biz ladies 2009: surviving + thriving in the recession

[rosie the riveter geraldine doyle, updated by abigail friedman]

in 2006, i started the d*s biz ladies series because i felt that there was a real need for women running their own businesses to connect and create local support systems. over the past 2 years i’ve been traveling across the country to help these amazing women meet and provide them with free resources in the areas of pr and marketing, wholesaling, retailing, business and law.

and right now, i think the need to connect and support each other is stronger than ever.

the recession has been tough for all of us, and it’s limited my ability to travel and continue with the series. my goal for 2008 was to take the series online with an on-going webisode special that would deal with those topics and allow anyone anywhere to benefit from the advice. but sadly my budget for videos is on hold as well. so rather than be defeated, i’ve decided to turn the biz ladies series into a regular feature until the economy is back on its feet and we can all meet in person again.

every tuesday from now on, i’ll be inviting experts, artists, designers, shop owners and professionals to talk about not just surviving- but thriving- in the world of small business.

so many of us are trying to run our own businesses right now and i think it’s more important than ever to connect, share advice, share stories, and find a way to connect with people doing exactly what we are right now- making the best of things.

i have the first few experts lined up, but i wanted to reach out to you today to see what topics were most interesting to you. what would you like to hear/talk about? please vote below to help me determine the order in which we cover things, or leave a comment below if your topic isn’t covered in the poll. i promise we’ll get to everything and anything over the course of this column. and hopefully along the way we’ll all learn something, find someone to connect with, and help pick each other back up during these tough times. stay tuned for the first column next tuesday!

update: if you’re a professional in one of these fields, or feel that you have some advice that you’d like to share here, just shoot me an email right here!

[poll id=”1″]


This is a great idea – I think a lot of people can benefit from this! Looking forward to it!


great idea! i voted for finance/taxes/legal issues. by far the most confusing aspect of business for me. i’m really looking forward to this series.


This is good. I would like to hear your opinions about pricing in this “new economy.”


This is awesome! As a retailer who works solo, this type of info in invaluable and not to mention, inspiring.


Excellent idea! Any advice and support is welcome during these times, especially for those of us who are just starting out! I could only vote for 3 topics but I’d love to hear more about all of them!


I make preserves and when I was setting up my website, all of the options for shipping were confusing. I’m still not sure I went with the right thing. Also, I know that there are ways to have packages picked up from home but haven’t figured it out. I’d love a post on this process and I’m sure a lot of the Etsy sellers would like this info too. Thanks!


Thank you! It is easy to feel alone as a business owner, especially now…it will be great to have this community to share with and learn from.


what a great idea! so much more accessible to those of us who don’t live in a city on your itinerary, and sneakily read your blog at work (where video would be sooo inappropriate). hurrah!


Thank you for doing this! A great time for it and I can’t wait to read more.


Thanks so much for doing this, Grace! This makes the information so much more accessible for those of us that don’t live in a city that hosts a meet-up. Can’t wait for the first post!


Thank you so much for this– It will only make me want to read Design Sponge even more (which I thought was impossible by now).


Looking forward to the series, it’s going to be great! Do you think there is any chance that a Brooklyn meeting might happen?


hi guys! i’m excited for this to start, too. it’s about time and i’m sorry it took me so long to just put this online. i was really holding out for some sort of cool video series but it’s just possible right now :)

i’m not planning on a local meetup right now because my personal time is all wedding-based right now, but perhaps in the summer. i’m going to see where this series moves online and how best to move forward with the in-person meetups so we don’t keep repeating the same format and content.



can’t wait to read the series! it is always good to know more since running a small business can be so confusing.


Thank you so much! This series is going to be fantastic, and very appropriate given the economy – what a great time to look into starting a small business.

I’m sure this is covered under legal and/or taxes in your poll, but I’d love to find out how to decide what type of business to set up (sole proprietor, llc, etc) and under what conditions you need a tax id #, how sales tax works if selling items, etc.

Looking forward to what I know will be great advice!


I’m so excited for another meeting. I was very inspired after the one I went to. It’s tough to narrow it down. All of those topics are things I need to learn a lot about still. Thanks so much!


