phone will always feel more meaningful to the receiver. Handmade items are having a resurgence because everything else is so available, and while we love that (thank you, Amazon!), there's nothing like opening an envelope and seeing someone's handwriting on a card, even if it's just their name.
How much of Emily McDowell sales are online vs wholesale or brick and mortar resale?
[Alison] Interestingly, it varies from product category to product category. Our online retail site definitely drives a lot of revenue, but our wholesale brick and mortar sales are a real backbone of the business, and what helped launch it all to begin with. I'd say stores have a stronger drive for our dimensional products (tote bags, canvas pouches, magnets, pins, and so on), and online cards are definitely king.
Where do you see the industry in five years? Ten years? Eleven years?
[Alison] Both Rachel and I get to travel to trade shows where we meet tons of amazing entrepreneurs from across the country. I think with this number of hand-working, creative minds, the stationery and gift industry will only continue to grow, and of course adapt where it needs (iPhone covers, which we sadly do not produce, were all over the place the last few years).
[Rachel] I'm always amazed by the creative people in our industry. Just when I wonder "what's coming next?" someone has a great idea! I'm still pretty new to this job (it'll be a year for me in November) so I'm not sure I can say I see where it's headed in 10 years, but I definitely plan to be along for the ride!
What are your favorite unknown hangout spots in Seattle / WA?
[Alison] I'm a big fan of Georgetown, having made my first real 'home' in Seattle there. Full of great dives, art studios, funky wares. (Plus, free pool at Seattle Tavern on Sundays, but I'll fight you for a table...)
[Rachel] Well I wouldn't necessarily consider these "unknown" spots - but my 2 favorites(being a Ballard gal, through and through) are Sunset Hill Park and Golden Gardens Beach. One caveat though, is that both of these places are MUCH better in the fall/winter. I love bundling up and heading to either one to stare at the water, mountains, and boats, and sit on a bench and think about how we live in the most beautiful place ever.
The best meal in the city can be found at ________
[Alison] ...Ciudad (also in Georgetown).
[Rachel] ...Picolino's (also in Ballard!). Their homemade pasta is to die for, and I love the neighborhood vibe. It never disappoints.
If you had a surprise four week vacation handed to you, you would _____?
[Alison] I would travel to southeast Asia. It's been on the list, just have to make the time!
[Rachel] I'd do a tour of Scandinavia. I am so fascinated by those cultures and would love to learn more about them. Plus, I could probably get some great yarn for more knitting projects!
Living and working in Seattle is great because _____
[Alison] Living and working in Seattle is great because, as cliche as it sounds, the natural beauty is just so unparalleled. Commuting via LightRail is also a huge bonus, having moved here from Los Angeles via New York.
[Rachel] ....it both feels like a small town with all the different neighborhoods, but also has things I couldn't find outside of a city (great restaurants, art museums, etc.).
Living and working in Seattle would be better if ________
[Alison] Living and working in Seattle would be better if there were less tech-bros crowding me on the train (sorry).
[Rachel] ... I honestly can't think of anything. I really love it here!
I am currently reading_______
[Alison] The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
[Rachel] I am currently reading too many books about babies (our first is due in December), the most recent of which is "The Birth Partner" by Penny Simkin.
The most underrated show/movie of all time is ________
[Alison] The most underrated movie of all time is Jaws -- seriously, I'm crazy about Jaws. I watch it every 4th of July.
[Rachel] The most underrated show/movie of all time is "High Society" with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, & Celeste Holm. I'm a sucker for old movies, especially musicals, and I've never understood why this one doesn't get the same response as others like "Singin' in the Rain."
_____ is better than people think.
[Alison] Vegetarianism is better than people think (ahem, Ryan...)
[Rachel] Knitting is better than people think.
With growing demand for more space and services at tPC, we recently acquired an additional 2300 square foot suite on the fifth floor of our current building, The Westland Building. We were able to secure this space within our budget because it lacked the typical tenant improvements a building owner usually puts into a suite to make it market-ready. We opted to save money and do the necessary improvements ourselves, with the help of various subcontractors. The time between first viewing this space and hosting our first corporate client for a day-long offsite was exactly one month. Our very tight timeline and budget created an exciting challenge for us. Below we share the scope of the project as well as thank the handful of individuals and companies we relied on in completing this buildout so quickly.
Scope of work:
- Cat6 cabling and installation of ports and APs for high-speed internet
- Drywall work and repair
- Fresh primer paint on walls and ceilings
- Refinishing and painting of floors
- Installation of conduit, wiring, electrical outlets and ports
- Installing lighting fixtures
- Design, material procurement, and assembly of 24 additional tables and desks, with seating for 48
- Soundproofing and acoustic planning and installation
When we first took possession of the space, we needed to decide what to do with the floors. The subfloor functioned, but it was comprised of large mismatched sheets of plywood. Reluctant to invest in brand new flooring when the subfloor was in good condition, Chris experimented with some paint and sanding and opted to give the floors an aesthetic makeover. After a bit of testing, Chris found a glossy white porch paint and primer that could be applied after filling seams and re-sanding (and pulling thousands of staples from the old carpet), adding a clean, light, and bright solution.
While Chris was experimenting with porch paints, we called in our drywall expert Marshall, to start repairing walls. There were holes in the walls that needed fresh sheetrock and mud. That work took about four 8 hour nights. In addition, the wood ceiling beams were in need of care so we found a matching grey paint to refresh those. We hired a couple of hardworking subs that handled the floor and ceiling paint jobs.
During this work, Chris designed an ideal modular desk that could be grouped with other individual desks, allowing various configurations for an array of programming needs. The ultimate goal of the additional space is to serve the unique needs of larger groups. This can range from utilizing the space as a classroom with a microphone and projector, to an all-day film shoot or evening happy hour. The considerations when designing the desks were dimensions, base style, and material that would create a product easily maneuverable while also structurally sound and durable.
Chris worked with metalworker Don Goble of Weld & Glue to design and manufacture the bases. His sister Ashley, of Sierra Forest Products ,spec'd and procured the high gloss laminate desktops. For chairs, we needed a lightweight, stackable, ergonomic solution that would be attractive paired with the tabletops. After hearing about Article.com on Roman Mars' 99% Invisible podcast and purchasing one of their outdoor dining sets for our home this summer, we chose to source our chairs through them. We wanted an option that could bring a pop of color into the space. We chose their Dot chair in green and turquoise to compliment the colors of the foliage on the west side of the space.
A special thank you to Article! Aside from working on a tight timeline and dealing with a somewhat uncertain scope of work, one of our most challenging moments came after ordering our chairs. While Chris was unloading the first four of sixteen chairs, the remaining twelve were stolen off the loading dock behind our building. This was very discouraging, particularly since this neighborhood has become a second home to us, and we care greatly about its viability and safety. Amazingly, after sharing the story with Article and trying to order new chairs, they sent us a replacement shipment free of charge! We are very appreciative of their commitment to customer service. They have real people answering customer service inquiries, fast shipping and a great return policy. We don't often plug brands here, but we are huge supporters of this company.
