Success Squad: The importance of community + peer review when it is just me, myself, & I

Start your own success squad, Oh My! Handmade

It’s true what they say; it’s lonely at the top.  And for small business owners and bloggers it can often be lonely at the bottom and middle too. Working for yourself comes with incredible benefits, but sooner or later we all reach that moment when we can’t remember the last time we stepped outside of our office for a breath of fresh air. Interacting with others in the community and reaching out for feedback on our businesses is critical to success.  In order to really see what we are doing, we all need a healthy dose of perspective.



Two years ago when friend and fellow business lady and Portraits to the People owner, Sarah Deragon and I were looking for a way to stay motivated and sharp while growing our businesses, we started Success Squad. Getting together with friends, fellow San Francisco business owners, and members of the creative community proved to be and effective and fun way to gain some perspective on our business practices while supporting each other, and helping our goals and ideas gain momentum. Initially a private group of 25 women, we met each month to discuss business challenges, ideas, and accomplishments.  We received such a positive response from fellow business owners in San Francisco who wanted to be a part of Success Squad that we soon created a drop-in group at our favorite San Francisco co-working space, The Makeshift Society.  To meet the needs of a larger audience, we revamped the group opening it up to a broader mix of professionals and gave it a co-working friendly format. Currently we meet each month as a drop in critique group where members present a design challenge, new product, collaboration idea, or roadblock.  Presenters have 20 minutes to introduce their idea/challenge to the group for feedback.  Rules are in place to create a fruitful and exciting exchange between participants.  In a nutshell, we call upon what modern neuroscience has discovered about creativity; the best ideas and innovation stem from a group of diverse people gathering together to think on a common idea. Feedback must be in the direction of growth.  Commenting on a presenter’s idea as pretty is just as useless as saying it is ugly.  We ask questions and comment with intent to build upon an idea and move it forward.  The response has been tremendous and Success Squad has become one of our favorite nights of the month. The generation of creativity is just wonderful to be around. Sarah and I leave each month feeling refreshed, creative, and energetic about our community in San Francisco as well as our own businesses and we want to share the love!


Sarah and I cannot say enough about how sharing our goals, challenges, and ideas with other business owners has influenced our work.  Total game changer to say the least!  Some of our best ideas for Portraits to the People and Zelma Rose have come from listening to how our colleagues have helped each other solve a business challenge or push forward an idea.  Even when we have not presented ourselves, sharing and holding the space for such creative problem solving always leads to leaps and bounds when it comes to taking our business to the next level.  It really is all about community.  We all grow together!

About Lisa & Sarah

headshotLisaLisa 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.

headshotSarahSarah 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.

Editor’s note: Lisa & Sarah have teamed up to share a 6 part series on starting your own success squad. Check back every month for a new article to help you build your own network and grow your community!