Creative Collaboration and Girl Bosses of Michigan.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m really shy.  Seriously. I am.

I know you’re probably thinking that there is literally no way that is true, but it is. I remember very clearly being in 9th grade and having to sit down with the Assistant Principal at my school while she coached me through some real basics on “how to make friends”--her first piece of advice, “Smile like a maniac at anyone and everyone.”  I was wearing corduroy pants that day and my hair was fuzzy, and I remember my 14 year old self thinking, “Yeah. Right. Lady,” while she doled out this piece of wisdom.

But you know what? I tried it later that day.

I smiled like crazy at every single person who walked by me in the hallway (including that super cute junior, Joel Kretchsman, the demi god (OMG, I seriously cannot even tell you how obsessed I was with him)), and here’s the crazy thing…..they smiled back. Not everyone, don’t get me wrong, but at least 80% of those who received a huge Emily Alt 14 Years Old Rocking My Corduroys and Fuzzy Hair Smile….smiled back. At ME! My assistant principal earned her stripes that day in my eyes.

I tell you all of this awkwardness of my early high school experiences to emphasize a couple things: 1) reaching out to others does not come naturally to me and 2) more often than not, when you do reach out, it ends up being a really solid decision.

January and February are slow months in the world of wedding and portrait photography, and they also are the hardest months for me as a creative and a human. Winter and I do not really see eye to eye.  Harnessing this struggle, though, is key to me for recharging and refocusing going into the 2017 season. One thing I have worked hard to do is reach out to fellow creatives both locally and nationally, discuss collaborations, and in general just say, “Hey, I really love your stuff!” It’s amazing how much that can mean and how it can open great doors for friendships or partnerships.  Here is a round up of a few of my favorite small business creatives (and yes, they are all women, cause #girlbosses running it in 2017).  There are some neat collaborations in the mix with a few of these gals and I can’t wait to see what comes from it.


  1. Annie of Compass Paper Co:  Annie and I met through Instagram a year or so ago, and I was over the moon when she asked if I would photograph her 2016 wedding at her parents’ farm in Northern Michigan.  Of course, I said yes, and of course we became friends.  She’s an awesome human and running a stationary small business  in the woods near Cedar like a total boss. I really admire her constant optimism. Plus, her work is witty, unique, and empowering.

  2. Sweaty Wisdom: I’m not sure how I initially found out about Sweaty Wisdom, the brainchild of Chris, but I’m so glad I did.  She is working to slay the patriarchy with her bomb mugs, t-shirts and prints, but she is also working to coach other entrepreneurs in building their businesses, staying true to their values, and a bunch of yoga on the side. AND we’re partnering for a Pop Up shop at West Elm Grand Rapids on February 4. Boom.

  3. Stems and Sprigs: I’ve never met this gal in person, but based on her super positive daily Instagram posts, I know we would hit it off like crazy. She is based in Petosky and she took a LEAP to buy a lavender farm.  She grows lavender, works on florals, stylings, weddings, and all things beautiful.  The main thing I really gravitate to with her work, though, is her unbelievably positive attitude about life and all the various wonders and struggles that come along with it. I look forward to her morning posts because she always reminds me to keep my chin up and look forward.

  4. Alisa Bobzien: Alisa is a graphic designer based in the Detroit area who designed some of my favorite greeting cards, the Dr. Quinn Medicine series--these are the cards that ALL my expecting friends receive in the mail. Alisa is one of the other vendors in Michigan who is offering complimentary services for LGBTQ couples in the face of the GOP controlled government and the Trump administration, but she is also really working in a quiet and respectable way to create prints and cards that (not so subtly) call into question some of the very alarming policies and words we are seeing grace the media and political circuit.  

  5. Books and Mortar:  I couldn’t do a post without mentioning my new friends (ok, acquaintances, we’re getting there) Jonathan and Chris (the only non-females on this list) who opened the independent bookstore Books and Mortar in Grand Rapids a few months ago.  These two have a similar story to me--from Michigan, lived in Chicago, got burnt out, came back to Grand Rapids, worked hard to find fellow progressives….plus they love to read.  I visit with him at least once a week and I am really excited to potentially start a book club based in their store and maybe even sell a couple of my botanical prints.

  6. Wool and Honey: Another Northern Michigan based girl boss, Melissa and her sister Liz, run this adorrrraabble (like. That word pales in comparison to what they do) wool and knitting store in Cedar, Michigan.  If you’re thinking, “Cedar? Really? That tiny town?”, yes, it’s a small town, but her social media buzz is everything and she works super hard to reach out to others throughout the state to do get the word out about her tiny little business.  I’ve only popped in a couple times, and I can’t knit or purl to save my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming of days knitting away with two dogs at my feet.  I can’t wait to meet up more this summer and maybe if I’m lucky, they’ll teach me a thing or two.

There are so many more amazing folks out there, this is just a tiny drop of the beautiful creative energy of our fellow Mitten Women.  Who are your favorite small businesses? How do you shop local? Leave a comment--can’t wait to hear from you!