Category Archives:Uncategorized

What’s for Dessert? Peach Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

Today, we bring you part three of our collaboration series with food stylist, Mary Valentinfood10 food12Peach Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

With all the apple recipes this time of year, we chose this gluten free, hearty peach cobbler dessert as a delicious alternative! For the crust of the cobbler, we used a recipe from the latest, most up-to date book on gluten free baking.food11

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal 
1 cup gluten free flour blend
1/3 cup sugar
about 3 tablespoons sugar (separate)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼ inch pieces
¾ cup buttermilk, chilled (yes, it has to be buttermilk)
4# ripe but firm peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into ½  inch slices
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

Instructions:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Adjust oven rack to center of oven and preheat oven to 375°.  Pulse cornmeal, flour blend, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda and ½ teaspoon of salt together in food processor until combined.  Scatter chilled butter over the top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  It will have a few larger lumps.
  • Transfer mixture to a large bowl, add buttermilk and stir with a fork until dough gathers into moist clumps.  Using a greased ¼ cup measured scoop, scoop out and drop 8 mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spaced about an inch apart. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon (or more, if you like) of sugar and bake until biscuits are lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Combine peaches, 1/3 cup of sugar, ginger, cinnamon and pinch of salt together in Dutch oven, or large cast iron skillet.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until peaches have softened and released their juices, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Wisk lemon juice and cornstarch together in a bowl, then stir into peaches and continue to cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, 2 to 5 more minutes.  Season with extra sugar to taste.  
  • To serve, arrange biscuits on top of peach mixture and bake until heated through 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve immediately with some melty ice cream.

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Peach cobbler recipe by Mary Valentin.
Photography and  styling by Heather Day.

Read full feature and interview of Mary Valentin here.

Weekly Dose : Subtleties

It’s not until you take the time to notice little subtleties that you stop to appreciate them. Whether it’s visual details such as the subtle nodes of blush, the frothy texture on the surface of a drink or small crumbs out of focus appearing as sparkles of light — or the way an ever so slight movement during a stretch in yoga makes you feel — take note of these subtleties and your humbleness of life will grow.

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All images found via Pinterest.

Photos curated by Sara Chars.

Playlist : Let It Go

Music has always been a stress relieving, meditative outlet for me. I usually find meanings in songs which I interpret in my own way. Often this shifts my perspective on life to that of something more purposeful and in the end, positive. If you’re a close friend of mine, you’ll know I get really into certain songs and listen to them on repeat because it’s sort of meditative in a way.

Naturally, I enjoy seeing artists perform live. My favorite concerts are small performance venues as they are much more intimate and moving. I recently saw Jose Gonzalez at the Cedar Cultural Center. I had never been there before but know many that would say this is their favorite venue in Minneapolis. It was an exceptional concert in a great space. I could even feel the vibe of the crowd – mellow and so appreciative of good music.

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Below is a playlist I have been working on the past few months. It’s a great mix of songs that I have found a personal connection to and have helped serve as an outlet to release whatever I need to let go.

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Image from The Every Girl

♫ Music curated by Sara Chars.

Homemade Donuts with Amanda Frederickson

Homemade Donuts | Taupe & BirchLast month, I visited Amanda Frederickson for a fun afternoon in the kitchen. We were calling it a collaboration but let’s be honest – Amanda made everything while I took some photos and sampled the frosting.

I got to know Amanda through the lifestyle blog, Sacramento Street and through Instagram. She’s a professional chef for the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen and a food stylist for her personal blog, A life Well Lived.

Homemade Donuts | Taupe & Birch

You can find the full recipe for the donuts on Epicurious.

Vanilla Glaze:

  1. 2 cups of powdered sugar
  2. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. 3 Tbs water

Combine sugar, vanilla extract and water. Stir well and dip donuts into glaze.

Homemade Donuts | Taupe & Birch
Homemade Donuts | Taupe & Birch
Homemade Donuts | Taupe & BirchHomemade Donuts | Taupe & BirchHomemade Donuts | Taupe & Birch
Donuts by Amanda Frederickson | Photos By Heather Day for Taupe & Birch.

SBG Designs

We sat down with Sara Beth Goldfine of SBG Designs, located in the North Loop Warehouse District of Minneapolis, to get the details on her line of timeless adornments, how it all began and the exciting plans of a fresh new look rolling out this fall.SGB Designs | Sara Chars

How did you first get into jewelry making and what ultimately inspired you to start SBG Designs?

