Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Community Over Competition

November 06, 2023 Alex Hirsch + Cat Brown Season 1 Episode 2
Community Over Competition
Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
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Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
Community Over Competition
Nov 06, 2023 Season 1 Episode 2
Alex Hirsch + Cat Brown

Send us a Text Message.

Get in, friends, we're building a community. In this episode, we get to hear about the history behind #CommunityOverCompetition, what it really means, and how we can apply it to our business and our lives. Moral of the story – you can never have enough ice cream shops in the world.

Alex tells us about her new journey with tattooing, and Cat tells us about her trip to Paris to do calligraphy for Hannah Godwin + Dylan Barbour of Bachelor Nation’s wedding.* 

*Skip to 12:55 to head straight to Alex and Cat’s conversation about “community over competition." Cat and Alex talk about when to reach out to an established artist for advice and resources, versus when to do your own searching; “The Macy’s Way” of giving referrals; respecting industry standards and supporting other business owners in your industry; why gatekeeping is lame; and how to find your community. 

Show Links:

The Happily Ever Crafter -
Neilson Letters Discord Group -
Calligra-file -
Freelancer’s Union -
Crooked Calligraphy -
You Belong Here -

Support the Show.

Follow us in all the places!

Podcast, Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Alex Hirsch, Signs of Our Lives

Cat Brown, Cat Lauren Calligraphy

Keeping Up with the Calligraphers
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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Get in, friends, we're building a community. In this episode, we get to hear about the history behind #CommunityOverCompetition, what it really means, and how we can apply it to our business and our lives. Moral of the story – you can never have enough ice cream shops in the world.

Alex tells us about her new journey with tattooing, and Cat tells us about her trip to Paris to do calligraphy for Hannah Godwin + Dylan Barbour of Bachelor Nation’s wedding.* 

*Skip to 12:55 to head straight to Alex and Cat’s conversation about “community over competition." Cat and Alex talk about when to reach out to an established artist for advice and resources, versus when to do your own searching; “The Macy’s Way” of giving referrals; respecting industry standards and supporting other business owners in your industry; why gatekeeping is lame; and how to find your community. 

Show Links:

The Happily Ever Crafter -
Neilson Letters Discord Group -
Calligra-file -
Freelancer’s Union -
Crooked Calligraphy -
You Belong Here -

Support the Show.

Follow us in all the places!

Podcast, Keeping Up with the Calligraphers

Alex Hirsch, Signs of Our Lives

Cat Brown, Cat Lauren Calligraphy

Okay, I actually do want to start with that. Hello. Hello. Hello. It's not Dax Shepherd. *Laughter*

This is Alex coming at you with her first pumpkin spice latte of the season.

And this is Cat here with my cute little bow in my hair.

Oh, yeah. Always with the bows. If you don't know Cat already and her obsession with bows, now you know.

And if you don't know, now you know.

Exactly. We are coming at you today with.. comin at ya! with an episode about community over competition. It's a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in the business communities. I think also, specifically the artist, entrepreneur, creative, entrepreneur communities. And we just wanted to talk about it and share kind of our perspective on it, kind of why we love it, why we value it, what it means to us, and what it doesn't mean to us, what it doesn't mean to us. Yeah. And some tips for how you can kind of live and breathe that in your life if you're into it too.

I wanna just catch up with you. I feel like I haven't seen you or talked to you in a really long time. Tell me what's going on. Tell me what you're excited about.

Oh, my gosh. Well, I recently started tattooing on like real ass humans. I just did my 7th tattoo. 

That's so crazy. I feel like you just texted me about it and was like, hey, I'm going to start tattooing yeah.

On, like, a real human. So that's been really cool. I'm doing fine line tattoos. So for anyone who doesn't really know what that is, it's just like, the real well, I mean, I feel like it's pretty self explanatory, but it is fine line. It's like the thinner lines. It's definitely trendy with, like, the sticker and the patchwork tattoos.

Not portraits. Not like full shaded portraits.

No shading, no portraits, or like, big illustrations. I'm not doing any color. Just black. We love black. Yes.

Do you have a favorite so far, or are you just, like, so excited about all of them?

I'm honestly excited about all of them. It's one of those things where sometimes people ask me, like, what's the favorite project I've ever done? I'm always like, whatever. The last one I did was the same thing with tattoos. I'm like, whatever, the last one, was.

You can't pick a favorite.

Yeah. I'm like I'm just excited about it, honestly. It gives me so much dopamine. I kind of want to be doing it full time, but I also know that would be so silly because my business is actually very successful, and I'm sustaining it very well.So, yeah, it's like, kind of this extra thing that I'm doing, and I love it. Also.

I’m so inspired every time you post something, I'm like, oh, it's so amazing. I'm so excited. Catch me also, probably doing tattoos because I'm just so inspired by you.

I love it. That's amazing. Also, for everyone who's listening, I literally told Cat that I didn't want to hear about her Paris trip that she just went on, because I was like, wait, I want you to talk about it on the podcast. So it's been, what, two weeks since you got back?

I think two weeks to the day, actually.

Okay. Yeah. Which was wild, because I feel like we talk pretty often. So the fact that I was like, “don't tell me” was wild”

I feel like we've lived a whole life since I've been back.

