Cheapskate Design and The Queen of Hustle

I wanted to take some time to to pull back the curtain on a few of my projects and to explore what they’ve been teaching me about myself. Although in the recent past, I’ve been working primarily as a landscape designer and researcher/advocate, there are two side projects that have crept their way in: Black Trumpet, the pop up dinner club I run with my partner and Creative Union–a coworking space that I’ve been helping get off the ground.

It’s never been easy to come up with a good, succinct label for what I do on these projects, but I’ve recently given myself, in my own head, what seems to be the most appropriate title: The Queen of Hustle.

Black Trumpet
I am officially Black Trumpet’s Design Principal and Cofounder. That means that I set up and maintain our website and web presence, write and design our newsletter and social media posts, and find hosting locations and design their setup and decor.

Turns out, though, that’s a (really fun but really) tiny part of what I do. What I do most is hustle. I hustle to find locations that we can host in that can meet our spatial needs and logistical needs so that we can serve a kosher meal. I hustle to figure out what supplies we can get on our very limited budget (and if we can’t afford them how to make them or barter for them) and I hustle for cars to borrow so I can make trips to Ikea and Costco and the liquor store. I hustle locations for us to do kitchen prep, and develop partnerships to defray the cost, and look for mutually beneficial opportunities and programs. I hustle for opportunities to get the word out with a limited marketing budget ($0. Well actually, that’s not quite true, we pay for hosting for our website….) I hustle for our funding opportunities and write our funding proposals and set up our funding meetings. I run around town and beg and barter and make new friends and discover new opportunities and talk about what we’re doing with Black Trumpet every chance I get because I really believe in it, and you never know.

Website Screenshot

Creative Union
In my other side role, I don’t even have an official title. I guess if I asked for one, it would be ‘Curator,’ or ‘Energetic Social/Creative Gal who Gets Stuff Done?’ I am helping get my new coworking space, Creative Union, off the ground. I walked into this coworking space as it was being reorganized, before it was even named, and the founder asked me to help out in exchange for a discount on my rental. I came up with a lot of the spatial overhaul strategy–we used color and art to update a space that originally felt a little worn and a little too corporate–and wrote our mission and our website copy, and led the initial marketing push.

Coworking Space_1


Coworking Space_2

I’m also organizing a series called ‘Creative Somerville’ which is going to be a series of talks by local creatives and entrepreneurs. With a relaxed and intimate ‘fireside chat’ format, the series will ask speakers to tell their stories in an informal way, showing some of their work, but largely focusing on their journey and creative interests.

The series is one of those things I happiest to set up–a ‘win win (win win win’.) It’s a way for us to bring new people into the space (because guess what our marketing budget is–you got it, $0) but it’s also a way to create a new venue for the creative and entrepreneurial energy in Somerville. This energy is what attracted me to Union Square to begin with when I was looking for a coworking space.

A few years ago, I took Gallup’s Strengthsfinder test, and found that my skillsets were mostly in the ‘Influencing’ column (which is largely about relational and persuasive communication.) I was, however, disappointed to see ‘Achiever’ on the list. People with the ‘Achiever’ strength love getting things done. If they don’t go to bed having crossed things off their list, they feel they’ve failed for the day.

“Achiever,” I thought, “Why couldn’t I have something less petty?” I convinced myself that my achiever skill must have been because grad school had made me a more stressed out person. Or maybe, this ‘strength’, came from not able to shake off the imprint of my first job as an admin assistant, right out of college.

The researchers behind the Strengthsfinder test maintain that your core strengths cannot be influenced by what you spend your time doing–they are your innate, almost born-with talents. I don’t 100% buy that, but I’ve started to believe that there’s an inertia to what your strengths are–and it’s not an accident or too much time in design school that gets a strength on your list. At the end of the day, for better or worse, I am an action-oriented person. I am energized by seeing decisions made, projects move forward, things made and put out into the world. I am a story-crafter, storyteller and connector who is fueled by the insane battery of an achiever personality.

So what does this all come down to? I am good at getting things done. Especially when there’s no money to spend. Especially when we need to bring other people or resources in to get to where we want to go. I am good at crafting the vision in images and text and then shopping it all around town to spread the good word. I am the Queen of Hustle for my crypto-practice, Cheapskate Design.


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