As a little girl, I loved to take apart my moms jewelry and see what kind of creations I could come up with.  My tools included her nail scissors and eyebrow tweezers.  I had NO idea what I was doing, but I figured out how to put a piece together by taking other pieces apart.  Fast forward to my senior year of college at the University of Kansas… I was in the Fine Arts School getting my degree in Textile Design.  After taking a couple of Jewelry Design classes as electives, I fell in love again with jewelry design and started selling my work at local boutiques in Lawrence, Kansas as well as my home town of Minneapolis.  I was so inspired by the positive response to my collections that I decided to incorporate my business during my senior year and see where it took me.  A year later I was in Los Angeles launching my brand and seeing my jewelry on the cover of magazines.  It was the most amazing feeling!  I spent 6 years building my brand in Los Angeles before moving back to my stomping grounds.  The love and support I have received from my customers and the community is what keeps me inspired every day.

SGB Designs | Sara Chars

What is a typical work day like for you?

There really isn’t a typical work day… During the week, I have set responsibilities: completing special orders, replenishing inventory, responding to emails, etc.  Every day is so different.  Some days will be booked with appointments (customers stopping into the showroom) and other days consist of meetings outside of the showroom, photo shoots, Trunk Shows and Pop-Up Shops.  We also do a lot of traveling to cities like Chicago, New York, Florida and Los Angeles where we meet with our retailers and set up private showings and Pop-Up Shops.


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Do you have a particular style? How was this style inspired?

My personal style changes depending on my mood.  Most days I like to dress in oversized flowing tops and layer on the Boho necklaces with a stacked mixture of delicate bracelets.  If I’m going to a Black Tie event, I like to go with a Vintage or Hollywood Glam look:  Either pile on the Allure Bracelets and pair them with Goddess earrings or start with a Statement necklace or Glam Paisley and compliment the look with a Glam bracelet.

SGB Designs | Sara Chars

How long has SBG Designs been around and where can we find these gems?

Since 2004!  Available on our website (sbgdesigns.com) as well as the following places:

Minneapolis Boutiques

  • A La Mode Boutique and Nail Spa
  • Arafina
  • Flutter
  • Indulge & Bloom
  • Primrose Park
  • MinQ
  • Three Rooms
  • SBG Designs Showroom

Illinois

  • Denim Lounge
  • Willow
  • Tria

Los Angeles

  • The Beach House

SGB Designs | Sara CharsSGB Designs | Sara Chars

What is your favorite Minneapolis clothing boutique that you love to pair with your jewelry?

Can I say three?  Primrose Park, Arafina and MinQ!

Can you explain “Shop for a Cause”?

Throughout the years, we have collaborated with different nonprofit organizations and raised money and awareness for national and local charities.  We believe that the opportunity to build the community around us by supporting these organizations will allow the world to be a much better place.  By hosting fundraising events, creating special collections and donating to silent auctions, we hope to impact our community in a positive way.

SBG Designs | Sara Chars

What does the future look like for SBG Designs?

Stay tuned!  We have been really busy…working on something BIG!

Photographs by Sara Chars for Taupe & Birch

Coffee in Brooklyn : Jessica Williams

Coffee in Brooklyn : Jessica Williams | Taupe & Birch

Back in November, I made a trip to the east coast and was lucky enough to stay with my old friends Jessica and Luke Williams. I met the couple while studying at Maryland Institute College of Art and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Jessica Williams is an interior stylist/ designer and is currently running her own business in the New York area. Since I had some time with Jessica, I decided to sit down with her and catch up / learn some of her secrets to success. 

Coffee in Brooklyn : Jessica Williams | Taupe & Birch

What kind of projects are you working on at the moment? I have a variety of exciting projects at the moment! A handful of residential clients, a coffee shop in Philadelphia, and exciting restaurant spots here in Brooklyn. The most recent being a juice bar in Carroll Gardens that I’m designing with my husband. It’s a project we’ve been working on from scratch and we’re nearing completion in the coming month!

How did you end up in New York? I collected NYC memorabilia as a kid and always dreamt of moving here one day. My husband and I lived/worked in Baltimore and Chicago before making the hop to New York. It naturally felt like the next (and possibly last) move for us.

What’s your favorite coffee shop in New York? There’s delicious coffee around every corner in New York! A few of my neighborhood favorites are Cafe Pedlar, Smith Canteen and Bacchus Bistro.

Coffee in Brooklyn : Jessica Williams | Taupe & Birch

How would you describe your design aesthetic?I typically don’t aim for a style with my clients and rather incorporate meaningful moments of the old and new, while adding personal touches with family heirlooms. When creating my own spaces, I refer to raw textures and historic architectural details inspired by my upbringing in Frederick, MD and layer it with contemporary art and objects collected from places we’ve lived or traveled to.

