Becky Hensley owns and operates the creative space, Share Denver, which opened as a brick-and-mortar in the summer of 2013. She celebrated her year anniversary this past summer with a party, complete with a make-your-own birthday hat station and one for designing your own tote bag. Becky’s creativity streams out of her, but the best part is her desire to share this with others. Share Denver is intended to be a space that not only fosters creativity, but also builds and cultivates community. She cares about the people she works with, and this alone makes you feel a part of the space when you are in it.
I loved interviewing Becky and hearing her story about how Share Denver came to be so much, that we started working together on a monthly event – Do.Share.Be – which aims to be a DIY networking event that allows small business owners or small business owners-to-be to tap into and remember the creative parts of their being. This is just one of many opportunities that Share Denver offers, though – if you are in the Denver area, you should check out their class calendar or inquire about teaching a class yourself. Becky has a wonderful Chapter Be story, but she has also created a space that allows others to explore their own Chapter Be.
Tell me a bit about your life prior to starting Share Denver – how did you get to the point of opening up this space?
I moved to Denver about 6 years ago. I have been a part of this punk rock scene. I went to a lot of shows, and there was a lot of partying. I was still doing that, hanging out and going to shows, but I felt like I was supposed to be doing something else. I suggested to my party friends that we have a craft night or something that had some output to it so everyone would leave with something that wasn’t a hangover! So, we started just meeting in basements, and the progression was that we eventually decided to call the group Denver Craft Ninjas.
My friend made me a logo and we kept meeting at friends’ houses but it kept getting bigger and harder to manage…and a lot to ask of people who were offering up their space to a bunch of crazy women who came in with fleece and scissors. So, we started meeting at 3 Kings on Broadway. It fell in line with that vibe of the punk rock aesthetics, but you could sculpt and have a drink on hand or whatever. I did that for several years.
When my ex-business partner, Ann, lost her business she reminded me of when we had talked about trying to work on a project together. So we did one at her space, which was a bead store. We had to do two classes because it was so full of people! It was just a really awesome experience, and I kind of divulged that I would love a space where I could teach but have other people teach classes as well. I was just daydreaming and rambling off a bunch of pipe-dream ideas that I’d like to do one day. I sort of walked away from it with it still in my heart.
When things started to shift for her in her business she said, “Hey, what about that idea that you had?” I thought, wow, that could be a thing?! I guess I just expected it would be all of this elaborate planning and she was like – no, let’s just start looking at spaces. I thought, “No, I’m not ready!” Finally, we just agreed to start looking.
What was that process like? I’ve heard many-a-story that finding a brick-and-mortar space is not for the faint of heart!
I live in Baker so I know the power of a good neighborhood, where there are a lot of things to do and a lot of appeal with retail, good food, beer, and whatever. Immediately I was like, I want it to be in my neighborhood, but the neighborhood already has a lot of things like that. There is Fancy Tiger and Lowbrow. They are all wonderful people, but I would have been directly competing with things that are already very established.
So, we kind of started looking around Denver. It was hard for me, because I was such a Capitol Hill, Baker-centric person. I like those communities, but I realize Denver is changing and growing. It would have been foolish of me to confine it to those places and expect that it would be a good fit. When we started looking it was kind of a funny experience. We found a broker who I had met through social media. She kept showing us places that seemed like not a good fit for us. She showed us a place on Santa Fe and in spite of Santa Fe being awesome it is kind of like a one night a month kind of street.
We were driving around and Ann said, “Go to Fairfax. I think I saw something. I just drove by, take a peek.” So, I came down here and was like, “Oh, God! This kinds of looks not so great.” I walked up anyway and could see through the windows that this room was really big. I had no idea how much bigger it was in the back! I called and the landlord was amazing. His son came and opened the door for me so that I could take a peek. I immediately noticed how great they were and then recognized that this space is kind of great. Then I saw the back and knew it was kind of perfect. I immediately felt good about this space. I went into the back and saw all of the potential for the backyard. I guess I didn’t know what I wanted until I saw it!
What were you doing career-wise before you started doing this full time?
I was working for a family real estate publishing company and it was not a good scene. They publish real estate association publications for real estate associations throughout the country. It was not cool publishing. It was even harder when the recession first hit after the real estate troubles. It was not a good thing. Their business really declined. They are older and their son works for them and it was a very negative working environment for me, personally, because they made poor choices. At the end of the day their business was really struggling.