We are still adding decor, but have found a few second-hand steals such as the midcentury tulip tables pictured from Goodwill for $10. We've thrown old framed artwork on the walls to give the room some color, and of course, have added potted plants. We want to thank Burrow, who outfitted us with a sleek, highly functional, office couch complete with charging capabilities and a USB port. Chris worked with our go-to electrician conduit and hardwired barn pendants in the central seating area in addition to hanging a few sets of stringers. Finally, we cut and attached baseboards and performed a deep clean of window sills, heat registers, windows and doors.
We're still making small tweaks here and there, but after the initial buildout, we've been able to start utilizing the space and have now hosted a variety of events; a few corporate off-site sessions, an auditorium-style panel of speakers for Seattle Startup Week, as well as a customer appreciation event for Dia & Co, a women's fashion company that provides hand-picked plus-sized pieces by stylists delivered directly to your door. Lastly, we want to give Lindsey Miller Photo a big thanks for providing some beautiful professional shots of The Canopy Room. Our calendar is now filling up many exciting new events and we look forward to hosting more.
Our build budget was $11,000 for the entire project including furniture and electronics. We knew that would be a reach, but we came close, at around $12,500. The biggest contributing factor to the overrun was paint. We ended up buying twice what we had planned for, as the old subfloor really soaked up the paint and primer.
Interested in renting the Canopy Room? The space works great for:
Our custom desk-tables are designed to accommodate all of the above setups
- Corporate trainings
- Classroom-style events
- Production: photo and video shoots
- Creative brainstorming sessions
- Launch parties
- Happy hours
Need to find and fitout office space or redesign your current setup? We would love to help. We provide consulting, design services, and project management. Check us out here at Endgrain Studio.
Running a successful shared workspace involves the management of many discrete systems and processes. Access control, member communication, membership management, billing, room-booking, and IT are all vital components of a thriving space. If you're a coworking space owner, manager, you've probably spent some time thinking about shared workspace space management software. The coworking forums on Google Groups and the coworking Wiki are full of people asking this question: "What is the ideal software for running my space?"
There are differing opinions, but they generally fall into three camps. In the first camp, are operators who pay a recurring licensing fee for an all-in-one SaaS solution to manage all administration processes. In the second camp, are space operators who build (or pay someone to build) a custom, proprietary all-in-one solution. Finally, in the third camp, are space operators who use a patchwork of stand-alone solutions specifically designed for each task.
18 months into our journey at the Pioneer Collective, we began re-evaluating the need for management software, as membership increased and our team grew from two owners, to two owners, one staff person, and multiple community leads. Each approach has its merits, and the right strategy for a given organization is largely dictated by the complexity, size, and culture of the space. Ultimately, we opted for a hybrid of the second and third approaches. I'll explain our systems in detail in the second part of this post, but first, I'd like to highlight some of the more impressive all-in-one solutions we looked at, and why we ended up passing.
All-in-One Coworking Software Solutions
The Nadine Project - free / open-source
Nadine is an open source solution built by Jacob Sayles and team at Office Nomads in Seattle. These guys are some of the OGs of the coworking movement, and they really know what they are doing. You can bet that all of the features built into the software were included for a very good reason. The software is free, but it's also open-source, meaning you'll need to deploy it and support it on your own for the most part. At some point we'd like to deploy Nadine at tPC and try running the space with it, but when we were getting started, we decided it would be too difficult, as we didn't have any Python/Django developers on staff to help out, should we break something. Jacob, Alex and team just pushed on a massive update to the platform that is designed to allow other spaces to adopt it. We're excited to check it out!
HappyDesk - $199 / month per location
We demo'd WUN's HappyDesk during the first few months after tPC opened. Their product support was good and their pricing was acceptable, but we found the product completely overwhelming. There were so many features that weren't relevant to our space at the time (e.g. selling conference room hours or print jobs to members and the public) that it was hard to cut through the noise and imagine using the product day-to-day. From what I've heard, they've simplified the design in the 18 months since we tried it, but at the time, it was over-engineered for our needs.
Meshwork - 3% of all sales (in addition to regular payment processing charge)
Last month, we played around in a Meshwork demo account and came away thoroughly impressed. The UI and color schemes are sleek and beautiful. All of the features are intuitive, and it feels like thought was put into where everything is placed and why. Meshwork includes basic space management features (membership and billing, member onboarding, CRM) and also a business intelligence and reporting component. We were actually considering implementing the software on a trial basis until we got to the pricing discussion. Unlike other SaaS providers, which charge monthly or annual license fees, Meshwork opted for a percentage of sales approach. The company takes 2.5-3% of all revenue which goes through the system depending on volume. This is in addition to any payment processing fees you already pay. I totally understand why they structured their pricing this way. It allows upstart coworking spaces to afford the license, and grow with the software. It's also probably very fairly priced for what you get. The argument could even be made that you could make up that 3% in incremental sales, by having a more organized space. At the end of the day however, we just couldn't get used to adding another variable expense to our income statement. With a monthly fee, even if it's steep, it is a fixed cost that allows you to achieve an economy of scale once you meet a threshold amount of revenue each month (I.e. you pay $399 per month whether you book $15,000 in revenue or $30,000). On the other hand, the Meshwork pricing amounts to a 3% tax on revenue, shrinking profit margins now and for all revenue you bring in as long as you're on the system. In other words, if we booked $15,000 in revenue, we would pay $450 that month for the service. If we sold $30,000 in revenue, we'd pay $900. This didn't make financial sense for us, even with the obvious benefits and impressive design of the software.
Other coworking software solutions we haven't tried:
Part 2 of 2 - In the next installment of this post, I'll detail what software does tPC actually uses. The benefit of this approach is that each solution is really good at doing exactly the task it was designed for. The downside is that it makes training and process building a huge pain in the ass, as we have to show every new trainee each piece of software, manage logins etc. We're working toward building a custom portal on top of these solutions that ties the workflows together more intuitively.
Door Control - RFID readers + key deposits
Membership Management - Stripe + Proprietary App
CRM - Streak for GMail. (awesome)
Internal Members Database - Memberfindme
To-do - Google tasks, Google Calendar. We're also working on a dynamic task list feature for our staff portal.
Room booking - YaRooms
- Staff to staff - Slack, email
- Member to member - Slack and Memberfindme
- Staff to member - Slack (fun things), Mailchimp (important things e.g. holiday hours)
WiFi - Unifi UAPs
It's the start of the school year again and fall is in the air. In our household, this has always mean the start of a new tutoring relationship with a local student.
Chris and I have been involved with an organization called Invest in Youth, for a combined 10+ years. Chris served on the board for several years and we have both tutored at several Seattle elementary schools.
Each year I've tutored, I've had a single student assigned to me for the entire year. Being able to provide academic help to an individual student for nine months is very rewarding and I've felt appreciated by each student I've gotten to know. Every October has been marked by the anticipation of meeting my new student, getting familiar with the school layout and program manager, participating in the one-day tutor training, and meeting the other tutors.
This year, I had hoped to tutor again at Roxhill Elementary, in West Seattle. I recently realized however, that the timing with childcare for our two girls won't allow me to commit to the weekly Monday session from 2:45-3:45pm. I do plan to be a substitute when Chris and I can make it work.