Where do you see your business going in the next couple of years? hope to see the scale of my projects grow, so I can focus on fewer clients at a time. Having a studio space/bespoke shop are part of the plan too!

What advice would you give to someone looking to switch up the interior design in their home? Where do you start? Some of the ways to refresh your home without a big overhaul are to change up the paint colors, rearrange the placement of art, dispose items without personal meaning/memory and reupholstering soft pieces.

To learn more about the designer, visit her website and be sure to follow Jessica on Instagram for your weekly dose of inspiration. Content and photos by Heather Day

Queen For Dinner

Do you ever feel like there are so many small online shops that it’s hard to keep track of all of them? Me too. Rebecca Butler launched a new website this week where she does all of the hard work for us. It’s called Queen For Dinner. I was pretty excited about supporting small vendors so naturally, I had to sit down with the Etsy Curator and learn more.

Queen For Dinner | Taupe & Birch

We love Queen for Dinner and the product that you’ve curated! Can you tell us more about how your company evolved?

I came up with the idea of QFD from being both a seller and a buyer on Etsy. I love Etsy and love what they’re doing, but from a consumer point of view, it can get really overwhelming when you search for a necklace and over 250 pages of results come up – more than half of which I’m not even slightly interested in. It makes it hard to find things as a consumer, and hard to stand out as a seller. Yet, still, I always want to support small-vendors and small-business. Basically Queen For Dinner is my solution to this. We require a much more strict approval process, and we only feature items that we would want to purchase for ourselves. Most importantly, we don’t allow for any paid promotion – i.e. you can’t pay more money to have your item featured more frequently or higher up in search results. Promotion is solely based on what we like and what we think you’ll like, not money. In coming up with the tag line, “Cool stuff for cool girls,” it was really important to me to emphasize that we’re not saying, “buy this and you’ll be cool;” instead we’re trying to support every girl’s own unique cool self and style by providing them with things they might like. We don’t want to promote the idea that you need things or to look a certain way to be cool; we want to support women in being the cool girls they already are.


Queen For Dinner | Taupe & Birch
What’s your selection process like?

Sourcing vendors and products right now happens in two different ways. We have a submission form, through which we get a lot of great vendor submissions (as well as some that don’t quite fit into the QFD style). If we want to work with them, we send them the details on how exactly Queen For Dinner works, which items in specific we’re interested in, and a few of our forms they need to sign off on (including a quality standard form). Other than vendor submission forms, we find most of our vendors from Instagram actually. We’ve established a great presence on Instagram and are growing everyday. Queen For DinnerI find a lot of vendors just by digging through layers and layers of instagram accounts and photos. Some are found through Etsy and random places like craft fairs and farmers markets, but right now the majority I’m finding through Instagram. In order to be allowed on QFD (other than having really cute products), you must have a somewhat smaller following (i.e. a somewhat undiscovered artisan), and you must have reasonable prices (once again, we ask the question, “would I buy this?”). We love items made by other women, ethically made products, and US made products, but we don’t exclusively sell those things. We like to give all small artisans equal opportunity. Items are only on the site for 2 week batches and then we rotate vendors and items. After items ship, we do a quality check with customers to make sure they had a great experience and their purchases were as they had hoped. Vendors who receive below a four out of five rating will be reviewed and may not be allowed back on the site. The idea is that even though we’re a community of small vendors, we should be able to compete with (or be better than) the big boys. Quality and professionalism is extremely important to us.

Queen For Dinner | Taupe & Birch
What’s next?

In the future I see Queen For Dinner evolving into a more app-based platform. It seems to want that more instant and quick form of interaction because it is a flash-sale style site. Therefore, with an app it could easily update users any time a new batch was released so they can purchase the goods before they sell out since these are limited quantity products. I also think QFD could easily branch into a subscription based arena as well (similar to BirchBox) where women could sign up and receive a box of our favorite small vendor goods a few times a year – once we’ve built our reputation as trustworthy lifestyle tastemakers that is. Anyway, these are all quite a ways down the road, but I just think this idea has a lot of potential for growth and expansion.

Shop more from this weeks batch over at Queen for Dinner and be sure to follow them on Instagram for daily updates. Photos by Celisse Beruman. Content by Heather Day

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland, CA

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & Birch

T & B went behind the scenes with bay area artist, Anna Valdez in her Oakland studio. If you aren’t familiar with the artist already, Here’s a little background to her work.