There were the 3 of them, 2 graphic designers, and then my co-worker and I. Adam, my co-worker, was an amazing guy. There were some final straws with him leaving that made me think I’ve got to start thinking about doing something else. I was working with advertising clients to develop marketing strategies for them to approach realtors. We had an in-house graphics design department that I worked in tandem with to help them. The owner and his son were salesmen. I did a lot of gentle customer service with people who were very particular about what they wanted their message to be. It was great at first, but I worked there for 5 years and it just became kind of desperate, like they seemed very desperate. The weird part is that I told my business partner that I was quitting my job and then like just a couple of weeks later she told me that she was having to close her business. That was the beginning of June 2013.
Tell me about the business partnership. Had you guys parsed out what each of you would be responsible for and/or have a contract?
We did, and sometimes those things kind of naturally fall into place as well. I’m very personable and friendly. I can connect with people pretty well. I kind of became the face of the business a little more than she did. She was having some personal issues that happened immediately after her business ended, but thank heavens that she did because this wouldn’t have happened without her pushing it along.
She was not as engaged as I was in the process so it often seemed like a push and a pull to kind of get her to be involved, but she was very behind the scenes. So, any classes that went up online, any website development and stuff like that, she did all of those things and it as great. I wasn’t very good at those things. I’m getting better now. It was the beginning of June 2014 when she had to bow out of the business due to personal issues. I don’t begrudge her for that. The process made me realize that I’m just not very good at being a business partner and working with other people in that intimate way. I’m happy to collaborate, but if I have to ask someone for permission or to check in then I hate it.
You want to be your own boss and be able to ultimately make the decisions?
Yes. Also, I have a vision. I don’t know if it’s the right vision, but it is mine. I feel better if I don’t have to ask if I can hang these things or if it was what you were imagining, because that conversation can become so circular and not move you forward. The second that she was out I started changing things that I always wanted to change!
That’s interesting because I heard a person on a panel talking about partnership, and she kind of advised against it. She said that if you are going to take a business partner to recommend that you take a “business” partner. So that they are in charge of the financial stuff and the creative vision is yours and yours alone. That kind of stuck, because I think it is really hard to find someone who truly aligns with your creative vision. I’m kind of fascinated by people who can find that. I think it is few and far between!
I look at two of my friends who do Ladies Fancywork Society, the yarn bombing, but they are also in Lowbrow on Broadway. It’s crazy because they have a little retail space and a gallery space. They are just quirky and fun. They hang out, do their retail thing and have a lot of fun. In a way I’m sort of envious because I think that is why people have that kind of partnership…you have backup! I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a little retail here just to help with classes. If I have retail here, though, I can’t leave. I can’t go run an errand.
It becomes a very insular experience when you don’t have anyone challenging your ideas and sometimes I worry about that. I get so focused on something that I’m passionate about and maybe it’s not the right direction. That’s a chance you take, but just to have another voice outside of my voice would be nice sometimes.
I understand, as that’s kind of where I am with Chapter Be right now. I don’t miss the day-to-day of a 9-5 job, but I do miss having that immediate person who you can bounce an idea off of or collaborate with. For as much as I despised the number of meetings I had with my old job, I kind of miss pulling together a group of people who you know are smart and capable and saying, “Okay, let’s talk about this.” It can be super hard. You don’t have any of those check points.
I also think that people keep you accountable. I have to call my mom like every single day and say, okay, I did this, and this, and this. She says, “You don’t have to do that.” My friend uses some accounting software to post her hours. She says if she doesn’t keep track of what she is doing that it’s very easy for her to get lost. I do get lost sometimes. I might be an hour of sequin separating or something, and before I know it I really have nothing accomplished. Someone else might be able to say to me, “That is not a #1 priority today!”
Yeah, keeping yourself 100% focused a 100% of the time is hard! That’s kind of the beauty of having someone else tell you what to prioritize, I guess! Also, when you work for and by yourself there are endless tasks. Suddenly it will be 1:00 a.m., and I’m thinking, “I didn’t get this done, I didn’t get that done.”
