Sara Berks was unfulfilled. She was working as a digital designer making websites and branding, and her creations would often take years to come to fruition—if at all. “There was a disconnect between the process and seeing something through; there often wasn’t much to show physically,” she remembers. So in 2013, she quit. And without much of a plan, other than to focus on the artwork she had been making on nights and weekends. A class at Brooklyn’s Textile Arts Center led to a trip to Mexico, then one to Guatemala, and Berks found her passion: weaving. “Turning to textiles, it was literally a tactile thing,” says Berks. “You can’t get more immediate than that.” Soon her business, Minna, was born.
For three years, she ran it out of her Brooklyn apartment, with pillow inserts spilling out of her closet at nearly all times. She knew she didn’t want to stay in the city forever, but she had always figured it would be impossible to leave, given the demands of her previous jobs. But now she was her own boss. In 2016, she packed her bags (and all those textiles) and moved to a small town down the river, just a short drive from Hudson, New York.
What she found: Country life didn’t necessarily have an effect on her stress level, but it did give her the room (both physical and emotional) to grow her brand, expand her career, and handle all the pressure that comes along with being a small business owner. Here, she digs into the experience (and gives a sneak preview of Minna’s spring collection).
I found the space to separate work from life.
The first year, I just had a studio (I opened the store in the summer of 2017). Being able to leave my house and go to another place was revolutionary. Then I could leave work and go home. I also hired my first full-time employee, who has been with me ever since. Before that, I had someone working with me out of my New York City apartment, but it felt very unprofessional. Once we had a physical space, everything fell into place.
I met a community of like-minded people.
Almost everyone I know is a small business owner or an artist or a farmer—they’re doing something on their own. There’s a nice sense of support of what everybody’s doing, even if we’re all very different from one another. In the city, I knew a group of artists and designers, but it was more so in the sense that we all worked for large organizations.
Plus, before I had the shop, I wasn’t always paying attention to the immediate community around me. Now I’m able to see how people interact with our products and understand our business model in a different way: face-to-face. We recently expanded the store—which used to also house our studio and fulfillment center—so that we have another warehouse space. It’s this cool old gas station where we hope to host events and pop-ups.
I learned new ways to keep calm—even as Minna got bigger.
Being a business owner, I’m never not stressed. But there’s been a huge shift for me since moving. When I close up the studio or the store, I have a drive home or I can go on a walk. I’m not getting on the subway with thousands of other people trying to get a seat.
My proximity to nature here is amazing; spring and summer are the best. I can literally leave work and go swim in a lake for an hour. I can run down to the river from my house. My actual stress level hasn’t changed—in fact, it’s likely only gotten higher—but those moments of calm help.
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