Yeah, but okay, tell us. And I'm so excited.

Yeah, gosh. That's probably a whole episode on its own, honestly. But for those of you that don't follow me or know me or know anything about what she's talking about, I was at Hannah G and Dylan Barber's wedding. All my Bachelor people know what I'm talking about if you don't. They were on the Bachelor and Bachelorette. They were not the bachelor and Bachelorette, but part of the whole franchise, got engaged nation yeah. On Bachelor in paradise, they've been engaged for a very long time, but they are pretty big influencers as very, very wonderful people. But they brought me out to Paris to do all of the things at their weddings. So, yeah, it was a four day affair. It was a welcome party, a rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and then a post wedding pool party brunch situation. So I did all of the wedding day-of goods, like the signs, the papers, the menus, all of the things. But then again, they also brought me out, so I did, like, an activation to use industry terms at each of the events. So the welcome party, I customized their bags, like, the welcome bag that had all of the gifts and things for their guests.

How many guests did they have?

It was like 150 ish.

Oh, my gosh. That’s a lot.

Yeah, it was a lot. It was a lot.

Everyone flew out to Paris? 



Yeah, for, like, a very long time.

Were there, like, other bachelor nation people there?

There were other bachelor nation people there. Not, like, a lot. A lot. There were also, like, Jason Oppenheimer from Selling Sunset randomly was there, one of the twins from the show. Okay, so that was like, oh, okay, you're there. Cool.


So that was cool. So that was the welcome party, which was a cruise on the Seine, like, right there under the Eiffel Tower doing its whole little glitter-glatter thing. And it was so good.

I think I would have just fallen over and died.

It was literally like I'm in a dream.

Yeah. Wow.

So that was that. And then the rehearsal dinner. So they got married at Château de Villette. Yikes. Sorry. I definitely said that wrong. I don't speak French. It's fine. But I know that because that's in The DaVinci Code. That's where Sir Isaac? Something rather.


No, he's like, no, I don't remember. I'll have to Google his name. But the guy that's like, the Holy Grail expert in The DaVinci Code, that's where they drive to go do the whole Holy Grail thing. 

Wait, is this the movie? We're talking about the movie?


Okay. I've never seen the movie.

Also, a book but yes.

Got it. Understood. We're coming full circle here.

So that's where their wedding was, which I was like, I'm literally in a movie. Like, this was in a movie, and they did this really gorgeous garden party situation. And so Hannah made a room spray, which was it smelled so good. There were a lot of essential oils, so it was, like, very..

Wait, what is the difference between a room spray and, like, a perfume?

I feel like a perfume goes on people. Where the spray…

Wow. Thank you. Thank you.

And I'm so sorry if I'm getting this wrong. Hannah, don't at me, or do, whichever. But so like to spray on your pillow or in a room. Yeah, so I think the vibe was, like, if you're traveling kind of, like, spray it in your hotel room, and there's, like, a scent, like a pleasing scent. 

And they did, like, a custom scent?

Yeah. So she custom made it. It's part of her Setty brand.

Oh, she has a brand?

Yeah. So she's selling it as part of so like Setty Co so yeah, I think it's been sold out this whole time. But so it was, like, the first look. She gave it to all of her rehearsal dinner guests, and then I engraved those for them, so that was very cool. And then the wedding, we did engraved cufflink and bracelets. And I don't want to say, like, one was for one or the other. We had so many of the gentlemen that were there do some of the bracelets. We had some ladies that were pulling cufflinks for their power suits.

Oh, my gosh.

It was phenomenal. 

Power suit is such a move these days.

I know. And I loved that there was, like, the breaking of the gender roles. It was like, so many of the guys there was probably, like, 20 guys that got bracelets, and they were all wearing them. And it was so nice. They invited us, once we were kind of done with all of that, they invited us to stay at the wedding, which was really cool. And they were, like, on the dance floor with us, and everyone was out there with their bracelets on, and it was really cool.

I love that.

I didn't end up doing anything at the wedding.

Was it like a permanent jewelry situation or just like.. ?

No it was just a bracelet, like the clasp. Yeah, it had the tiniest charm. Like, when I say tiny, honestly, I think it was like a centimeter and a half by a centimeter and a half.

So I guess you engraved like a letter?

Just the one letter, or a couple people wanted, like, a one letter on one side, one on the other kind of thing. But it was so tiny, I was like, I don't know. You guys can't see, but I'm going to show Alex my nail right now. So you can see I was trying to hold it down with my nail, and I'm literally I have all these holes from my drill in my nail because I kept hitting my nail with the drill bit. It was like teeny, teeny tiny. Yeah, I'll show you. I have some extras, but yeah.

Did you use the tiniest little burr? A burr is a thing that you stick in your engraving machine for those who don't know, but those who do know. Did you use the tiniest burr?

Well, I couldn't. Like, okay. That's what I thought, so that's what I bought for it. But then those were too small. It was like, kicking the metal around and so I couldn't hold it still, so I actually had to go with the larger one. The standard size that we use on perfumes on glass bottles and stuff.