I feel like that when I’m here. I’ll be in front of the computer all day long. I’ll be putting classes online, updating the website, updating social media so I don’t have to mess with it. Then it’s 8:00 p.m. and I’ve been here for like 12 hours and think about all of the stuff I didn’t do. Like maybe I really wanted to hang some stuff or paint a door or something.
I went to Alt Summit and while there participated in a round table discussion with Amber Housley that was about automating processes. It was crazy-helpful. I wish that hadn’t been a round-table but where she took an hour to just talk about that. It was really interesting because I was just in the process of figuring things out after Ann left. She just left, so I had to learn how to do everything from scratch. In a lot of ways I admit that I probably shook my fist and said, “God damn her.” I also think that sometimes trial by fire is the best way to learn something, because you learn very quickly how you could screw it up. So you try to mitigate all problems.
It was helpful because I was trying to establish a process. Because, like you were saying, those roles that we parsed out between the two of us were so distinct, I wasn’t familiar with things she was doing and that was foolish. I learned everyone should learn how to do everyone else’s job, in my humble opinion.
That’s hard when you are trying to start something up, though. I mean you are so overwhelmed with just getting stuff done on top of thinking you have to know everything and learn everything. At some point you just have to delegate and prioritize.
Yes, and that is something that I had to activate immediately. That bigger idea of hanging this stuff, separating sequins, making a fringe door garland, and also knowing I had to put up all of my classes, email all of my teachers, make sure this teacher sends me a head-shot, make sure that all of the social media goes up so that we are engaging people. There is just so much stuff that I want to do. If I don’t have a process in place, it just overwhelms!
I am reading this book called The E Myth. Someone told me to read it when I quit my job. I read it on my Kindle from time to time. In the first part of the book it talks about things like when you are starting your own business there are 3 roles that you have to play. A lot of people fall into any one of those roles more comfortably. There is the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. For a lot of people, the technician is a really safe place to be in because it’s about getting stuff done. It’s about if I hang this up I will feel good. Really, that is not making me money to hang these pictures up. It is the entrepreneur who is getting input from the community, the patrons, and what people want from you. You have to go out and develop those things as well. Sometimes that is not where your strengths are. I’m good at reaching out to people, and I’m a good technician but I don’t know if I’m a very good manager.
But – how many people are all three?
Exactly, and in a way I think maybe that’s why a partnership is more appealing. I mean, this is where my strengths are and this person will fill in this other part…but maybe they won’t. Once you know them intrinsically, down to their core, which takes a lot of time of working together.
Have you always crafted? Is this something that came to you because you were bored at your job or were you doing this kind of stuff at 5 years old?
I always say, “I’m not very crafty, I’m just good at getting people together.” My mom is crafty, and the women in my family are crazy-crafty. My grandmother could look at something on a wall and go home and make it. She needed no patterns. The same with my mom. When my mom was a kid, she had kind of a tumultuous childhood, so she lived with her grandparents a lot. Her great-grandmother lived with them so she would learn stuff from her. They were hard on her. Like, if her embroidery on the front didn’t look the same on the back they would make her take it out. If they saw in her crocheting that she had missed a stitch they would make her rip it out to the point where the error was and start again. My mom is a phenomenal crafter because of that.
When I was younger I think my mom wanted to give me this legacy. Now, as an adult, I think that is the coolest thing in the world, but as a kid I was like, “You don’t know what you’re doing. I can do it better than you!” Then I couldn’t get it and was ashamed. I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t follow her directions and had been cocky, because it seemed like I knew what I was doing. We fought a lot about crafting!
So – if crafting was a bit angst ridden when you were younger, how did you find yourself doing it again as an adult?
I lived in Montana after leaving Wyoming. I had a boyfriend who was moving to Montana to live with his brothers and asked if I wanted to come. I foolishly said yes, and while the relationship didn’t last long, I stayed in Montana for 8 years. It was kind of the best thing ever. I went to school there. I made great friends there. It was a great time for me to just kind of be a wild idiot and learn.
Right before I moved back home I worked at this job that was a wallpaper store online. So, people were buying wallpaper for their home online. It was just a small business that this woman (who was very nice) ran but it was kind of a depressing job and I wasn’t making very much money. It had become a hassle to get there because my car wasn’t working anymore and I was taking the bus. The bus system in Montana isn’t great. I mean it may stop here but then you have a 2-mile walk.
