meet the maker

Inspiring stories and guidance from local business owners and artists.

 
 
 

LOCATION: BOSTON, MA
founder: Nina Pfister
Co-FOUNDER: Lauren Gill

Boston Knotlight Podcast

 
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The Interview

BWM: Can you tell us a bit about how and why you started Mooring Advisory Group?

Nina Pfister: I had spent nearly a decade in the corporate world, where I gained professional experience across Marketing, Public Relations and Sales. When my son was still an infant, I made an aggressive career decision to take on an executive role that was fully remote, but required lots of travel with limited balance or boundaries.

My breaking point involved sobbing uncontrollably alone on an airplane, plagued by guilt and a new vow to be more holistically present. After I returned from that trip, I had candid conversations with my husband, family, friends and mentors who all thankfully encouraged me to follow my gut and venture out on my own to build something new.

So I went for it—Mooring Advisory Group (MAG) was born as a side hustle to test that market and quickly evolved into a boutique agency offering growth consulting and PR services just 4 months later…I haven’t looked back since!

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BWM: What sparked your interest in starting the Boston Knotlight Podcast? Was there a certain moment or person that made you realize there was a need in the Boston community?

Lauren Gill: Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always dreamed of hosting a radio talk show! Through one of our MAG clients, I came across the iFundWomen program—a crowdfunding campaign sponsored by Boston’s Mayor, Marty Walsh. I shared the details with Nina, and we immediately brainstormed on potential content and collective ideas on how to leverage crowdfunding to launch a podcast that would support our passions and areas of expertise.

We decided to create a free platform for MA-based female entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses through both our monthly podcast as well as our weekly “Knoteworthy” social series, cloning the GirlBoss model but bringing it hyper-local to support our fellow women influencers in the area.

BWM: What has been the reaction from the Boston community to your new podcast venture?

Nina: We are beyond grateful for the amazing feedback and overall positive response from the local community and our listeners! Both our guest speakers and blog contributors are extremely grateful for the opportunity to leverage our platform and share their stories, and we couldn’t be prouder to support them.

BWM: You've advised hundreds of Boston businesses and entrepreneurs about marketing, PR, and sales strategy. Our Members are often just launching their business and the idea of creating a marketing and sales strategy can be daunting. Do you have any tips on where and how they should start to develop and prioritize a plan?

Lauren: Don’t be everything to everyone. Ask yourself these critical foundational questions: Who are we? Who do we serve? What is our value proposition? What are our major differentiators? Then streamline those core principles across all of your marketing and sales efforts to ensure your messaging is clear and reflective of your authentic brand vision.

Identify your target buyer persona, and test your product or service before you formally launch. Give it away for free if you have to, and acquire as much candid feedback as you can during that beta phase to fine tune your offering before you officially go to market.

Gain exposure and establish credibility in your space. Start building a brand for yourself as an industry leader by networking and inserting yourself into relevant trending discussions—and if you’re not a marketer, then find an expert mentor who can help you craft a plan, and hold you accountable for execution!

BWM: We think the stories of failure are just as important as the stories of success. Can you talk about a time that you failed in an entrepreneurial venture or objective? How did you face and overcome this failure? What was the lesson learned?

Nina: In the beginning, I had a hard time managing client expectations. As a perfectionist, I wanted to be on all the time, with the fastest turnaround possible. I found myself rushing through tasks, overwhelmed, and overworked…which naturally led to unnecessary mistakes and exhaustion.

Lesson Learned: Slow down, set realistic deadlines for yourself, prioritize deliverables, and communicate those timelines to your clients up front (cue sigh of relief!).

BWM: Do you have a favorite go-to business tool or resource you can recommend to our members?

Nina: We love HubSpot’s Free CRM! We use it to track our own prospecting efforts, client notes, and our daily tasks.

BWM: As your business grows, how have you continued to manage the growth of the company, while also finding time and ways to invest in yourself?

Nina: Our workflow tends to have two extremes— we are either flooded with new business and client deliverables, or we’ll slow down abruptly. Given the ebbs and flows, subcontractors allow us to scale up when we have the volume, and then minimize when we don’t need as many hands on deck. As a stereotypical Type A control freak, I’ve learned to let go and delegate more tasks so that I can enjoy more quality time with those I love.

