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GROW by Eleanor Whitney

Grow by Eleanor Whitney

The great thing about a downturn, recession or La Crise (nomenclature dependant on your country of origin, mindset or state of denial) is the freedom to do what you’ve always wanted to do. There is no stability left. No career paths (unless you’re intent on medicine or the law, two pretty-recession-resistant areas even in a global meltdown). Yes, you might have to suck it up and get a nasty day job. But for the rest of your waking hours, the horizon is yours, so go and get a (creative) Life.

Of course it helps to have a plan. And this is where Eleanor Whitney’s book, GROW, out this month, proves both instructive and deeply inspiring. It is full of lists to get you started, practical tips from proven entrepreneurs and helpful notes on legalities, funding, getting a good relationship with money and how to break up (gently) with your business partners if it all goes pear-shaped. Because DIY is actually a sensible way to live when all the societal structures that underpinned Corporations are now crumbling.

“DIY has been a part of my life since I was a child,” Eleanor explains, “and my parents taught me to make my own clothes and grow my own vegetables, and I launched an organic gardening business. The ideas to write GROW grew out of my fifteen-year involvement with punk, feminist, and independent art communities. As a teenager the idea of do-it-yourself seemed infinitely logical because I loved to write and play music and was passionate about social justice and feminism.”

Eleanor was not just a self-starter but also a dreamer and a rebel who did not wait for permission to create, publish and be damned and play very loud music.

“At the time I understood that, as a teenager, no “real” publisher or record label would take me seriously. “Why should I wait for someone else?” I asked myself. I started a personal zine, launched a record and cassette label, and co-founded a Riot Grrrl inspired group for young feminists in my hometown of Portland, Maine.”

There are lots of How To books in the market right now but none as friendly and, well, as appealingly down to earth as GROW. Published with a small press (Cantankerous Titles), the book is all matte lime and French navy with curvy graphics and occasional zine-like headings “Start now, where you are” interspersed with terribly practical bits such as “Copyright and Trademark 101”. It’s a nice mix – kind but firm, pithy but congenial in tone. A bit like Eleanor who plays in an independent rock band but also has a Masters of Public Administration.

“I wrote GROW to make the lessons I have learned over the past 15 years about running a sustainable, creative business welcoming to the creative DIY communities that have inspired me – the artists, crafters, foodies, writers, activists or musicians – to help them embrace and strengthen their entrepreneurial side, while still staying true to their values, ethics and independent ideals.”

So what are you waiting for? There’s a launch–and a panel discussion with Eleanor Whitney and folks from Academy of Handmade–at Echo Park’s Stories Books and Café on Friday May 17th at 7PM. Even if you’re still miserable at your day job on Monday morning, you’ll have bought a copy of GROW and started building that dream at last.

You can pick up GROW now here.

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