Studio IX: Hey, Lorraine. Could you tell everyone who you are and what you do?
Lorraine Sanders: I'm Lorraine Sanders, and the best way to describe what I do is to start with the podcast I host and produce that features interviews with women building businesses at the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and tech, which I call FEST. It's like my play on STEM. I have a business called PressDope that grew out of the podcast. It serves that fashion entrepreneur audience, and it helps them with DIY PR or public relations and brand amplification.
Studio IX: Cool. How did you get into it?
Lorraine: I'm a recovering journalist. I covered the intersection of fashion and technology for a number of different publications for a number of years while I was based in San Francisco. I primarily wrote for FastCompany, Women's Wear Daily, and the San Francisco Chronicle and at a certain point I realized that I didn't see myself progressing in journalism beyond the point that I had gotten to. I had started my own show by that time, so I then very quickly tried to figure out how to have that be my only job so that I didn't have to take on work from other people.
Studio IX: What do you enjoy most about the work?
Lorraine: Getting to talk to these really interesting people and asking them tons of questions. I constantly feel like I'm getting away with something because I get to have an excuse to sit down and talk to these founders for an hour. I feel like it's the most fun thing to do, and I figured out a way to have it be part of my job.
Studio IX: So you love what you do?
Lorraine: I do. I'm also relatively unemployable. I don't really have another way that I think I could generate my income. I love the freedom, and I've had a lot of jobs in the past that were less than fulfilling, and I just couldn't do it. I love it, and at the same time, I feel like this work is work I have to do.
I've had several jobs where I was working in-house for people for a certain period of time, and I would get psyched about it for about six weeks and then I would start to drag into the office every day and be like, "I cannot take this anymore," which is maybe really immature. But it’s the truth.
Studio IX: So what keeps it fresh for you? How do you keep from hitting that six week point?
Lorraine: Every week it's somebody new and different. I really care about the underlying mission of it. I am very motivated to try to get these founders and their stories out to more people because I really have an issue with the way that clothing, textiles and apparel fit into our world today. I feel like it's a major disconnect we currently have in how we live. Many people think about where their food comes from. Relatively few people think about what they are putting on their bodies, how much it affects the environment, workers’ rights, and all kinds of stuff. I am just really gung-ho about trying to get that information out to people. And then also when it comes to trying to create a business with enough income to support a person, there is a lot of problem solving with that and a lot of stress, obviously, and a lot of times where I am sitting around like, "you've gotta figure this out, you've gotta figure this out." You never get bored.
Studio IX: Right.
Lorraine: You know.
Studio IX: Yeah - and it's your own thing.
Lorraine: It is my own thing. Nobody can get in the middle of it and take it away from me and tell me what to do. Although, I like it when people that I work with tell me when I'm screwing up. That's important feedback to have from your team.
Studio IX: Yep.
Studio IX: Is there a specific story you could share around your work?
Lorraine: How do you mean?
Studio IX: A memorable moment or moments that mattered to you.
Lorraine: Yeah. There have been a lot. A lot of times the conversations that I have with people. I do research, but I don't know what's gonna happen and sometimes people say things that I'm really surprised by.
I had this one woman who had come on the show and she was a really polished Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur-type woman. She accomplished a lot. She worked for an accelerator program. We had this very buttoned-up conversation, and I was trying really hard to be on the same professional level as she was and not take it in a casual direction because I felt like I was just reading her vibe with that. Then midway through the interview she just kind of blurted out that she was really just disillusioned with her career, and she had recently become a parent and it was this a whole challenge. It got really emotional really fast, and I was just sort of shocked at how when you are talking to people in a podcast format, they will suddenly reveal a lot to you that you aren't expecting. That's powerful for me because you feel like you are having this real conversation with somebody and then you get to bring it to other people and, if all goes according to plan, change something in their life.
Another funny moment for me was the first time that I had ever had anybody in Charlottesville come up to me as a listener of the show, someone I hadn’t met anywhere else.
I was on a panel for the Tom Tom Festival two years ago, and a woman came up to me after the panel and she said, "I came to this event to meet you, and I've been listening to your show for a year and had no idea that you lived here." She said, "I was just walking down the street listening to you the other day, and you said something about the Tom Tom Festival and was like what, she lives here." She came out and we ended up going out to lunch and getting together later, and we're still in touch. It was really fun to just realize that you put this stuff out there, and you don't know who's listening to it.
Studio IX: That's a great story!
Studio IX: Both situations seem to have bucked your expectations a bit.
Lorraine: Well and I haven't ever had anybody say anything inappropriately crazy, you know, where you have had to edit it out or anything like that, but you just never know what people are gonna say. A lot of times people will surprise you.
I guess the key thing that I've realized after interviewing all these female entrepreneurs especially, is that the ones that succeed in the long-term, it seems that it is 99 percent what their mental state is on a daily basis. It has almost nothing to do with their education, although, that helps, and their connections help, and how much money they have helps, but it's their mindset first and foremost that leads to success. I previously come from a journalism background where everyone is grouchy and cynical. I thought mindset conversations were really irrelevant and who cares, and stop talking about that. After talking to all of these people, it’s really transformed how I think about things because I have watched and listened to how important mindset is on these women’s companies and in their positive trajectories over time. I've seen their careers over the course of four to five years, and I've heard them say this about themselves. I've asked them what they do to stay on point or in alignment, or whatever you want to call it. There are lots of words for what is essentially the state of being and feeling solid, confident and willing to continue even in the face of failure, no's or setbacks. That's been the most impactful thing for me personally to witness.
Lorraine: As weird as that sounds, it's true.