Every day there were weather concerns, on top of walking to this job that I did not like and taking this bus. It was just a horrible thing. Every day I walked past a craft supply place. I would always go in and buy something – which I probably shouldn’t have been doing because I really couldn’t afford it! I would buy like some yarn, and then I would sit on the bus and crochet. Kids with snotty noses would come and investigate. For some reason, it connected me to people. What are you working on? What is that? Even if it wasn’t anything, and I was just working on something to keep my hands busy, it connected me to people. Then I could make things for people and give it to them. That kind of started it.
It is interesting that you were able to take a skill you had learned when you were younger, and maybe even forgotten about, and then infused it back into your life and that connected you to something bigger.
I’m definitely a feminist. I remember thinking that it was really empowering to be able to give people ways to make things. For my mom, as a kid, that’s what she got. She would go to her grandmothers’ trailer in this little town of like 10 people in Wyoming. She would say, this tablecloth used to be a sheet. Now, because we embroidered it, it can be a tablecloth. It was kind of upcycling. It was making good with the things that you have on hand. I always thought about how empowering it was to be able to make things out of other things.
I also like there is a story of that, too. There is a narrative. Even though my mom was told over and over that it wasn’t right and she had to start over again, she never did that to me. It goes to show why she is such a good crafter, though, and why she is so talented. It is because there were some really strict rules surrounding it. I come from that legacy, and I think that is very feminist to share that with other people. If my grandmother knew that I was teaching an embroidery class or a needlepoint class she would be out of her mind. That would be the craziest thing in the world, and she would be so proud. It’s weird to me that this legacy, something that I never thought would live through me, is living through me.
It is living through you and then it’s also living out of you because you are also sharing that with other people. My dad’s mom was like that. I mean, her hands were always moving. In retrospect I wonder why I didn’t have her teaching me more. She had looms and could knit a sweater in 2 days. That was lost somewhere. I get the sense that is maybe starting to come back a little bit. I think that people are starting again to value the art of making something versus just going to a Walmart and buying it. Do you think that is true?
Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it lost value because people saw it as “women’s hobbies” and that kind of comes with some strange, unfortunate cachet that is not really positive. There is an attitude like, “Oh, you are just going to sit home and knit.” It’s very granny-ish and very domestic. I feel it has been devalued in that way. Cross-stitch is not easy unless you have very good eyes. I think that skill, that talent, that ability has been devalued because, “Oh, cross stitch. That is for little girls and grannies.” For some reason there has been this shift and empowerment in creating things. That is why I hate the idea of craft classes seeming inaccessible to people. No craft should be super expensive and make you feel bad when you are done. It’s not hipster, and all of those things are accessible because, guess what? People have been doing it for ages. Elaborate embroidered gowns, people have been doing that forever.
I think I equate it a little bit to gardening. There was a food movement when all of the sudden more people started questioning where their food was coming from and how it is being grown. There is a consciousness around that. I think the recession really helped the whole DIY movement. People decided they didn’t want to pay for something, so then had to figure out how they could do it on their own. When you learn how to do something on your own, you are more likely to appreciate all that goes into making it – therefore becoming a more conscious consumer.
Exactly. I think a big part of why I love hand-made goods is because my house is filled with them. My mom gives me an afghan, and I cover myself with it and it feels like love. There is something powerful about that. I think it’s great that you are making something and not paying a premium for something that wasn’t made from American people or probably by someone with small hands who is very little. I think there is something powerful about it not only being hand-made, but also being made by someone who made it for you – or that you made it for yourself.
There are people and our first reaction as Americans is, “Wow, that’s really cool. I could never do that. I’d rather have someone make it or buy it somewhere.” It’s like, I don’t want to be involved in that process. It’s the same with food. I don’t want to know where my tomatoes come from. I just want them. There is a story behind all of that, too, that is really awesome and fun if you are invested and immersed and willing to know it. It’s knowing how to do a backstitch to create an amazing tapestry or something. It gives you an appreciation of how complex and beautiful it is. It’s not out of your reach. It’s still something that is accessible to you.
There are a lot of people who don’t want to be engaged in that conversation. I get it, but it’s a shame. It can be for convenience, but it’s definitely for socio-economic reasons, as well.
Yes, there is a difference between a group of people who have the means and just don’t care and people who are buying what they can afford.
