The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

Coffee talk: Rena Tom, passionate connector and master curator — October 22, 2015

Coffee talk: Rena Tom, passionate connector and master curator

Two years ago, we talked to San Francisco local Rena Tom who had just cofounded the Makeshift Society, a coworking clubhouse for creatives. Today, we caught up with Rena to talk about how the community has grown, where she’s found new inspiration, and why she continues to put people at the center of her work.

We chatted back in 2013, but would love to get your early story on the record. How did you get to where you are today?

Circuitously yet fortuitously! I wandered from web design to print work and jewelry design, to owning a store and finally to coworking. I really have no idea what’s next for me, though I am looking for work if anyone still wants a generalist/community builder/event planner. 🙂

The Makeshift society has grown so much since we last talked. But tell us: when did you first develop the idea of a place ‘for creatives, by creatives’?

I sold my business in early 2011 and was ramping up my consulting business. I found myself working at cafes, trying to find a quiet place to call clients on Skype, and a bit lonely. Basically, I need a place to work and socialize so I invented it with the help of Victoria Smith and Suzanne Shade.

We wanted to provide a safe, creative space for people to be their best selves. 

What has been the most rewarding part of running the Makeshift Society?

It’s been great finding the best way to explain to people what we do — basically fine-tuning our mission statement every time we talk to prospective members.

Photo by Sarah Deragon

The members have truly shaped our results, and I’m proud of that. I’m also super proud that they continue to do so, to find ways to collaborate and enjoy their own work while supporting others’ work too.

How have you continued to find freelancers, creatives and teams to fill the beautiful space?

We have great word of mouth and because we are friendly to all freelance fields who touch the creative industry, it’s a nice diverse mix of people and professions. We’ve learned to use social media a lot to showcase the space and the members and that brings in new people all the time for our classes and events. We’re indie and very “human” and it shows with our words and images.

How do you describe the vibe and people at Makeshift Society today? What kind of person is drawn to the mission and the space?

San Francisco has come to reflect the West coast well — the vibe is very casual, DIY, and a little bit bohemian. The community started at the maker/blogger/photographer end of the creative spectrum but now includes more design studios and programmers.

Makeshift Society: A clubhouse for creatives

When the Brooklyn location was open, we had more writers, architects, and the like — they loved the more polished, industrial and modern feel of the space. It’s not surprising that the SF space was a little more like me, while the NY space a little more like my business partner there, Bryan Boyer.

Last time we spoke, you told us about the business side of owning Rare Device, a design-led shop in New York City and San Francisco. We’re passionate about curation, so we’d love to know: how did you curate the acclaimed in-store selection?

Rare Device really came from searching the Internet as I initially scoured the web to find products from small designers and international makers who were not represented in the US. Eventually, I attended the trade shows — but doing as much independent research as possible made Rare Device quite unique.

I’m a fan of minimalism, so simple, functional shapes in a limited black and white palette was my signature, as well as incorporating textures like wood and felt to warm things up.

When I partnered with artist Lisa Congdon for our second shop, her vintage sensibilities meant more great graphics, patterns, and bright colors, while still hewing to the Rare Device look.

Which designers, curators, shops, and museums are your favorites?

For influences, I’m currently a fan of MOMA, Canoe, and the ladies at Sight Unseen.

What events and classes do you love and recommend in Brooklyn or San Francisco?

In San Francisco, I like Workshop Residence and the artists they choose for their residencies. They make work for sale but also hold workshops so you can learn techniques, too. Brooklyn (and NYC in general) has a great design festival, NYCxDESIGN, and I read http://whrw.hn/ for a curated view at cool events.

Which Makeshift Society classes have been most valuable to you in the last couple of years? Why?

I liked taking our calligraphy class and a ceramics class. The hands-on classes let me get out of my head and let my hands do the thinking.

Where can we find you online today?

Mostly I’m on Twitter and Instagram, but you can also find me at renatom.net and makeshiftsociety.com.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

I used to drink it with a little cream and no sugar, but lately I’ve switched over to chai. My stomach thanks me!

Coffee talk: Christine Amorose, blogger and brand partnership manager at Vimeo — July 19, 2015

Coffee talk: Christine Amorose, blogger and brand partnership manager at Vimeo

Christine Amorose is one of those rare people who can somehow do it all. When she’s not managing brand partnerships at Vimeo, she teaches yoga and writes for major publications like Condé Nast Traveler in addition to posting regularly on her popular blog, C’est Christine. We were lucky to catch up with Christine in this week’s edition of Coffee Talk, where she shares what she loves about her job, the coolest partnerships she’s working on, and where she hangs out in NYC.

How did you end up where you are today, working on brand partnerships at Vimeo [and blogging at C’est Christine]?

