Danielle Cohen: On growing creative businesses
Urban Air Market
Past. Working in marketing at a bank and personal finance firm in San Francisco.
Present. Running Urban Air Market, a large-scale street fair that helps artists, designers, and makers show their work and grow their small businesses.
Future. Expanding Urban Air Market to cities like Brooklyn, Austin, or Vancouver that are inherently artistic and also sustainably-minded.
What spurred you to start your business?
When I started Urban Air Market, I was living in San Francisco. I was working a marketing job where I came home and felt I had to strip myself of the corporate world. My friends were artists and musicians and eventually I just thought, what if I used my marketing skills to help them. I wanted to find a way to support their art. So I started organizing group shows, art gallery events, runway shows, and eventually these initiatives all grew into Urban Air Market.
What's your mission with Urban Air Market?
When I was putting on runway shows, it was a great ego boost for new designers — but it wasn’t necessarily leading to direct sales, income, or loyal customers for them. But Urban Air Market is able to provide that platform. Some of our vendors say our markets are the biggest sales days of their year, so it’s a great way for them to grow as creative business owners. There’s also two key areas in my mind — one is the focus on sustainability, and how I make what I do with fashion and consumerism actually good. And the other is on small business development. So in addition to being a giant marketplace where people come and shop, we also offer workshops to vendors in topics like digital marketing, business law and fundraising. All these topics are educational and growth-focused for our small business owners, who are primarily women and minorities.
How do you get sh*t done?
My main strategy is getting help and having a team. The key for me has been finding people that I really trust and can give a lot of responsibility to. There’s no way I would have been able to expand [Urban Air Market] to other cities if I didn’t have an event director in each city. They know what works locally and what doesn’t, and they have their own network. For me, it’s a lot of trust, letting go and delegating. It also makes it fun. My team keeps me excited.
What do you do with 10 minutes to yourself?
I love the meditation app called Headspace. I’ve noticed a shift in how I sleep, deal with stress and feel anger. It helps me exercise, even when I don’t feel energized, and be more productive. A lot of good things can come from taking 10 minutes out of your day to focus on one theme with the app.
How do you channel your own #bssldypwr?
I love making my own schedule. When anyone runs a business, you’re always on, even if you’re not working in that moment. But there’s something very freeing in being able to say I’m not going to look at my email until 11am. Or I’m going to take a vacation on a random week that has nothing to do with holidays. That feels empowering to me, and it spoils me to the point where I don’t think I could go back to the other way.
Who is one woman who inspires you?
Beyoncé. But I also want to say that it pains me how hard it is to answer that question. When people ask who inspires you in business, it’s really easy to come up with Richard Branson, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, but it sucks that I have to rack my brain to think about the women who inspire me. There are so many, but they’re not necessarily on the news.
Beyoncé is amazingly talented and also a very savvy business woman. The way that she gets other people to collaborate with her — building full albums and videos and no one says a word — that takes huge amounts of trust and inspiration. It’s an amazing feat. And I think it all has to do with her business acumen. She’s the sh*t.
How is style integrated into your life?
The hard part about being a woman in fashion is that we have so many different selves — the person that you are when you go to work, socialize after work, and do housework. You need to be wearing all these different things for each, and we’d be changing five times a day. So I like versatility.
Sustainability. Think about where all these clothes go when they are no longer in style. That's the beauty of Armoire – they keep people fresh without the waste. Plus, we all have that feeling of hating everything in our closets at some point, and Armoire eliminates that.
Where can ladies find Urban Air Market?
This Saturday, September 9th from 10 am – 5 pm, you can experience Urban Air Market in Seattle's Occidental Square. With large scale interactive sculptures and installations by architect students and makers, stop by and celebrate how design improves our lives and the community. You can see details and register here.
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