Yes, and that makes sense. I also don’t want to say, though, that people who can’t afford it don’t still appreciate it. My mom’s family, that’s what they did. They made do with what they had, and if they could add some embellishment to it that made it beautiful, then they did that.
I think so much is about education. It goes back to what you are doing. You are providing a space and time for people to learn.
That’s really important and powerful for me. I feel like there is nothing elitist about that. It is very accessible. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to learn to make this thing that could really change the way you look at how you buy and what you own and where you put your money. I tell people in my embroidery class that the backstitch is a great stitch for embroidery, but it’s also just kind of a great stitch. In a pinch you can hem a pair of pants with a backstitch and it’s reinforced, it’s heavy duty, it doesn’t look too shabby. Nothing about embroidery is just embroidery. If you need to make a French knot to keep something on your shirt that was coming off, it is simple. I’ve taught so many embroidery classes where people said, “This is not that hard.” No, it’s not. It’s actually really easy and fun and you can do it.
Something I have always struggled with various crafting skills is that I am a perfectionist, so I want to look at an expert example, and then I want mine to look great and perfect – just like the example. It’s not going to happen!
I tell people who are learning to embroider, if the back doesn’t look like the front, it’s not the end of the world. If someone looks at the back, they are a jerk. That is not the point. We put so much pressure on ourselves to create something that is right the first time. We don’t want to go back, pull it out and identify what the problem was.
Also, there are people who are just serious, they are not going to stop being so serious, and you just have to let them be serious. I think everybody wants to be good at things. Who doesn’t just want to sit down and get it the first time so that when I leave I can keep doing it? I see it in embroidery classes. I call it micro-managing your stitches. People will stitch small. I think they feel there is a risk in making it big because it might show error. So, they will do it really tiny and it’s impossible because if you do it really small you can’t see what you are doing so you are kind of thwarting your efforts. So, I say, “A grain of rice. It’s not too big it’s not too small.” I walk around and people have these tiny stitches and ask does this look right? I’m like, “I don’t know because I can’t tell. I don’t know how you could tell!”
It’s kind of so fascinating to me. I think you could tell how they approach life as to how they approach their work. Who is just all about the end product versus the process?
Absolutely. I think, too, that there is something about the value of the experience, am I getting my money’s worth, am I walking away with something? I’ve got to get it right so that when I leave, I can continue at home.
I give my classes “doodle cloths” and tell them that this is not the project. This is where you practice. Practice a lot. Floss literally costs like $1.00 and you split it. You can make the floss go a long way. Practice and play. That is where it gets interesting. It is not interesting to just jump in and have it be right immediately. It’s great to play a little bit and make 15 horrible French knots and then make one that is incredible.
I remember how it felt now as I did it again, and again, and again. I had one girl who was crocheting, and I could see it in her hands. It’s like when little kids get a kitten. She wanted it so bad and she wanted it to be good and it wasn’t. It’s hard to hold because your hands don’t know what they are doing. It’s persevering personalities entirely but you also want people to feel like whether they like it or they don’t that they are definitive about it. When she was finished she said, “Maybe crocheting isn’t for me.” I said, “Keep practicing, maybe it is.”
There is something to be said about what you can learn about yourself through the process of crafting. It has the power to teach you how to let go. It is a safe place to kind of practice how you can take something about yourself that you don’t love that much and let it be okay.
I think that is a nice thought, actually, for there to be a moment to not put pressure on yourself. You are still creating something without there being any consequences. You should never have to buy $40.00 yarn and a bamboo crochet hook and then decide you hate crochet. There shouldn’t be a lot of pressure. It should be cozy and fun. If it’s not then don’t do it. If you really want to learn then you will find that place where it becomes smooth and Zen, quiet, and good. I think that first-time learners have idealized in their minds how great it will be. You think – this will be the best Christmas ever because I’ll make sweaters for everyone. Then you make a sweater and one arm is this long and the other is this long!
How do you price your classes? We talked about how you want to make sure it is affordable to people but at the same time you need to make a living. How do you figure that out?
That’s hard. I probably price them a little bit too low. I’ve never been flush with cash. I’ve never been wealthy in any way. I understand the value of getting something that is a good opportunity at a good price. I respect people and the economy being tight. It is hard. I do have to pay my bills and it’s a hard balance between telling people this shouldn’t cost you a fortune to learn how to do this and at the same time there are costs associated with learning how to do this.
