HOLIDAY SHOPPING DEADLINE
Do you have any fun nicknames? How did you get them? One of the reasons my mom named me Sarah was because she doesn't like nicknames. Ironically, almost no one calls me Sarah. My husband and most of my friends call me Rah. I honestly don't even know how it started but it stuck. I love it.
Tell us about you!!!
I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore, MD and I live in the city now. I adore it here. Baltimore gets such a bad rep but it's such an artsy, quirky city. Most of my inspiration for my line comes from the city we live in. I live here with my husband, Steve. He is a programmer by day and the muscle behind Wire and Honey at night. We have a 3.5-year-old son named Brady (after Brady Anderson--Baltimore, baby!) who pretty much runs things around here. We also have two dogs, a pug named Dewey and a golden retriever named Maximus, and we just adopted a hairless kitten named Lisbeth. We have a lot of creatures crammed into our little house! We wouldn't have it any other way.
What is the name of your business and what is it you make?
Wire and Honey. We make clothing with a message. My husband and I are both liberal bleeding hearts who are passionate about issues such as gender equality, fighting racism, women's rights, and global health. We are the first brand to take these issues and put them on children's apparel. We get a lot of blowback that we shouldn't expose children to "adult" issues and that we should just let kids be kids. However, from living in the city we have learned that these issues ARE children's issues. So many kids are facing racism, bullying, and sexism daily. We believe that the children who wear our clothing are the ones who are going to change the world so it's important to teach them to stand up for what is right at a young age.
How did you start your business? How has it evolved?
I kind of fell into this business. I have zero business experience, my background is in education. I was a middle teacher before Wire and Honey. After I had Brady I had to go back to work when I was only 5 weeks post partum and I didn't take it well. I had horrible Post Partum Anxiety that I thought I could fight on my own without the help of doctors or medication. The combination of my PPA and the stress of teaching pushed me to the brink of a nervous breakdown. It came dangerously close to Post Partum Psychosis and I would go days at a time without sleeping and started having auditory hallucinations at night. Quite frankly, it was terrifying. With the encouragement of my husband I quit my career and got the help I needed. I still struggle with my anxiety but I'm medicated now and under a doctor's care so I manage it well.
Although leaving my career was the best thing that I could have done for my mental health, I missed it. I taught in a low income area and worked with the most amazing kids and I missed helping people. I felt like my purpose was gone. In the meantime I found the amazing world of small shops and started shopping small exclusively for our son. My husband saw a spark in me that had died and was the one who gave me the confidence to start a shop of my own. When we started, we were mostly producing trendy, pop culture designs. We had one controversial design, Vaccines Save, Bro, and that is what really launched our shop and became what we were known for. As the years have gone by we have slowly moved away from most of the trendy tees and have instead decided to focus on the issues that matter most to us. We use our clothing to raise awareness and then donate a portion of all proceeds to different charities each month that deal with those issues.
What is the meaning of your business name? How did you come up with it?
Again, a nod to the city we love. Baltimore is best known to those who don't live here by two things: the HBO show The Wire and Baltimore Hons (think Jon Waters films like Hairspray). Hence, Wire and Honey.
What is your biggest dream for you and your business?
My dream is for Wire and Honey to become successful enough that I can start my own nonprofit to help my city. Ideally, I'd like to develop a program to keep middle and highschool students off the streets and help them get into college through grants and scholarships. I'd also like to grow to the point where we can hire employees and can hire the "unemployable" like those with criminal records and special needs. I desperately want to give back to the city I love.
What is your favorite part? The part you don’t care for as much?
My favorite part, hands down, is seeing customer photos and hearing customer stories. Our hope is that our clothing can provide teaching tools for parents to address complex issues such as racism and tolerance. We don't just want children to wear our clothing we want them to know WHY they are wearing it. So it's so beautiful and rewarding when parents tell us about the conversations they have had with their little ones because of our line. It lets us know that we are making a difference, however small, in this world. My least favorite part is time management. Like all moms, I suffer from immense guilt when Brady asks me to put my phone down or my computer away. There are days when he begs me to play and I just can't. That hits you right in the gut. I'm constantly learning and adjusting so that he comes first but I would be lying if I said it wasn't a struggle.
What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
I'm a total introvert and I hate confrontation. Most people think I am loud and outgoing because of the controversial nature of our shop but that couldn't be further from the truth. I am passionate about these issues so I do what I do despite my discomfort. It's not easy to deal with the constant hate mail and backlash but I believe so strongly in these causes that I force myself outside of my comfort zone to advocate. Deep down, I am essentially an 80-year-old trapped in a 32-year-old body. I spend my personal time quietly reading and watching the Golden Girls. I'm really painfully boring.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far? What are you most proud of?
We were officially backed by the National Meningitis Association which was huge for us. We are strong vaccine advocates and to have an organization that we respect so much recognize our efforts was incredible. As far as what I'm most proud of, it's standing up for what I believe in despite the backlash. We have received hate mail, threats, had our photos and address posted publicly for people to harass us, basically anything you can think of to try to scare us into stopping what we are doing. We won't back down though. I wasn't made to be subtle or to follow the path of least resistance. I'm proud that we keep fighting and advocating despite all the obstacles in our way.
What are your plans for the holidays? What is your favorite way to spend the holidays? Favorite traditions? I love the holidays! Eating is pretty much my favorite thing in the whole world so Thanksgiving is my jam. We are really quirky in our Christmas traditions. Ever since I was little I have been obsessed with Charlie Brown Christmas. So, when it was my year to pick a tree (we cycled who got to pick a tree each year) I would find the smallest, saddest, ugliest, half-dead tree on the farm and cut it down. My family HATED it! Thankfully, my husband loves me despite my quirks and let me continue that tradition into adulthood. I'm hoping that Brady inherits my love for ugly trees so we never stop! We aren't religious so on Christmas Day we always go to the movies and at night we get together with our friends for sushi. I love it. We see our families on Christmas Eve but Christmas Day is all ours.
What does shopping small mean to you?
Supporting passions. Building dreams. Knowing that every purchase I make pays for a little girl's clarinet or a little boy's dance lessons. I love knowing that there is a real person behind a shop and that every item was made with the love, creativity, sweat, and tears of a man or woman trying to support their family and not a giant corporation. It's rooting for the little guy and letting them know that their dreams and aspirations are appreciated and valid.
Why is handmade so important?
For all the reasons listed above. You aren't padding the pockets of millionaires. You are helping a family put food on the table and supporting someone's dreams.
Are you doing any local holiday events? Let us know the dates, where, etc.
No! I ran myself ragged last holiday season. I want to be able to enjoy the season with Brady this year. He's 3.5 so this is the first year that he really gets it and he is so excited about the holidays.
What else makes you super special, Rah?I am super awkward and quirky. I almost went to mortuary school and have a fascination with the macabre. I'm afraid of penguins. The sound of someone biting into an apple gives me chills. If you tickle me I get really, really angry. I have to place all the remotes in the house upside down or I can't relax. I don't like having my knees touched. I am horrible at making small talk. It's painful. I'm so awkward that if I see an acquaintance out in public I will hide so that I don't have to make small talk. It's embarrassing how weird I am.