I think I use like 1.6.. I never get this right.

Yeah, I think it depends, too, on what burrs you order, because I don't use the same ones that you do. So it's like I think the ones that I order are through.

Yours are always much smaller.

Yeah, they're through Ink Me This.

I like them thick ones.

Yeah. So I think they're like the 46 size. I use, like, the 30, the bigger one, and then the 46. So it was the 46. I ordered the 48 and I was like, this is it's, like BR 30. BR 46. Okay, use the 46. Yeah, well, I use the 30 on most perfumes and things like that, but if I need to go, like, fine detail, I'll do the 46.

I ordered a 48, but I ended up using a 46. I'm so sorry, everybody. This is like, very industry specific terms.

No, I didn't even know there was a 48. Also, I didn't even know there was a difference between 46 and 48. I mean, obviously.

I'll show you. It is like the teeniest of tiny. Okay. So I was like, this is definitely the one. But I was like, this looks stupid, and it's kicking it around and I can't do it and people are watching me. So that was the shift I made, which maybe that's an episode later on, like, how to troubleshoot when you're on site.

Well and like, again, we talked about it a little bit before, but that is what makes us event calligraphers versus in-studio is that ability to just kind of troubleshoot on site and be creative.

It was phenomenal. It was gorgeous. It's been featured literally everywhere on all of the things. 

Yeah, just casually in People.

There was, like, a crazy fireworks show, like for the wedding. It was very cool. Wow. So, yeah, shout out to W Society who was the wedding planners. I love them and adore them. Birch Event and Design jumped in on it. There are a bunch of other incredible vendors. I have like a million posts if you're curious about any of the vendor team, please feel free to go and look at that. But I am so tired.

Still two weeks later?

Still so tired. And then I took a couple extra days to do the actual travel thing and whatever else. So yeah, it was phenomenal. Like, once in a lifetime, I would like to say, but maybe not because I have a couple other inquiries for next year.

And this was your second trip to Paris this year for business.

I did not have that on my bingo card, let me tell you. But I am not upset about it.

Meanwhile, I'm, like, excited that I got flown to Phoenix last year for an event. And you're like, yeah, I'm going to do one more and I'm going to go to Paris. And twice.

Yeah. Crazy. Honestly, five years ago, when I first picked up a brush pen, this is not where I thought my business was going to be. But here we are. Sky's the limit.

Power of community.

No, but really so perfect segway, so today we are talking about hashtag community over competition and where that comes from. Like a very brief where does it come from, how we kind of see that, what we don't see that as, how that applies in our business, in our lives. All of that, you know, hopefully we'll give you some nuggets, some things to think about, some tips for how you can get in that mindset, how you can apply it in your own business.

So, yeah, thanks for being here. Alex, can you just give us a quick background on what that is? Community over competition. Go.

Yeah. So community over competition is a little bit self explanatory, but basically it's kind of thrown around in the creative entrepreneur community, especially because it started from a wedding vendor who was a photographer, Natalie Franke. She's no longer a wedding photographer. She works, I'm pretty sure, with, like, HoneyBook, one of the CRMs, client management systems. And basically she was like, oh, man, I feel really alone in my business, which some of you might feel. And she met up with another photographer in the Annapolis, Maryland area. And kind of started this thing called Tuesdays Together, where she would meet up with other wedding vendors and they would talk about business things and kind of just share the tips and insights that they had, without being competitive with each other. Just knowing that, wow, isn't it so great to just be able to share openly and honestly with someone in the same industry or even the same exact career as me?

Kind of starting the mindset of, like, there's enough for all of us.

Yes, exactly. Yeah. There’s so many events. There's so many things to capture, in terms of photography. So many things to write on, as we have pretty much told you. Yeah. I always joke that there's like in San Diego there's a tattoo shop, a hair salon, and a coffee shop on literally like every corner,  and a Mexican food restaurant, and a taco shop. And there's literally when a new one opens, it's like nice, amazing, great. Everyone's so excited.

Exactly. I'll try it. Yeah.

There was like a Facebook group that I was a part of and someone was like, oh, another ice cream shop is opening. And I was like, are you kidding me? I'm so excited. Who is upset about more ice cream? Literally, I'm like there is so much like every shop has their own thing going for them. And that's how I always try to think of it, right? Like, there can always be more. And everyone offers something different. And some days you want this and the other days you want that.

Or they offer the same thing, but it's like their own spin on it. The way they make their vanilla ice cream is different than the way someone else makes their vanilla ice cream.

Yeah. And just like the vibes are different too. Like one shop is different than the other. One is walkable. One you might need to drive to. Yeah. So that's kind of just an example for a real life example using food. My favorite thing. For those of you who don't know, I literally have a tattoo of a fork and a spoon on my wrist because that is how much I like taking photos of food and how much I like eating food. So that's of course the analogy I'm making, is food.

But I think applicable. And it's kind of nice to sometimes get examples outside of of out the industry.

Yeah. So anyways, it started within the wedding industry, which is why a lot of wedding industry and creative entrepreneurs know about community over competition. So anyways, Natalie created this whole big movement of community over competition of us just kind of like using the quote from JFK “a rising tide lifts all boats.” My favorite Paul Wellstone quote is “we all do better when we all do better,” along the same lines of just ya know, we can all make it. And isn't that so cool?


