Posts Categorized: Sum of Your Business

Red Piglet

Photo by Nancy Lukes Photography

 

Introduction by Aryn Henning Nichols
Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2020 Inspire(d) 

Words, at their base, are simple. Just a series of letters placed in a certain order. Yet, in the right order, they can hold immense power. They can lift you up or tear you down; bring you hope or bring you to tears; inspire you to love yourself, and others. Words can motivate you to get up, every day, and keep. showing. up.

Mike Nelson with his wife, Jodi. Photo by Red Piglet

In 2013, when Mike Nelson founded Red Piglet, the mission from the start was to wield words for the good of the world. With messages like “Shift Status Quo,” “Radiate Love,” or “Observe Without Judgment,” the Calmar, Iowa-based business – specializing in apparel, cards, prints, stickers, mugs, and more – encourages people to see their own uniqueness and worth. This kind of mission is vital in times like these – and, frankly, all other times too. And for Mike, it all started with the simplest of tools: pencil and paper

“I’m one of those humans that have a note pad and pencil at my bedside for the sole purpose of documenting those ‘bright’ ideas that pop into my head at 2 am,” he says. “A night in 2010, I woke to the name ‘RED PIGLET.’  My mind started racing to the possibility of creating a Red Piglet brand. After 10 minutes, I popped out of bed, fired up the computer, and went straight to GoDaddy.com. RedPiglet.com was available. I couldn’t believe it. I purchased that URL on the spot.”

While Mike spent more than three years dreaming of the possibilities for Red Piglet, fear of failing kept him stuck. It was this very struggle of being “stuck” that inspired him to finally take the leap and launch Red Piglet in 2013. He wanted to help others get unstuck and pursue their passions and purpose.

Photo by Red Piglet

Mike, his wife, and three kids live in Northeast Iowa, where they, like many other people and businesses across the world, have pivoted to make things work during COVID-19. Originally booked for shows and markets each Saturday through summer and fall, the Red Piglet schedule is now much more open. The plus side for folks local to or traveling through Calmar, is that you can now find the Red Piglet Shop open more frequently (see sidebar for Open Shop Weekends).

Name: Mike Nelson
Age: 47
Business: Red Piglet
Years in Business: 7
Business address: 101 S. Charles St., Calmar, IA (across from the Fire Station)
Website: redpiglet.com

Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I remember sitting in my car after a job interview and thinking, “My worth is not linked to others’ opinions, a career advancement or paycheck.” The chase was coming to an end.

I decided to shift my perspective and pursue a more purposeful life – to help people get unstuck by taking action with their lives. I proceeded to lead by example and got myself unstuck – I launched the Red Piglet brand.

Why “Encourage Uniqueness” as the foundation message for the Red Piglet brand?

I have a theory: People get stuck because they judge themselves. Why do they judge themselves?Because they compare their life in some fashion to other people’s lives. What happens when comparison takes place? Fear sets in and prevents us from pursuing our passions and gifts. You know, those things that make us happy. The truth is, we are all unique. No one can do what you do, in precisely the way that you do it. How miraculous is that? Be you, your authentic self. Everyone else is taken.

Photo by Nancy Lukes Photography

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

I don’t have to wait for others to validate my decisions. I have 100 percent creative freedom, and I guide Red Piglet based on my life experiences, beliefs, and unique style. Who knows, I might reinvent the Red Piglet brand in a few years. Stay tuned.

How about the worst?

I love the ideation and execution process so much that sometimes I get carried away and find it difficult to cut designs for a launch. In the end, it might not be the best business decision because customers can get overwhelmed from too many options. I’m getting better at reigning myself in and learning from my business mistakes.

What/Who inspires you?

My wife, who is a talented maker and wonderful mother to our children, kind photographers that have a unique eye and aren’t afraid to take creative risks, woodworkers, clay sculptors, A-frame cabins, garden studios, birds, birdhouses, barns, Black Angus cattle, Old School Country music (Waylon, Merle and George), typography, roached-out metal signs

How do you manage your life/work balance?

I’m just really grateful that my wife, Jodi (pictured with Mike on page 19), is patient and she handles the bookkeeping. Red Piglet is definitely a team gig. Most of my designing and order fulfillment starts at night after we tuck the kids in.