Because I'm disappointed that I'm not able to fully participate this year, I'd like to spread the word about how great Invest in Youth is and find others out there who are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience. Last year, Invest in Youth put together an informal presentation at The Pioneer Collective and gained two new tutors out of it. These two tPC members were such valuable tutors for Invest in Youth, that this year the organization plans to stop by and provide another informal presentation with lunch, on September 21st.
It is open to anyone interested in learning more. We would love to have you contact us if you are interested.
Full disclosure: my mother, Harriett Morton, started this organization in 1997 which makes it particularly close to my heart.
Here's a bit more from the organization:
If you're looking for a way to get involved or give back to your community, this could be your opportunity! Invest in Youth is looking for role model tutors to work one-on-one with elementary students at local schools, including Madrona Elementary, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Daniel Bagley Elementary, Roxhill Elementary and Beacon Hill International.
Tutoring begins the second week of October, runs through May, and takes place once every week at each school.
Each tutor is matched with the same student for the whole school year, and the pair works together on things like homework, playing math games, or reading stories, for one hour each week. Educational materials and activities, training and support, and heartfelt appreciation are provided at every session.
For more information or to apply to be a tutor, please contact Erika Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website: https://www.investinyouth.org/volunteer/
Can't commit to the full school year? Become a substitute tutor or share this with your friends who might be interested.
At the Pioneer Collective, we focus on providing an atmosphere where local entrepreneurs and small companies can grow their businesses, meet new people, and build skills. We attempt to supplement that experience with this blog, covering topics that are relevant to our membership base and our supporters. Since starting our business in 2015, we have come to realize that there is a lack of local media coverage of small businesses.
If I wrote a press release today about an app that summoned idle Lyft drivers to your house to clean your dirty dishes on demand (Dysh...), I'd probably get a write up in The Seattle Times, Geekwire, and The Stranger. No matter how outlandish the idea, consumer tech is sexy right now and the press eats it up. The Times has dedicated writers for technology, Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing, yet small businesses, with the exception of trendy restaurant openings, get little to no coverage in its pages.
Articles about small businesses probably don't sell a lot of ads, but the scrappy little store is one of the only forces left between us and a Gary Shteyngart dystopia where Amazon is the fourth branch of government. Fortunately, we don't have to monetize this blog, so until someone else steps up to fill the role, we will cover as many exciting mom & pop shops as we can through this recurring feature.
For the first installment, we interviewed our neighbor and proprietor of Division Road Menswear Boutique, Jason Pecarich. He opened a retail location of Division Road on 1st Avenue South in Pioneer Square last year. His goal was to "create a post-modern industrial haberdashery for a man who wants to shop without a stopwatch, hang out with his coffee, or just come by to speak the goods." We caught up with Jason to learn more about the state of retail, the city, and what exactly the term heritage means.
What does heritage mean?
Good question. The term heritage is ambiguous to some, but fairly concrete to those of us who have a passion for products that fall under that category. In short, it refers to brands that are manufacturers first and those that make products to old world standards of quality. Some associate it with workwear, but while we at Division Road look for items that have workwear durability, we try and create and select items that are more refined classics and can be worn by a wider audience. First, we look for brands and manufacturers that have a legacy in producing a certain category of clothing for decades (at least 50 years): Dehen 1920 has been doing pretty much the same knitting and outwear pieces, Gitman and New England Shirt Co are classic Northeastern shirting manufacturers, and Private White has been doing Britain’s best outwear. In footwear, our youngest company is Viberg which was founded in 1931, and our oldest is Tricker’s that is coming up on two centuries of footwear production, and all of our brands in that category remain wholly family owned businesses hence the reference to legacy. Even the younger brands we bring in and work with are producing items with older techniques and to quality standards that are not common in manufacturing.
For those of us who don't know, how does a large chain brand go about making a pair of jeans vs one of your heritage brands?
Well this is a long explanation; I’ll try and shorten it so people don’t pass out from too much information. During the 1960’s and 70’s most manufacturing in the US was starting to be outsourced and offshored. One of those industries was garment and fabric production. Up to that point the US had the best denim manufacturers and denim textile production, which was largely the same since the late 40’s.
In the 70’s and 80’s the vintage levis market exploded in Europe and Japan specifically. The Japanese began purchasing shipping containers worth of worn denim and started buying the old shuttle looms from the shuttered mills of the US manufacturing complex. These looms are older, narrower and run slower. The biggest difference is quality: self-edge (now called selvedge) denim is run on looms that can handle thicker yarns and produce fabric at higher tension in narrower widths. Not only that but the Japanese took what we were doing with denim and perfected it with a technical and artisan approach, making some of their denim the best in the world, period.
Most denim in the major marketplace is made from commercial loom fabric that’s about three times the width of a vintage shuttle loom. The fabric made on these looms has a lower tension and a lot of material in the middle which has “dead-slack.” Jeans that are cut out of this material wear quicker and fall away from the body over repeated wearings and washings. That’s why most commercial denim looks best the first couple of wearings and washings while selvedge denim looks better with age and forms to the wearer better over time.
There are a lot more qualifiers to quality differentiation than just the material used such as yarn development, rope dyed indigo, chain-stitched production, re-enforcements, finishing material, and a ton of details that quality selvedge jeans companies use that are not employed in a jean made by major market brands. That is not to say that any jean made with self-edge material is great. It’s probably better in comparison to mass market brands, but there is also a lot out there that promises quality when it’s not, especially in the entry self-edge market of $100-200 that sells the idea that you can get the same product as a $200-$300 jean, which is generally a fallacy.
In your experience, does the buy once principle hold up financially over time? Other than being happier because I have nicer stuff, will I also have more money in my pocket?
This depends on the individual, but in general, if you run the math it works out. The best example for this principle is footwear. Say you buy 1-2 pairs of boots/shoes per year for work/dress/casual purposes and after a year or two they are garbage and look bad, so the buying cycle starts again. Conversely, you can buy a product that’s built more for lifetime wear, produced by manufacturers that offer re-soles and re-building, and never really wear them out. Say you pay $200 for a disposable shoe, that’s $200-400 per year, so we’ll split the difference and call it $300 a year. A pair of Tricker’s will last for literally decades and cost $525 or so. Thus if you compare your disposable purchase of $300 per year to $530 once, in two years you have more money in your pocket. Approximately every two years you can send the shoes back to the factory for a full re-sole/build for $100 +/- depending on the sole you want, and in five years you could buy two pair and still be saving money. I will say there is a lot in the $300-$500 category in footwear that uses the term “lifetime” and offers the ability to be re-soled but is still junk within several years, so one has to find a resource and brand they can trust before running the math.
Furthermore, it’s the math of sustainability: the only real method of such is to buy goods that are made in developed nations with better environmental regulations and fairer worker rights, and buying those goods once versus disposable items that wear out and literally devolve to trash. Products that have a heart and soul to them like those that are crafted with purpose, quality, and intention have a way of making you feel better about both what you’re buying and how you look. Conversely, products created for conspicuous consumption have less yield hence they make people buy more in order to obtain that feeling of gratification, which in turn fuels an endless cycle of buying more at cheaper and cheaper price points with less longevity and less satisfaction to the consumer. That’s how they make money.