But – you are also sharing your knowledge and skills. I hate to stereotype, but I think women tend to do this a little bit. We undervalue our worth and what it all costs.
Right – the idea that I’ll just help you out or we will make it an across-the-board trade. My boyfriend and I talk a lot about this because women are afraid to ask. I’m guilty of it, too. I’ll say that I’m sorry before a sorry is warranted. I’m always putting myself in that position. Was that inconvenient for you? Let me fix that. It’s the same with money. I can’t say that just women are empathetic, but I am so understanding of other people’s things. I get that you have kids. I get that you are a single mother. That shouldn’t keep you from participating and being involved in things. At the same time, I need to know my value and know what my time is worth.
It’s a tough thing because we do teacher trainings once a month to encourage people to teach here and that is a hard thing. We see a lot of teachers who don’t know what to do. I try to tell them (and it’s a lesson for myself as well) what is your time worth? Do you charge $36.00 per hour for what you do with supplies on top of that? That might be tough to get someone to pay you $36.00 per hour to teach a tie-dye class. So, think about what your time would be if this were your job all of the time. Consider what you would pay to take a class like that. Ask your friends, ask your family. What would you pay to take this class? Maybe make it a little higher than that. We do ask that our teachers provide their supplies to make it an experience that people don’t have to feel like they have to bring stuff in. That is also a reason that I might consider doing a little retail in this space. It is easier to have the materials available. It’s really a struggle. I am kind of torn in both places. I really want to make things economical for people but I also have to take care of myself.
How do you find your teachers and what is the business model? Do they get paid and then you get a cut of that?
Right. It’s open to anyone. If you want to teach a class here then we would love to have you. I have considered curating things and being very overlord of all things, but I don’t think you can manage what people are interested in. It’s so weird what people will come to, and I think the diversity is really cool. I’m so excited because this girl is teaching a class that is a back-to-school immune class. That is something that maybe my embroidery people wouldn’t come to, but there is a whole other group of people out there. So, I don’t try to control that a lot. If you know how to do something and you are passionate about it then chances are somebody else wants to know how to do that.
Are you trying to keep it to crafts or could someone come in here and teach like a history class?
Absolutely. I had a woman come in here and say that she teaches Mandarin and wondered about teaching a class. I was like, “Yeah, I would love to learn mandarin.” Ultimately, I want Share Denver to be a place where people can come to learn. I want it to be the kind of place where people can feel confident doing whatever. We taught a Kombucha class, and it was so fun to have that opportunity to see different people come in and be here. It changes the energy, it changes the vibe, and it develops a different kind of community.
I feel like as much as we are so much closer with computers and technology, I think it is sometimes hard to get us connected with people. I always find that if you are doing something with somebody, if you are crafting or making Kombucha or whatever, a conversation is bound to start. That was my favorite part of Denver Craft Ninjas. There are 3 girls in particular who met at Denver Craft Ninjas and now I see them on Facebook all of the time making plans, going camping, going for drinks. Now they are super tight. Love that!
At the end of the day we are social beings, but people have a hard time just going somewhere and randomly talking to a stranger. But – if you have something that you are doing it gives you that in-between to just start talking.
Yes, whether you are talking to people about how much you love a project or how much you hate a project, or even how horrible you are at the project, you are still talking. That one thing will just connect people enough to get a phone number and hang out. They may discover that they also like to rock climb or whatever. I take great pride in creating that opportunity. It is such a cool thing to me. I love that 2 people can walk away from an embroidery class and be friends. I love that they can go off, and their worlds were broadened by that. It’s so cool to me.
This example just proves that there is so much more to a business idea than just the idea itself! You have to just let this happen, though – it is not something you can plan for or expect. You can try to figure it out and try to guess what could go right or wrong but it’s not until you actually make it and start doing it that you see all of the things that can come from it or don’t come from it. That is really scary to take that step but in the same respect you are never going to move forward if you don’t.
Right. It’s great on paper to say you are going to start a business and do this thing that seems fun and great. As you move forward things fall into place and that process is not anything you would expect. It will always be a surprise. I am constantly surprised how people are, how I am, and I’m always thinking that I have to change something because this isn’t working or how bureaucracy works or how money happens. That process is constantly falling in on me.