This is such a great idea and will be a wonderful resource to have online. I’ve always felt a little jealous that I couldn’t be at the meet-ups since I live outside the U.S. and am so happy that I can now be a part of the learning. Looking forward to next week!

Lilla Rogers

Great blog today, Grace.

I’ve been in business through three recessions and have done fine.

My advice:

Stay positive
Do your best work
Have fun with it
Stay frugal
Find opportunities
This won’t last forever
Remember why you’re doing this work
Get emotional support from others
Give emotional support to others
Don’t take it personally
Face the facts of your finances
Promote, promote, promote
Work harder and longer hours
Be inventive and creative
Find new venues
Make your artwork or product so incredible people cannot NOT buy it
Rise to the challenge!
Rather than get discouraged, see it as a challenge.
What do you have to offer out there that is needed?
Be the very, very best you can be.
Meditate and get enough rest.
The best artwork is always in demand.
Know when it’s not going to work and to get out
There are always opportunities out there in the world.
As my mother used to say, “It’s a BIG world out there, honey.”

Good luck to all!



I think posting this information online is a fantastic (if not better) idea. As others have noted, having regional meetups is great if you’re in the area, but this way you’ll be able to reach a larger audience. And as Laura said, video isn’t always easy while sitting in the cubicle farm!

This may seem silly/not useful, but perhaps having some information to those toying with the idea (or in the very beginning phase of) starting their own business. Whether it be helping them find their niche, the first steps to take, etc. I’ve been wanting to start my own business for years but have a hard time narrowing down exactly what I want to do, and with all the layoffs going on I’m sure there are others in a similar situation. If nothing else, you could use it as “filler” on a slow day. :)

Jess LC


That is such great advice! I appreciate it. Though I have been in business for 9 years (since the age of 15) I haven’t had to deal with a recession let alone one while I am a full time designer.



thanks grace! i voted and i look forward to soaking up the advice your experts offer. you rock.


I’m so happy to have recently found design*sponge! Very much looking forward for upcoming advice. Thank you in advance.

helen trigg

HI Grace what a great idea now I can join in from new zealand !
Juggling my finances is always a hard one having enought money to promote my product after production is tough – mabe this would be a great place to have a list of people who are willing to swap skills ie : I’ll make you a grat light if you help me set up a blog just a suggesstion.


This is going to be really exciting! I can’t wait to see what advice people have.


This is great- for those of us out here who are feeling a little overwhelmed by this downturn, some good advice and guidance comes as a pleasant surprise.

You’ve got some great topics lined up- but maybe you should literally start at the beginning. I’m interested in hearing about how other business women made the decision to strike out on their own in the first place… and what they recommend for those of us just starting out in this economy.


You might consider building a space for regional or city-based forums so readers can connect with each other here, and then break off into our local groups. That way, when your budgetary and travel considerations change, we’ll be able to embrace you and each other on a whole new level.

Thanks for bringing this content online, Grace. No matter what form you decide is best.


hi guys-

a quick note about regional forums- i set up pages for several cities last year and they didn’t seem to pick up. perhaps times are different now and they will, but i found that people didn’t seem to want to use them. i’ll look into how we could do something different this time around…



Sorry, but that’s not Rosie the Riveter! The original poster by J. Howard Miller was based on a photograph taken of Geraldine Doyle, but did not depict Rosie The Riveter.


you’re right danielle! i never knew that, but did a little googling and it looks like i’m one of the many who mistook that for rosie! i made a correction above :)


cassie mcdaniel

Hmmm, although I’m guilty of it as well, I’m sad to see more people haven’t voted for ‘hiring/employees’… it’s dark times, indeed.

infraredstudio (lauren)

I plan on following this series closely. On Friday I decided to quit my secure day job to pursue & promote my own jewelry/design business. Some people think I am crazy to make that move in this economy, but in some ways I am at an advantage.



we’ll still cover hiring/employee so at least there will be some advice and discussion to look on when people can afford to hire again. though i’m planning on talking about budget cuts and how to keep the employees you have…



so excited about this series. i’m so inspired by what i see on this blog, and some encouragement & practical application is so wonderful.