Contrary to prevailing trends, you've committed to operating a storefront in addition to your online business. Has that decision paid off?
The physical flagship is a portrayal of the brand and creates that connection with our customers, which is an important facet to the Division Road approach. Having that representation match in our virtual store is important: when our online customer comes and visits the brick and mortar location, they have a different yet consistent experience and take that home with them. One of the reasons we wanted a destination shop was so that when we have customers come in we can give them the time and attention they deserve and that we feel is necessary with our products. Our customers come by to just hang out and talk the goods sometimes, which creates a community around this niche industry and those who appreciate these goods. It’s interesting because we have just as many visitors from around the country and foreign nations that have shopped with us or know about us who make a point to stop by when they’re in Seattle, as we have locals who know about us. Once more people in Seattle find out about what we’re doing that percentage may change, but we see our business as based in Seattle with a broad approach to impacting menswear in our sphere. Regardless, our shop makes an impression on customers and they keep coming back for further experiences, which is really what shopping should be about. That is a reward in its own right.
I've worried lately that Seattle as a whole has stopped valuing small businesses, especially when compared to cities like Portland. It seems like a lot of people hate the abstract idea of chains taking over all retail, but don't actually care enough to seek out innovative businesses, especially if it's less convenient or costs more. Do you think that's the case or am I just being cynical?
I think you are at once correct and somewhat cynical, but then again I’m a cynic so I might not be the best to offer perspective on this point. I think there is a lot of talk around local, but less action in supporting those businesses. That starts from the top with regard to how big corporations are valued, given market opportunities, tax breaks and concessions from the local government, and small businesses are punished. Local publications do very little to prioritize the dissemination of information to the local market about small and local businesses, and all of that affects the community.
Seattle also is not an overtly entrepreneurial environment and many residents are employed at larger companies so I think some people have a hard time understanding that, without small businesses being supported locally, they will cease to exist. I see that a lot of people in Seattle show full support for local corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, Nordstrom, etc., but not the local innovator who’s trying to do something out of the box. I’m not sure if that behavior is new or old, but there are both new and established locals that do support local businesses and they should be commended. I think they’re keen to explore the great opportunities to connect with the decision makers, see more of what they want, get personalized service, and keep the businesses they want around for the long-term.
I will say that locally and broadly we all need to be challenged on putting our money where our mouth is. If we want more sustainability, less environmental destruction, fairer labor practices, and future opportunities for our nation, then we need to stop buying future landfill items from developing nations like China. If we want more local businesses that care about their customers and employees and that realistically know where their goods are sourced down to the components, and if we want to support families and generations of people who actually produce and make things, then we need to support the individuals and businesses that are offering those products to the marketplace.
What were you doing before Division Road...you mentioned Vancouver?
In a prior career I had a design-build architectural firm, but as a merchant I’m an old hat in the industry and have worked at almost every level in retail and product development over the last decade. A big part of my career has been at the contract and consultant level with branding, design, buying, merchandising, and management for retailers. I used to describe my business as the anonymous Jack of all trades for retailers. My passion has always been in product and retail, and I maintain that one cannot live without the other: this may seem simplistic but it’s often forgotten by the industry. This has afforded me the opportunity to live all over the place including Vancouver for four years, working for a number of brands and retailers up there. All the while over the last seven years I was working on strategy and the business plan for Division Road, waiting for all of the necessary components to come together and to launch the business in the best possible way, and in the area in which I believed it to be well-suited, hence Seattle.
What brought you here and how has the neighborhood treated you so far?
I looked at and assessed every neighborhood and possible situation in Seattle. The search started and ended in Pioneer Square after everything else was ruled out, and as in all I do there was a lot behind the decision. The historic nature of the neighborhood spoke to our brand, but we also knew that it meant there would be development. The likelihood of that development to fundamentally change the fabric and character of the area, however, seems fairly implausible. Being on the front end of an area’s emergence rather than the back-end was important. We want to create an impression and have a positive impact on PS, rather than just get lost in the spin cycle of expansion. Being a destination and having ease of access for our customers was important, hence the reason we’re on a block with more parking than others, yet accessible to major transportation. Lastly, we wanted to be in a place where there are like-minded people and businesses that support each other. We definitely get that in PS, and there are few places in Seattle that have retailers working with each other’s business in mind to create a broad experience for customers. Retailers like Clementine’s, Velouria, E. Smith, and Ebbets all foster a sense of community by sending customers to each other’s locations and thinking about future opportunities, which I think will only grow in the future. The Pioneer Square Alliance has been extremely supportive, and seemingly unrelated businesses like the Collective have been very helpful in getting the word out and appreciating our position. Most importantly Pioneer Square is a pleasant and cool place to be. Sure, it has an edge to it, which being from an inner city on the East Coast I enjoy, but it’s calm, engaging, nicely paced, and purposeful down here. With all of the great eateries, bars, galleries, and shops there is no better place to spend a Saturday afternoon in Seattle all while soaking up the history and cool vibe down here.
I don't want to make any more decisions. I'm a business owner and rarely need anything formal. Choose the bare essentials for me that will get me through Seattle's two seasons.
We’ve got you covered.