As for self-care in general, it’s a deliberate choice to shut down—for family time, more sleep, half-day Fridays in the summer, midday sweat sessions, unplugged vacations, etc. I’m learning to capitalize on the flexibility that comes with entrepreneurship, and press pause to enjoy the special moments that matter most outside of my career.

BWM: In the name of celebrating other women, what are some of your favorite local female leaders, brands, or shops?

Nina: Great question, there are way too many to name! We adore the local, bold, brilliant female clients and partners we’re collaborating with right now, so we’ll shout out to them first…

Alicia Williams of Aliste Marketing Kerrie Gotell of KFIT Body Lexie Broytman of EvaDane Jewelry Valerie Sarron of VS Photography HeHe Stewart of Tranquility by HeHe Dr. Jodi Ashbrook of ZenLeader Jennifer Bonito of J.Bonito Creative

…And of course all of the inspiring women who have participated in our podcast this year!

Boston Knotlight at a glance

The Boston Knotlight is a live, monthly podcast hosted by Mooring Advisory Group that features candid, inspirational interviews with "Knoteworthy" local women entrepreneurs on their journey to success—including business challenges, accomplishments, balance, and the importance of building a strong community.

@BostonKnotlight
Listen to the podcast!

 
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Lesson Learned: Slow down, set realistic deadlines for yourself, prioritize deliverables, and communicate those timelines to your clients up front (cue sigh of relief!).
 
 

LOCATION: BOSTON, MA
founder: SOFI MADISON

OLIVES & GRACE

 
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The Interview

BWM: Tell us about your journey to being the owner of Olives and Grace. What was your inspiration?

Sofi Madison: I wanted to create the type of shop that I'd want to shop in. A space to take your time and discover small brands, in an environment that is warm and welcoming. Once I realized what I wanted to create it was one foot in front of the other. I waitressed in the evenings for the first year, and every dollar went into buying inventory and supplies. Then in 2012 I quit serving and went full on Shop.

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BWM: What was the most difficult part of that journey?

Sofi: I think one of the hardest parts is not having anyone tell you what to do, or how to do it. Every day has to be self visualized, self motivated, and run off self discipline. Believe it or not it sounds really nice to have someone say "Do this, and it's due on such and such date... good job".

BWM: What lessons did you learn in overcoming the challenges of launching a small business?

Sofi: I learned that shit is always going to be okay, and to ride your strengths hard. In other words, don't let yourself get too stressed out over things you can't control, and enjoy learning new things that you otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to experience.

BWM: When you stock your shop, what's important to you?

Sofi: Quality products, with a good story, a strong voice, and a positive message.

BWM: Olives and Grace is a "curtsy to the makers." What does that mean and why is it so important to you?

Sofi: Our shop is dedicated to the people who work tirelessly on their craft. It is our tribute to standing by your values, and doing so with "grace" and gratitude for the challenge. It takes a lot of integrity to do things the hard way day in and day out, and that's what small businesses do.

BWM: I've always admired how present Olives & Grace is within the South End neighborhood. The shop is actively involved in the community, and the community is actively involved in the shop. As a business-womxn, why is it important to engage the community around you?

Sofi: I can't imagine running a business where the mission wasn't about something greater than sales and perception. We exist for our community. Little kids come into the shop and run to their favorite, familiar, products. People of all backgrounds know that they are not only welcomed, but valued. Sometimes when the world feels out of control, the one thing you can count on is the familiar faces in your own neighborhood. The South End is my favorite neighborhood in Boston, and I feel certain that we are still in business due to the loyalty and love from our community.

BWM: Favorite womxn maker or business right now?

Sofi: So many, I love Jen Gotch of Bando. She's used her playful brand to spread positivity, and she's used her own personal platform to spearhead the discussion on mental health. I admire her daily, and it's an honor to carry some of her products at the shop.

OLIVES & GRACE at a glance

Olives & Grace was founded by Sofi Madison in 2012 as a way to introduce emerging foods and gift makers to the Boston community. The shop has since evolved into a retail destination for beautifully designed goods with integrity and style.