It’s incredible and overwhelming and also the second you get out of your head and just do things and stop trying to anticipate (which is my biggest problem because I am a major worry wart) then things flow. I’m always thinking ahead about what is going to happen if this doesn’t happen and what is going to happen here. If I just come here, and I work and do what I am supposed to do and things get done then those things happen.
I have very much idealized what this would be like and it’s not anything like that. That’s okay. It’s funny, when you work a 9-5 job and then you take a lunch break or something and go out into the world, you are driving and you see all of these people. They are out! They are doing things! They are out in the world doing things while you are sitting at a computer monitor maybe silently dying. You go out into the world and get envious because people are grocery shopping at 2:00 p.m. or driving to the park to walk their dog. You think, “If I ever had that opportunity to just not have a day-to-day 9-5 then I would do it differently.” And then you don’t. You just do not. It’s okay but it’s such a strange thing. Now when I make a run to the bank or go and buy supplies for a project or something it doesn’t feel like I’m just out during the day – it is still work!
Since I started this, have I had a lunch date with anyone? No. I make a sandwich in the kitchen. Have I had a cocktail after work? No. Everything that I envisioned about my life that would be so free is not there. It’s okay, I’m totally okay with that. There is something so great about leaving here 8:00 p.m. even though I know that I’ll only be awake another two hours before I go to bed and be right back here the next day. There’s something great about driving home at 8:00 p.m. and thinking that it wasn’t too bad. I kind of owned that day and I’m going to go back tomorrow and do it again.
Yes – you go from working a 40 hour week to like 120 hour week…at least in the beginning. Anytime you start something it is going to be super-intense in the beginning, but at least you own that intensity and you are creating it. Also, you are not bored. So many people tell me in their 9-5 jobs they are just bored. One friend right now says that she literally gets everything she needs to get done in a day by 10:00 a.m. and the rest of the day is nothing. She just has to sit there.
I think a lot of people work in jobs where once you get it then it is so easy. I remember saying at the publishing company, “I could run this place. This is not hard.” I was there like 5 years, but that business had been running for 25 years. At the beginning when they were doing layouts with big pieces of board that they were taking to a printer. I wasn’t there for that. So, now I understand that it was kind of insulting that I thought I could totally do what they were doing. Again, they are crazy, but they had been honing their process for 25 years!
Yes, and how do you grow, too? If Share Denver takes off beyond your wildest explanations, it’s so different than what it was when you started .You have to grow and recreate.
Yes, and that’s scary. People are so afraid of change, even if it is good change. It’s like, now what? Like I’ve had all of these processes and now I have to change those? I have to admit that I’m a little scared of that. I’m scared of not growing and scared of growing because it is a change in process and learning how to add things and take things away. I think that is the scariest part. It is superfluous and hard to identify. If it feels comfy and safe but then you realize that it’s holding you back and not helping then you have to extricate it from what you have been doing all along.
I was pretty miserable in my 9-5 jobs, but retrospectively you gain an appreciation that you didn’t have in the moment. There is something kind of amazing about being able to leave it and go home and not have to worry about it. It feels like I’m in grad school again. I always feel like I should be doing something. I kind of miss that feeling of my weekend being my weekend where I can do anything I want because I worked those 5 days, I worked hard, and I can just be tuned out. When you own your own thing you are never not thinking about it. It’s always kind of on your shoulders.
That is an incredible point. I feel it all of the time. My bosses were like in their mid-70s so they should have retired long ago but their son was a little incompetent and they just didn’t feel good leaving him alone with the business. After 25 years, who would? I get that connection. I remember my boss saying to me one time that she keeps a pad on the nightstand because if something occurred to her, she had to write it down or she would forget. I remember recently thinking I should keep something on the nightstand and then recognizing that I sounded just like her! This is horrible, I never wanted to be like her and now I am kind of like her. I was so critical of them and how they ran their business. They didn’t seem like they knew what they were doing. If someone was on the outside looking in do I look like I know what I am doing? I have no idea!
It really is a full-time job and by full-time I mean my whole life. I try to go hiking with my boyfriend on the weekends, but there are times where we just don’t see each other during the week. I have friends I have not seen in forever. I go back and forth about that stuff. I miss when I lived in this horrible studio apartment in Governor’s Park, and I just watched a lot of Netflix and played on the computer and maybe I crocheted. I didn’t do a lot. I just basically hung out in my apartment, and I loved it and I miss it. My apartment is a disaster. I don’t invite people over any more because it is gross because I’m not there and when I am there I have no interest in cleaning it!