Ah, well, I think you are familiar with New England and one of my favorites is this Black Gingam, that you really can use and style with almost anything yet is unique:
or a Gitman Overdye Oxford, perfect all year long…
A good Reigning Champ Hoodie and Crewneck sweatshirt can give you endless layering options, perfect for Seattle almost all year around:
You can never go wrong with a nice Henley instead of a Tee or Button down, and the wings+horns Base Slub is perfect in every way:
The most important categories are Outerwear and Footwear to present being put together regardless of everything else, and whether your style is casual, formal, or whatever. Look at footwear as the foundation and outerwear as the punctuation mark. When those are right, everything else doesn’t matter. Choose classic styles for something that will take you through most seasons like:
A modern Bomber from APC:
Or a classic (totally Waterproof, yet breathing) Harrington Jacket from Private White aka The Best:
And finally, yet most important a Pair of boots that will work with just a t-shirt in summer, or fully layered in more dress clothes in winter:
- Apr 12, 2018 tPC Member Spotlight - G. Willow Wilson Apr 12, 2018
- Mar 29, 2018 tPC Small Business Spotlight: Certain Standard Mar 29, 2018
- Mar 27, 2018 Coworking Simplified - Perfecting the tPC Member Experience Mar 27, 2018
- Dec 12, 2017 December Membership Spotlight: Laura & Laura of Flying Crow Creative Dec 12, 2017
- Nov 28, 2017 Thinking about opening a business in Seattle? Here are the taxes you'll owe. Part 1 of 2 Nov 28, 2017
- Nov 28, 2017 Checkout the Smarthouse Creative Podcast: These Are My People Nov 28, 2017
- Nov 7, 2017 tPC member opens LEGO pop-up experience in Seattle Nov 7, 2017
- Oct 12, 2017 tPC Member Spotlight: Rachel and Alison of Emily McDowell Oct 12, 2017
- Oct 10, 2017 A Shoestring Fitout - the Canopy Room Experiment Oct 10, 2017
- Sep 29, 2017 What coworking tools and software does the Pioneer Collective use? Part 1 of 2 Sep 29, 2017
- Sep 7, 2017 A plug for a volunteer opportunity close to my heart Sep 7, 2017
- Mar 29, 2017 Seattle Small Business Spotlight #1 - Division Road Mar 29, 2017
- Dec 13, 2016 What's New in Pioneer Square in 2017? Dec 13, 2016
- Oct 11, 2016 Awesome autumn! Fall classes at tPC. Oct 11, 2016
- Aug 29, 2016 tPC Member Spotlight - Chris Brownridge of Discovry Aug 29, 2016
- Jul 29, 2016 Getting to South Lake Union from Pioneer Square Jul 29, 2016
- Jul 8, 2016 tPC Member Spotlight - Ryan of iRepair Seattle Jul 8, 2016
- May 18, 2016 One year ago... the before and after May 18, 2016
- Mar 21, 2016 How the ULink Light Rail Extension Affects Pioneer Square and the Rest of Seattle Mar 21, 2016
- Mar 15, 2016 tPC Member Spotlight - Erin Anacker of Betwixt Mar 15, 2016
- Feb 10, 2016 Top Lunch Spots Pioneer Square Part II Feb 10, 2016
- Jan 7, 2016 tPC Member Spotlight: Gaby Adam Jan 7, 2016
- Nov 10, 2015 tPC Member Spotlight: Seek Architecture Nov 10, 2015
- Oct 5, 2015 How to care for indoor plants: succulents, ferns and mosses Oct 5, 2015
- Sep 3, 2015 tPC Spotlight: Welcoming Uxibal to Seattle from Guatemala. Sep 3, 2015
- Aug 26, 2015 tPC Member Spotlight: Manny Cruz of Textron Aviation Aug 26, 2015
- Aug 13, 2015 tPC Member Spotlight: Ryan Cunningham Aug 13, 2015
- Aug 10, 2015 tPC Member Spotlight: Aaron Eversman Aug 10, 2015
- Jul 9, 2015 Productivity Methods That Actually Work Jul 9, 2015
- Mar 17, 2015 Top Lunch Spots in Pioneer Square Mar 17, 2015
- Mar 5, 2015 How to get to Pioneer Square from SeaTac International Airport Mar 5, 2015
- Feb 18, 2015 How to get to Pioneer Square from Ballard Feb 18, 2015
- Feb 9, 2015 Our "first week" Feb 9, 2015
- Jan 8, 2015 The buildout begins! Jan 8, 2015
Seattle's Pioneer Square has undergone rapid change since the financial crisis and the last few years have continued that trend. The neighborhood has managed to shake its seedy reputation with all but the most sheltered Seattleites, while managing to hold on to the grit and history that set it apart in a city conquered by cranes and blue glass. A number of scrappy independent retailers, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs have opened alongside neighborhood mainstays like The Central, J&M, Tats, and Il Terrazzo Carmine. Throughout the fall and early winter of 2016, there were a number of exciting announcements, new arrivals, and updates to the neighborhood.Read More
Fall isn't just about pumpkin flavoring and football. As the leaves change and the weather chills and the days grow short, it's time to head inside, have a drink and learn something. We have two great classes for you in October and November.
Oysters and wine class with Taylor Shellfish
Thursday October 20th, 6:30pm
Enjoy a glass(es) of wine or bubbly as you learn to shuck and eat oysters from around the northwest. Tom Stocks, tPC member and regional operations manager at Taylor Shellfish will be your animated guide as you learn about the tasty bivalve molluscs you're devouring.
Free with RSVP. Feel free to bring the family (21+ for wine)
Introduction to digital photography
Sunday November 6th, 11:00am
Whether you'd like to start using that DSLR that's been sitting on the shelf since last Christmas, or just want to take better iPhone photos, professional photographer Lindsey Miller will teach you the basics you need to know.
RSVP here. $24 for general public. tPC members get in free!
- 10:45am Doors Open (holler at your new friends and say hello to your host)
- 11:00am Lesson Begins (get your cameras out, it's fumbling w/ buttons time)
- 12:15pm Practice Time (it's time to bowl baby ... with bumpers!)
- 1:00pm Last Call / Q&A (squeeze every ounce of info out of the pro)
- 1:15pm Doors Close (you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here)
About the teacher: Lindsey has a Masters in Digital Photography. She is based out of Seattle but shoots around the country. In the past, she has taught semester courses at universities, private classes and workshops.
Discovry is a growing startup based out of Seattle. The Discovry platform creates value between the world's premier performance advertisers and the influential creators. Founders Chris Brownridge and Andrew Allison are bringing user acquisition expertise to the influencer (think YoutTube celebrities) marketing space. The aim to help performance advertisers extract value from their influencer advertising, while supporting the creator community with high value content. You can see an example of their implementation below.
In this example, the team helped artist Juan Andres de Corte create a sponsored video to drive downloads of the game Mobile Strike.
Discovry founders, Chris and Andrew met in San Francisco and recently relocated to Seattle. This month, we caught up with Chris to learn more about his background, how Discovry began, and how he is enjoying his time in Seattle.
How would you explain Discovry to your uncle who knows nothing about modern advertising?
My uncle works for Land Rover in the auto industry so I'd have to tie it to that. It's like Land Rover asking the F1 driver Lewis Hamilton to drive the new Range Rover and review it.
You work with some pretty unique influencers. Who are some of your favorites?
We see some weird and wonderful folks. It's amazing what draws an audience on YouTube. About the most perplexing to me is a gentleman who scratches off lotto scratchcards on camera - he has developed an extremely loyal audience and now people seem to look forward to the suspense of watching him win/lose each video! Personally, some of the coolest ones we have worked with are cooking & baking channels - I like cooking and it's incredible what these channels create in a short period of time.
What are your and Andrew’s backgrounds and how did you get into this industry?
We both worked together at a startup called Vungle in San Francisco - both of us started there when it was a tiny company under 10 people and by the time we left over 3 years later it had grown to around 190 people worldwide. At Vungle we were working with game developers helping them acquire new players through in-app advertising - now we are working with the same customers again but helping them acquire new players in a different way than before: through branded content on YouTube.
Late last year you were walking around with a VR headset and working long hours on another idea. Did that morph into Discovry, or was it more of a blow-it-up-and-start-over than a pivot?
Well, the name morphed into DiscoVRy! That's about all that morphed though - I'd say it was a blow it up and start over type thing. I think VR is great and will be a massive industry but it was (and maybe still is) too early. There realistically won't be mass market adoption for a while and any business needs to be extremely well funded early on to ride the wave until the userbase gets to a point where you can make money from it. The idea for Discovry came about at Christmas last year when Andrew and I were having a few beers in London and it quickly turned into reality as we signed customers quicker than I think we imagined we could!
Where do you see the company in August of 2017?
