January 01, 2020 From Sara
A Reflection on Growth & Vulnerability
As we begin 2020, a new year, a new decade, I want to take the time to share a bit more about MINNA, and, well, about me. If you know me you'll know that talking about myself is a deeply uncomfortable thing for me to do. But, at the end of the day, if I don’t tell my story or MINNA’s story, how will anyone else? So, this is me getting my footing with a different kind of openness. And that’s what I’m planning to bring with us into 2020.
By Sara Berks
I’m often asked about how I started MINNA and how I learned about textiles. I usually oversimplify: ‘I didn’t know I was starting a business when I started MINNA. I taught myself to weave, went to Mexico, *waves hands and gestures* and then this all happened.’ Which, I guess, is somewhat the truth. But, that doesn’t really give myself (or the team) credit for all of the really, really hard work we’ve put in to get here. And, if I’m being honest, I did, somewhere in me, have a vision for all of this when I started. I think that in the beginning, I was too afraid to admit that part - mostly for fear of failure. But, here we are, six years in and we haven’t failed (yet).
It feels funny to sit here writing this year in reflection as we’re in the midst of a massive move, a store expansion, some pretty intense cash flow growing pains, Margaret prepping to start her MBA (!) program, as I'm getting ready to head to Central America for three months (!!). (More on all of that soon) It’s hard to reflect on a successful year when things are consistently challenging in bigger and scarier ways, and when, the world is, well, pretty fucked up. But, I’ll try.
On our about page we lead with:
‘We are a queer woman-owned and majority queer or woman operated business, which informs our approach to just about everything we do.’
I have been thinking a lot lately about why I decided to lead with that and what it really means, and what it even has to do with running a textile company. And I realized it actually has very little to do with running a textile company and everything to do with how I think business, in general, should be run. Regardless of what kind of business, I would lead with that because my being queer, my growing up in a queer community, taught me everything I know about how to be a good person. And that’s to constantly question, grow, change, and evolve. And, to me, that’s the most important thing I wanted to accomplish when I realized MINNA was turning into a real business: I wanted it to be good. I wanted to use business to do good.
I think about this constantly - how to use business to do good in a world where businesses do terrible things. In a world where there’s so much inequality, oppression, hate. I wish I could sit here and write that I have some answers. But, in reality, 2019 left us asking only more questions. And, you know what, I’m totally okay with that. Because we’re asking better questions and we have better problems, and that, I think, is the sign of true growth. Not that our team has grown, which it has. Not that our sales have grown, which they have. Not that our space has grown, which it also has. We’re asking bigger and better and scarier questions about how to do better and how to be good.
What are those questions? Well, honestly, I’m pretty scared to share that because I don’t even know how to begin to answer them. How do we work within oppressive systems to do better? What does ethical even mean? How do we work within capitalism when we don’t agree with it? How do we acknowledge our whiteness working in indigenous communities? How do we be better allies and partners to the artisans we work with in Latin America? How do we decolonize our own views, our own way of working, our own thoughts? Was that heavy enough for you? Are you surprised very little of this has to do with design, weaving, or color trends? I’ve been reading through a mountain of books to try to begin to answer these questions — books on philosophy, economics, colonization, decolonization, communication, relationships, life. Send me more?
Of course, on top of all of this, Margaret and I are constantly looking at the numbers to make sure we can pay payroll on time, that we can pay for our production, that we have enough sales coming in to make sure that we can do all the things we want to do. Wondering where on earth all the money goes because, wow, running a business is expensive. When we’re not doing that, I’m thinking about the future of MINNA: new products, new techniques, growing our communities, capacity building, our impact, sustainability, how to be a better leader, how to be a better person, how to make time for myself because if I don’t do that how can MINNA continue?
I never knew that owning a business would go hand in hand with self-growth and vulnerability. I learned SO much this year about how to run a business but also how to just be a person. Both things are really, really hard. My start to answering all of the questions is that: if I’m happy, if the people that work for me and with me are happy, if the artisans we employ are happy, if our customers are happy, then we’re off to a pretty good start. Then we’re doing alright. And, of course, there’s constantly room to improve.
If you’ve read this to the end, in summary, I’d like to say thank you for being our customers, thank you for following along since I broke a picture frame and taught myself to weave, thank you for buying our products, and thank you for letting us do work we love. We’re going to be sharing so much more about ourselves in 2020 and beyond. We hope you’ll stick around for the ride.