8 Successful Art-ternative Entrepreneurs
Emily Badger | Good
What do a flea-market ringleader, a popsicle maker, and an architecture nerd have in common? They—and five others—have built successful careers doing something truly novel: exactly what they want.
Name: Sonja Rasula Project: Unique L.A. Years at it: Two
Many people didn’t get what Sonja Rasula was talking about when she floated plans in 2008 to put on a massive, 90,000-square-foot design show of independent, made-in-America products. She knew Los Angeles shoppers were ready for such an event; the designers, though, weren’t convinced at first. “I literally got emails back where people said, ‘And who are you?’" she says.
Eventually, Rasula amassed 225 mostly local clothing and gift designers for her first two-day event, which she refused to launch on a smaller scale. “There’s probably a book out there that says not to do this,” the 34-year-old says. “I just did it by myself, and I used my retirement savings, which is I think is a little ballsy.”
Now she’s trying to turn the biannual event—it expands next year to New York and Atlanta—into a serious alternative to the big-box store or the mall. She wants soccer moms to think about how their consumption counts in supporting sustainable products and local jobs. In bringing them together with other conscious shoppers, Rasula thinks of herself as a “community curator” rather than an event planner. "People will consciously go to farmers’ markets on the weekend to buy fresh produce and organics, and support local farmers,” she says. “It’s really translating that same idea into not just produce and flowers, but everything else you can purchase in your life.”
Art by Olimpia Zagnoli