How can you just appreciate just exactly where you are, right? We look back and are nostalgic but if we are honest at that time there were things that we weren’t happy about. There is an art in being happy exactly where we are, and I don’t think that’s an easy thing to do.
At the end of the day what both you and I can commiserate on is that none of this will kill us. You won’t die. You may have to close up your doors, pack away your books and your kitschy bullshit and get out, but you won’t be dead. You can do something else. I think that is the whole craziest, scariest part for me. It’s scary to be here and to be doing this, but it’s even scarier to think about what I would be doing if I weren’t doing this. That is just huge incentive for me. I don’t have a backup plan. I probably should. I’m a grown adult. This is what I wanted. This is what I have dreamed about. Now I have it and now it is about making it work. When you dream and love something in your heart for so long and then it happens and then it doesn’t work, it can be devastating. I have friends who have a restaurant in Montana and they were heartbroken when they had to close. I’m scared to death about that but I know it’s not going to kill me. I’ll figure it out.
How you want it to look and how it ends up looking are two totally different things. At the end of the day this might not be what I thought it would be. I feel like I’m trying to stay open to that. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want anything to fall apart. It’s that way with anything, not just business or creative pursuits. It’s even relationships. Maybe you really don’t want your car to have a dent in it, but you are going to get around in it even if it has a dent in it? I really see the world the way I see the world and then something changes it. That might not have been how I wanted to see it, but it’s okay. I connect now with so many things that I didn’t connect with before because I am doing this, and I can see the world differently.
It’s finding that sweet spot of just trusting but also working hard to move things forward.
Also, not expecting to get anything from it but just doing it because you love it. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, my Lord, what is going to happen?” At the same time if you want the 9-5 job where that is not going to happen then that is probably a good place for you. I really like that things aren’t predictable, and that it is not just a routine. I know that a lot of people really love routine. I thought I did for a while.
I needed that push from my ex-business partner, Ann, to realize otherwise. I didn’t need to be pushed that hard because I wanted it, but it is terrifying. Even if you are unhappy, even if you are miserable, it is easy to tell yourself that you don’t want to take that risk.
At my old job because they fired a girl who had been there for 11 years. She was horrible. She had been there for 11 years but she didn’t do anything. She was really bad at her job, but because she had been there so long she was just like a part of the machinery. She fit there and she did what she had to do. There was no extra effort. I remember thinking that even if you put in 11 years, even if you are exemplary and you are like the best employee, unless it’s your business and you are super-solid in it, there is no guarantee. You don’t just get to have that job forever and, really, do you want that job forever? Even if you did love your job, do you want to be there forever? I didn’t. I don’t. I don’t want to work anywhere for 11 years and just be a part of the machinery.
Notes of Reflection:
- Sometimes we aren’t always willing to take the leap and need a gentle push to get to where we need to go. Becky is not sure that she would have taken the leap all on her own to find and create the space for Share Denver. The partnership did not ultimately work out, but it was what got her to where she is today. What we sometimes see as being a negative, can actually be turned around so that we see it as something that needed to happen – to get us to exactly where we needed to be. Sometimes that comes in leaps, other times it comes in small pushes!
- Expectations can be our biggest enemy. If we spend too much time in our own heads trying to build up the expectations of the way we think something should be, versus allowing life to happen the way it is supposed to, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We can have an idea of how something is going to turn out, but we never know. Sometimes it is way beyond what we could ever expect. Check yourself when you start doing this and also remain open enough for things to unfold in ways that you might not have imagined.
- Take a class. It doesn’t have to be a class that you want to master, but just something that you want to learn about or are curious about. Don’t expect to be perfect, but instead allow yourself that time to just learn and be playful. A class is low-stakes. Just go with it and allow your imagination to take over. Put reason, planning and judgment to the side for a couple of hours and let your creativity be the guide. It’s pretty amazing the lasting effects that that one class can have!
- #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- Just Kids by Patti Smith
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
- Actual Air by David Berman
- A New Path to the Waterfall by Raymond Carver
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
*Images via Chapter Be and Share Denver