AH thank you! Im trying to start my own business as we speak and need all the advice I can get. This could not come at a better time. How wonderful d*s is :o).


This sounds fantastic, and so timely! I’ve noticed several regular followers hail from various countries, I’m from Australia. I’m sure a large percentage of readers at from the States, but it would be great if the guests spanned different countries and/or provided insights on a level that is inclusive of different systems… just a thought!

kendra Inman

Thanks Grace!

(And Lilla for lovely, inspiring advice when we could all use it!)

The thing I would love to learn about that wasn’t (specifically) on your survey is how to figure out how much inventory to buy to start up an online boutique. (And therefore how to figure out your real start up costs.) Maybe this will be covered in the “finances” section, but wanted to ask.

Thanks so much for all the inspiration!

Elissa Harris

Thankyou very much. I am a designer but moving away from that and into building my own range so this is exactly where I’m at… Go women!!!


this is such a great thing to do during this time. I recently opened my own etsy shop and would love to hear advice on how to get my work out there and SELL it. cant wait :)

betsy and iya

This is brilliant!

As noted earlier–I DEF need help with the hiring/employees section. My business has been rising persistently by month through this first year (coming up on my 1st year anni!). I am at the point that I am at full capacity…working way too much. BUT I’m super scared to make that next leap into hiring someone. I was so willing to make the leap into starting the business, but this part seems so uncertain to me.

Can’t wait to hear all of the amazing advice. Yay, Design*Sponge!

Sondra's Ink

Love this idea! As a full time mom and busy designer/printer, I find it hard to get out and network as much as I’d like to with other small business owners. I’d love for my online community and education to grow!

Jen O

Thanks Grace,
The guest speaker idea is great–I loved the Biz Ladies nite in my town, it was so inspiring. A continued topics presentation is a neat idea for those of us who own businesses and have questions about the many things that relate. (better to call it “Biz Folks” or something less gender specific tho)

Jennifer erts

I am really interested to read all the ideas and viewpoints. We are seeking out connections during these times. People connection has to be a good thing. :)

Liana Kabel

I’ve believed from the start that we should help eachother. We all know something worth sharing, and by doing so we all benefit, and get there that much quicker.



This is fantastic. I always enjoy your guest blog posts on business & attended your Portland biz meetup. I took away great information and new friendships. Am so looking forward to these posts. Thanks for all!
And Lilla, thanks for being so positive! I agree that even in hard times, you need to have your glass half full.

tricia mckellar

Yay Grace! I’m looking forward to these topics! Maybe there’s a silver lining in the recession– for me it’s time to focus on what’s important & get real with the business side of my art. Thank you! :)

Laurie Spugnardi

Kudos on recognizing the challenges of creatives in the business world. I often think we prioritize our craft acumen ahead of our business needs. For those of us making our living as creatives we must learn good business practices if we want our product/ideas to succeed in the market. When we approach business in the same spirit as we approach our creative process… wonderful things can happen. I look forward to Tuesdays. Thank You!

mary lynn

i’m so psyched for this! i’m a newbie and i could definitely use some help, as well as some contacts! this is awesome. screw the economy, let’s do this thing!

Debbie Sweren

Thank you so much! I can hardly wait for this series to begin! I have so enjoyed and learned a lot from your blog. The business side of art – seems to be a common thread here. I find it so difficult to switch between the two. More so lately I have been trying to compartmentalize my time between the two. I would love to hear from someone who has really gotten a handle on that! Whew what a wonderful world THAT would be!


Thanks for responding to the idea of a local meet up. i totally understand about not being able to think about any extra projects! I suspect that you may be right about things being different now, people may be craving more personal contact and support that comes from meeting face to face. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Thanks again for making this all happen!


Thanks for doing this, Grace. Small business is such an area of opportunity during economic downturns. There was a fascinating article in the Wash Post on this very topic…Would love to see something in your series about how to best participate in the Gov’t Stimulus Packages…


Just as I was feeling the heavy clouds today, I got your e-mail. THANK YOU! And a special nod to comments by Lilla Rogers… I am hanging your list on my wall & in moments of insecurity, I will look up, remember, and rally on!


