4.04.2014

the hungry toddler: Farley's East

The hungry toddler is back, with an all-new toddler (I almost wrote "new and improved" but I think that would be a little messed up, catchy as it is)! Since "baby" #2 is really a toddler now, I thought it would be fun (and by fun I mean only occasionally miserable) to revive this series of posts, since I started a little too late with child #1, now undeniably a "big kid", a decent eater, and relatively well-behaved at restaurants. Where's the fun in that?! I considered moving this series of blog updates to my more family-oriented blog but these posts are really more about the places we go in and around Oakland, not so much an update on the toddler. Right?


Okay, let's get right to it! This morning I met up with a friend and her budding toddler, just a couple weeks older than my own, at Farley's East in the uptown section of Oakland. Initially we were going to meet at Hive, which I know has a kids' play area (more about Hive in a separate post). Then last night this friend texted me asking if I'd be up for meeting at Farley's East instead, because her husband told her it had a kids' area as well. Wait a minute, was this that place that has the outdoor seating in what is essentially a parking space? I've passed by it several times (in fact, I used to work in this area years ago) - it's always packed to the gills with hipster-types (not that there's anything wrong with that). So I checked the Yelp page on my phone, scrolled down to the "good for kids?" area, saw that that question was answered "no" and decided to do a little more online investigating. Sure enough, I came across this article that mentions the loft area upstairs and a little space with kids' toys, puzzles, and books. Okay, I texted my friend, let's give it a shot!


The coffee shop does indeed have an undeniably hipster vibe to it (but really, what doesn't these days, especially in certain parts of Oakland?), and we got a lot of the typical hipster-encounters-child stares, as if we were toting aliens around on our hips (yes, sometimes I wonder and do a double-take, myself), but other than that I found the more negative reviews to be debunked by what was very friendly counter service, a delicious almond milk latte, and a yummy, if a bit early, salted chocolate chip cookie (I mean, really, what's the difference, calorically speaking, between a cookie and a scone or muffin, right?).

As for the kids' area, it's no Play Cafe. My toddler tripped and bonked her chin on the corner of the coffee table and both kids tried repeatedly to put that zebra, which looks deceptively clean in this image, in their mouths. And this area is right around the corner from the stairs which, obviously, pose a slight hazard to the toddler age group. So, ironically, I too would indicate that it's not so great for kids if I left a review on Yelp. I did, however, file it away under possible places to get a little laptop work in while the toddler's in daycare.

4.02.2014

Etsy makers in the middle: Ashley Jackson of JackZenHemp

Well, this is it folks - the second and perhaps final post in the short-lived makers in the middle series (unless other sellers reach out or I stumble across a shop that fits the bill). Today I'd like to share the story behind JackZenHemp, run by sole proprietor and stay-at-home single mom Ashley Jackson. Let's give this one a go good ol' fashioned interview style:

Why and how did you start your Etsy shop?

When I was a mere 8 years old, my great-grandmother brought back a shell and hemp kit from her yearly trip to Florida. I worked with the kit for weeks. I fell in love with crafting and from that age, I was addicted to re-using old things to create brand new creations. I admit that I was a dumpster diver, trying to find things to create everything from rock houses, to piggy banks. As a child, I loved playing "business owner" and would write pretend invoices to my younger sister who played "the customer". I didn't know it then, but I know now that I was destined to become a true business owner. At the tender age of 17, I became pregnant. I was still in high school and knew I needed a job. I suffer from social anxiety and find it VERY hard to communicate in person so when I heard about Etsy from my relatives, I jumped on it as soon as I could. At age 18, with an 8 month old son, I decided to join Etsy. I remembered my experience with hemp while walking through a local craft store. I bought some beads and hemp cord and began learning. I picked up the art of macrame knotting right away! And with the spirit of my grandmother guiding me, I opened up shop in May of 2012 and haven't looked back since.