12 months seems a long way away! We are only around 6 months in so far and it's been a real roller coaster. We are looking to hire our first team members right now and I'm hoping that by 12 months time we are a bigger team. Hopefully the business growth will continue to necessitate that. So far we have been hustling to put things together and managing the business in a ton of Excel sheets, by this time next year I'm hoping that we have built some technology to take us out of Excel sheets and allows us to scale much quicker.
You and your wife just purchased a house in the area. How is home ownership going?
It is our first house purchase so we are embarking upon home ownership for the first time; it presents a whole set of different challenges to just renting! We were used to just calling the landlord when things went wrong or we needed a repair. Now we have to do it ourselves! Luckily there are a ton of YouTube influencers with 'How-To' channels that I've been learning some DIY from!
What are some of your favorite things to do around Seattle?
We try and get out and about as much as possible. We live in West Seattle so we have some great trails for running and biking down in Lincoln Park. We also love to kayak and both Alki and Lake Union are great for that. We're still (relatively) new to the area so are still figuring out what we like to do and what is around - we can definitely do a better job of getting out of the city on the Eastside to hike etc. And of course skiing when the season comes around!
What’s one thing you miss most about England?
Friends and family definitely. It's hard being so far away from home and it's even tougher for us because my wife's family is away too so we do not have any family nearby. We don't have kids yet, but I think that it might become more difficult when we do and we don't have built in babysitter grandparents nearby! (I also miss the pub - there are no pubs in the USA like we have in England!)
How many times have you had to talk about Brexit in the past few months?
Haha - A LOT. In the few weeks after the vote I felt like I was asked by everybody what I thought about it. It actually surprised me how much people seemed to be interested in it. I won't say much else for fear of starting a political debate in the office, but I did vote to remain (and my parents voted to leave!)
You worked in the Bay Area previously. Seattle’s obviously a much smaller startup scene, but are there any advantages to being based in the PNW?
I think there's a lot of advantages and that's why we are seeing so many Bay Area companies open up Seattle offices and Bay Area natives move up to the area. For starters, the obvious is the cost of living. It is significantly cheaper than the Bay Area for the employee; property is a better value (my wife and I were paying $3,500 rent per month for a 1 bedroom apartment in SF!), general everyday living costs are cheaper, and the tax rate is far more favorable to the individual with no state income tax. For an employer, this means that human resources can be cheaper than the Bay Area. There is a large talent pool in Seattle with some of the largest tech companies in the world headquartered here - and hopefully a lot of talent ready to jump into the startup world. I think there is more of a risk averseness in the PNW compared to the Bay Area but with some more local startup success stories I think we will see that change. In SF it feels like everyone has a friend that made a fortune from a startup blowing up; it's definitely less common in Seattle but as soon as those stories become more common I think we'll see a lot more people prepared to make the jump!
Whether you're craving a $16 sandwich, needing a glimpse of Bezo's Balls, or meeting a friend in Amazonia, sometimes you can't avoid a trip to SLU. If you're heading there from Pioneer Square, choose one of the below routes:
Metro Bus - Route 40 to Northgate Fremont (20 min / 5 calories burned)
I know, yuck! But the bus is still the fastest way to get between most neighborhoods in Seattle. To get to South Lake Union from Pioneer Square or the International District:
- Walk to 4th Avenue South between Jackson and Main Street. You'll want to wait on the northbound side of the bus island in the middle of 1st Avenue South, not on the east side of the street.
- Wait for the northbound #40 bus. It will say 40 Northgate Fremont on the marquee.
- Board the bus and swipe your card or pay cash $2.50.
- Ride 7-8 stops north. Depending on traffic, this will be a 15-20 minute trip
Link Light Rail (25-30 min / 50 calories burned)
- Walk to the International District/Chinatown station or the Pioneer Square Station.
- Board a northbound train
- Disembark at Westlake Station
- Walk north to Stewart, turn right
- Turn left on Westlake
Uber (15 min / 0 calories burned)
- Open phone
- Open Uber App
- Set pickup location and then book car, pool, hop, or x
- Enter destination as Westlake Whole Foods, Amazon Building X or another SLU landmark
Walk (33 min / 200 calories burned)
- Google directions
- Walk north on 1st Ave
- Turn right on Stewart
- Turn left on Westlake
In this month’s tPC member spotlight, we catch up with Ryan, owner of iRepair Seattle. Ryan has set up shop inside the Pioneer Collective and specializes in diagnosing and repairing Apple products, specifically iPhones and iPads.
iRepair business questions:
Tell us a bit about how you got into the Apple repair business.
Well, it all started with a broken iPad. A few years ago, my wife dropped hers face down on a tile floor and the glass shattered. We checked Yelp and decided to take it to a place called “iRepair Seattle” which at that time was located in lower Queen Anne and owned by a couple named Victor and Yanira. They repaired the iPad and it was as good as new. A few years later I ran into them and found out they were selling the business and moving back to California. I kept in touch over the next few weeks and ultimately decided to buy it and jump into the world of device repair.
How did you decide upon Pioneer Square as a location?
Pioneer Square is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle. Its vibrant, (especially on event days), has beautiful architecture and lots of history. Seattle’s oldest bar (The Central) and it’s oldest café (Merchants Café) are both here and historical places like that are mixed in with new exciting restaurants such as Altstadt and Radici. Also, Pioneer Square is centrally located between downtown, the stadiums, and the 90 freeway which connects the east and west to Seattle.
Let’s say someone reading this just dropped their phone and cracked its screen. What is the best way to set up an iRepair appointment?
All forms of communication are fine with me. They can call, text, or email me to setup an appointment. Also, they can walk in to The Pioneer Collective at 100 S. King Street, Suite 100 and I’ll take care of the repair as quickly as possible while they wait.
How long should a customer plan to be without their phone?
The three most common repairs I do are are screen replacements, charging port replacements, and battery replacements. I can do these repairs in about 40 minutes. Water damaged devices take more time as I need to fully dry them out before I start to identify and resolve the issues.
Are there any iPhone or iPad problems that you can’t fix?
I often get calls from customers asking if I can unlock a locked or disabled iPhone. I can’t do that. Also, I have received some water damaged phones that I just could not save. Outside of that, I can pretty much fix it all.
Do you have plans to expand your services into other Apple or non-Apple products in the future?
At this time, I am staying busy with iPhones and iPads so I have no plans yet to offer services on non-Apple devices.
What are the busiest times of the week for you?
I have learned that it’s pretty unpredictable. I could have a busy Tuesday and a slow Saturday or the exact opposite. I have noticed that I tend to be the busiest first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and then right before closing.
Are you a first time entrepreneur?
No, I started my first business when I was 16, selling earthquake preparation kits in Southern California! That didn’t last long. I started another when I was 21, repairing optical inspection equipment. That was the business I did for many years until I decided on this venture.
What is your assessment of the climate for small business owners in Seattle right now?
I think it depends on the type of business. Seattle is growing fast and the population is increasing, and that growth can obviously be good for small business owners. However, there are other issues such as the decrease in easy access parking and the increase in the price of storefront space that can make it difficult for some small companies.
What has been the toughest lesson you’ve learned since taking over iRepair?
