ben sollee live at wicked sheets discussing arts and entrepreneurship

Arts and Entrepreneurship | A Ben Sollee serenade

Check out this piece by CEO Alli on the vital importance of arts and entrepreneurship.

Ben’s song.

If you have not heard Just a little tack by the amazingly talented Louisville cellist and composer, Ben Sollee, then give it a listen now. (Not to worry, I will wait.)

Incredible, right?

Between the catchy nature of the instantaneous toe-tapping melody and the words that drop from his lips like rain on a tin roof, it is easy to see why Ben has been so successful in his career (whispers like an old lady: at such a young age). He creates movement with music. In our case, he is helping us create a movement.

“I’m just a little nail in the plank of your wall
Just a little nail in the plank of your wall
Just a little nail in the plank of your wall
To hold our house together

So come on back and live with me
Come on back and let me see
Come on back and stay with me
To make our little house what it ought to be
Make our little house what it ought to be”

I never asked Ben why he chose this song to sing to us at Wicked Sheets that day; I didn’t have to.

Sewing is an art.

To a lot of people, sewing is dead; a “lost art”. To me, sewing is making a comeback.

A few hours from here, we are home to a beautiful place called Appalachia. The Appalachia Trail runs from New York all the way down to Georgia, and in that trail is a little slice of Kentucky heaven. What most might know this region for, “inspiring natural beauty, varied outdoor recreation, rich country music heritage, and fascinating folk culture,” I grew up learning that it was filled with great sewing talent and quilters.

My grandmother was a quilter and my experience with quilts really ended there; until I moved to Kentucky for college. We had classes on Kentucky history and the great talent that “lived in the mountains” but had limited access to modern life. There was (is) a Bellarmine University mission trip that travels each year to Appalachia to build homes, fill food banks, check in on what are now old friends.

As I got more and more involved in developing my business, I found myself driving to Morehead, Richmond, and Carlisle, Kentucky. I had grand visions of manufacturing in Kentucky. Preferably in my own city, but I would make do if it meant U.S. and/or local manufacturing was a possibility. We met with local government, state officials, procurement offices, and finally found ourselves at Eastern Kentucky University in a classroom full of folks like me (Wicked Sheets) who needed sewing for their businesses. After months of discussions and countless emails, the plan fizzled out because of lack of transportation, machinery, training programs, and an aging talent pool. That was 2017.

Bedding is a business.

Today, more than 13 years into my business, I still have that grand vision of manufacturing in Louisville, Kentucky. And after what this year handed to us in terms of shipping delays, sourcing, surcharges, tariffs, rising freight charges, as a result of the global pandemic – that passion has turned into my mission.

We have begun building our own in-house manufacturing right in our warehouse and fulfillment center. Currently, a small batch production house, we have plans to grow into something much larger, as funding allows. But I can confidently say, that my team is far from a small batch.

My prior blog, “Masks were a Common Thread,” you know that our team grew over mask-making “season” and we have retained four sewing team members since then. And the best part, there is no shortage of sewers or makers in our line sight. Some are young, some are old, some are experienced, some are new to industrial, but all of them are eager and happy to have found a place where their age-old hobby can be their new-age employment opportunity.

Arts and Entrepreneurship | When they meet, wicked good things happen.

In Kentucky, we have this amazing non-profit called Canopy. They are responsible for helping Kentucky to “be first in good business” by certifying these companies as B-Corps. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. In short, Canopy is doing good business.

Led by a team of not only founders and non-profit gurus, Canopy has Ben Sollee on their team. He has various roles to play there, but it is very apparent to the outside world that his gift (outside of music) is storytelling. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Ben on their morning talk series, Canopy Café, during our mask-making escapades. You can re-watch that here – but that is not the point of me mentioning this interview.

After we all signed off, Ben mentioned how cool it was that we were bringing manufacturing in-house.  Like everyone I meet, I instantly followed up with, “Well, you should come and see it sometime!”. Like a gentleman, he obliged.

Fast forward to October 26, 2020 – we were scheduled to have our friends at Advantage Kentucky Alliance come out and shoot a promotional video about manufacturing in Kentucky. I invited Ben out that day and asked if he would be interested in making some sewing machine music for us; an idea that he originally pitched me a few years back. Again, like a gentleman, he obliged.

Here are a few pictures from our special day with Ben at Wicked Sheets.

It was a day like no other! The team was smiling from ear-to-ear when he arrived. Our very own private concert. He hopped up on our sewing table with his cello and started with a serenade of “Just a little tack”. Everyone was toe-tapping and humming all afternoon.

At that moment, I knew that everyone standing in the warehouse that day was a representation of that song. And what we are building…a movement. Where arts and entrepreneurship meet, wicked good things happen.

For more ways that you can incorporate arts into your business, check out blog. It was inspired by Sarah Jane Estes, who worked in the Lexington Fashion Collaborative for years, building art exhibits in places that you would least expect.

Until next time friends – stay wicked, stay well.

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