We don't need to bring each other down. We don't need to keep secrets from each other.

So that kind of segues into I was going to say maybe we go over our origin story. But I almost feel like that perfectly segues into our other talking points that we were going to go over today and talking about more examples of what community over competition is to us.

And maybe that origin story will come out, maybe it won't. Maybe we'll share it another time. Let's find out.

Well, I feel like now that listeners are going to be like, well, what the hell is this story? Oh, my gosh.

We’ll see, maybe we'll share it later today.

Guess you gotta listen.

So kind of to us, we put together this list of what community over competition is, with like tangible actionable things that you can refer to in a business.

Okay, what's number one?

The first thing is, and maybe it's two, sorry, that I put together – that we have shared is: community over competition means that we're sharing resources in general education as a means of encouraging others in their business journey, which is empowering them, other people, to know that they can figure it out and or where they can pay other people for their time and their expertise if that is the route they decide to take.

Yeah, I think a lot of calligraphers get DMs from newbies in the industry. I may or may not have been one of those like 6 years ago like “Hi, what pen are you using?” Short story, it's not about what pen you're using. 99% of the time it's not about what pen you're using. It's really just practice, everyone. But yeah, just like I think what's her name? Becca I think her name is, from Happily Ever Crafter. She does a really good job of providing these free tools and guide lists and things like that. I think she's like the perfect example of someone who literally just is like, this is the pen I'm using and this is where you can buy it from.

And I think she does like, if it's not the pen, here's also all of these free traceable guide sheets and things like that to practice developing your own style and all of that. So it's not just like a one stop resource. It's like, if it's not this, then I have this resource, and if it is this, I have this resource.

I agree. And she's like an educator in the industry. So me, who's not really an educator in the industry in terms of that's literally my career, that's not my primary source of income, is to educate people. Right. Whereas that is hers. When people show up in my DMs asking for something, I can either easily tell them or I do direct them to an account like that where I'm like, hey, I don't have this information, but this person does. Or, hey, I got my resource from X person and yeah, feel free to like go check out their story highlight about this.

Yeah, I feel like when people reach out to me, I almost give them too much information. I'm like, oh my gosh, this is this pen that I'm using, but it's actually not my favorite. Here's my top list of five other pens that I highly recommend. And also, would you like my Amazon storefront so you could just click on the link and buy it here?

Oh, my gosh.Yeah. The amount of voice memos that I'm like, okay, I'm so sorry, but I can't just answer this with a one sentence thing, but I will give you an entire voice memo of how I did this.

But I think that's to this point, it's kind of empowering them and explaining your process, which will help them with their problem solving with other things in their business as they run into barriers of just being new in their business.

Yeah, and I feel like that's honestly, what helped me so much over the years was having a couple trusted, more like veteran artists that I could look to. And was like, hey. And I kind of established a relationship with them, too. Also, that's like a pet peeve of most people is like just showing up in their DMs, asking a question. It's like maybe say hi, even maybe follow them. Following them is probably good if you want to get like, info you know, it's a little bit transactional, but yeah, just kind of build building those relationships over time with some trusted people, those really helped me to kind of learn, oh, how do you do this or how do you do that without being too much reliant on their information, but to a point where it's like, hey, I'm having trouble with this. Could you help me navigate it? Or whatnot.

Point me in the direction of the solution, maybe without directly saying, oh, this is the solution, 

And also this is what I Googled or searched for first before reaching out to you to solve all my problems, because you're running a business, and that is a whole challenging feat in and of itself. So it is good to rely on people for support and community while also making sure that you're still..

Respecting their business, their boundaries, all that good stuff.

Yeah. And just kind of making sure that you fully acknowledge that they're a full human with a full life and a full business as well.

That perfectly actually goes into the next point, which I had under community over competition is based on connecting with other people and building relationships. So we already kind of touched base on that. It should not just be like, tell me, give me this information. I am entitled to this information from you because you posted it or something along those lines.

It is based on genuinely connecting with other people, other people in your creative space. Again, it's respecting their business, their boundaries, their time, their expertise, and respecting yourself, I think, too, enough to say, I can figure this out. Can you just point me in the right direction? I think that's the kind of balance that you're going for.

And compared to when I started like, six years ago, which there was a lot of information on Pinterest and Google, but now not the same as now. There is so much information on the internet about tools, about free resources, free guides, that it's like if you're showing up in someone's DMs, it's like asking a question. It's almost like, did you do anything?

Yeah. What did you do first?

I think that's really important.

And we can link some of these resources and whatever else in the show notes if that is something that is interesting to everybody.

Yeah, absolutely.

I think this is moving more into. People that are maybe a little bit farther along in their business, but it is giving referrals that benefit the client, not necessarily giving referrals that benefit you.