I think all of the toughest lessons have been directly related to the actual task of device repair. It takes awhile to experience all the surprises that an iPhone or iPad can present when you open them up. Older phones can be especially problematic at times. The iphone 5 series is still a fantastic smartphone but they have been in circulation awhile so most have experienced their share of drops and light moisture which can affect the repair process. In addition, the adhesives and internal components can get more rigid over time which can present unexpected issues. Fortunately, those lessons have helped me understand where to take precautions when doing a repair and how to easily manage the things that used to surprise me.
Where do you see iRepair Seattle in May of 2017?
I have been increasing my customer base slowly and steadily for the past few months, and I would like that pace to continue. By May of next year, I hope for iRepair to be handling a significant increase in volume due to good word of mouth, positive reviews, and customer referrals.
Why did you decide to make Seattle home?
For me, Seattle is just about the perfect city. Its big, but not too big. It has a lot of history which is preserved through it’s architecture. It’s a beautiful city too, in a dramatic setting surrounded by water, with the downtown situated low and the neighborhoods perched on the hills. The Space Needle and Pike Place Market are icons known worldwid, and they add to the cultural richness of the area. It has many neighborhoods, all with different vibes and personalities which makes the city constantly interesting and engaging.
Also, I actually love the weather.
In your opinion, what is the most underrated place in Seattle?
There is a pizza parlour in First Hill, on 8th ave, between Seneca and Spring. It’s called Primo. It’s a small place with an ancient Roman décor and it sits at the bottom of an old building. It has all these one & two star Yelp reviews because the service is not that great, but the pizza is incredible. I don’t get up there often because it doesn’t open until 5 and it’s not near the neighborhoods I work and live in, but I still go occasionally and I’ve never been disappointed.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the city?
I pretty much just like roaming around Seattle with them, enjoying and discovering the city. I moved a lot while growing up and don’t want that for them, so I look forward to them knowing the city well and considering it their hometown.
Know someone with a broken iPad or iPhone? Go to iRepairSeattle.com and make an appointment of drop into 100 South King Street Suite 100 during regular business hours.
During the final days of 2014, we signed our first commercial lease on 100 South King Street, Suite 100. With a limited budget and a 6,000+ square foot space to fill, we set out to create a communal office environment where people enjoyed coming to work. It has been almost a year since The Pioneer Collective opened its doors, and over a year since we began the construction work. In light of this anniversary, we are looking back on how the space has evolved since its launch.
We gained access to The Westland Building on February 1st, 2015. However, heavy tenant improvements were underway during February and most of March. During this time, we began working from a separate office in the building, designing the interiors and space layout, sourcing and ordering materials for the construction of tables and desks, and negotiating contracts with vendors. By mid-April, we were able to regularly occupy the space.
As a startup business, we had a tight buildout budget and learned to rely heavily on DIY projects and second-hand sourcing. We spent the rest of April and May putting mileage on a new pickup truck, hauling furniture, salvaging materials, and learning to do a lot of the design and build work ourselves. We also had a laundry list of items to finish before we could operate as a functional office. These included getting our structured cabling and network up and running, setting up the office printer, managing furniture sourcing, deliveries, and assembly, installing fixtures, staining, sanding and finishing our tables & desks, building phone booths, adding decor, and transforming a dark 6,500 foot open room, into a bright, inspiring place, where people would want to work each day.
By June 1st, we were new parents to a one week old daughter and had our first two members working alongside us. We had officially opened our doors. Today, have a community of around 50 individual members, an excellent team of community leads, have had numerous corporate clients use our space, and have had hundreds of people pass through for various events. The Pioneer Collective has now taken on a character of its own as the community within has grown and shaped the space. Following is an overview of the scope of the design work over the last year.
Below are the tenant improvements that were done by contractors.
- Working withing our TI budget, we chose to go with an engineered floor with the look of rustic hardwood. We used Karndean WP313 Ignea Wood.
- White walls
- We knew we needed to lighten and expand the sense of space so chose this white paint: Benjamin Moore's 'White Dove' OC-17. All of the trim was previously navy blue, so this went a long way toward brightening the space.
- Conference room layout
- We designed the layout of the space, the positioning of the conference room, the dimensions and glass wall. Contractors did all of the work building new walls and installing the glass wall and door.
- Kitchenette layout
- We chose how to set up the kitchenette and the materials to be used for the cabinets and counter tops.
After the tenant improvements were complete, the two of us, with a lot of help from wonderful friends and family tackled these items:
- Created the space map and general layout of shared and designated desk areas
- Designed, stained, and assembled desks
- The desk bases were built by Don Goble of Weld & Glue. We've since worked with him on our split conference table designs, and he does great work!
- Sourced and ordered all furniture (chairs, task lamps)
- Mapped out the electrical work
- Set up wireless network, cabling, etc.
- Added "built-in" design elements, ex: rustic wood kitchen backsplashes
- Designed and constructed the phone booths
- Built accessories: shelving, lightboxes, etc.
- Sourced, ordered, and managed delivery/assembly of all furniture
- Sourced artwork, framed pieces, found antiques
Before shots (February & March, 2015)
Lessons we've learned
- White laminate kitchen counter tops are very difficult to keep white, especially in a coffee bar
- While we love how white can work to lighten a space (especially a windowless kitchenette), white kitchen counter tops do not stay clean easily. These counter tops probably see the most wear of any surface in our space and don't hold up well to the constant onslaught of coffee, hot water, food, and condiments.
- Map out electrical needs - and build in some buffer
- Map seating out beforehand so you can match individual power needs to appropriate electricity sources. Some areas of our space were woefully short when it came to outlets and receptacles
- Furniture testing
- Don't buy all of your chairs at once. Give them each a try before committing to and purchasing them in one bulk order. Also, consider financing options to protect cash flow
- Plan out acoustics and soundproofing needs ahead of time
- Map out where you will want background noise, and where you will not. Determine what source you will use for white noise or whether you will need to set up a sound system for music. In areas that are designed for quieter discussions and meetings, make sure you consider materials that absorb sound waves rather than reverberate.
- Deliberately plan flow and circulation
- We positioned our conference room in the rear of our space. Since we often have new clients in our space using our conference room, the foot traffic crossing the space to access the conference could have been mitigated by building the conference room in a less central location
- Lock your branding before you paint your windows.
After shots... (April 2016)
You probably heard that ULink, the latest extension of Link Light Rail, opened last weekend. It extends the Sea-Tac / Downtown Seattle line to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. It represents a major milestone in bringing 21st century mass transit to Seattle, but many people we've spoken to don't realize it's impact on Pioneer Square and other neighborhoods along the line.
We jumped at the chance to ride the new line on opening day and were thoroughly impressed. Not only were the stations beautiful and the trains bustling with energy and excitement, the ride times to Capitol Hill and UW were almost unbelievably short, opening the door for residents and workers of Pioneer Square, Chinatown International District, Capitol Hill, and Montlake to move freely between neighborhoods, for lunchbreaks, shopping, work, and nightlife.
