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!



  1. Jenelle Montilone says:

    I can’t stress enough how much of an impact it has made on (myself and) my business to have a strong support system- so many of those introductions happened right here on OMHG and then blossomed into offline & in the flesh connections. It can be very isolating to run your own creative business- and often times the folks around you don’t understand what challenges your facing. Have you ever tried to talk to your mom about wholesaling? Yikes!

    Whether we’re sharing our journey, ideas, or latest work my own success squad pushes me to take on & overcome challenges that I never dreamed possible all the while cheering along the way. And I hope that I’ve been able to offer that same type of support and inspiration in return! I talked a little bit about this in my Each One Teach One post here on Oh My!

    Lisa & Sarah Cheers to collaborative success, I’m looking forward to the series!

    • Lisa Anderson Shaffer says:

      Thanks so much for reading Jenelle! I loved your OMHG post SArah and I feel similarly and have really seen magic happen from good old fashioned face to face interaction. We strengthen each other when we all work together. It’ pretty awesome when you think about it!

  2. Karen says:

    I’m with Jenelle, OMHG has made working independent not so lonely. I love that we keep each other on track in the forums, share opportunities, wins, and struggles as they come up.

    I love this article about Makeshift Society. I’ve heard of it, but never knew much about the origins, or of this success squad aspect of the community. Thanks so much for sharing about the formal critique process and all the wonderful things you do together!

    • Lisa Anderson Shaffer says:

      Ditto on OMHG Karen! This is such a great community! Makeshift is a true gem and the spirit of collaboration is stitched into every fiber of the society. It is very much reflective of founders Rena Tom and Victoria Smith who I have never heard say no to a crazy idea. Their answer is YES and how can we help. It’s contagious to say the least!

  3. Kerry Burki says:

    Wow! This sounds amazing! I love the support I have found online but with some new projects in the future and living in a new city, I am hoping to start a creative support group in person as well. This post and this month’s theme is such an inspiration!!!

    • Lisa Anderson Shaffer says:

      That’s great Kerry! We end up with a lot of new folks to SF attending the meetings and becoming Makeshift Members. Co working spaces are great to get to know other small business owners. Let us know how we can help!

  4. Darice says:

    Fabulous – I’m looking forward to the series! The thing that strikes me as most useful here is the ‘Feedback must be in the direction of growth.’ I’ve always requested honest (rip it to shreds if you want) feedback and so very rarely get it.

  5. Darice says:

    Fabulous – I’m looking forward to the series! The thing that strikes me as most useful here is the ‘Feedback must be in the direction of growth.’ I’ve always requested honest (rip it to shreds if you want) feedback and so very rarely get it.

    • Lisa Anderson Shaffer says:

      I totally get that Darice! Sarah and I are really lucky that way that we can give honest and straight forward feedback and hug it out at the end of the day. I think there are some definite pointers to consider when seeking out constructive feedback…one of our upcoming posts will touch on this for sure!

  6. I just recently moved out from Los Angeles (where I felt totally isolated and it was a pain to go anywhere and see people) to Brooklyn (were we are all cramped together!) and I’m very eager to meet fellow creatives and share the ins and outs of our journeys in a “face to face” community.

    The only down side to this post is that I’ll have to wait a whole month for the next one 🙂

    • Lisa Anderson Shaffer says:

      Thanks for reading Soledad! Here’s some exciting news for you…Makeshift Society is coming to Brooklyn! You can check out the Makeshift FB page for updates. That will be a great place for you to connect with fellow creatives!

  7. Kelly Feltault says:

    Thanks for starting this series. I just started my online shop and would like to connect with people in my area who are doing creative online work.

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