As a visual artist with an academic background in anthropology, and video, she views artists as cultural producers. In her recent work, Anna attempts to combine these practices into a specific investigation that cultivates not only personal identity, but also cultural meaning. Currently, Anna is working on various narratives that explore her own traditions and history through a visual format. This process has led her to rely on photographs, stories, family recipes, horticulture, and the tradition of crafting as something concrete in order to construct an autobiography. She considers this examination to be a rite of passage into a globalized society while simultaneously finding a niche within.

Recently, many of her pieces have been still lifes. These arrangements have been composed from various household items such as her clothes, quilts, scarves, blankets, houseplants, drawings, paintings, books, records, and vessels. These items exist as a part of her domestic environment, and Anna has put them into  paintings to understand the domestic sphere as emblematic of both personal and collective experience. 

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & BirchThanks for sitting down with us today. For starters, we love your work and would love to hear more about you. What’s your average day like?

I don’t think painting is just about applying paint to a surface; it also includes research, analysis and visual digestion.  I do spend at least a few hours a day reading about whatever topic currently captures my interest, looking at images online or in books, reading articles, drawing from my immediate space or talking out ideas with other artists in my community.  I tend to be most physically active in the studio at night.

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & BirchStudio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & BirchSounds wonderful. Your recent paintings are really intriguing. Can you tell us more about what inspired this series?

My current work is the result of what excites me in painting. I am interested in the exploration of lineage in art history. Much of my work references historical and contemporary painters. I use the tradition of still life painting in order to construct stories that convey my experiences into a visual story that reflects culture.

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & BirchStudio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & Birch

Where do you find inspiration? Where do you see your work going next?

I think of the studio as an environment that allows me to explore various concepts. At the moment I have a few directions in which I would like to take my work. I’ve found that working at a fast pace helps accelerate discovery and things just happen. I want to continue working in a state of urgency in order to work out as many ideas as possible. This practice has helped me realize what I find interesting in painting and in my own work. Lately I’ve been painting at a larger scale. I feel that with the increased size the paintings have more of a physical presence. I like that the work acts as an extension of space within a room. 

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & BirchStudio Visit with Anna Valdez in Oakland CA | Taupe & BirchPhotos and content by Heather Day for Taupe & Birch. Special thanks to Anna Valdez for sharing her space with us! 

Be sure to follow Anna on Instagram and visit her website for the most recent photos of her work. 

 

Made By Hand : Tree Fort Soda

A few months ago I went to the Harvest Beer Festival put on by Minneapolis St. Paul magazine. After trying dozens of local craft brews, I spotted Verdant Tea. Surprised to see them there, I went over to sample some of their new Kombucha flavors. They were also sampling Tree Fort Soda. This is where I first discovered these delicious botanical sodas hand crafted by 18 year old Eva Duckler. We got the details on the Tree Fort Soda from Eva herself.

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When did you start hand crafting your own sodas and what was your motivation? I began exploring the unusually vast world of craft sodas from a very young age. I grew up tasting all of the weirdest brands I could get my hands on—I have collections of inked-scrawled napkins from notes I’d take on flavor profiles of soda as a geeky middle schooler. Just as I’d watch adults around me swirl a glass of fine scotch and note the robust flavor, I’d be fascinated by the amber glow and full-bodied taste of delicious root beer. Because I had created my very own personal cultish devotion to flavor and the quest for the perfect soda, brewing my own seemed nearly sacrilegious.

Fast forward several years and I am working at Verdant Tea, a Minneapolis based tea house and tasting room. At Verdant, the experience is based entirely on the senses; they encourage exploration in all sorts of realms; from tea to chai I got to immerse myself in the brewing world. l was asked to help out with drink specials and began making small batches of herbal syrups for making hot steamers and sodas. They already had a tap system for kombucha at the teahouse so I decided to take a crack at an herbal drink to have on tap. People really loved the sodas I was making and as a culminating end of high school project I decided to make a business out of it. I graduated and decided to take a year off before heading off college to pursue the business further because I was having so much fun with it.  

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How much experimentation did you do to get the flavors you were looking for in each soda? The root beer took a lot of time—months of perceived failures. I probably went through 60 batches to even get it to where I wanted to share it with others. I had to learn a lot about beer brewing because there are so many parallels between the worlds and I needed to learn how kegging and bottling works. Once I got the hang of the brewing process and all of the equipment involved, I found it a lot easier to develop the ginger ale. If you are using fresh ingredients and real cane sugar you don’t have to work really hard to get it to taste good.

My favorite is the root beer. It’s so good and really different from traditional root beers. What in your opinion sets yours apart? The root beer is very different from what people expect of it. Because it brewed with real botanicals people are often surprised by how herbaceous the flavor is. I like it because it is a nod to what root beer was before America became obsessed with synthetically produced flavors and concocting products out a lab. The flavors of our root beer come from the rich history of using the drink as a medicinal tonic, or later as an alternative to alcohol during prohibition.