I used to work in marketing and social media for a photography-related brand, and I loved the photo/video space. We also used Vimeo to host our lifestyle/product videos, and I was really impressed by the quality of the site and quirky brand voice. I thought that Vimeo would be a dream next step in the industry. When I started yoga teacher training in early 2014, the girl who sat next to me on the very first night of training introduced herself and said she worked at Vimeo. I immediately thought: I have to be friends with this girl! Well, I befriended her and learned more about the culture at Vimeo and the work she was doing on brand partnerships–and less than six months later, I was working with her. In addition to my full-time job at Vimeo, I also blog about travel and lifestyle at CestChristine.com and contribute to publications like Afar and Condé Nast Traveler.

Which brands have been most memorable to work with? 

We just launched the Connected Series with Samsung, which is such a cool example of the work we do. Samsung and Vimeo teamed up to ask 10 amazing filmmakers to explore the idea of connection, and each piece is so unique and true to the filmmaker’s style and vision. My personal favorite was Elemental by : : kogonada: he basically showed how humans went from rocks to computers, and it’s all so beautifully edited with absolutely perfect sound design. It’s awesome when brands like Samsung are willing to fund projects that push boundaries and spark conversations.

What’s your favorite thing about the Vimeo product?

The videos! Vimeo is home to some of the best videos on the internet, and our Curation team is fantastic at finding the ones that are truly worth watching. I also love how supportive the Vimeo community is: the comments are always so positive, encouraging, inquisitive. There’s a low tolerance for trolling and a real celebration of creativity, which makes watching and sharing good work a very pleasant experience.

Who has had the most influence on your career so far?

To be honest: probably my mom! She has always encouraged me to go meet new people, to travel, to take some career risks. When I was debating quitting my first job out of college to move to France, she told me that there would always be jobs for good people — and that you can always make more money. Those two pieces of advice have been key in how I make career and life choices.

Outside of the office, you’re an adored travel writer and blogger. What made you want to start sharing your stories?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer: I was constantly writing stories as a kid, and I majored in journalism. And then I decided to start traveling, and suddenly life seemed a little more interesting and worth sharing. I’ve been blogging for five years now, and I just don’t know what I would do with all these thoughts and musings and photographs if I didn’t have an outlet for them.

Where do you find inspiration?

So many places! Travel is a go-to source of inspiration: new places, new people, new routines forces me to look at things differently. And I find that I can mimic that type of inspiration just by exploring a new neighborhood in New York City. I love that you can live in this city for years and constantly discover a new street, restaurant, park. I’m also so inspired by my friends who are pushing boundaries, starting businesses, creating a niche for themselves through photography, art, words, and technology. I have a few friends who I love getting coffee with because I always leave the cafe so buoyed with optimism and new ideas.

What do you want to learn next?

How to make videos! I’ve been playing with making iPhone videos using the Cameo app and I watch so many videos working at Vimeo that it’s made me more curious to explore telling stories through video.

Where can we find you in NYC?

Grabbing a coffee at Sweatshop or Happy Bones, biking around Prospect Park, catching up with friends over cocktails at Gallow Green or an ice cream at Oddfellows — or most likely, stuck on the L train.

What are your can’t-miss events in NYC?

Rooftop Films, Travel Massive, outdoor yoga at Bryant Park.

How can we connect with you?

Instagram! Twitter! Email! I’m on all the networks, and I love catching up over coffee when my schedule permits.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

Iced with almond milk in the summer, in latte form in the winter. No added sugar!

10 online/offline communities taking the globe by storm — July 17, 2015

10 online/offline communities taking the globe by storm

Digital communities can be just as powerful as real-life ones, bringing together like-minded people to share knowledge and create change. Today’s brightest communities make use of all channels to be exceptionally engaging:

  1. TED
    Renown for TED Talks, this nonprofit is dedicated to sharing ideas and sparking conversation. From science to global issues, community members can reap the benefits of powerful ideas in more than 100 languages.
  2. Creative Mornings
    People in 117 ‘creative cities’ participate in a monthly breakfast with a short lecture, covering topics like music, design, and new technology. The offline meetups offer members a chance to learn something new while meeting like-minded peers.
  3. Travel Massive
    Travel Massive counts travel industry insiders, leaders and innovators in more than 95 global cities, hoping to connect insiders and empower change in travel. Community members meet, learn and collaborate at events all over the world, helping move the mission forward.
  4. Responsive Org
    In-person meetups take place from Brussels to Brisbane, bringing together those interested in creating a fundamental shift in the way we work and organize in the 21st century. Examples of Responsive Organizations that fit the Community’s manifesto include Google and Tesla.
  5. Social Media Club
    Founded nearly ten years ago, Social Media Club remains one of the world’s most digitally connected communities with a mission to expand digital media literacy and promote standard technologies. Knowledge transfer happens at meetups, which take place at events that range from ‘Content and Coffee’ to ‘Happy Hour with Chipotle.’ Membership levels range from educational to professional, offering flexibility for anyone interested in joining the Club.
  6. Girl Geek Dinners
    Breaking down “old fashioned stereotypes” is no easy feat, but Geek Girl Dinners is intent to do so by empowering women (and men) to talk about their experience and knowledge in the technology industry — over a fun dinner! Founded in the UK, Geek Girl Dinners hopes to make technology accessible for anyone, ditching outdated myths about women and young people in the field along the way.
  7. Startup Grind
    More than 200,000 entrepreneurs take part in shaping this incredible global community, which counts local chapters in 175 countries. Designed to educate, inspire and connect founders and creators through events and discussions, Startup Grind continues to grow and thrive by attracting the best and brightest.
  8. Product Hunt
    Product enthusiasts around the world delight in reading about the latest and greatest gadgets and innovations, surfaced daily by Product Hunt. Hailed as a ‘must read’ for those in technology and startups, the site has amassed a cult-like following in a few short years.
  9. PassionPassport
    Writers and photographers make up this passionate traveling community, created for sharing tales of completed trips and sights seen. An impressive Instagram feed boasts more than a quarter million followers, with photos garnering tens of thousands of likes along with countless comments. Contests encourage friendly competition, but members remain consistently supportive and inspired by one another.
  10. SoulCycle
    Sweating it out is serious business for SoulCycle riders who attend class in more than 30 global cities. The philosophy in each location is the same, inspiring riders to be strong and give them confidence and courage for personal and professional endeavors. Community is at the heart of what SoulCycle does, and its rides are at the center of many friendships.

What, if any, other communities belong on the list? We’d love to learn about them in the comments.

Coffee talk: Krista Gray, director of community operations at The Fetch — July 13, 2015

Coffee talk: Krista Gray, director of community operations at The Fetch

Meet Krista Gray, the new Director of Community Operations at The Fetch! A passionate traveler, Krista also loves tech and bringing people together. Here, she shares her story and why she’s so excited to be working with The Fetch community.

How did you end up where you are today?

Still in my first few weeks of experimenting with life as a ‘digital nomad’, I’m currently working from one of my oldest friend’s newly purchased home in Connecticut. This is amazing because I left New England about seven years ago to pursue a change of pace in California. My time on the West Coast has consisted of a two year stint in Carmel-by-the-Sea before moving to San Francisco to help build a startup (which turned into several startups over a five-year span). Just recently, I left my last role to spend this summer with people I’ve missed dearly for nearly a decade. The best part? While I’m temporarily back where I started, I’m able to work with The Fetch!

Why did you want to get involved with The Fetch?

I’ve followed The Fetch since meeting Kate Kendall at a Skillshare class she was teaching about Community Management in 2012. At that time, I had just moved to the city and jumped into the entire startup ‘scene’. The concept of The Fetch resonated so deeply with me as it was exactly the kind of resource I found myself searching for. Starting over in a new place/industry is overwhelming, and having a cheat sheet for the the right kind of events along with access to carefully curated, intelligent reads can make it much easier to get acclimated and involved.

What things excite you about our community right now?

The sheer volume of incredible things that Fetchers are working on! I’m so impressed with the passion and knowledge each person brings to the community, and eager to help them all make the most of their work-life.

What events do you recommend in San Francisco?

I love Inforum (a division of the Commonwealth Club) for their conversation series. I recently had the pleasure of watching Molly Ringwald interview Judy Blume at the Castro Theater, and it was really enlightening to hear each woman discuss her respective creative endeavors, sources of inspiration, and challenges encountered over the last twenty years. These events are also a great place to network with like-minded people and make new friends.

What’s your favourite thing about your city?  

The weather. No, seriously! A lot of folks complain about the fog, particularly in the summer, but I think there’s a certain bit of magic to it. I love San Francisco’s temperate climate and the opportunity to layer clothes everyday, nearly year round. ‘Sweater weather’ has always been my favorite. 🙂

What’s unique about San Francisco?

I think the people are what make San Francisco truly special and unique. The tech industry attracts such a diverse range of people from varied cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. I’ve found that people I’ve met in San Francisco also seem to share a sense of heightened awareness in terms of gratitude — it’s refreshing to be surrounded by such great minds that are also deeply appreciative.

Where can we find you in San Francisco?

If I’m not at The Roastery, you’re likely to find me at a Bar Method class or getting fresh air in one of my favorite places: the Lands End Trail, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, or Crissy Field. I’m also a huge fan of sunsets, and like to watch them from friends’ roof decks or the city’s best vantage points.

How can we connect with you?

Keep up with my adventures by reading my journal, or give me a shout on one of my favorite social sites — Twitter or Instagram.

If you didn’t live in San Francisco, where would you be?