I am just so excited about TUESDAYS! Can’t wait! I need help lots of areas, especially pricing these days.. I look forward to sharing with such a positive, upbeat group of ladies!! Lilla, THANK YOU TOO! Your very seasoned, wise words will go up over my work table in about 10 minutes..xo, Penney


Thanks for continuing biz ladies, Grace! It’s such a great way for those in the industry to get third-party, unbiased guidance. Looking forward to reading!


I think this is a great idea. For me, the really big question is where to start. I’d love to hear from those who’ve been successful at getting a small business of the ground to find out how they took the plunge and their successful actions.

Small Adventure

I will be soaking up all the information and advice you have to give! I work for a retailer and am trying to start up my own etsy shop right now so anything I can read on any of those topics will be much appreciated. Thanks for all your ingenuity!


I love the fact that women mentor and share together so seamlessly. Thankyou for being the conduit! Can’t wait.


Hi Grace-

I love this idea – and if I could suggest a topic – I would love an interview with the Hable Construction sisters on how they got started and built their brand.

Thanks Grace!


oh! if you’re in nyc- they gave a great talk at the apartment therapy event tonight!



hey grace,
just wanted to give you a thumbs up. not only do you have the best design blog around, you really are a great resource and support center for everyone in the retail/design biz. thanks again for all of your hard work.


i am sooooooo excited about this! so many business sites make me fall asleep without fail. it’s nice to know that there is a little angel out there named design sponge that is looking out for all of us ladies who need to brush up on those good ole business skills! thanks design sponge!


Grace, this is very exciting! Thank you for doing this. I will be reading every word.

Perhaps another topic could be teaching classes.

I’ve been teaching mosaic classes for about six years. I’ve always had steady enrollment but my current classes are filling like crazy. I don’t know if it’s due to the recession but I think people are looking for something meaningful and hands on to do with their friends and family. It seems that students are almost always coming in pairs.

This is motivating me to get my class blog up in addition to an e book.

My personal work is usually custom based and not in the “impulse purchase” price range so the classes definitely take some of the pressure off.

I believe teaching classes can help many artists and designers supplement their incomes.


Fantastic! I’m rethinking everything right now, not only with the state of the economy but also with the long term ramifications of the CPSIA for my original children’s clothing design business. I’m destashing, re-tooling and thinking laterally for fresh perspective. Thanks for this helpful feature!


This is very exciting. I’d love to participate, and would be willing to contribute if I can.

We opened a store last year (just at the start of the recession, but who knew!). And we are planning for a rough ride this year. But we are really excited and have lots of ideas.

We’ve been thinking a lot about our promotions and online marketing- and have been putting quite a bit of time into our website, though it is always a work in progress.

Looking forward to it!
Portland Maine


I’m so excited to check these posts out. You’re right, it’s more important than ever to band together – support each other. If there is any way at all that I can help, I’ll be in touch. Until then, I’m looking forward to reading more!!

Thanks, as always Grace.


What a fantastic resource! I am so excited to learn. I’ve just launched a new small business with my partner and still have so many questions about pricing, marketing, wholesaling, etc. – all the topics to be covered! What a wonderful opportunity for women to join forces, move forward and follow our dreams – with sound advice and encouragement! Thank you Grace. SO looking forward to it!


This is a really great idea, very empowering. I look forward to reading the series. I agree people need this type of inspiration/advice more than ever.

dolce chic

I’m really looking forward to this! I would love to learn how to come up with a good business name, picking a domain/url and product branding.


this is a great idea! thanks grace!

i read an interesting article in the new york times a couple weeks ago about the small culinary businesses popping up in brooklyn and how it is such a tight knit community where everyone supports each other’s endeavors.

a very interesting thing that i think our community can learn from them — or at least explore the possibilities of — is how they barter. i think that’s an interesting concept and is more and more relevant as the economy keeps slipping. whether it’s with swapping design/crafty talents for a needed material or an abled body or whatever… i think it could be an interesting topic to explore in this forum. here is the article if you are interested: