Today's guest post is part two of Violet Carson's "Wealth with Virtue" series about the process of converting capitalism into business practices that fit their identity, life structure, and ethics. You can read the first post of the series here on Yopp and you can read further posts on their blog Lunisolarpunk Witch.
]to accomplish the plan
]I call out
]to the heart at once
]all that you wish to win
]to fight for me
]by the wanton one persuaded
]but yes you know well
—Fragment 60, Psapphō, tr. Anne Carson in If Not, Winter
The text of this Sappho poem is fragmentary. Most of her preserved works are pieces of poems, tattered threads of themes, shards of song. And all too often, people don't appreciate how much we lost when the last surviving copy of each of her intact poems was burned or torn apart, or written over as a palimpsest, or simply misplaced altogether.
The smoke from my incense bowl curls in unreadable, swiftly moving shapes, dispersing the aroma of bay and sage and olive leaf through the room. I opened If Not, Winter to a random page, hoping for wisdom that would help me start this second post in wealth with virtue.
In order for my business—which, to preserve anonymity, I name here "Khrusaor"; it's an attribute of several Greek Gods, meaning 'of the golden things' (usually assumed to mean weapons), and it isn't my business's actual name—
In order for Khrusaor to succeed, I have to know what I'm doing. For the past several weeks I have been watching videos from earlier successful entrepreneurs, listening to podcasts on the same principle, and reading books and articles about how to succeed in business. I've been to a presentation by Mercy Corps Northwest—the link is specifically to their Women's Business Center, where I haven't been yet—and I've talked to a mentor from Portland OR SCORE.
I have to screen every word of this for coherence with solarpunk principles. For instance, I don't regret signing up for this free handmade-business video training series from Renae of CupcakeTrainings.com—in fact, if you're interested in such things, I encourage you to sign up yourself! She has a lot of valuable insight! But I have to screen out the bit Renae says about "automating" her business so that she only needed to log in every Friday to pay her assistants, and how that granted her "real freedom".
That's capitalist-class thinking. A kinder thought is, if I work less hard than the people I'm employing, I'm an asshole who deserves less compensation, not more, for my labor than the people I'm employing get. Solarpunk thought, however, is that the very act of employing another is abhorrent.
But even so, there's a great deal of knowledge in these entrepreneurs' lessons that I must listen to. Case in point: to accomplish the plan in which my business succeeds, I must write Khrusaor a business plan.
The 2018 September 13 episode of the Onward Creatives podcast walks me through the one-page PDF of the business plan template that Jack and Valentina created. (As I type this, the only thing on that site is the click-through to the business plan template.) My identity is easy enough to describe: I've just put most of a year into a series of spiritual lessons designed to pinpoint exactly that and to burn the dross from the gold if and as necessary. I am a weaver of words.
My audience? That's harder to identify. I don't doubt it's crucial: Valentina observes that though she might spend $20 in an apparel store her mother frequents, she will spend $200 on a regular basis in an apparel store where she is the target audience. Valentina's mother, of course, might spend $20 in Valentina's preferred store, but there, she is not the target audience.
To whose hearts do I want to call out?
Well. The queer hearts, the witchy hearts, the solarpunk, and lunarpunk hearts. That's easy enough, I suppose—and I type that, and I drop another fragment of bay leaf on the charcoal in my incense bowl; as it begins to smoke, I realize beginning this essay has gotten me past that barrier, past the point in this podcast episode where I've been stuck for three weeks. I am here for the queer, the witchy, the solarpunk people like me.
What problem do these people have that my business might could solve? If I'm crocheting and weaving fashion accessories, it seems that the problem might be cold heads and necks, not enough pockets, a lack of self-expression, and not finding other solutions to these problems that are sufficiently in tune with our common principles. Solarpunk's okay with petroleum products, but pretty much only to the extent that they can't be replaced with other materials—acrylic yarn is probably a no-fly zone. Concerning witchcraft, if you can't summon the flames directly from hell, store-bought is okay—it's better if every phase of my production process is hands-on, but that's not vital at this stage. And as for queerness, the whole point of the verb "queer" is to challenge the concept of "normal". It's "normal" to buy mass-produced apparel and accessories, to blend into the crowd, and I and my work will do neither.
So I'll make hats and scarves and shawls, belts and purses and bags. I'll make them with an eye toward expressing queer, witchy, solarpunk, and lunarpunk identities. And I'll make them myself or with the aid of a similarly skilled textile artist—an equal partner in the business, of course, though perhaps she won't be at first—using, if not natural materials I have processed myself, then natural materials that have been processed in a manner I approve of. Organic cotton. Naturally dyed linen. Handspun wool. *waves hands expansively*
And I have to price my work so that I earn a living wage from the hours I put into the business, and I have to start Khrusaor small. One craft fair booth, at which I will display hats and shawls and bags for sale, under the Khrusaor name and my own face. (I'm listening to Onward Creative's Sep 13 episode again, and Jack and Valentina are emphasizing the need to show myself connected to my brand.) But if I work (as—someone I've forgotten, I apologize—has advised) one hour of business minutia for every hour of artistic creation, I need to account for two hours of labor in the price of every item that takes one hour to produce. Who's going to pay thirty bucks—not counting materials or profit—for a hat, however cute?
The podcast has moved on to the elevator pitch of my business. Queer witchy solarpunk textile art fashion accessories. Boom, done.
How are my products different from similar products from other businesses? I add a fragment of olive leaf to my charcoal—a leaf from a tree sacred to Athena Polias, to Athena Erganē—and, oh, of course. My products come with blessings, with witchcraft woven into every strand.
And naturally, I need my audience to be aware of Khrusaor, of my products. The usual term for this is "marketing" but I find I prefer Jack's word "awareness": marketing has a slimy feel; advertising is positively vile. I'm composing this post on Dreamwidth because they do not run ads: I am Dreamwidth's customer; I am not the product—the clicks and views—they sell to advertisers. Truth be told I don't want to consider this one too hard right now, because Facebook, Instagram, and possibly Tumblr are where my Millennial audience lives, and I simply don't want to deal with that at the moment. (Facebook is especially horrid: if you don't pay them to promote a post, as my artist-for-commission friends keep finding out, then the Facebook algorithm buries your posts.) But it's hardly about my comfort, is it? This phase of the business plan is about connecting my audience to my products. I suppose I need to figure out Instagram!
Competitors, costs, revenue—these all take research. I haven't done that yet. Unique advantages? Here my anxiety kicks in—there are none, there can be none, like a snowflake I may well be unique but I am certainly nothing special.
When I visited the Portland SCORE office, I said nothing of my disabilities. Not anxiety, though it was spiking at the time, and not depression. I said nothing of my neurodivergences. Not of being autistic, not of being ADHD. I did not tell the mentor that I am queer. I did not speak of the principles of solarpunk or lunarpunk, of my witchcraft or my religion. I fragmented myself before that middle-aged white man, in order to gain a little knowledge and perhaps a drop of wisdom.
And now, I pick up those scattered threads, and rereading Sappho's Fragment 60 I weave them together into my whole self. My charcoal has burned out; I dispose of the ashes, and I light a candle, say a prayer. And I pick up my crochet hook and a skein of yarn, its color chosen for its magical correspondences, to set intention in each stitch, to fight for me.
Violet Carson—a textile artist and fibercrafter, disabled feminist and neurodivergent queer witch, and aspiring businessperson—writes here the second post of their series wealth with virtue, about the intersection of their identities and ideals in the arena of the agora. Kella of Yopp! is kindly hosting the first two posts in this series as guest posts; they and subsequent posts shall be found on Lunisolarpunk Witch.