Q&A: The Rising Tide Society serves a swell of creative entrepreneurs

When artist Dorothy Collier discovered The Rising Tide Society, a national network of creative entrepreneurs, she searched for the Memphis chapter. Unfortunately, it didn’t exist. So, she started one.

Now, a year later, Memphis is thriving as one of the largest chapters for makers and entrepreneurs.

Originally founded in San Francisco in 2016, Rising Tide Society’s mission is to empower the creative economy to rise together. The society now boasts more than 400 chapters worldwide.

The Rising Tide is a group of creative entrepreneurs who gather in the spirit of community rather than competition. At the local chapter, Tuesdays Together are gatherings for small business owners and creative entrepreneurs who have a desire to share their knowledge, learn from their peers and grow together. The meetings, coordinated by local industry leaders, are designed to be approachable, authentic and uplifting. Recent topics of conversation include improving the client experience, content marketing and creative risk-taking.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Memphis chapter co-leader Dorothy Collier and ask her a few questions about this unique platform for makers.

Dorothy Collier introduces Molly Farrell of Maggie Louise Bridal at an August meeting of the Rising Tide Society. (Kristen Archer)

HGN: When did Rising Tide launch in Memphis? Nationally?

Collier: The Rising Tide Society was founded in May 2015 by Natalie Franke, a 27-year-old wedding photographer who knew that there was a better way to grow her business and community than to sit alone on her laptop figuring out the ups and downs of creative entrepreneurship alone. The first Tuesdays Together meetings of Rising Tide Society consisted of 12 local meetups throughout the country. Less than three years later, The Rising Tide Society has more than 400 chapters internationally with a creative community of over 70,000 members.
 

As an artist and a life-long learner, I am always eager to engage with others and learn from shared experience as I build my art career. I had been following The Rising Tide Society on Facebook and Instagram and loved the free monthly PDFs they sent out in newsletters, all focused on business education and resources for creatives.

When I ended maternity leave, I was looking forward to finding the local Memphis chapter and utterly shocked when I learned that our creative community didn't have one yet, so I applied to be a leader. I knew that so many people in our growing city needed this free resource. The next day an artist acquaintance, Sarah Baumann of Signet Sealed, messaged me saying "I see you like The Rising Tide Society on Facebook. I was thinking of applying to be a leader." So kismet! So meant to be! We knew this was going to be something big and we were thrilled to help build this community in our creative city. Our first meetup was in April 2017 and less than a year later we host over 50 creatives at the monthly meetups and have over 600 members in our local Facebook group.

HGN: What are some of the greatest challenges entrepreneurs face in Memphis?

Collier: While Memphis is a thriving city that has many new and wonderful resources for creative entrepreneurs, there are still many obstacles and challenges that need to be addressed. The Made By Report came out in late 2017, summarizing The Made By Project's research and analysis of what makers in Memphis are challenged with and what their main pain points are. Many areas were addressed, but sourcing and distribution are two of the maker’s biggest hurdles. There are many other creative entrepreneurs, not just makers, that could also benefit from more in-depth business education.

As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we wear so many hats. Learning how to juggle finances, social media, branding, and how to give a great client experience doesn't typically come naturally to the right-brain artist. Those topics usually are not taught in higher art education.

 

The studio spaces that are offered for creative entrepreneurs in our city to work and create in are currently not meeting many artists’ and makers' needs. Many are lacking storage space for all of their raw supplies and shipping materials. Many artists and makers start out working from home and some rent out small studio spaces, but are lacking the sense of community that comes along with working alongside others as well as no sidewalk traffic where the general public can purchase their goods in the same space where they were created.

HGN: How does this organization meet those challenges?

Collier: The Rising Tide Society Memphis Chapter is building partnerships that are working hard to create a resource that will bring many solutions to these needs. Each monthly Tuesdays Together meetup highlights a member of the month and hosts a guest speaker that shares their entrepreneurial experiences based on the monthly topic. We push the national chapter's free monthly guide, a wonderful tool with typically 15 to 20 pages full of articles, links to further reading, suggested podcast episodes, and suggested books focused on the monthly business topic.

Muddy's Bake Shop founder Kat Gordon speaks to the Rising Tide Society at a February meeting. (Kristen Archer)

We highlight many of the events and classes that our city has to offer, from Memphis College of Art's upcoming community education maker series class on branding and packaging to local art pop-ups and market opportunities. We help promote local art shows and craft fairs, highlighting the deadline for our members to apply. We are working with Memphis Fashion Design Network so our members can use The Lab on Flicker Street, an incubator that includes shared use of office equipment and meeting space through MFDN membership. The Rising Tide Society Memphis Chapter hopes to continue to be a hub for business education and provide community for the Memphis creative entrepreneur.

HGN: What are a few success stories you can point to?

Collier: We recently hosted an impromptu "made with love in Memphis" pop up shop for some of our members to have a space to sell their work the weekend before Valentine's Day. Some vendors were showing for the first time. Building platforms for these small businesses to gain sales and exposure is exciting and something we are wanting to grow.

Last summer we collaborated with Creative Works to host a panel on craft fair booths. We had a huge audience and many said it bettered them for success in their upcoming fall shows. A recording of the panel discussion can be found on my podcast for creative entrepreneurs, Positively Creative.

We teamed up with the Carpenter Art Garden, raised money towards the kids’ holiday gift of Carpenter Art Garden sweatshirts. Many of our members spent time with the students working on art projects throughout November and December.

Each month I am seeing new friendships and collaborations form. Connections build our community and make it that much stronger. It's thrilling to see so many ideas and resources being shared within the group for the betterment of individual small creative businesses. Members have collaborated while hosting their own events, teaching each other their areas of expertise, opened up new studio spaces, they’ve expanded their product lines, hired interns and employees, grown their social media followings, and many volunteer their time to help grow our group. So many wins!


Rising Tide Society co-leaders Dorothy Collier and Sarah Bauman. (Kristen Archer)
 

We grew so quickly that we formed a board with small group leaders. Small groups such a painters, makers, graphic designers, culinary, and wedding vendors meet once a month so they can have meaningful conversations about their areas of expertise. Now the local Memphis chapter is one of the largest nationally and I believe that’s because the conversation about creative entrepreneurship was so desperately needed in our city. I know we're just scraping the surface of what's to come! We invite any creative to join for free, from budding business to thriving companies from all walks of life.

HGN: Anything else you’d like to add?

 

Collier: I'm very sad to say that my co-leader Sarah Baumann is moving. Our chapter is currently accepting co-leader applications. We are actively looking for someone to fill the role of this volunteer position. Applicants who value community over competition, are a full-time creative entrepreneur living in Memphis, and can dedicate 10 to 15 hours a month for the betterment of our growing group may apply here. I also encourage everyone to sign up for our newsletter and learn about future meetups at www.risingtidesocietymemphis.com.

 

Read more articles by Jeff Hulett.

Originally from Chicago, Jeff moved to Memphis in 1990 not really knowing much about the south. In fact, the first week he lived here he was suspended from school for not saying, "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am." Jeff has since developed a passion for Memphis and especially Memphis music. A member of several bands including Snowglobe and Me & Leah, Jeff works as a communications consultant with many non-profits including Playback Memphis, Church Health, Room in the Inn-Memphis and BLDG Memphis. Jeff lives in the Vollintine Evergreen neighborhood with his wife and two daughters. 
 
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