Meet Stephanie Sheldon, founder of Parfait, Indie Foundry
and Kiss and Bite.
Can you walk us through your companies?
Parfait was the first business I started. It is a boutique marketing and branding firm for individuals, weddings and small businesses.
The Indie Foundry is branding and visioning for creative entrepreneurs. We focus mainly on the "maker" community -- those who make or create for a living. We also curate markets, events and classes that introduce our clients to the public.
Another huge part of our business is providing support to our own community of creative entrepreneurs, or "artistpreneurs." There are specific challenges that we all face, and my personal philosophy is that community is built through authenticity and transparency. This takes shape in my blog
Kiss and Bite is my local letterpress studio, supporting my other two businesses, and specializing in custom wedding and small business products. We design and press business cards, wedding invitations, and basically anything that we can get into our vintage press.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I've always been an entrepreneur at heart. For as long as I can remember, making and creating has been a huge part of my life. I went to architecture school, and worked in the field until my office closed in 2009. That's when Parfait was born. Parfait brings together my architectural design skills, with branding, marketing and visioning for small creative businesses. I began The Indie Foundry to create more of a platform for others like myself to connect and share stories of building our businesses.
How did you come up with the idea?
Parfait grew organically out of my own passions for design and weddings. Indie Foundry began as a conversation with a fellow maker, Carrie Nardini of Pittsburgh's I Made It Market
. We both talked about how we wanted to do more. It was obvious to us that there was a lack of resources and support for other small creative business owners like ourselves. My philosophy has always been, “a rising tide lifts all ships.” So with that in mind, we launched our first collaborative market, The Rust Belt Series
, in Ohio City's Market Square Park. It brought artisans from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit together to share resources, sell their goods, and establish a base for our upcoming classes and events.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
The biggest surprise is how quickly my business has grown and how many new avenues it's taking over just the last year. I had no idea starting out that I would meet such a wonderful business partner and be able to pursue even loftier goals.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
Cleveland is an amazing place to do business. It's full of people like me -- young urban pioneers -- who want to create something different and help their communities grow. I'm originally from Detroit, where a similar renaissance is taking place. These urban pioneers are my clients and my peers. I love helping them achieve their dreams through design, creative visioning and connection to others that will help them grow.
Opening a small business anywhere is tough, and opening one in a smaller market like Cleveland is even tougher. But there is also something about the tight-knit support of Clevelanders that encourages it. In cities like Cleveland or Detroit or Pittsburgh, we work harder and are more industrious and resourceful.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by all those people that are working with passion, most times against the grain, to create something different for their communities. I'm inspired by people who care about supporting others, and who are passionate about their own unique visions for their lives. Mostly, I'm inspired by the act of creation, and that takes courage, authenticity and grit.
What’s next for you and your company?
In February I'm curating Cleveland's first Faux Wedding Event, where I'll be showcasing Northeast Ohio's best and brightest in the indie wedding scene. It will be a full-scale wedding and reception at The Screw Factory
in Lakewood. Guests can come to actually taste cakes, see dresses and accessories in action and party with off-beat DJ's and musicians. You'll be able to find everything you need to plan a wedding.
I'm also extremely excited about my next venture, a multi-disciplinary workspace and education center in Ohio City. We will have an event space, a wood shop, a metal shop, photo studios, jewelry studios and coworking space, as well as classes and events aimed at helping people create. The idea is to give small creative business owners a place to grow their businesses within their limited budgets, helping them to eventually open their own storefronts within our community.