Any quotes that keep you going?

Many years ago, I read a book called Choose Yourself by James Altucher. He talked about his 1/3 Rule: “1/3 of the people in your life will like you (or like the products you are selling). 1/3 of the people in your life will dislike you (or dislike the products you are selling). And 1/3 of the people in your life will not care about you (or not care about the products you are selling).” That message was an a-ha moment and really stuck in my skull. Those words were a breath of fresh country air. I inhaled, exhaled like I meant it, and topped it off with a relaxed, ear-to-ear smile. IT’S TRUE, you can’t be all things to all people, no matter how hard to try. It taught me that I am not for everyone, and my Red Piglet products are not for everyone. I’m content with that. Just continue to be you. The people who are meant to cross paths with you will and they will definitely dig what you are cookin’. Be patient.

The cover on this magazine features a Red Piglet design: Keep Showing Up. What does this message mean to you?

You plug in your phone. Your eyes see the lightning bolt appear. All is right with the world when that connection is made with the electrical outlet. If you choose not to plug in your phone daily, the phone loses its purpose.

Well, think of yourself as a real-life, breathing smart phone. You store a ton of data. You multi-task every day. You are an intelligent, multi-purpose being. Think about how valuable you are to every person that you’re connected to.

Give yourself the same care and attention you give your phone, by recharging your battery every single day and showing up for yourself and the rest of us. We value you.

Photo by Nancy Lukes Photography

Any inspiration happening during the COVID-19 crisis?
All three of my NEW 2020 First Edition shirts were inspired by this pandemic crisis:

Pause and Appreciate: We get up early. We work out. We commute. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We work all day. We rush to pick up the kids. Noise is knocking at your eardrums from all angles. Guilt creeps in and exhaustion sets in… And then, the pandemic and quarantine happens. The world pauses. We are forced to become present and appreciate what surrounds us. We open our eyes, look left, right, up and down. We watch the sun set. We gather for meals. We hear the giggles and see the smiles. The guilt fades away. Our bodies heal. We become our better selves in the midst of uncertain times.

HA, Laughter is the Best Medicine: We need it now more than ever. It decreases stress. It increases infection-fighting antibodies. It improves your resistance to disease. It releases endorphins. It promotes wellbeing and relieves pain. Surround yourself with the joke-tellers, the full-o-pep peeps, the funny-facer makers and the stand-up wannabes. Their wit will nurture your health and you will nurture theirs.

IOWA: Where Impossible is just an opinion: As a wild whipper snapper, my answer to grandpa was often “That’s Impossible!” when he assigned me a task beyond my pay-grade. His reply to my answer was always “Impossible is YOUR opinion, young man!” Grandpa never liked it when someone told him that something couldn’t be done. He didn’t care if you were young, old, or somewhere in-between. You see, that ol’ farmer blazed through the Great Depression, a few wars and several natural disasters, without a plan B in the back pocket of those weathered OshKosh B’goshes. He was a self-made doer that just made it happen without the gums flappin’. Grandpa was Pure Moxie! I know, I know “Moxie” is an old school word. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I’m an old soul with wit and it shows up on many of my designs.

“MOXIE” means: The ability to face difficulty with spirit, courage, and skill. If you have moxie, you won’t let a minor setback stop you from trying again, because you’re a determined person who doesn’t give up easily.

Since Red Piglet was born in 2013, I’ve traveled this fine state of Iowa and have had so many conversations with hard-working people that forge forward with a whole lot of moxie. To all the Iowans that do what others don’t think is possible, this shirt is for you.

Advice to help folks get “unstuck” now?

Life is a challenge right now. Our health, self-esteem, and bank accounts are taking a hit. Don’t judge yourself. This is a great time to reflect and possibly reevaluate your direction. Last year, I designed the T-shirt “Clarity is in the climb”. I think the Red Piglet meaning to this message fits nicely under this question.

Clarity is in the climb: Ahhh, good ol’ clarity. For me, clarity never shows up when I’m taking a stroll down easy street or when I’m coasting downhill. Hell no. Clarity happens when I’m pushing uphill. When I’m pulling myself out of hole. The harder I work towards something or the more I struggle… that’s when things become clear. The climb reminds me what’s important. The climb tells me what things to shed and what things are worth the hard-ass work.

What’s one positive outcome you see coming from this pandemic (for you or for the world)?

I believe all humans will be more grateful for their loved ones and more present in their daily connections. We have the freedom to inspire others with action. Let’s get moving and make the world a better place. Peace and love from Red Piglet.

Photo by Red Piglet

 

Check out the positive messages in person at Red Piglet open shop weekends in Calmar, Iowa. The remaining 2020 dates are below, and hours are Saturdays (9 am – 3 pm) and Sunday (10 am – Noon). Please follow Red Piglet on social media to double-check that open shop dates are still happening due to COVID-19. And remember, you can always shop online at redpiglet.com

September 26-27
October 10-11
October 24-25
November 7-8
November 28-29
December 12-13
December 19-20

Sum of Your Business: Al Peake – Peake Orchards

apples at Peake Orchards

There are few things that feel more “fall” than heading to an apple orchard to get a bite of a fresh, ripe apple, right where its grown.

Sum of Your Business logo

It was a visit to an apple orchard that convinced Al Peake to start an orchard of his own, and it was 40 years ago that he planted his first set of apple trees on his farm in rural Waukon, Iowa. Since then, Peake Orchards has seen banner seasons and bummer seasons, but it’s the love of the orchard, working in the fields, and the connection to family that keeps Al excited and inspired to tend the sweet crop year after year.

These days, Peake Orchards has 13 different apple varieties planted, and – once harvested – folks can find them in Decorah at Oneota Community Food Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market. Or throw on a cozy sweater for a fall outing – you can head out to Peake Orchards to grab some yourself! They open to the public weekends starting September 21, from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 12 to 5 pm on Sundays. Catch a hayride on Sundays, from 2 to 4 pm, and mark your calendars for their annual “Fall Festival Sundays” October 6 and October 13 – there’s lots of family fun on the docket.

Read on to learn more about Al’s four decades of apple picking in this issue’s Sum of Your Business Q&A.


Name: Al Peake, Peake Orchards
Age: 62
Years in Business: Planted first trees 1979
Orchard address: 323 Northline Dr. Waukon, Iowa
Visit Peake Orchards on Facebook

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I visited a pick your own orchard in the late 70s up in Minnesota and really thought having an orchard could be something I could really enjoy! So I started planting trees on our family farm. The first planting was 50 trees and then a couple years later 375 trees. That was the point where we were really committed to getting serious about growing apples. Since then we have expanded to well over 1,000 trees.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is the flexibility to try growing methods and varieties that appeal to us and our mission. I also really enjoy working out in the orchard most of the time.

3. How about the worst?

The worst thing about being my own boss is that apple season is a short intense time of year. When early September comes it is, go like crazy, try to get things harvested, washed and sorted and try to keep up with sales. Before you know it the snow is falling and you wonder where the fall went.

The Peake family crew

The Peake family crew, from left: Molly (front), Jeremy, Jodi & Baby Byron, Jo Ann, Cathy, Lea (in front) and Al / All photos courtesy of Peake Orchards

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

The biggest hurdle for me was losing my original apple partner (my wife Sandy) to a brain tumor in 2010. I still had other family to help but Sandy and I had started planning the orchard from the beginning and it was devastating for me to lose her. But, God is good and since then, I met and married my current wife, Cathy, who has been a wonderful partner in the orchard and a wonderful partner as my wife!

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

I would say my biggest mentors have been other apple growers I have met. I have attended many a field day and have learned a ton of things from visiting other growers’ orchards. There have been many great speakers and specialists from universities throughout the country who have presented at these field days and I always leave with some new knowledge and things to try in our orchard. I am also grateful that my parents supported us and helped with the orchard from the very start.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

The only thing I can say is that there is always so much more to learn than you think, when growing apples and marketing of the crop. I planted the first tree 40 years ago (I can’t even believe it’s been that long) and if I said I pretend to know it all, I would not be telling the truth. I think that the day you say you know it all and have done it all, you are setting yourself up for a serious fall. Continuing to learn has kept me young.

Locations where you can find Peake Orchards apples

You can find Peake Orchards apples at the Orchard near Waukon, or in Decorah at Oneota Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

It is very difficult to balance work in the orchard and the rest of my life and many times I have done it very poorly. I always say there is enough work in the orchard to keep me busy 24-7. I am still learning to try to prioritize what’s most important in my life and walk away from the orchard and say that is all I can do for now. With wanting to spend time with family and friends and working at Friest and Assoc. Realtors, as well as the orchard, the balance is difficult.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

I think the thing that keeps an old guy like me inspired is exciting new apple varieties like Honeycrisp (and some other new ones we are growing that nobody has heard about yet), strolling through the orchard and seeing a great crop hanging on the trees, and working together with family and friends (special thanks to Mark and Barbara for all their sorting help) to make the harvest happen. I also look forward to passing on the orchard to my son Jeremy and his wife, Jodi (they could run it on their own at this point, if I wasn’t around). I feel blessed to be able to spend many hours on beautiful fall days, picking a great crop of apples that God has provided!

There are lots of amazing apple orchards in the Driftless – check out some in our neck of the woods here!

Sum of Your Business: Night Dive

INTRO BY ARYN HENNING NICHOLS • PHOTOS – NIGHT DIVE SWIM

Night Dive Swim logo

It’s springtime – or getting there, anyway – and that means swimsuits are hitting retail racks all over. It’s an, “ugh” time of year for many – me included. But when social media posts from Night Dive Swim, an online swimwear shop based out of Oelwein, Iowa, started rolling in, I wasn’t, “ugh” at all; I was inspired! And that’s kind of a rare thing with swimwear.

It’s partially because of the amazing designs and sunny locales featured in Night Dive’s photos, but the biggest inspiration wasn’t even about the swimwear… it was the message behind the brand: Love yourself. Be comfortable in your body. Enjoy this life. Yes!

Night Dive Swim's founder Heather Caye Brown and 2 swimmies options made of REPREVE

At left – Night Dive Swim founder Heather Caye Brown. Above – Two options for Night Dive swimmies. All the printed swimmies are made of REPREVE, a fabric created by transforming recycled bottles into fiber.
Photos courtesy Night Dive Swim.

 

We caught up with founder Heather Caye Brown in between trips (and late-winter snowstorms) – you might find her networking/working in California or Miami; or home in Iowa, where she grew up; or across the world in Bali, where her eco-friendly swimwear collections and accessories are made. “It’s definitely a lot easier to be in Bali and work face-to-face with the amazing people that help make my designs and vision come to life,” Heather says.

Let’s back up to that eco-friendly bit: Their entire Spring 2019 bikini collection is made of recycled fabrics, and they ship every bikini in a cute, reusable pouch made of biodegradable material. Their solid-color “swimmies”, as they call them at Night Dive, are made with VITA, a sustainable techno-fabric made of Econyl recycled nylon – recycled ghost fishing nets from the ocean! According to the Night Dive website, it is soft, hyper-resistant, and a unique mix of compression and comfort, and, because of its innovative construction, it is twice as resistant to chlorine and sunscreen compared to other swim fabrics. All of the Night Dive printed swimmies are made of REPREVE, a fabric created by transforming recycled bottles into fiber. The process embeds properties like wicking, adaptive warming and cooling, water repellency, and more at a fiber level. Cool!

While you’ll find Night Dive Swim products primarily online (nightdiveswim.com), they do occasional pop-up shops as well – last summer, there was one in Des Moines and one in Long Beach, California, and this past winter folks could visit with Heather and shop Night Dive at the Aerie store in Miami. “Aerie is known for not retouching or Photoshopping photos – #aeriereal – so Night Dive and what we stand for was a perfect fit,” Heather writes, with what seems to be her trademark enthusiasm. Even via email, you can feel her excitement and passion for her business. (And we are big fans of anyone who uses multiple exclamation points in multiple sentences!) We know we usually feature folks who have been running their business for several years for Sum of Your Business, but we were so inspired by Heather, we just had to share. We can’t wait to see what she does over the coming years!!!!! (< oh, yes!)

Turn the page to read Heather’s super fun answers!

Name: Heather Caye Brown
Age: 37
Business: Night Dive Swim
Years in Business: 1
Website: nightdiveswim.com

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I had been happily working in the fashion industry – designing, climbing the corporate ladder, and leading design teams for large companies the last 14 years, and I came to a point where I really wanted to do something different that I’m very passionate about – championing self-confidence and body positivity. I saw so many opportunities to be more inclusive, especially in swimwear, my favorite thing to design, and what I personally spend a lot of time in. There are swimwear companies that don’t even offer a size extra large, and most don’t show a lot of body types on their social media platforms. I wanted to show that no matter what size you are, a swimsuit is for everybody/ every BODY.

Spreading that message became more enticing to me than any promotion could be, along with the freedom and new challenges and learning experiences that running my own company would bring.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is most definitely the freedom – both in flexibility of what hours I’m working to where I’m working from. Luckily enough, this past year of working on my collection and building my brand was able to be done from anywhere in the world – so I spent half of the year off/on in Bali – the factory producing my eco-friendly Spring collection is there – and I was able to focus on creating my website, visiting the factory and reviewing samples, and of course I made time for surfing, snorkeling, and all the amazing things Bali has to offer. The other part of the year I was able to work and spend time with family and friends in my hometown in Iowa, and that’s when I decided to have Iowa be the location for my headquarters and where I would keep inventory.

The headquarters for a swimwear company being located in Iowa sounds a little strange, but being near family again after 18 years of living out of state, along with having those extra hands and help during the busy swim season, was irresistible. On top of that, another thing I’m passionate about is trying to build a sustainable fashion brand, and be as eco-friendly as possible – so having a centrally located office in the US, we’re able to ship our product to our customers in the most efficient manner possible. I also love the idea of lifting up the community in any way possible – from speaking to high school students about a career in fashion and pursuing their dreams, to adding more business at the local post office.

3. How about the worst?

Despite the freedom, work ends up being on my mind 24/7 – yet I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Besides that, another challenge I encountered was the shift of working solo versus working with a team. One of my favorite things about the last 14 years in the industry was the people on my team and who I’ve worked with. That shift from constantly working with people, bouncing ideas off of each other, and basically having a work “family” was a huge change. Thankfully enough, I still have that fashion family and friends if I ever need anything.

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

Never!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered plenty of setbacks and challenges…but I just adapt and shift. My mom taught me at a very early age to have a Plan A, B, and C.

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

This question is tough because there are a ton of people that have inspired me…but someone who really has embodied the type of leadership I look up to is Chad Kessler, a friend of mine, and the President of American Eagle. I met Chad in 2004 when I started my first job as an assistant designer at Hollister / Abercrombie & Fitch. He was always someone who stood up for what he believed in, had your back, and was smart, savvy, and supportive. He truly demonstrated being a successful and inspiring leader.

We’ve worked together in various ways since then – at Urban Outfitters, and even now, he’s as supportive as ever cheerleading on Night Dive Swim.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

I thought I already knew this, but it really doesn’t drive the point home until you’re living it –EVERYTHING is going to take ten times longer than expected and cost ten times more than planned.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

Good question!! Since I enjoy every second of working on my company, I need to cut myself off from time to time from being so focused and engulfed in whatever I’m working on. There’s always something new I need to learn, or a new idea I want to design, so making sure to take time for a mental break or fun outside of the fashion world is something I’m constantly working on.

Night Dive Swim's message is love yourself

We love the message Night Dive Swim puts out there: Love your self! Photos courtesy Night Dive Swim.

 

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

The main thing that keeps me inspired is hearing from women that Night Dive Swim is already making a difference for them. The message I’m sending with social media and my website is body positivity and self-love, and I’ve received messages from women all over the world saying how much they appreciate seeing all body types and inclusivity on our Instagram/Social media, and how it gives them confidence. These messages seriously make everything I’m doing worth every second and every dollar I’ve invested in building this brand.

9. Where do you hope Night Dive will be in five years? 10?

Besides the financially successful goals for Night Dive, in five years I would love to be able to expand the size range to include even more plus sizes. We currently offer size small to extra large, and offering a broader range of sizes is actually quite expensive. My goal is to be in a place that taking on that expense is not an issue.   

In 10 years, my goal for Night Dive would be to be a part of (or create) a foundation for championing body positivity and self-love. There’re so many things I want to do to give back, and I can’t wait to be in a place where Night Dive can do even more.