San Francisco is easy to fall in love with, and really difficult to think about leaving for a long amount of time. However, if I didn’t call the City by the Bay home, I think I’d try life in a European city. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Rome and marvel over how different the daily grind is. I think we learn the most when we push ourselves out of our ‘normal’ routines and overlaps, and trying something so different could be a really fun and productive way to keep growing personally and professionally. Time will tell!

Last, how do you like your coffee?

It depends. I’m somewhat of a rare breed in that I don’t have a go-to coffee selection. I’ll often drink it black, but there are days that I mix in cream and raw sugar. Additionally, I can never resist a coconut iced coffee at Breaking New Grounds in Portsmouth, NH when I’m visiting home. They flavor the beans, and it’s simply the best.

Interview: London local, Rob Symington, Escape the City co-founder — May 4, 2014

Interview: London local, Rob Symington, Escape the City co-founder

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“Too many startups chase quick success and funding. I think ideas and teams need to gestate… It takes guts to think long-term.”

Louise Potter catches up with Rob Symington, co-founder of Escape the City.

What inspired you to create Escape the City?

I met my co-founder, Dom Jackman, when we were both working as management consultants in “the City” – London’s financial heartland. We were inspired by our own frustrations with the corporate career ladder – too much meaningless work all aimed at a one-dimensional pursuit of profit. Bored and ambitious, we wanted to spend our careers working on things that mattered to us. When we realised that we were far from the only people to feel this way, we decided to start a community for all the other people who aspired to build careers outside the corporate mainstream.

How is it positioned differently from other careers sites?

Whereas most career sites align to a sector (ie. tech) or a skillset (ie. developers), we align to an emotion – namely that feeling that life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you. We’re also a community first and a business second. Our bible is Tribes by Seth Godin. We didn’t invent this emotion, we simply chose to put a flag in the sand for anyone who feels the same way. Fortunately for us, many people do, and over 140,000 people have joined Escape the City in pursuit of careers that matter (to them and the world).

Startup life is a long way from the city. What’s been the biggest adjustment to make from leaving the corporate world?

The buck stops with you in a startup. In the corporate world you can almost always count on someone else being ultimately accountable for a problem. The other adjustment, which is a positive one, is that we’re massively more productive working in a startup. In the corporate world there was so much work for work’s sake. Now everything we do (and we do a lot of work) is directly aligned to achieving our goals.

You crowdfunded £600,000 to build Escape the City – were you happy with this approach in hindsight?

Absolutely. We had a real head vs. heart decision to make when we turned down one of London’s top VCs to raise investment from our own members. No regrets at all. Escape’s brand stands for rejecting the mainstream and doing things differently. It would have been pretty rich if we’d gone straight back to the corporate world for our funding.

If you had to pick a job that’s been featured what would it be?

I have always loved working and travelling in Africa. One of the very first jobs we listed on Escape was for a project manager to work with the Rwandan government to setup a careers service for Rwandan graduates. It’s a job I would have loved to do. Esc was still just a side-project at that point and I remember my business partner, Dom, jokingly warning me against applying for the first opportunity that came across our radars! Almost five years on and I’m glad I didn’t.

What’s the best thing about working in London?

There is so much opportunity in London. There are so many people and there is so much positive energy. We could never have launched Esc I the way that we did in a smaller city.

What other startups are doing work that you admire – and why?

I love what the guys at Maptia are building. Straight out of uni and coding their platform themselves. They have been brave enough to take the long route to build a business that they control 100% in pursuit of a big, long-term vision. They lived in Morocco for a year to keep costs down.

Too many startups chase quick success and funding. I think ideas and teams need to gestate. The great thing about the internet is that it has massively democratised entrepreneurship.However this also means that as first-time founders, we often don’t know what we’re doing in the early days, so keeping our business alive long enough to learn important lessons is really important. It takes guts to think long-term.

Who would be your perfect boss?

Seth Godin. Or Eric Cantona. They’re both artists and they’re both brave enough to be different. In a world of uniformity that can’t be underestimated. I think the best bosses find talented people who share their values and then trust them to solve difficult challenges.

Where do you escape to?

I live on a narrowboat with my fiancé and a cat called Jack who thinks he is a pirate. We don’t have a TV and we don’t have wifi. So when I’m at home I’m (for the most part) unplugged. Living as we do, constantly connected, we’re all overstimulated. I find it’s really important to be present and be still and reconnect with my immediate surroundings whenever I can.

What updates can we look for next on Escape the City?

I’m currently on the look out for a permanent venue for The Escape School in London. The Escape School is our education arm where we produce talks and courses on the subjects of unconventional careers, startups and adventure. Watch this space!

About our writer // Louise Potter is the curator of The Fetch London. She also writes things Contagious and teaches things at General Assembly. Follow her via @louisepotter_.

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