@Olivesandgrace
www.olivesandgrace.com

 
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Our shop is dedicated to the people who work tirelessly on their craft. It is our tribute to standing by your values, and doing so with “grace” and gratitude for the challenge.
 
 

LOCATION: BOSTON, MA
founder: NICOLE HAILER

NICOLE HAILER PHOTOGRAPHY

 
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The Interview

BWM: How did you turn photography from a passion to a career? 

Nicole Hailer: While I’ve always had a passion for photography it really only became a career after spending a few years modeling, I discovered a freedom and fluidity in front of the camera that I realized I could bring out in others from behind the camera.

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BWM: What was the most difficult part of that journey?

Nicole: The most difficult part of the journey has definitely been trying not to compare my work and my style to other people’s and really creating my own aesthetic and feeling.

BWM: What do you love about being a photographer?

Nicole: My favorite part about being a photographer is being able to show people how I see them and the world around me.

BWM: When you're shooting, what do you want your subjects to feel? What do you want them to leave your session with?

Nicole: When shooting I generally want my subjects to feel comfortable and happy, I try to empower whoever is in front of me by showing them what I love and think is beautiful about them. I always want people to leave a shoot feeling more confident than when they walk in.

BWM: Your motto is "creative consistency"- what's that mean to you?

Nicole: “Creative consistency” is really about keeping the momentum going. Always moving, flowing, creating.

BWM: What's your favorite session or shoot you've ever done?

Nicole: My favorite shoot to date would be a winter engagement session I did back in January. Something about capturing so much love in every shot really made it stick with me.

Nicole Hailer Photography at a glance

Nicole Hailer is a Boston-based photographer and is the official photographer for Boston Women's Market! You may have seen her bopping around our markets with camera in hand and hubby and baby in tow.

www.facebook.com/nicolehailerphoto
www.nicolehailerphotography.com

 
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... I try to empower whoever is in front of me by showing them what I love and think is beautiful about them ...
 
 

LOCATION: Somerville, MA
founder: Claire Cheney; Established: 2013

curio Spice Co.

 
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The Interview

BWM: Tell us a little bit about your shop?

Curio Spice Co.: We opened Curio Spice brick and mortar a little over a year ago, last November. Before that we were using a shared kitchen space. We outgrew it. We needed more production and storage space, and decided it would also be fun to have a spice shop. It’s our all-in-one space: our production kitchen, our storage, where we ship from. We do a lot with our small space! It’s been really great! We are on a block with other artisan businesses here in Cambridge. It’s a nice community and it’s nice that the city supports us. 

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BWM: I was looking at some of your products. It looks like you carry a couple different females from our area?

CS: It’s great! We love to partner with other like-minded businesses, whether they’re restaurants or other food producers. We work with Honeycomb Creamery and we just did a collaboration with the chocolatier Gâté Comme Des Filles We also make a couple blends for Juliet. It’s definitely one of our favorite things to do.

BWM: Why spices?

CS: Well, I love to cook and I love to travel, and when I travel I bring home spices and love that they are a kind of lens through which to learn about the world. They are these aromatic story tellers. I have had an interesting path towards getting to opening this spice business, from working in restaurants and on spice farms and writing about food. It’s kind of a combined passion.

BWM: You’ve got me interested: what’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

CS: That’s hard! Sri Lanka is one of my absolute favorites. It’s hard to get to, which was rewarding when I finally got there. It’s a really amazing place with an incredible history and an incredible spice culture. Everyone should go!

BWM: We work with a lot of young, female entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Our younger vendors are always super interested in gleaming some kind of advice from people who have been doing it longer. What’s something you wish you could tell yourself ten years ago.

CS: I think a good tip is to really stay focused on your passion and try to ignore the noise of your competitors or even the voices inside your head that might be discouraging you. Just focus on what makes you happy about that thing you’re pursuing.

BWM: In the name of celebrating other women, what are some of your favorite female brands or shops, local or otherwise?

CS: My friend Rachel is the co-owner of Forty Winks and she started this great podcast called Keeping Shop that celebrates women opening brick and mortar shops. I really admire her work, especially in that podcast, because I think it’s important to talk about the challenges of brick and mortar retail. On a national level, I’m a big fan of Jeni’s Ice Cream. She is a leader in the culinary field, and she is outspoken and open-minded about sourcing from other women. She’s great!

