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  • Writer's pictureKristie

4 DIY Entrepreneurs Doing it for Themselves

Back when I was a young'un, if you weren´t a businessMAN by degree or trade, you had no BUSINESS peddling anything of your own (unless through a makeup or Tupperware cult).

Today, endless scholarships and mediocre foundation jobs either don't exist or require a degree from an Ivy League college. Ticket to ride is truly an outdated modality. It has been replaced by DIY Entrepreneurship, where there is little to no guarantee of long-term financial security, but plenty of opportunity to be a self-made person. Out of the loving depths of an ill-supported half-underground hosting one-off poetry gatherings festooned with endless cool-looking flyers, now flows self-made entrepreneurs providing consumers nostalgic for realidad with products, creations, designs, and deals...

People are doing it for themselves, and, in increments and measures, they are succeeding.

Maryjo Mattea, Scientist, Zumba Instructor, Musician

¨People seem so grateful for this one hour in their day where they can forget about all the chaos outside their doors and just let go and have fun.¨

Maryjo Mattea commandeers both the left and right brain. A PhD-minted researcher, she is also a part-time (edging on full-time) Zumba instructor, and plays guitar, keys, and sings in at least three well-known bands in Washington, DC. The phrase "Jack of all trades" does not apply to Maryjo, who is a master of pretty much anything she approximates.

Recently, Maryjo has taken to the interwebs to keep sharing her love of Zumba culture, filling her Zoom classes with - yes!- more than 50 people from all over the world PER CLASS. If anyone can travel across time zones using the force of Zumba, it´s her.

"I was teaching weekly Zumba classes at a local YMCA pre-COVID-19. I know how much joy Zumba brings me (which is why I got into teaching it in the first place), so when Zumba's home office lifted their ban on livestream classes, I immediately started thinking through the logistics of how I could teach virtually from my 492 sq ft condo."

"I offer the classes for free given how many people are without income right now. Because registration is through Eventbrite, folks from all over the country and all over the world are learning about and taking these classes. I'm teaching three times a week (Mon at 5:30pm, Wed at 8:00pm, and Fri at 12:00pm, all EDT) I'll continue to do so for at least as long as DC's stay-at-home order is in effect."

Krystal McRae: Blogger-in-Chief at Scenes from the Underground, Event Planner

"I’m someone who likes to think and plan and find that line between cautiously jumping in vs. freefalling without a parachute."

Krystal is Brooklyn's adept, agile, and astute storm-chaser, with a pulse on everything emergent in underground music. Her blog Scenes from the Underground covers events and interviews artists high, low, thither and yonder across the seven boroughs, giving thoughtful reviews and profound personal insight into a huge, burgeoning, and tireless scene and its revolving cast of multi-dimensional characters.

If you go to an underground show, you'll likely meet Krystal in the audience. Odds are, she also organized it!

"Scenes from the Underground is a smaller DIY blog in the age of a lot of DIY blogs/sites with bigger fanbases. I’ve definitely had to reinvent the wheel a bit and not only get more consistent with my posting, but also introduce a new interview series with larger bands, giving local musicians the reigns to write op-Eds on important topics, and even dropped a piece that was more news heavy about a prominent festival coming back to NYC in the fall.

In terms of event organizing, I’ve been in special events for 11 years and been throwing my own showcases for two years almost. It’s definitely been a treat to work with the bands I have worked with, and was actually in the middle of planning two showcases when the pandemic hit. It was heartbreaking to have to push stuff back and not know when it will be safer to put on shows again, but the beauty is when shows can resume, it’s giving me a new outlook on how to continue to run things and to grow even more as a producer. Tough times show character and can serve as a spring board on how to move forward and come back stronger."

Andee Blacksugar, Musician (KMFDM, Black Sugar Transmission), Artist, Teacher

"I went on social media each day and asked my followers/friends for a key, tempo and title, and, armed with those crowd-sourced suggestions, I'd write and record an instrumental guitar piece by the end of the day."

When major U.S. cities began to seal up, futilely attempting to put the giant genie of COVID-19 back in the bottle, and fumes of the apocalypse began to spray forth... I deduced who among my friends would write the most kickass soundtrack to all of this: Andee Blacksugar was my first (and correct) guess.

In just 13 days, Andee produced Lockdown Lullabies (under his all-instrumental Sheer Velocity moniker), a headspinning, 13-track guitar-centric album featuring a lineup of 13 guest musical heavyweights all in the throes of isolation. This gorgeous, self-produced album tops a pile of numerous other Andee-produced releases including a trilogy of well-anticipated Black Sugar Transmission albums slated for a seasonal release schedule across 2020. (Isolation, as it turns out, can be a productivity enhancer!)

"Starting on Monday March 16th, I went on social media each day and asked my followers/friends for a key, tempo and title, and, armed with those crowd-sourced suggestions, I'd write and record an instrumental guitar piece by the end of the day (with a video update to prove it). I pledged to post the album online two weeks later, after I'd accumulated 13 tracks."

Jen Meller, Lecturer, photographer, filmmaker

"As I laid there, all I could think was, “If I get out of this one, I don’t want to look back on this moment in quarantine 10 years from now and wonder what I spent all my time doing."

Jen Meller has always been one helluva lemonade maker, in pre-COVID times and now. She has spent the greater part of NYC's quarantine, if not all of it, in her apartment, and has 1,001 new ideas and projects to show for it. (Normally, Jen does not present as Courtney Love; every day, she features a celebrity adaptation photo of herself in her @menjeller insta feed. Her adaptation resemblances to Madonna, Siouxie, and Anjelika Huston, to name a few, are uncanny.)

Jen's artistic accomplishments, from photography, to documentary filmmaking, to personal assistantship, to graphic design, as well as her knack for lecturing, all came without a roadmap or personal guide for the terrain. (I often joke with Jen that she is an honorary Gen-Xer for all the grit she espouses!) Running in so many disparate circles, occasional rejection is inevitable. But Jen always has a viable backup plan, and rolls with it.

"At the start of quarantine in Brooklyn, I came down as one of the first wave of sick people. I spent my first few weeks of quarantine in bed in an apartment alone. As I got better, I dreamt up a plan. To cycle my time between things I love, or have loved. Something of a pie chart filled with exercise, teaching at Bric Arts, flute playing, editing my short film Venus. But when I got to the photography portion on this pie chart, I knew I needed a new project to occupy me; photo editing wasn’t going to be enough. That’s where I developed the adaptation project.

Adaptations are an exercise typically given to students when learning photography, it tests their ability to recognize and recreate light, costume, and camera angles. This was something I always had a knack for, and as a photographer/ video shooter, I missed working more than anything. I decided to ask people via instagram for photos, film stills, illustrations, or paintings they wished to see me recreate. Since I have a full studio lighting kit, my apartment has become my playground. Every shoot is different, each night, and different wigs. I’m on day 49 alone in my apartment, and it is the self care project I needed. There’s always another adaptation to be made."

(Special thanks to Maryjo Mattea, Krystal McRae, Andee Blacksugar, and Jen Meller, four inspiring people of 2020!)

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