We talked to: Small Victories

Hi, Isa! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your business, Small Victories?

Sure! So we actually started out as the Bower Studio in 2011 and had a retail shop located in Amherst. At the time, we were an herbal apothecary along with selling our plantable seed cards. Since Covid, we did a rebrand and switched to focusing on the cards, working out of our studio in Eastworks, which we still have. Once our refreshed brand got rolling, we felt the next logical step was a brick and mortar shop, especially since people were asking where they could purchase our products. We were lucky that both ASSEMBLE and 25 Central were carrying our cards, so we had visibility in downtown shops already.

When the space opened up in Thornes, it seemed like the perfect place at the perfect time. The size is just right for us, and it’s in a highly visible location on level 1, providing the ideal showcase for what we do. We currently offer plantable seed cards that feature original artwork by both my partner and myself. We also offer a range of pronoun badges, which used to be its own brand, but now everything lives together. We have some other exciting things in the works, too, so stay tuned for those later this summer.

Our whole ethos at Small Victories is that we are all trained artists and creatives in our own way—we each get to bring our own experiences and expertise to this business. Many people joke that business and artists are incompatible, but I’m trying to do both, and I’m excited that I get to bring other people into it. Everyone on our team has a hand in creating something for our local economy, and we can all feel good about that.

What are some challenges you’ve experienced as well as some positive things that have transpired in the past several years?

It has definitely been a challenging time. The main thing is how rapidly the landscape has been changing in our industry. We went from doing trade shows regularly to having everything shut down at the height of the pandemic. Everything moved to eCommerce at that point, so people had to adapt. Thankfully, I’d already had some experience which helped me to pivot, but it was still a major change shutting down the retail storefront and switching to design and focusing on our brand. It was tough not knowing what the next year would look like, and it was pretty much impossible to be able to compare anything to the year before. There were big spikes in sales when people were reopening, then things tapered off.

On a positive note, I know that Covid was an opportunity for many business owners and people I know to hit a reset button. We got really focused on our core values, products, and what we could accomplish as a team. We had a chance to streamline our operations, which might not have happened otherwise. I was really fortunate to be diversified, as I know that many people did not have an online presence at that point. Our team also grew a lot—at our peak we were at 10, and now we’re comfortable at 7. We just had to keep rolling along, staying agile and flexible.

What are some exciting things/products/events coming up for the business?

Events-wise, there is nothing specific, but we’re very excited to be in Northampton during the holiday season for the first time. Products-wise, we will be adding a new seed paper to the mix: catnip, featuring cat-themed illustrations. Be on the lookout for that some time next month!

As a business owner, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?

I love being outside as much as possible, and the beauty of the Valley rejuvenates me. I also recently visited Ogunquit, Maine to get away and relax. While there, I saw piping plovers—their babies as well—which we actually have on some of our plantable cards. New England is truly a source of inspiration and informs my aesthetic as a business. That said, New England’s deep-rooted values and traditions can also feel a bit alienating, so I try to reimagine them through both my artwork and business choices to be more inclusive and welcoming.

What is one thing about Northampton that inspires and motivates you?

I grew up in Connecticut, but have been coming here since 2003 when I was 13. My best friend grew up here, and her family actually inherited Silverscape. I had never seen anything like this area—a queer-friendly, alternative oasis that, as a goth kid growing up, really fascinated me. I loved it so much that I moved here from Boston to be a part of this amazing community.

I also really appreciate Translate Gender, a nonprofit located in Northampton, with whom we partnered and to whom we donate. We currently split our donations between LGBTQ+ and ecological organizations. Translate Gender helped us with resources as well as with how to navigate conservations around gender identity and expression. The local retailers have also been so supportive and helpful, including Justin from ASSEMBLE and everyone in the Thornes building. Rich (Madowitz) and Jody (Doele) have been amazing—they truly value what we’re bringing to the building and to the community, and have championed our products.

It’s also such a creative and artsy area that hiring skilled people has been really easy for me. If we need folx who are specifically knowledgeable and experienced in book-binding, for instance, they are not hard to find!

And finally... What’s your favorite summer food and/or beverage?

I have to say ice cream. In fact, my partner and I just purchased an ice cream maker, so we’ve been experimenting with some wild flavors, including corn. There are also so many awesome local ice cream shops and stands—we love taking family and friends who are visiting the area to check them out in the summertime.

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