Ever wondered how the Cleveland Flea was born? "You'll just teach yourself by doing it," says Stephanie Sheldon.
"Nothing gets unscary that’s new for you. It’s just that you decide to enter the arena and start doing what it takes to get it done."
"I would say Cleveland saved me," says Sheldon. "I just fell in love with the city and fell in love with the people and thought to myself, I can do something special here and I can help this place. I can be a part of the change that it needs and the change that it deserves."
A trained architect, Sheldon moved to Cleveland after her master's program. At her consulting business, Indie Foundry, and the Cleveland Flea, Stephanie serves: "what I would call passionate changemakers, creative consultants, or makers."
Basically, right-brained Clevelanders with an idea, who she noticed quickly needed help. Makers, as you might know, are typically artists and craftsmen who work with their hands.
"They were having a hard time starting their businesses. They were always hobby status," she said. As a lover of all sorts of markets, she realized, "The flea market has always started as a business incubator."
So in 2013, she started the Cleveland Flea, the one-weekend-a-month market that grew a crowd quickly.
"Beyond the physical aspect of the Flea and how fun it is to be at, and it’s a public forum for people, it’s really taught a lot of people how to run a business. It’s pretty awesome," she says.
While she didn’t necessarily imagine the monthly shopping and culture event it's become, it fits.
"I’m always trying to get everyone to do things. And I’m always trying to persuade everybody to get on board with me for whatever idea I have going at that time. And I’ve always been like that. Ever since I was little," she say. "I was always like, we’re going to do this. I’m going to plan this vacation for us. I’d be 6 years old and be like, 'This is what we’re having for dinner everybody.' It wasn’t bossy, it was just like I knew my family well and I knew what would make them happy. I was always trying to create the best circumstance for everybody."
Now her Cleveland friends are just like family. Stephanie's family, her parents and two brothers, are spread out across the continent.
"I travel...I go to see my nephew in Chicago because when you’re with a two-year-old, you can’t be doing your work and you don’t really want to be. So it gets me to stop. And see the world through his eyes...It reminds me that life doesn’t revolve around business and that business should more revolve around life."
While her business evolves, she's taken on a new title, too: life coach. Her first questions for someone new: "'What it is that inspires you?' Which is usually the thing you either struggle with a lot or that scares you a lot. I always tell my clients, your struggle is your superpower. It’s the place where you have the most ability to
grow...If you can't sit and understand what's uncomfortable to you, you won't find any answers. Doing the same thing over and over again is very comfortable, but it becomes uncomfortable if its not what you want to do."
While she has big dreams for the Flea, like a more-permanent, perhaps daily home in Cleveland, she also hopes to outboard those business building lessons to others. And find ways to encourage small businesses and renew their zest in their dreams.
"We’re a place that wants to bring people together and inspire them. Really, I think that’s hopefully what we do is either inspire them to be better Clevelanders, love their city more, support small businesses, start their own small businesses, be nicer to people. We’re always trying to inspire Cleveland to love itself more."
The December Holiday Market and Party continues all weekend at Cleveland's Masonic Auditorium at 3615 Euclid Avenue. Saturday the fun begins at 10 a.m., with a ticketed entrance until 1 p.m. After 1 p.m. Saturday and all day Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., it's free admission. You can find more information here.