So I think the practice of referring business to other people in your area, especially if, one, you're not available, or two, if you're not the best fit, and you're able to kind of self evaluate and recognize that. I actually just had somebody reach out to me about an engraving thing, and I was really excited about it. She sent me a sample. I sent her back the sample with the engraving and whatever else, and she was like, oh, I'm actually looking for, I don't want calligraphy. I'm looking for block lettering. And I was like, oh, ma'am, okay, well, I don't know if you saw my website, but most of what I do and instead of there's two ways I could have gone about it. I could have decided to be like, yeah, I'm going to learn this skill. And that totally would have been an appropriate answer, because it's far enough down the line that is something I could have added to my repertoire. But I made the decision to refer out to some people that I have seen consistently do, like, a block lettering style that already have that established, because, one, I don't have the time to just do that right now. That's just not what I want to do. But referring it to somebody else, that was an appropriate referral for them. It wasn't just somebody that was somehow beneficial to me.

Yeah, I often do it by location because I have people from LA, to where I am in San Diego, to OC, oftentimes asking about projects and can I do this? And unfortunately, I can't be everywhere, as much as I would love to be and sometimes seem like I am everywhere. Yeah, I'm often times looking at location. I'm looking at people's skillset. And can I refer this to someone who is in that area, who has the availability, who can meet the volume? Yeah, can meet the volume, who I'm like, oh, this person has shown me their workflow matches what the client is requesting. Exactly. So that's a really important one, and that's a good tip, too. I don't know if anyone's seen, like, Miracle on 34th street, the movie, but kind of like the “Macy's Way.” If you haven't seen it, it's basically it's a Christmas movie. You should watch it. It's a cutie. It's a good one. I like the OG one and the black and white. It aged mostly well. I think it was, like, in the 30s or something that it came out, so bare with me. But basically, it's like, there was a Santa, and the Santa was like, actually Santa, and he worked at, like, JC Penney. Was it JC Penney? No, duh he was he was working at Macy's. He was like, the Macy's Santa. This was like The Macy's Parade, all that stuff. And he was, like, referring people who couldn't get the items at their store to other stores in the area. He's like, yeah, Macy's doesn't have this, but this other store has it. And so it's like, kind of like the “Macy's way.” So when I say the “Macy's way,” that's what I'm talking about.

It is excellent customer service.

Yeah. And I think that's kind of how I like to take that. It’s kind of like the community over competition way, of when a client or an inquiry comes to you and you can't do it for whatever reason, or if it doesn't make sense to you, if it's not in your services, if it's not in your location, your area is being like, I can't do this, but here are these other people who can. And you can even say, I'm not available this time, but I would really love to work with you in the future when I'm available or when I have the capacity or whatever it might be, and people will remember that. And my clients so appreciate when I can subcontract or refer another calligraphy artist to them or someone else who can do the job.

Can attest as one of your subcontractors.

Yeah. And people really appreciate it because a) I am an industry expert in terms of in the events community, and then that just kind of further solidifies it. Yeah, exactly. Further solidifies that to the client of, like, listen, I can't do it, but I know someone who can. Right. And I know someone that's going to be the perfect fit for you. Yeah, well, yeah, mostly perfect fit. Every so often it doesn't work out that way, but yeah, the perfect fit for you and someone who I trust, and so you can trust. And I think that's the biggest thing, too.

But again, that goes back to being, like, the relationship based. You have established that relationship of trust and expertise with them. So nine times out of ten, they are going to take your referral, because you have already established that relationship with them. You have already established that relationship with the person that you're subcontracting to know that. And I was going to say, we're going to move kind of into this in a little bit, but you trust that they're not going to do anything like sneaky or underhanded. That again, we both are in a space where we understand this relationship, whatever else. We're respectful of it, we're appreciative of it, and all that good stuff.

Yeah. And that's a huge one, is being able to trust other artists. Having the same level of skill set, but also, like you said, not the undercutting, because that has been a thing in our industry, as we've talked about.

We're going to go into that, too.

Yeah. Is that there are people that will undercut and will say, oh, like, they did it for $100. Well, I can do it for 50. So it's like thinking about, who is that helping? It confuses the client, number one, because they're like, well, why is this person this much? Why are you not this much? It's confusing to them. Also, it doesn't really build trust within your community.

Well, I think it fully undercuts the whole mindset and purpose of community over competition.

Yeah, it's like we can all just actually charge the same or more together and set kind of like an industry standard because we are providing that value to the client. And if we're all providing that value, then we don't need to undercut.

So maybe that's a point that we don't even have on this list. But I think is important, community over competition is respecting industry standards. So I think whether that is industry standard pricing, right? Like, we should, as an industry, have a minimum of what we're accepting just because that is the value of our work. Respecting an industry minimum of knowledge before stepping on site. Not to say that you can't do it early on or whatever else, but again, when we were talking about troubleshooting and whatever else it's just having maybe, I think, like an industry standard of that customer service that you're able to provide. When you say like, yes, I can take this job, or whatever else, I think it's respecting – talking about events specifically. Yeah, like respecting, again, industry pricing, industry standards. So we can all continue to pull these really cool jobs. Right. Because of the way that we are interacting with our clients, the way that we are showing up on site professionally, the way we conduct ourselves in our business, the way that we accept payments, even in the way of, like, you all need to pay me within a certain amount of time that's appropriate based on what we agreed upon. So I think that also supports a positive community over competition mindset, is understanding the business space that you're stepping into and what industry standards might be in place. So whether intentional or not, you're not undercutting somebody else's business or hard work or whatever else, either. 

