The Limeadestand Works story.
By Willow, the President, CEO, and Chief Cat-Spoiling Officer (CCSO).
How it all started.
Once upon a time, I was a mediocre trust fund kid. My parents were affluent. My dad was a businessman and investor, and I hated him for that. I hated school. By large, I grew up without whole a lot of pressure or expectations, so I turned out to be a natural free-spirited, free-thinking rebel. Instead of becoming a gangster or an addict, however, I discovered religious fundamentalism as a teenager, which I suppose saddened my parents far more so than delinquency because they both hated religion. To their credit, I had an excellent education although I squandered the opportunity and my grades suffered, ultimately, I was forced to drop out of an expensive private college. Soon thereafter, my father disowned me.
I was in my mid-20s and I had no social skills, no tradable skills, and no life skills. When I had money, it was easy for me to hide behind it. Years of college education suddenly turned out to be worthless. By the spring of 2003, I was homeless and slept under a wheelchair ramp of a church. The first two weeks of homelessness were very painful, but I spent the following years on and off the street even during one of the harshest winters in history. I survived. I was impressed by my own resilience and resourcefulness. At the same time, I had developed a very keen sense of social justice, class consciousness, and perhaps most importantly, an uncanny knack for entrepreneurship.
In 2004, out of my personal survival experience (and out of boredom), I authored and self-published a small guidebook on how to find free stuff around town, many from obscure sources that very few knew, and sold quite a lot of copies online. I used public computers to write and did a layout for the 32-page book, and ran a rudimentary print-on-demand operation whereas I got orders on PayPal, used my PayPal debit card to print and mail the book, and kept the profits. Long before the age of social media, I somehow made it a modest success perhaps thanks to my SEO skill (even though I did not even know that word yet). I was even invited to an event as a guest speaker! Building on this project, I created a biweekly newsletter featuring all the free community and cultural events in town I could find, made it available online as a PDF file, and sold advertising spaces. This was significant because I did not have my own computer back then, and as someone who was homeless, queer (it was still legal to discriminate), and autistic I was for all practical purposes unemployable. As a result, I had enough cash that enabled me to feed myself and have some occasional fun.
In 2005, I came across a member-owned event center that was hosting a weekly vegan potluck. Soon I discovered that they were looking for members who could commit themselves to help run the place. That summer I joined the board, took responsibilities for the facility rental operations, and for the first time in the history of that organization, I turned surplus. One of the greatest things about this place was that the membership came with a benefit that let me utilize the building for events when nothing else was happening. I put together several workshops and other community events and I made some modest income from them (a few other members were doing the same charging cover for music or hosting parties).
By 2006, I had a 110-square-foot office space, which I originally envisioned to become a space for small group workshops. This plan, however, quickly fell apart because of the noise outside (it was next to a busy laundromat!) and because of its location (a low-income neighborhood that was yet to be gentrified, far from downtown). I picked up art around this time, the first time since I gave up on going to art college when I graduated from high school 13 years prior. But I did not think of art as a way to make money back then, and I was once again homeless in the summer of 2008, eventually finding an abandoned, dilapidated RV to squat in for about a year. It was at least better than being a "street homeless."
The next level in my entrepreneurship also came rather unexpectedly. One day I was at a homeless day center and saw a flier announcing a class that taught window painting and how to make money from doing it. I remember three or four participants in that group, and we would go out to neighborhood businesses to decorate their storefront windows for the holidays for the next several weeks. In the end, I was the only one who took the idea and ran with it. I advertised on Craigslist and soon I began getting calls from all sorts of businesses, some of them 20 miles away, including hardware stores, tire shops, car dealers, restaurants, beauty salons, a factory, and coffee shops. During the 2009 and 2010 holiday seasons alone, this represented a fairly sizable income that kept me going. The only reason I exited the window painting business was that of the formidable local competitor who also happened to be a minor local celebrity and he was far better equipped than I was. My artistic style was very different from his, and everyone was expecting his kind of window painting. It was also around this time when I began exhibiting art in various shows and art fairs, and some pieces began to sell.
