Amidst a sea of sales people and their booths the I see a beacon of intrigue calling my attention. Julie Rais is standing at her booth in the Unique LA show helping a customer with one of her products and for some reason I am called over to a little burlap pillow.
I recall meeting Julie at another event and I am pleased to see that her business has grown and she has pieces available. One of which is the 14″ x 14″ burlap pillows that have the option to be customized with the image of your choice.
I decided it would be a great way to celebrate a few of the Citizens Of Culture with a small gift. The images are of polaroids taken when each person was interviewed.
Julie uses sustainable materials to make all her products and her designs are created for daily regular use. They are not only beautiful pieces but also durable. Everything is hand made in the USA and Julie is a believe in craftsmanship and creating products that are built to last.
These are the old pillars of American goods and it is great to see designers keeping some of those pillars erect and maintaining domestic business in creative ways.
She also offers matching pillows that already have designs that have rich Native American designs. Each piece is unique and offers its own character to the wearer.
In addition to the bags Rais Case produces small accessories as well.
Julie is a full time art teacher and also gives back via partnering with other businesses to hold work shops and classes that add benefit to the community.
We wish Rais Case much success in 2013 and beyond.
Sonja Rasula is fighting for territory. She is fighting to grow independent business. She is fighting to restore national pride. Her flag bears the word “Dream” . Unique is an independent design show begun in Los Angeles, and now operating in New York, and San Francisco. Sonja began as a vendor and noticed some shortfalls in the shows she was attending. So what do you do when you find yourself at a party that could be better? YOU THROWN YOUR OWN. And that is exactly what Sonja has done.
Unique is a place where up and coming, as well as established designers can come and interact directly with their customer. It is a place where manufactured products and home made products meet in a modern curated environment. Sonja understands that all you creatives need places to create and audiences and consumers to support you in order to sustain a livelihood. It isn’t always easy to find that support, “I used used to be a designer… a lot of trade shows and sales I went to were disorganized and chaotic back stage. I also didn’t see any one really supporting Made In USA.”
This, once designer, has decided to step out of the booth and become and organizer reformat the typical craft sale, by augmenting it with finished goods vendors that dually supports home grown creativity and start-up business. Sonya says, “When you are a really good teacher, you can stay a really good teacher, or you can choose to become an administrator. I believe that the scope of impact you can make is different, possibly greater.” The show is not only a production that creates a stage for vendors to make their impact but there is a discussion before the event begins that educates vendors on how to do well and take their businesses to the next level.
It is the business development aspect that really makes UNIQUE unique. To paraphrase Sonja; the show helps vendors because they don’t often have the money to do trade shows, so they rely on grassroots marketing. Unique is at such a large scale that it attracts [corporate] buyers, and mainstream media. That can be more valuable than selling one or two thousand dollars in a weekend (which they are also able to do).
Sonja Rasula understands that it is about getting the attention of the established and the curious to make the engine work. What she is really building is the foundation for a strong start-up culture in the areas where she has these events.
In creating a vehicle for others she has been able to find success herself. The fight, however, is not hers alone. She needs staff to help get the word out, people to help organize, developers to build technology around the model. The next level requires business owners and creatives that are prepare to grow their business and incubate or develop into more scales operations. The common misconception is that “It’s like Etsy, live.” but Unique is curated to bring value to the shopper and the vendor alike. There are also some established vendors that usually do business through boutiques and department stores that exclusively participate in Unique.
In all this is exactly the kind of event that economies are built from. Sonja Rasula is not only cultivating creativity but also business. She challenges the small business owner to think bigger and provides and avenue for them to begin to act big as well. It took her looking into herself and identifying skills that she could use to create the greatest good in her society, it is world change work at its best.
Unique LA holiday show is December 1st and second in downtown Los Angeles further details below.