Studio IX: What's an aspect of the work you do that might surprise people to know?
Lorraine: How hard it is to get female entrepreneurs to put themselves out there.
It's shocking. I have so many people that I work with that they don't even see how they are rejecting opportunities or shying away from the spotlight and they feel bad about putting themselves out there for a variety of reasons that are all very legitimate. That's one thing that constantly surprises me and I think that surprises other people. Especially in the fashion industry, that so many people misconstrue as being very me, me, me, look at me, social media blogger type landscape and yet at the same time so many of them, even though they play in that world, they have real reservations about the legitimacy of self-promotion. I actually view a lot of the self-promotion as necessary for brand building today.
Studio IX: Yeah.
Lorraine: I don't know what else. I'm actually fairly introverted. I don't even like to talk to people much of the time. I think that's one thing that a lot of people that meet me through the Spirit of 608 think is that I am very outgoing and want to talk to people all the time and actually it works for me to have it very scheduled so that I know when I have to show up and be personable and open and accessible. I mean you've seen me come in and I'm just like zoom to my desk, and I will go through a day without speaking to people. I’m a classic occasionally extroverted introvert INFJ.
Studio IX: This is kind of a two-part question, but where do you see yourself going in your work and where do you see the industry going, as far as podcasting &/or fashion?
Lorraine: Yeah. So, I will do the second question first. I said before and a number of media people that I know who talk about this same space that has to do with ethical fashion, manufacturing sustainability, all of us, our dream is to talk ourselves out of the job. If we are successful in promoting this enough and these businesses can grow, and they are not just going to grow because we are helping them, but if they succeed in what they are trying to do and we succeed in getting the word out about them, it's no longer going to be a conversation because all of the brands will be trying to incorporate positive aspects of business into what they're building. I think we are seeing more and more of that happen.
It's also never been easier to start your own business and so you are seeing a lot of economic opportunity come to women that wasn't previously accessible to them. Clearly, we are still in the beginning stages of that and a lot needs to happen from an infrastructure standpoint so that these businesses and all small businesses, especially digitally-based ones, can succeed because a lot of people start them that don't have any business experience and they fail, but I think we are seeing a lot of stuff change.
In fact, this is a tangent, but I just went to the Charlottesville Entrepreneurs & Espresso event up at i.lab this morning and one of the guys who was speaking was the chef at Common House and now is starting his own training program for people in the restaurant industry and I see more and more of that happening. In the fashion business you see a lot of people coming in and seeing all these entrepreneurs kind of flailing around and needing help and people are starting these programs to like let me help you figure out how to actually run a business for your next industry. And so, I think that's really shifting.
More and more bigger brands like the Levis and the Athleta's and even H&M's, they are trying to implement better manufacturing practices and standards and textiles and so hopefully in like ten years this will be a whole different conversation, and I won't be able to podcast about it anymore.
As for myself, I mean, I don't know. I don't have a five-year plan at the moment. I've got a two-year plan where I want PressDope, which is our sister business site, to be a self sustaining business that is relatively hands-off from my standpoint and that could be run without me.
Studio IX: Where does the name of the show come from?
Lorraine: The Spirit of 608 is a reference to an 1980s film called the Legend of Billie Jean, which few people remember, but it's a glorious movie. Have you seen it? Okay, do you remember how... You have seen it?
Studio IX: I've seen it, but I haven't seen it in so long.
Lorraine: But you know what I am talking about.
Studio IX: Yup.
Lorraine: So, in the movie, Helen Slater, who is best-known for being Supergirl, her brother has a bike and some bullies bust up his bike. So she goes to try to get them to pay for the repairs, and it's going to cost 608 dollars to get it fixed. While she is going to try to stand up for her brother and for what is right and fair, she gets assaulted and then gets accused of a crime she didn't commit and has to go on the run and becomes this 1980’s outlaw teen folk hero. She shaves her head and wears this neoprene suit, and it's awesome.
When I was thinking about starting the show and what to name it I kept trying to think of a name that no matter what happened with it, if it failed, if my day sucked, if it was awesome, then I was always gonna really like it and feel good about. I thought back to my days in college and a friend of mine and I had made these shirts that had 608 on them because we both thought that part of the movie was really cool and inspiring. So I chose 608, and it works because I think a lot of the female entrepreneurs have that kind of badass quality to them, and they also have the fun fashion element in the movie, so it just really made sense.
A lot of people think it's because I have some connection to Wisconsin which has a 608 area code. It has no connection to Wisconsin. There is a whole explanation of it on the website too that is much more articulate than what I just told you.
Studio IX: That was great! I got it.
Studio IX: Ok, last question. What do you enjoy about working/being here at Studio IX?
Lorraine: I have a bunch of different things. I like coming in here for the community aspect. I have met a lot of interesting people here. There are events happening here and there that I will show up at, and I think that's really nice that Studio IX does that.
I also find that I get a lot of work done here. It's just a really good environment for me to focus and just sit down and crank through four-to-five straight hours of dealing with things.
So, it's a good balance of putting you in a place to be really focused, but also not making you feel isolated. I think it's good to be around people, especially if you are working on a creative business endeavor. I've met a number of people who have said things to me in passing or in conversations over the last two years that have really changed how I was thinking about something I was chewing on for the day. So, yeah. I like that there is art here and the Art Park is awesome.
You can just go outside and get a change of scenery. I mean what better place to go than strolling through that crazy assortment of things to look at.
Studio IX: Yes! The Art Park is awesome.
Studio IX: Thanks, Lorraine!
Lorraine: Thank you.