One of my mentors is Mandy Aftel, who is a natural perfumer. She had a really big impact on my education and growth. She is a really amazing artist and person. She’s out of California.

And of course my bosses at Sofra and Oleana. Of my three bosses, two were women. Gary, Ana, and Maura were great bosses for me. Ana particularly has been really great about celebrating women in the food industry. She’s big on changing restaurant culture, particularly the parts that have been very male-dominated and macho and occasionally toxic.

BWM: What’s your favorite product in the store right now?

CS: Probably our new Edo spice. It has a little heat from the chili, it has refreshing citrus notes, and then it has a really sparkly flavor from a pepper called sansho pepper.

Curio Spice Co. at a glance

Curio is a woman-owned benefit corporation, working to improve the lives of farmers and add value to our local community through educational events and classes. They specialize in directly sourced, sustainably produced spices from around the world. 

www.curiospice.com

Shop Location:
2265 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617)  945-1888

 
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Try to ignore the noise of your competitors or even the voices inside your head that might be discouraging you. Just focus on what makes you happy about that thing you’re pursuing.
 
 

LOCATION: Cambridge, MA
founder: Virginia Johnson; Established: 20

gather here

 
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The Interview

BWM: We always like to start by giving people the opportunity to talk about what their shop is all about!

Gather Here: Gather Here is a fabric and fiber boutique, but we really specialize in educating people on how to make things for themselves. Our focus is fiber, so anything from sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery. We even teach people how to quilt. Everybody's road to making is different so we try to support whatever their entry is and then help them realize how they want to introduce making as part of an everyday part of their life.

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BWM: We always like to start by giving people the opportunity to talk about what their shop is all about!

Gather Here: Gather Here is a fabric and fiber boutique, but we really specialize in educating people on how to make things for themselves. Our focus is fiber, so anything from sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery. We even teach people how to quilt. Everybody's road to making is different so we try to support whatever their entry is and then help them realize how they want to introduce making as part of an everyday part of their life.

BWM: I found you guys through a woman who found you from another woman. There is this huge female community around you guys that’s very loyal to you. How did that come to be?

GH: We are a woman-owned business. I’ve been sewing since I was six, and I’m really passionate about sewing and embroidery and knitting. All of our staff, except my partner, are female and all of our instructors are female. There is very much a very strong female presence here.

I think that when we discuss what fiber arts are and what they mean to people, historically they’ve been female-oriented. Often that’s in a disparaging way, and what we’ve been trying to do in contemporary craft is talk about how it is actually empowering. It’s not a way to keep people in the home or from exploring other avenues of creativity, but actually a way of empowering people to be creative.

BWM: I love that. You're reworking my assumptions of crafting as we speak. Boston Women's Market works with a lot of young entrepreneurs, and female makers and shakers. They are always super interested in people who have their own shops and who have been doing it for awhile. If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

GH: I think ten years ago, I was just imagining a place where I could meet other women who were interested in similar things I was interested in. I wanted to explore more, but I was really afraid of what that might mean for my career, and I wish I had known then what I know now. That is that at the end of the day if you know what you want to do and you know there are people who are kind of interested in what you do, you can take the leap. At the end of the day, I went into it thinking, I’m not doing this so I can fail, but at the same time I am free of the concern that I could fail, if that makes sense. At the time, I was like ‘I have nothing left to lose. This is what I want to do and I’m just going to do it and hopefully it all works out."

It was hard, I never want people to think that it wasn’t hard and scary, but I wish I had done it ten years earlier. At the time, I was still figuring out what I wanted to do and who i wanted to be. We’re allowed to be complex and sort those things out, but risk is okay. It doesn’t mean we’ve failed at another career. I was in academia first. I taught at Tufts, but I knew I wanted to make things and work with other makers. I was too scared, thinking “does that mean I’m bad at being an academic?" You can be good at lots of things, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be doing it.

BWM: So now that you’ve come this far and you’ve been doing this for ten years, what’s your favorite part of it?

