In a previous life, I was a very important person with a very successful career. I worked for a major, international, luxury fashion conglomerate. My life was cigarettes and Prada purses. I traveled back and forth between Fairfield County and Manhattan on a regular basis. My $300 stiletto heels clacked against Grand Central Station’s marbled flooring echoing, “Take me seriously,” as if I were sounding an alarm of my presence to those ahead of me, and everyone did. That was my identity. I moved up in the world to head the seasonal marketing strategy campaigns with the General Manager and Vice President of another international, luxury company that had recently entered the U.S. market and was growing fast. I had almost complete creative freedom, and that justified my 70 hour work weeks and being on call 24 hours a day.
I was put on a private marketing collaborative team with my previous employer and 20 other of their vendors, including my own company. The conglomerate was in the red and started to realize that they could no longer make money off their full priced items. We had programmed customers so deeply with gifts with a purchase, seasonal Friends & Family and Triple Point events that they had come to expect it. Our consumers wouldn’t shop unless there was something extra in it for themselves. After a while I started to see this wheel that I was contributing too. We thought we were so clever, convincing people to buy a $700 product package, “but you get a free facial in our private spa rooms.” We were convincing people that the products that they were buying were excellent and a needed necessity delivering their promised results. However, if we’re being honest, even if the products delivered on their promises, nobody needs a $700 facial product package, even if it is on sale. I, along with this whole system, was contributing to and exploiting our consumer addiction. Slowly, as we struggled to find a new strategy to un-brainwash customers, I started to ask myself, “Do I believe in what I’m doing? Am I doing the right thing?” I got up one day, and I left that whole world and life behind. I swore off marketing and developing strategies to convince people to purchase things they didn’t need. I wanted to find something that actually contributed towards a positive society.
My story isn’t unique. In fact, it’s so common that in a relatively short period of time it sparked what became the fastest growing movement in the business world. World banks were suddenly adjusting their strategies to benefit from the influx of emerging small businesses. So many of us had been burnt by working in industries such as insurance and becoming pushy salesmen. We had lost track of ourselves. We got caught up in the constant race. We were drowned out by unrelenting advertising that kept us, what we thought was, happily occupied. When we couldn’t take it anymore, we’d breakdown, and in that mental break consciousness slipped in. The change set in, and we started to evaluate what was really meaningful for us personally, not just what some company was convincing us to believe. We started to see so many small businesses filled with individuality and a sense of organic creativity emerging all around us. We started to develop businesses with an evaluated personal touch, many of which were even dedicated to a positive cause, trying to build a unique local community; one that supported each other’s uniqueness. It was this fresh development that made me find something worth marketing, people and their passion.
Ms. Merchant is the title of this publication. It isn’t limited to just addressing the movement for women. It’s a complete societal movement flourishing in our newly created industrial revolution of wellness and positive social change.
The invigorating rush of organic creativity, still in the fairly early stages of development, is what made Richie and I fall in love with Grand Rapids. It’s what sparked us to create The Vendor Exchange, LLP and the Indie Flea Grand Rapids events which supports the growth of local creativity, small, emerging businesses, services and artists in a community that reflects personality, purpose and passion. It’s at the Indie Flea that I found Ms. Merchants.