How do you think people can understand?

Man, that's a lot.

We can talk about it now.

Yeah. I think connecting with others again in a genuine way.

I have an example.

Yeah, please. Oh, ours? Is this our origin story?

This is our origin story, yeah.

So perfect example. I can do it because I was the one that reached out and let me pass it over to you. So five years ago, when I first started.

Wait, five years ago? We've known each other for five years?

No, it might have been four.

Okay, it has to be four. Five is too long. I haven't even been here for four years, or five years.

Well, you had just moved here.

I moved here in 2019.

Okay. Four years. Okay. Sorry. I've been in business for five, and I just remember being, like, very new. So we were in a wedding Facebook group.


And I had gotten an inquiry for a bride who wanted me to do, like, a custom leather jacket. It was, like, right at the beginning of the trend. Yeah. And I was like, listen, I have never done this before. I'm happy to try, but I make no promises that it turns out the way that you want it or whatever else. I'm just trying to figure it out. So props to me for saying that, to be honest. Bold of me, but I'm glad I did it, because..

Client communication is key.

..the breakdown that I had after this. So I accepted her jacket. She was like, yes, that's fine. We'll figure it out. I literally took a paint pen and made my first mark, and I was like, I have made a grave error. I have ruined her jacket.

We've all been there.

Terrible. And I had seen Alex posting in this Facebook group, all her gorgeous jackets and all these things.

Yeah. It was like, my thing. I'm really good at just, like, making things my thing. I'm like, no one else is doing this. It's mine.

And I was like, I have to just reach out to her and be like, can you fix this jacket? And the way I went about it, I think also was maybe important to.. You were so gracious and kind. I think you would have reacted nicely either way. But I remember reaching out, and I was like, I am so sorry. I have ruined this jacket. I really need your help. I'm happy to pay you. I'm happy to just, you can have all the credit. I have ruined this jacket. And if you're in a position to be able to help me, I would be so grateful. I am happy to do whatever favor, pay you, whatever amount of money to help me fix this. And you were like, fresh to LA. At the time.

Oh, my gosh. Yeah. I was like, oh my gosh! Calligra-friend! I was so excited. I think I don't really remember fully the situation other than just being, first of all, a Cat was in OC. I was in LA. If you're not familiar with SoCal, they are like two states away basically. It's like the difference between going from Delaware to Maryland or something. And it's like, why I thought that was, like, a reasonable thing. I was like, yeah, sure, come over.

Yeah. Alex was like, oh, my like, just come over to my know, we'll sit down. We'll figure it out together. And I was like, oh, my like, okay. It took me 3 hours to get there.

So sorry. So sorry. Looking back, I'm like, Dang.

You were. I was committed because I had worn this jacket, and I was just so grateful that you had invited me in, and you were even willing to help me at, like, whatever. So I came over that night, and I was fully prepared to be like, what do you want for dinner? Here's all of my money. Take everything. And she invited me in. We sat there and watched pocahontas. She bought me dinner, sat down with me for like 3 hours and showed me how to fix this jacket. Offered to, I had bought a backup jacket of the same jacket because I was like, if this is ruined, I just need you to do what she needs done here. Because, again, I wanted to do right by my client. At this point, I clearly was not making any money.

So sweet, by the way. I feel like certain people would have just been like, yes, is what it is. Here you go.

Yeah. No, not the vibe of a luxury business. You offered to buy that jacket off of me. I mean, extra jacket.

I do have an affinity for leather jackets.

But it was wild. And honestly, I feel like that was, like, the most pure example of community over competition. You wouldn't take my money. You bought me dinner. You helped me fix this thing. You wouldn't take any credit for it. So I just kept trying to tag you and everything because I wanted to give credit where credit was due.

And it was so good, though, honestly.

She still loves it, which makes me happy. She actually just texted me about it yesterday.

That is so sweet. Honestly, though, I think also, artists, are we are our own worst critic most of the time, right? The jacket was not even that bad. I think we did better. We did better. We made it better. But it wasn't as bad as she's saying.

It was spiraling, and then immediately after, you were like, hey, just out of curiosity, how much did you charge for this? And I was like, $50.

Immediately. No,

Full stop. And she so gently was like, oh my gosh. This is what I charge for this. Gently educating me on, like, babe, no. Please raise your prices. Even if you're brand new at this. You don't have to charge the top dollar. Right? But the minimum standard is this. And she very kindly educated me on that, and I was like, oh, no.

Yeah, so that's, I think, a good example, though, of, like, we can have minimum prices. Yeah. Even if you're new at something, you can have a minimum price where your time is still compensated for. Right? If you're not providing the best value in the entire industry. Sure, yeah, don't charge top dollar. Yeah, don't charge top dollar, but still charge for the appropriate amount of time. Right? There's so many people, I think, that get lost in the perfectionism and the like, I don't want to do this. And it's like, no, it is still your time, and you are still buying that paint. You are still buying those paintbrushes. You are still doing that client communication. So at the very least..