Having some money coming in relieved me from daily stress inherent in a survival mode, which allowed me to look beyond survival. I applied out-of-blue for a postgraduate-level studies program in feminist theology and I was admitted with all tuitions paid. I found a sense of purpose as my life shifted from walking aimlessly around downtown all day to working on marketing my services by day and sitting inside a university library researching by night, poring over academic journals. I began thinking of myself as a scholar and as an entrepreneur, and I understood the power of words and ideas: what story you tell yourself about yourself actually transforms you. This was an eye-opening moment when I also understood the importance of branding and brand communication.
The year 2011 was for me a year of political activism. I enrolled in a community organizer training school that year and with two of the fellow participants, co-founded a group that seeks to educate and empower women experiencing homelessness and/or survival sex work. As part of this, I launched a microenterprise initiative that would train the women in the basics of entrepreneurship, provide technical and marketing assistance, and form a mutually-supportive community of solidarity economy. This initiative only faded away because of the Occupy Wall Street movement that swept through the country later that year, and my active participation in organizing an Occupy-related group and some disagreement over Occupy with the other co-founders. But I did not lose my entrepreneurial approach to doing things. Over the coming years, I served on the board of directors of a non-profit that supported the Occupy movement. I took an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to keeping the organization alive and changing things that were not working in the context of the declining support for the movement itself, helping it evolve into another form. One thing people could remember me for back then was my strong sense of commitment, dedication, hard work, and tenacity. I was not a quitter when virtually everyone else was moving on to something else. I saw a potential in the organization even though I knew the way it was operating wasn't working. In the end, my quest for organizational reform did not go well with the more doctrinaire faction of the board, so I ultimately resigned in the spring of 2015 when I saw that it was no longer salvageable.
The summer of 2015 was miserable for me. I was grieving the loss of the causes I truly believed in and dedicated my life to. I was also grieving the loss of social capital that I built over the years of my involvement in the Occupy movement, which also allowed me to survive for several years with little income. Many of my so-called friends abandoned me. Once again I was a walking corpse, trying to survive yet one more day. I thought of starting a consulting firm to help volunteer coordinators and community organizers, but I also knew most non-profits and political groups are short of cash and can't afford anything like that -- plus, I was done dealing with non-profit boards! And I was just as unemployable as I have always been, if not worse, yet, once again, I was considered too young, too healthy, too sane, and too educated to qualify for any handouts, despite my being on the autistic spectrum. In any case, I had too much pride in myself to submit myself to the public-private charitable industry complex, which is known to turn humans down on their luck into dehumanized zombies!
During this period, I learned to focus and direct my thoughts. I stopped badmouthing myself. I started attending church once again after I did not for four years because I thought I found "church" in Occupy (a big deal when my entire adolescence and young adult life pretty much revolved around a church). Several months later, I began formulating a vision for a new business that helps people with limited financial means to become an entrepreneur by branding and marketing their products and services.
After playing around with words for a while, Limeadestand Works was born in the spring of 2016 and formally organized on Oct. 7, 2016. Limeadestand Works brings years of my real, school-of-hard-knocks, no-nonsense life experiences in micro-enterprise (mis)adventures to turn everyday people into a growing, thriving entrepreneur. Our focus primarily is those in the creative world: artists, makers, crafters, artisans, zinesters, writers, photographers, indy musicians, and others whose desire is to turn their sparks and talents into income that can sustain them and their arts -- and more importantly, to be seen, heard, and recognized by the world so they can positively impact our culture and society. In this age of social turmoil, political uncertainty, and the continued erosion of public funding for artists, the Limeadestand Works' vision of "artists as entrepreneurs" contributes to the important works independent artists and makers are doing in our communities.
I bring to the world a unique combination of my unconventional life experiences as a journalist, a visual artist, a graphic designer, a political activist, a community organizer, a world citizen, a theologian, and a clergyperson--who has experienced both a life of privilege and that of an extreme poverty. The works of Limeadestand Works is rooted in both religious and political values for the liberation of every human being.
I am uniquely positioned in the field of branding and public relations as very few people possess experiences and gifts in both the visual and the verbal forms of storytelling. I strongly believe that words and ideas must be used intentionally and mindfully, as every word has its meanings and ideas have their consequences. I approach my work with playful creativity, attentions to details, and a commitment to truth and ethics.
I also welcome new and continuing partnership with a wide variety of community groups, faith communities, and social enterprises to further our missions.