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How did the name Tree Fort come about? I was looking for something that inspired nostalgia but also incorporated a sense for the botanical qualities of the sodas. I grew up playing in a tree fort and I imagine many others had a similar place of imagination and childhood wonders growing up.  

Where can we find Tree Fort sodas? Currently it is available on tap at Verdant, East Lake Brewery, Lakewinds Co-ops, and in bottles at Seward Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, and Caffetto. The Kowalski’s markets will be carrying it in bottles and on tap at select locations as well.

What does the future look like for Tree Fort? I’m working on building out a fully equipped brewery in Minneapolis. We are currently in the middle of demoing the space to prepare for some much larger tanks and other fun brewery equipment. This will allow us to get a lot more product out there and share it with more people. I plan on putting my heart into getting the operations side of things to a self-sustained state with the help of a great team by next fall when I will be leaving to attend Wellesley college. While I’m away I’ll be involved in the administrative and business side of things. 

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The owners of Verdant have invested in this new space as well and the current Verdant will be under new ownership. The new teahouse, taproom and shop will be located at 2009 E. 24th Street coming early 2015.

Interview by Sara Chars | Photos supplied by Tree Fort Soda

Spark Letterpress in Northeast Minneapolis

Spark Letterpress, located in the heart of the arts district in Northeast Minneapolis, opened its new showroom and print shop this summer after about a ten year hiatus of leaving the Twin Cities. Growing from a business of two, husband and wife duo Jim Watne and Valerie Carlson, to more than ten full-time staff, Watne and Carlson knew they wanted to return to the Twin Cities to grow their business even further. We sat down with Valerie to get the inside scoop.

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How did you and your husband become interested in design and how did that carry over into custom letterpress?
I always considered myself to be creative and worked as a designer in my 20s for some large accounting firms. As much as I enjoyed the challenges of those positions – to be creative within a confined set of design standards – I wanted to branch out on my own. I began doing freelance design work for other companies and somewhere along the line I met Jim. We fell in love and he ultimately joined me in doing freelance design work since he had also been working as a designer. We designed our own wedding invitations and found that stationery was a great outlet for creativity in comparison to our regular freelance work. We decided that if we wanted to be truly successful and profitable that we should invest in a printing press. We happened upon letterpress for it’s beautiful impression left in the paper as well as the simplicity of the press. I’d say the rest is history but that is certainly oversimplifying the past 10 years.

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How long have you been doing letterpress and how you made the leap to starting a letterpress business?
We’ve been doing letterpress since 2004 and are so thankful to be pursuing that dream today. We knew that letterpress was a growing niche printing market and have worked really hard to become a print shop that people can trust to produce their ideas. Whether it is a gorgeous wedding stationery suite, your one-of-a-kind business card or just a simple note, we handle projects big and small.

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How many employees do you currently have and what are their roles to make everything operate smoothly?
There are 10 of us at Spark. We have four people in client service and design, three in production, two in operations and myself overseeing everything from creative direction, production management and cleaning the kitchen! We have been fortunate to find the right staff person for each position. We like a balance of skill, personality and flexibility because being in a small business is no small feat. We all need to function independent of one another and come together as a team to keep Spark running smoothly.

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Can you name a few of the publications your letterpress work has been featured in?
Spark’s custom invitations have been featured in national magazines such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides (national and regional), Print, Communication Arts, Inside Weddings, Real Simple Weddings, The Knot, New York Weddings, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Stationery Trends, InStyle Weddings, Minnesota Bride, Seattle Bride, World Bride, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style and more. Spark has also been featured on numerous online media including FPO, Oh So Beautiful Paper, Paper Crave, The Brides Guide, Style Me Pretty, Merci New York, Casa Sugar, The Knot, Brides.com, RealSimple.com, Always a Blogsmaid and Communication Arts web pick.

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What would you say to the aspiring creative entrepreneur?
If it is your true passion or calling you will know because you won’t allow anything or anyone to get in the way of pursuing your dream. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts or haven’t been through hard times with Spark. I have and I will continue to experience that. Success doesn’t just happen, it is the result of working harder than you ever imagined possible. When your friends are having fun on the weekends, you should be writing your business plan or developing your marketing materials. When you want to get that new car, you should be evaluating whether it is a necessity and consider instead saving for that next big unexpected expense for your own company. I make difficult decisions each and every day and owning a creative business is not for the faint of heart.

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Content and photography by Sara Chars.