Or you're taking the time to research how to do it right. Even that time in itself. It's not time that is worth doing the art, but it is so valuable, and that is what the client is coming to you for, is your expertise to figure it out. So I appreciate all of that.

Yeah, I might maybe be the queen of Raise Your Prices.

Which is a whole separate episode.

Yeah. But that is a good, like a good story, of ya know, building your community. And we connected on that ever since because it was, listen, like, I'll have your back. And then Cat repaid me again by tagging me and sharing my work.

I think I went to the next three jacket painting workshops that you did because I was like, I clearly need to learn how to do this. So Alex was doing workshops at the time, and I think I went to maybe two.

Yeah, there was like a Galentine's day one. It was like, right before the pandemic, so it was like February 2020.

I was going to say. But I was like, I'm so appreciative of her expertise. I did not expect her to do it for free every time. So I think that was also part of what is respecting each other. Exactly. Came to your workshop, learned the things, bought a ticket, did not expect to go for free because that's not how you support your business friends.

Yeah, but that was so sweet. I was so excited that you came.

I was so excited that you literally watched Pocahontas with me and fixed my jacket.

But yeah, and I think that's kind of like, showing up for people is a huge part of life. Right? But that's how you kind of live out the community over competition, is like, how do you want people to show up for you? Okay, yeah, go do that for them. Right? And if that's continually reciprocated, then hold on to those people, and we're all better for it. That’s how you build that community of people who will have your back, people who will build you up, people who will support you, and then you got to do it too.

And I think to clarify, we are not saying that you have to invite strangers into your home every time and not accept payment. But I would have been just as appreciative if she was like, hey, I can hop on the phone, you can tell me what happened, what broke down, and I can point you in the direction of a couple different YouTube videos or resources or here's the link to the paint I use, or whatever else. So I think you went above and beyond, by far. But I think there were still other ways that I would have been so grateful, that if you did not have the time and capacity or whatever else to invite me in and do all of those things, that you still could have lived out that community over competition mindset.

I feel like it was one of those things.

It was right person, right time.

Right person, right time. Yeah, absolutely. It was like the universe brought us together to be like you all are going to be doing a podcast doing a podcast in four years from now, talking about your lived experiences as business owners and being calligraphers. Calligra-besties. Calligra-besties.

I think the only other thing that I wanted to touch base on is: community over competition has space, allows space for creative differences and growth. So I think for this, for me, kind of came from a place of, like, neither of us do formal Copperplate calligraphy or formal Spencerian calligraphy. Needless to say, your work is still gorgeous. It's your work. It is an expression of you, your creative lettering style. My style is constantly changing based on whatever I feel like at the time or what I feel like fits.

Whatever new flourish we learned recently.

But not putting each other down, because it's like, well, you don't use this exact formal training method or whatever else. There are spaces for all of us to have creative differences.

That’s so gatekeep-y.

It doesn't have to look a certain way to work in someone else's business. It doesn't have to look a certain way for us to encourage each other, whatever else. So that was, I guess, the other piece of it that I wanted to hit.

Yeah, I think so often, and I don't think this is just the calligraphy community or artist community, yeah. I think people can be gatekeeping. Like, if you don't have X training right, people all the time will be like, oh, did you go to art school? Your work is so great. And it's like, no, I didn't. I went to school for elementary and special education, and I was a teacher for eight years. And I think more and more in the world, we're kind of realizing that like you don't necessarily need a degree or a certification to be an expert. Yeah. You can be self taught. And of course, there's, like, pros and cons to that, and we can go into that another time. We'll not go into that now. But yeah, having that mindset of, yeah, like, people can teach themselves, or people can take a couple classes and then really hone in on their practice.

They can get a mentor, they know, do all these things. They could go on YouTube and still be considered a calligrapher without having that formal training. And I think that's such a way for

the systems that we live in in our society to keep people out of certain professions or careers. And we're here to say, you don't need to go to art school to be an artist. I mean, yes there are certain professions that yes, please go to teaching school to be a teacher.

But we're specifically talking about artists.

Yes, but there are certain professions where you don't need a certification. You don't need to know every single form of calligraphy to be considered a calligrapher.  You're still valuable in the industry. So, yeah, that's a great one. That's probably my favorite one.

So that is kind of our wrap on our hot takes on how we interpret community over competition, how we kind of integrate that into our business practices and everything else that is going on. Alex, do you have any nuggets that we can kind of leave our listeners with? How to maintain a community over competition mindset, how to integrate that in their business? Anything specific that we didn't already touch on?

Yeah, I do think the most important part is actually having a community. Yeah, that's a huge part, I think, especially in this world where loneliness is becoming like, number one cause of what is it? Death or something? I don't know. Was that too morbid?

I mean, it's fine.

Okay. Yeah. I think in a society where we are becoming more and more isolated, like, finding ways to connect with people who are like minded, who do want to embody this mindset with you. I all the time am team make new friends. So the Internet is a great place for that. Engage with people's stories, engage with people's posts, in a way where you're being authentic with them and where you're genuinely curious and finding people in your area, like San Diego Calligraphers, like, find the hashtag, and ya know, see who comes up.