For our coworking business, proximity to the light rail line means we can pull coworkers and staff from Rainier Beach, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, and University District without ever having the difficult conversation about finding parking in Pioneer Square. Students commuting to UW can live as far south as Rainier Valley and travel to campus in under 30 minutes, without a car!
On Saturday, we tested the line to UW and back, stopwatch in hand. Here are the ride times from our closest station. There is a Pioneer Square Station, and an International District Station within walking distance of The Pioneer Collective, but the ID Station is closer, about a 5 minute walk.
Ride times [Northbound] - from International District Station
- Downtown Westlake Center - 6 minutes
- Capitol Hill Broadway Station - 9 minutes
- University of Washington / Husky Stadium - 15 minutes
Ride times [Southbound] - from International District Station
- Beacon Hill - 6 minutes
- Mt. Baker - 9 minutes
- Columbia City - 12 minutes
- Othello - 16 minutes
- Rainier Beach - 19 minutes
- Sea-Tac Airport - 31 minutes
Early press and Twitter reaction was overwhelmingly positive as well.
The beginning of a new stage for Seattle, the Capitol Hill Light Rail station pic.twitter.com/MUHf6LIDtI— Rex St John (@rexstjohn) March 20, 2016
If the new ULink extension has you excited for the future of transit in Seattle, there are some key organizations and upcoming milestones you should be aware of. First, the Seattle Transit Blog and the hard working folks (and tPC members) at Seattle Subway are the go-to resources for all things transit related in Seattle. Seattle Subway is made up of advocates, engineers, transit geeks, and passionate citizens, working within the system to push Sound Transit to build the interconnected system Seattle missed out on in the late 1960s and in 1912. Seattle Transit Blog is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that covers transit news for the greater Seattle area.
Both groups are pushing for ST Complete, their vision for what they call a "once in a lifetime opportuntiy for high capacity transit in Seattle and the Puget Sound Region." This issue will be on your ballot this November. In the meantime, how can you help further the cause?
1. Email the Sound Transit Board and tell them you support going big on ST3, including a Ballard/UW line.
2. Tell your friends about the upcoming ballot measure and volunteer to help Seattle Subway get the word out.
3. Vote to fund the ST3 plan in November!
Helpful links and further reading - Want to get caught up with a deep dive into our transit present and future? These links provide a good place to start.
- Sound Transit - ST3
- Seattle Subway
- Seattle Transit Blog
- In a Big ST3 Package, a Ballard to UW Line is Essential
South Seattle Light Rail commuter? Check out our Link Coworking Pass for Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach, Columbia City and more!
tPC member Erin Anacker is a passionate and energetic designer, entrepreneur, and people enthusiast. In the middle of a successful design career, she changed directions to found Betwixt, a company that cultivates the relationships between designers and their clients. We sat down with Erin to learn a bit more about her business and what drives her.
Tell us a little about your professional background and the path that led you to where you are today.
I graduated with a degree in visual communication from Seattle Pacific University. After school, I worked for a couple companies doing web design before starting my own business, Pixology. I ran pixology for about five years until I no longer felt connected to the work itself. Through working with a coach, I realized an important detail about myself: design is my talent, people are my passion.
So I shifted gears and started to create projects focused on working more directly with people. Eventually that morphed into a new business—called Betwixt—where I work with other women in design to build their businesses and connect with one another. It's sort of group coaching and community building combined.
You have a good amount of technical proficiency with dynamic languages and databases. How important has that been to your career? Is this becoming a prerequisite for all designers now?
I am self taught in web development and have found it incredibly useful. In my earlier years, I didn't have a strong handle on how to articulate the value of design. Development is, in a way, a more tangible skill set that I found to be more lucrative because I could control the scope more easily. I formed partnerships with other designers to come on alongside their web projects in addition to doing my own full spectrum projects. In addition, it has been useful in my businesses to be able to create the web presence and tools I need if/when I didn’t want to hire out.
However, while I believe designers should have enough understanding of coding to communicate with developers and clients, I do not think they need to know it in order to be successful. Design is so much bigger than making widgets. It is a way of thinking about the world and problem solving. The prerequisite for all designers is the desire and ability to improve the way you think. If that involves learning to code, that’s great. If that involves learning more about how we collaborate in person, that’s great too. Both could be advantageous in solving technical / digital problems.
What are some of ypur favorite podcast episodes you've produced?
Below the Fold — a podcast drawing out the stories and voices of women in design
In Good Company — a podcast exploring business partnership
- 05 Our First Fight, err Conflict? Disagreement?
- 08 The Benjamins, the Bread, the Moolah... the Money
- 12 Does You Plus Me = We?
What are three things that are different today than when you entered the industry?
The web has totally and completely taken over. Design is more broadly accessible and better understood by the average person, at least on a basic level. There seem to be a growing number of small studios and freelancers in the space and the silos that used to exist are beginning to be dismantled.
Outside of having an established network, why did you decide to start your business in Seattle?
I actually started my business while living on the east side of the state, in Richland, WA. However, location for me has been largely irrelevant as most of my work has been online.
Favorite books: one non-fiction, one fiction
If I say Harry Potter, is that too easy? I listened to the entire series before going to bed for about a year. It was like I had Jim Dale conducting story time every night! He does an outstanding job as a narrator, hence the Grammy Awards he’s received. I highly recommend listening to these!
I can’t say that I have a favorite but one I am really digging right now is called Positioning for Professionals. It’s a must-read for anyone who runs a business or freelances on the side. It walks you through how to differentiate yourself and carve out a market space that is all your own, essentially eliminating any competition. I am also really enjoying another book from Wiley called Implementing Value Pricing. These are two books I wish I would have known about when I was running a design business.
When you get a day off, what is your favorite thing to do in the PNW?
Adventuring outdoors with my husband and dog! Which could be as simple as walking to the coffee shop. We love to travel, hike, bike, road trip, ski, etc.
Our changing city has been a constant topic of discussion in the media this year, from economic inequality, to Bertha, heroin, Amazonification, homelessness, rising rents etc. We like for focus on the positive though. What are some ways Seattle is better now than it was a decade ago?
Hmm, I think the same things I loved about the city then are the same things I love about it now. People rave about The City Who Must Not Be Named that sits just three hours south of us. It’s a lovely city with a thriving creative community and amazing food. However, what makes Seattle a better place to live for me, are three things:
- Ambition. People here do not stay in the realm of ideas too long before taking action. It’s the sort of action that makes things happen but also holds space for other priorities. Unlike the east coast, work here is not all consuming—perhaps for a few but not as a whole.
- Independence. Whether in thought or in business, there is an indie vibe here that I’ve not found in any other city in the States. Combined with ambition, people in Seattle seem to value self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
- Quirk. While there are a couple cities competing for the title of Weirdest, I find Seattle content in being itself, whatever that means. It’s not trying to be anything for the sake of it. I love seeing people all over Seattle being expressive and unabashedly themselves, but it’s genuine and not in your face.
In 2020 Erin Anacker will be _________
I have no idea! I used to think I had an idea and then I realized, I’ve not a clue. Life does what it does. I am learning to take it one day at a time, appreciate the nuances, and continue to make a positive contribution where I am able.