Read Part 1 in the Starting Your Own Success Squad Series by Lisa & Sarah here.
Sarah and I met in July of 2011. I was vending at Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco for the very first time. She was playing roving photographer and working toward starting her own photography studio. It was a time of transition for both of us and while we might not have known it at the time, it was the beginning of what would become Zelma Rose and Portraits To The People as well as an incredible friendship. It is because we met as mutual admirers of each other’s work that our friendship was already on different terms. There was no history between us other than what we knew about the other’s motivation and creativity and incredible drive to change our lives and for lack of better words, make shit happen.
We were both coming out of a time in our lives where for better and worse things had been tossed so high up in the air that there was no putting things back from where they came. Things were different now and we both knew that. The time was now to try something new. We were going to jump and learn how to fly on the way down. A few weeks after our chance meeting, Sarah sent me the beautiful photos she had taken of my booth and designs at Renegade. We decided we liked each other, went out on a limb and said we wanted to be friends, and stay connected.
A few months later Sarah emailed me with an idea. She was feeling isolated and needing some contact with other women business owners heading out on their own. I too was feeling isolated and to be honest scared to death. A lot had changed in the past year for me. I closed my private psychotherapy practice, was without a job for the first time in I cannot even remember, maybe high school, and I was a new mom. It does indeed take a village, and I was in desperate need of one. Sarah asked that I start a business group for women with her, and also start a blog chronicling our journey as we do what we love and love what we do. We would meet once a month to discuss each other’s progress, concerns, and questions and help each other push the boulder up the hill. We are stronger together! I quickly said yes and after a few meetings discussing how we would structure the group, and what this blog would be we were a go. It was easy when Aquarians showed up in matching shoes. Success Squad and Awfully Grand were soon born.
In reflection I think the reason Sarah and I work so well together is that we are fearless and don’t really care that much about failure. What’s the big deal, right?! Our motto that whole first year was do or die. We would rather have tried and fall flat on our faces than continue on the path we were on. The time was now and we were going to give it all we had. If we fail, we fail. We are often asked what’s the secret for finding a good partner in crime. I wish there was a tried and true formula. Truth be told it is probably a combination of a mystical force, begin in the right place at the right time, and a little old fashioned trial and error.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Time is meaningless. Sometimes partnerships are formed in an instant, other times it is after knowing someone for a year or two before you both step back and go, hey, why don’t we work together? Just because it doesn’t happen right away, or slow and steady doesn’t mean it’s not right. Be open to the timing, certain relationships need time to grow.
- Drive the same speed. Sarah and I work fast. Really fast. We are decisive, deliberate and like to move on. This similarity is perhaps our strongest ally. While it is helpful to have a partner that can offer a view from a different speed, a fundamental difference in the basic way you work can definitely cause collapse. Partner up with someone who hangs out in the same lane.
- Put yourself out there. If you meet someone who you instantly like, tell him or her! Go out on that limb and be the first step toward a relationship. Nothing says you have to be best friends, or perfect business partners, but surrounding yourself with people that inspire you is always a good idea!
- Step it up. A good partnership is a lot like a good marriage. It is seldom that both people are up at the same time. Be willing to step in and up when needed and be forward about your expertise. If something is your area, say so and take charge. When you need help, admit it and allow your partner to help you. Showing a little vulnerability helps to build trust.
Share your partnership stories with us below! We want to know how you met and where you are headed.
Lisa Anderson Shaffer is a blogger, maker, mover and shaker. Owner, designer, and maker behind Zelma Rose, Lisa designs and creates a classic collection of handcrafted accessories for men and women. Zelma Rose has been featured internationally in publications like Martha Stewart Living, GQ, Refinery 29, Uppercase Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle and other fine publications. As a blogger, Lisa regularly contributes to Let’s Neighbor, Bing, Rena Tom, and Indiemade. As a licensed psychotherapist, she has a not so secret passion for psychology and consults with small businesses as a communications strategist helping freelancers and small business owners implement stellar customer service and staff management.
Sarah Deragon was born in Denver, CO and now lives in San Francisco, CA. As far back as she can remember, she’s loved taking photographs. Just ask her mom—she calls Sarah the family’s documentarian. Sarah is constantly inspired by San Francisco and thrives on the undercurrent of creativity in the city and the people who work so hard to live here and make it such a dynamic place. Her photography has been featured internationally in publications like Martha Stewart Living, Daily Candy, Pure Wow, San Francisco Magazine, and on the best looking resumes and dating profiles all over San Francisco.
Lisa and Sarah met at Renegade Craft fair in 2010, immediately shared an obsession of 90’s hip hop, and have been working together ever since.
Partnering up with Lisa has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life and for my business. She is so wonderful!
Oh girl. What can i say. Life would not be the same without you. Smarty pants, uber creative dynamo. Plus, how much fun do we have?!
I love this post so much! As I grow my local network of creative friends, I find this is all so true – sometimes you just need to say, hi, I like you, we should get coffee sometime – and then stick with the date! 🙂 Build connections with people who respect and inspire you and keep building them, every day!
Hi Cody! You are so right, building connections everyday is so important to success. I think there is an unspoken difference between connections and networking. They are very different. Connecting on a daily basis with those that inspire you is so important!
This is such a great topic. I think “drive the same speed” is so importatnt. I’ve tried to force things with friends and have seen others do the same thing with people who are on a totally different page and it was crash and burn. It think it is imporatant to always partner with someone who compliments your skill set by bringing new skills that you to the table, but if the person isn’t in the same lane as you it’s a recipe for disaster.
Thanks for reading Samantha. It is a tough balance at times to find someone who shines differently than you. I think the speed thing really comes down to learning styles. Are you a tortoise or a hare? Both actually win the race, just at different speeds.
Brilliant article – and wonderful points! ‘Step It Up’ hits home for me…because my partner (Matt) is also my husband, our partnership isn’t just like a marriage – it is one! Haha!
It took us a while to realize that we should each be using our own skill set instead of trying to ‘do it all’ together. Our workflow + home / studio environment has benefited from that (slow to come!) a-ha! moment to no end. 😉
Right on Darice! My husband often pitches in and it took a while to figure out what he was really good at and how best he could help. It can be hard when your partner is also your partner. Sarah works with her wife at Portraits To The People, she’s an old pro at keeping it in the family!
I think it takes a special kind of crazy to ‘partner with your partner’…and it is so worth it. <3 Here's to mixing love + biz + gettin' all messy! 😉
I’m so jealous! Recently quit my job to dive head-first into self-employment, and while I love being my own boss, I know that in the long term I need a partner in crime with the skills I don’t have so we can propel each other forward. Will definitely be using your tips – thank you!
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