Cultivating Both Online and Offscreen Communities

I love this month’s theme because community is something I have been yearning for ever since I sold my retail store Rare Device last February. Like Lisa, I am building a new resource for creative freelancers and small business owners. It’s called Makeshift Society and I picked up the keys to a nice little storefront in San Francisco just a couple weeks ago! I wanted to talk more about why I am starting yet another business in the offline world just when my mostly online consulting business is maturing and taking off.

Photo courtesy of JetKat Photo

Way back in 2005, I opened my store in New York because, frankly, I was lonely. I was a jewelry designer working out of my kitchen and at that time you had to look a lot harder for your community – no Etsy, no Meetup, no Twitter. I found my people at the craft shows and markets I sold at, and it was a lifesaver. I decided to open a store to sell my work and the work of my new friends, and I made up the rest as I went along.

What I found, over the years, was that my favorite parts of owning a store were 1) working with creative people and helping them build their business, and 2) talking to customers about what great projects they were working on. Fast forward to 2011 as I began to do strategic consulting to help folks with #1. It was certainly rewarding but I found myself missing #2 quite a bit.

The more you participate in a community, the more you know, and the better you can help others by connecting them with likeminded individuals. I really want to help as many people as possible, and one-on-one consulting starts to feel really slow and limiting, and also lonely…so once again I am opening a physical space to solely help people move forward with their projects, and let everyone experience the value of participating in a very intentional community.

Photo courtesy of JetKat Photo

Why not do this online? I truly feel there is something about face-to-face interaction that cannot be replicated in any other way. We’ve come to a point, technology-wise, where we can have friends and collaborators all over the world, and have strong connections with people we have never met. And yet, when you do meet, it’s a magical thing. We’ve reached the point where we’ve found our people and now we want to hang out with them, too – to work together, to learn from each other, and to share resources (which may indeed include chocolate chip cookies). This accounts for the proliferations of offline classes, workshops, retreats and conferences in our world, I believe. Offline interaction adds a new dimension to online communities.

For me, my online network is like a favorite fuzzy cardigan – they are warm and comforting and always there for me. I treasure that. But offscreen relationships, while potentially challenging, are wonderful in a different way because they are potentially challenging. Getting out of your comfort zone leads to breakthroughs, and again, that is where the magic happens. Having multiple communities that intersect at various points and that serve different functions lead to growth, complexity, and creativity. My goal is to provide a point of intersection for the San Francisco creative community – and perhaps beyond, if I play my cards right.

What about you? How do your online and offscreen tribes differ? What do you learn from each community?

Come chat about cultivating on & offscreen communities with co-host Rena Tom at our #OMHG chat Thursday June 28, 2012 from 1-2EST! Click for more info. 


  1. Isa Maria says:

    This article is so timely for me after having been presented with a great opportunity to get out and meet my local community. I work mainly online now with overseas clients and I’m missing and craving this multfaceted connection that you get from talking to people face to face. I’m not sure how it will develop but your post has given me a lot to think about, thank you.

  2. Rena Tom says:

    hi, even a monthly meetup of business-minded people from all different fields would be great to do. you don’t need an agenda (though some groups do maintain one), just a sense of shared adventure and learning.

  3. Tiffany says:

    Yes and yes! I’ve recently started to reach out offline to help local entrepreneurs create personable web content for their right people. What better way to talk personable, and what that means, than in person?

    It’s easier to build a connection face-to-face and really get to know the needs of potential clients. And bonus? Sometimes, you even find a friend.

  4. This idea of offline community constantly rattles in my head, but then I get all judge-y (both with myself, as well as others) and think, “Oh, no, there’s no way we’ll connect or have anything to offer one another,” and go hide back behind my computer screen.

    I think part of the problem is getting clear on what I have to offer, as well as where I would value input/collaboration with others, and then maybe I wouldn’t be such a chicken baby naysayer about the idea of being with people in a “for real, face to face, let’s share this bottle of wine and figure out all the ways we could help each other be awesome!” 😉

  5. Amy says:

    I think this is great! I am part of a vibrant Mom’s group in person, and somehow it just so happens that most of us are also small business owners (or were small business owners at one time). It’s been amazing to meet weekly with women who actually want to know what’s going on with you and your venture!

  6. Clare says:

    Ahh, I so long for community and people I can share my ideas and dreams with. I’m attempting to build that online at the moment, but I’m not really sure how that works.
    And it’s even harder doing that outside of the online world!! I wouldn’t call myself a shy person, but I am a bit of an introvert, and struggle to put myself out there to meet people. I have a craft fair coming up in a months time, so hopefully I can meet local creative people and form friendships.
    It seems that forming community as an adult is so much harder, don’t you think?

  7. My art studio sits next to an art center (with 230 plus artist members) on an historic farm in Bucks County, Pa. The very best of times are when an artist comes over while I am working and adds some insight to what I am doing. Community is such a big piece of the creative process….both in person and online. I am so grateful. I so understand why you are opening this center. Best of luck to you….

  8. meike says:

    Hi there. I had sent a facebook msg before about downloading my copy of your guide to selling/starting. I paid and had trouble downloading it before when it first came out. I still don’t have it! Could please tell me how I go about getting it?!?
    I can’t wait to read it…

    thank you,

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