You're really good at that. You are really good at finding – because I think the other way you can go about it too, and I think you do a really good job of it is sometimes finding your community isn't going to be completely niche. Like it might not be. San Diego Calligraphy Event Engravers. It feels like there's a lot of us on social media, but if you're looking for that specific group, I don't know if a group exists, but you might need to expand to, like you said, San Diego Calligraphers, San Diego creative business owners, San Diego artists. Right. So kind of looking for other ways that you might connect with other people who are experiencing similar things but maybe aren't your direct competition or someone that is in the exact same industry.

Yeah, like, I just joined a coworking community. It's actually where we're podcasting right now. It's called You Belong Here. It's in San Diego, and it's like a coworking space. And I've already met quite a few people that are also business owners where we can have conversations about these types of things. They're not calligraphers, but we do share. There's a lot of parallels in how we're running our business or how we're interacting with the world, how we're perceived in the world as artists or as business owners. And I think talking with other people in different communities are just really important.

I think that's good, too, not having someone be so close. Like, if you're kind of going down a spiral or a rabbit hole of maybe like an unhealthy competition mindset, or every once in a while you're in a dark spot because of something you saw or maybe like don't know or a client got swooped from you or something and you're just like going down that rabbit hole. I think sometimes having somebody that doesn't know that person because they're not in your industry, that can kind of bounce off you

Might be that mirror of like, could this be another reason that this happened? Right? Like, provide that alternative perspective, right?

And then someone that can point you back on the right path because, again, they're not going to go down that rabbit hole so hard with you. But also it could be somebody that's in the industry, too, that can kind of like you do it all the time for me. You're my check and balance. So I'm like, I'm spiraling. This is how I feel. Here's my five minute voice note. And you're like, well, I read that different. Here are my thoughts. And I'm like, all right, well, yeah.

Well, thanks, but no thanks.

Not what I wanted to hear. But I accept that I maybe I am not reading this situation  the healthiest.

Yeah, I mean, I think that's for everyone, though, too, right? There's so many times where I'm like, oh, my gosh, this is what someone said to me, or this is what I read online. The tone of things that are happening online or the things that we're perceiving are probably not even accurate, so just coming from it, from that lens of, oh, there could just someone didn't repost something of mine the other day and I was like, oh, my God, do they hate me? And I'm like, okay, actually, they're probably just like bad at social media or they forgot or whatever. And I had to have a friend tell me that of like, it's not you. I'm sure it was fine. And they still like you.

They're probably going to hire you again.

Yeah, literally. So stuff like that. It is so important to find communities or cultivate a community that could just be one person for right now. Start with that. Maybe it's just an online community. That's okay, too. For some of you introverts who don't like going to networking groups or coworking spaces,

I am an extroverted introvert. Reach out to us. We would love to cheer you on also that.

Yeah, team new friends! Team new calligraphy besties.

I was going to say, are there any other areas that you know of if someone listening to this is a calligrapher or specific in the event space that we can point them to? I know Neilsen Letters created a Discord group. I don't understand how Discord works. I am in the group. I’m figuring out how to navigate. I'm an old ass millennial. I cannot keep up with all of these techie, social media. Social media. I don't know.

I think that's a great one. Yeah. I think they created, like, a little Discord group, for anyone who's unfamiliar with I don't know what it is, where you can basically have a bunch of different threads of different conversations that people can reply to. And if you have the invite link, then you can be part of it as well.

So I think that's, like, basically on their stories or their website or something.

We'll figure out if we can link it, how to do that.

But there's a ton of things out there, and I think a good solution would be maybe we just come up with kind of a list for people where we put them in the show notes. Yeah, if it's like, a linky situation, it might not be a link. I think Calligra-file is a website that has resources and links to all the different materials and educators and digital things and whatever else. I want to say they have links on there for Freelance Union groups or local freelancer guilds.

Freelancer’s Union. That's a great website.

I don't know what a guild is, but they have. It feels very medievally to me, the word guild. I just think of, like, which I'm sure that's not what they said. Or maybe it is. I don't know. I don't know what it is.

I'm dying to know what's coming out of your mouth next.

I don't know what any of these things are. I apologize, but I think it's on that website. We'll add that in the show notes.

We'll come at you with some resources, and I think sharing those resources with others is also great. Information sharing is the vibe these days. That's how you can help your community. That's how you could become part of communities. So keep at it. Yep. And we'll keep at it, too.

I think the only other thing that I wanted to close with, I saw this quote. It's by Davy Jones, which I can't think of anything other than Davy Jones Locker from Pirates of the Caribbean, because this is how my brain works. But the quote is, competition is healthy when it's not at the expense of others. It was never meant to hold people back or put people down, but to push people forward in both winning and losing. Competition is a healthy part of life, but life is not a competition. Life is about relationships. So I think that really summarizes our whole vibe. We are out in the business of connecting, building relationships, serving our clients, serving our industries, and doing all those things.

Fuck, yeah. All right, let's end with that. And we'll see you all next time. Well, we won't see us.. well, you can hear us next time, we'll see you online.

Thanks for keeping up with the calligraphers.

Bye. Au revoir!