What else do you do, if you don't do this full-time and how do you work your Etsy process into your schedule?
I am a single stay at home mom to my 2 year old son. At times it's very difficult to balance the two, but even from the beginning I have been motivated to hang on to my faith in my work. I'm determined to make ends meet on my own and I have since age 19. While my son takes his afternoon nap, I work on editing photos and network on social media sites. As soon as my son goes to sleep for the night, I start working on pending orders. I admit, it's very hard sometimes but I love what I do. Making hemp jewelry and caring for my child is my full time job.

You've had over 600 sales - congratulations! What areas have you had success with in terms of managing your shop, promotion, etc., that got you to that impressive milestone? You have an impressive number of Facebook followers as well - how did you build your social media following?
I am so grateful to have a large amount of people supporting my work. I have worked for my fans on Facebook. I collaborate with other hemp artists to create huge amazing giveaways for all of our fans. It's important, to me, that we reward our customers for supporting handmade and not to mention for purchasing ECO-FRIENDLY products.

What are your goals going forward? What are your frustrations or questions about Etsy as a forum as it has evolved over the last couple of years?
My major goal is to overcome my social anxiety and participate in more craft shows to showcase my work. The majority of my family is supportive of my goals, but I want to prove what I believe in. Eco-friendly and especially handmade is the way to go.

Finally, tell me more about your love of poetry. Is this something you'd ever consider integrating into your shop or products in some way?
I love poetry. I wish I knew how to integrate my poetry into my work, but, admittedly I haven't put too much thought into it. Poetry was my outlet in high school. I went through a lot during those years. I wrote about things I couldn't tell anyone. With a toddler running around the house and running a business, there's not a whole lot of time to write like I used to. As a young mom, I've run into the reality that I cannot do everything I want. However, I know now that I can do what I love and believe in while supporting my family. That's what truly counts.

WAHM! That's one heck of a work-at-home mom story, no? I find Ashley's shop and story incredibly inspiring and wish her much continued success. I think her products would do really well at craft fairs and I could see how she might have a niche audience in terms of blogs and other forums where she could pitch her products for further promotion and general buzz.

By the way, I noticed Etsy's last few featured sellers have been more or less sole proprietors with under 100 items in their shops and under (sometimes well under) 1000 sales. So maybe they're trying to mix it up, after all?

4.01.2014

burning bridges: F is for facetious

I've got one more maker in the middle post for you that I'll get to either tomorrow or next Wednesday. Etsy shut down my forum post pretty quickly, citing self-promotion, so only two sellers had a chance to reply before that happened. I guess I can see where they're coming from. And I guess it is a little like complaining about the boss at the office. Actually, it's more like complaining about the office building, or maybe the office manager? I don't know, I'm a little sloppy with my analogies. At any rate, that may be a short-lived series. In the meantime, and in the spirit of potentially burning bridges, I thought it would be fun to take a little stroll down the job section of memory lane since I'm clearly still deciding what I want to be when I grow up.When I was in high school I made the declaration that I wanted to have 20 jobs by the time I was 27 which, in hindsight, is a little nuts! I didn't quite reach that goal, but I've had at least 10 distinct jobs, maybe more depending on how you count different positions at the same place. Skipping over babysitting entirely, let's get started, shall we?

First up is a summer position between junior and senior years of high school. This was one of those high school summer work programs, that paired students with low-paying positions in various locations around Patch Barracks, where we lived at the time. I was assigned to some sort of architectural office and what I remember of the 5 or 6 hours I worked there each day for about six weeks of my summer vacation involves reorganizing their supply closets. Surely I did more than that, right? It was easily one of the most boring jobs I've ever had. After "work" I'd go to the base gym for a couple of hours (really, like, 2 hours!) until my Dad got off work and we'd drive home. There was a real tool of a guy who worked there who kind of gave me a hard time. At one point he laughed and said he was just being facetious. Facetious? I had to look up the meaning of the word and, to this day, I always think of that guy when I hear that word. And I'm not being facetious. Anyway, my career in boring office work had officially begun!

PS: Yes, that's a picture of me from around that time. This image was taken during a soccer tournament, as we waited for our turn to play, but I'd imagine this is how my face looked most of the time I was at this particular summer job.