GH: We meet new people all the time and seeing that spark, that “Oh my God! I've found where I’m supposed to be or learning what I’m supposed to do.” I taught this amazing jean-making class last summer and at the end of the workshop, a woman was on the verge of tears because it was the first time a pair of pants fit her. She felt great about her body, and at the moment was like, this is what feminism was for me. I have given you the power, and now you have a body positive experience, AND you made them!! You made these pants, and so in that moment, I was like "this is why I am doing this."

BWM: In the name of celebrating other women, who inspires you in your personal or professional life?

GH: There are so many! Right now, I've been thinking a lot about this woman, Jacqueline Sava who is the founder and creator of this product, Soak. She went to RISD and she made this hand-washing soap for knitwear and intimates, where you put a few drops in the water, but you don’t need to rinse it! You let it soak, you pull it out, and then let it dry. I think about her all the time. She went to art school and then she was trying to find her way in the world. She was like “wait, I can do this", and she created this business that now has a warehouse and employs all these people. I see her product all over and I still get really excited about seeing it because she was just one person and she did this amazing thing..

Then, I think about my friend Jen Beeman who is the founder and creator of the pattern line Grainline. She does really contemporary, easy-to-wear women’s clothing and patterns. I get excited when I see people wearing her patterns, and I get really excited for Jen, whose changing the world. I think about all these different people who I have met along the way, who I’ve met because of this store, or who I was already reading about when I was thinking about opening the store. And I'm always thinking about how they’ve changed the world in their little way every single day.

I mean, Shelley at Albertine Press. She has this great little retail brick and mortar and she still has her letterpress business and it’s just great. I remember meeting her seven years ago and over the years, when a place would open up around my neighborhood, I’d say “Shelley, I wonder if this space would work.” Having her now be a neighbor is really exciting. There are so many women doing so many really amazing things.

BWM: And as you’re made more aware them, the excitement grows! The female community of Boston businesswomen and shop owners is very close, and just seems to be getting closer and closer!

GH: It is! And the internet has changed how we know each other. My friend Amy, who owns and designs the yarn line Knit Collage, is Boston-based. I remember commenting on a photo of hers and somebody in the small business community was like “I didn’t know you know Amy.” I’s crazy! We’re all so interconnected.

It’s really cool because I think especially when you’re in it, when your sleeves are rolled up, you forget you’re not alone. So you can be posting in this void, and then suddenly, you’re like “wait, there are tons of us and we’re here for each other!” It’s okay to lift up your head and acknowledge that.

BWM:You’ve given me so many women owned businesses and brands, but is there anyone else you’d like to include on your list of favorite woman-owned or operated businesses, brands, or entrepreneurs?

GH: I’m a huge fan of Sofi over at Olives and Grace in South Boston. I just love what she has done to elevate the conversation about where things come from and how we support people who make things that we consume, I think she has really changed the conversation, while making others really aware of it. I think that as other people open businesses, they model her thinking: what am going to stock? Where does it come from? Who is making the product that I'm selling in my business? And how do I have that conversation with the people that support my business.

I really applaud her. I love the success that she has had because there’s an element to contemporary shopping that is fast and easy and inexpensive, and she has added value to the products she has carried. She has become a force in her community. I think all small business owners regardless of gender can learn from that. I think we can make a difference in the lives of the people whose products we choose to carry.

The other small business I’m really excited about is Emily, who is opening up a used art supply store called Make and Mend. She’s currently accepting donations of old and used art supplies!

I’m also a huge fan of Maggie Battista, who started this blog called Eat Boutique. She had her first cookbook come out called Food Gift Love, and she just had this health and personal epiphany and her body has changed a lot and she has been really open about these changes and how she is eating and cooking differently. I loved reading about that journey for her and how transparent she’s been about sharing that journey over the last year.

Gather Here at a glance

If you're into crafting, you know Gather Here. If you're not into crafting, you will be after visiting the bright, inviting safe space that is this local craft boutique. Located in Inman Square, Gather Here brings together the warmth of a Makerspace and the creative inspiration of your one stop, go-to art supply haven.

www.gatherhereonline.com

Shop Location:
1343 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 714-4880

 
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You can be good at lots of things, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be doing it.