By Taryn Oesch
Michelle Smith, founder of The Rock & Shop Market and indieNC, is a product designer who saw an unmet need in the Triangle creative community and really wanted to fill it. For a while, she’d been thinking about opening a boutique highlighting local artists and fashion designers, but kept getting cold feet., especially with the struggling economy.
Then along came Entredot, a local nonprofit business mentoring organization that had been working on setting up a downtown incubator for the fashion industry called ReDii, but needed help on the creative side. They approached Smith to become Creative Director of this Incubator, to help get it set up and bring in artists. Smith took on the challenge and worked quickly to expand the scope of the incubator to include art, design and craft, as well as fashion, and to rebrand the space as Kindred. Fast forward to today and Kindred is signing on artist and craftspeople and getting very close to opening.
I attended an informational potluck in the Kindred’s space at Wilmington Street, where around 40 interested arts community members listened to Smith explain how Kindred would operate and what it was offering the community. Kindred will not only be a place for artist, designers and crafts people to start showing and selling
their work, but also a place for them to learn about the business side of being an artist. Kindred, with Entredot’s support, offers its members five hours per week of personal business mentoring, a free business workshop series, 15% off all other class offerings (including yoga), and other resources. Business workshop topics might include blogging, product photography, accounting and legal issues, trade shows, and branding.
Michelle clarified that the mentors provided by EntreDot aren’t artists; they are businesspeople who mentor entrepreneurs of any industry. EntreDot provides the business acumen, and Kindred provides the artistic know-how, and together, they provide a full range of services for local artists.
An entrepreneur and artist herself, Smith knows the risks artists take in going out on their own, and she has designed Kindred to cater to emerging artists – besides being able to receive mentoring and attend free classes, the space’s lease terms are short and meant to be temporary, used only until tenants can establish their own studios. Smith told her potluck guests that this short-term approach enables them to get their feet wet, to find out what it will be like when they have their own space, because “ultimately, I want to see you have your own space.”
Kindred has partnered with many local businesses to make its members’ experiences as beneficial as possible. Representatives from The Makery and Seam Happy were at the potluck to share information about their businesses and how they are partnering with Kindred. The Makery is run by three sisters and North Carolina natives; it offers curated deals on art, apparel, and homewares made by locals and will feature and sell work by Kindred artists on its site. Seam Happy, founded by Jennifer Yang Buntaine, provides locally-made promotional products and gifts for businesses. It will provide a resource for Kindred designers to generate leads and orders.
When I visited, the Kindred space was still pretty empty, but it won’t stay like that for long. Mas Soto Designs, a Durham-based children’s furniture manufacturer, is outfitting the boutique with modular wall fixtures from small shelves to large wall units (each size a different price). West Elm is also providing furniture for Kindred, and Elissa Keno Weddings & Events will be creating quarterly window displays.
Informational flyers handed out at the potluck said that Michelle Smith “is passionate about shining a spotlight on the artisan community in North Carolina and helping these makers become more successful in their craft.” This passion is evident in her enthusiasm and her hard work, and the various potluck guests – from crochet artists, metalworkers, and jewelers.
Taryn is a writer and recovering band geek who still loves music and all the arts. She graduated from Meredith College in 2010 and then moved down the street to work for NC State. In her free time, she plays the piano and battles for apartment space with her uncontrollable collection of books. You can reach Taryn by email.
Tags: arts incubator, EntreDot, KIndred, MIchelle Smith, Raleigh, Seam Happy, the Makery