A Twist of Fate, a Turn of Events, Pick a Straw to Begin a New Journey

Contrasting cultural attitudes and receptivity between India and Maine

Large Fish, Form, Body and Glaze by Weston Neil Andersen

I have an unexpected project to work on this week and I have nothing to lose except my time and energy, and even that is not a loss because I will learn something from doing it.

So I am writing this post as a process that is supposed to segue into focusing on the project.

The project came about because I have been receiving some support for my newsletter from TealFeed, a new knowledge-sharing platform based in India. India recently passed China as the fastest-growing economy in the world. India has 650 million people and nearly half of them are below the age of twenty-five.

Recently a representative from TealFeed reached out to me on LinkedIn to set up consulting services on the Tealfeed platform and I asked if they have mentors for guidance on how to do it. A response came after a week or so from a different representative suggesting that I contact one of their financial advisors who turned out to be a representative of an equity investment firm and was most interested in the ceramics business.

That may seem like a strange path but I liked it, being so unbureaucratic, a spontaneous organic process. I ask for one thing and I am directed to another but I am glad that it was the ceramics that they picked up on because that is a very important matter that I must resolve in my lifetime- otherwise known as my life purpose.

A Vintage Towhee in Mint Condition- See Here! Photo by author

The call was scheduled for yesterday and by the end of the call, a follow-up call is scheduled for next week. Asked what the size of the investments is in my head and I said two million, based on the amount of money I see comparable local organizations raising and the need for a very talented legal council to figure how how to structure the network, which is similar to an online platform like uber but it is not an online platform but like a platform requires a legal arrangement connecting a field that works together but a platform is in cyberspace and the field is in the real world, imagine that! The real world imitates cyberspace! I am Post Meta Modern!

I told the financial advisor, whose name is Rayan that I hadn’t considered investors before because they seem to care mostly about the exit strategy, which is where the business is sold and the investors walk away with their profits. The founders and second generation of Andersen Design value the business as a work process. The small business purpose is achieved as a life involved in an engaging work process and with people that one can effectively and respectfully work together. In the old days, they used to say “making a living doing what you love to do”. I haven’t heard anyone use that phrase in a long time.

When dealing with investors, one deals with capitalists who are not involved in the work process but we need capital. Can there be a meeting of purposes without compromising essential values? The challenge in the twenty-first century calls for new paradigms of work-process and capital relationships. The future will be very different with humanity facing existential challenges that restructure a multiplicity of relationships. Andersen Design’s capital is unique. It is the product of decades of involvement in the work process.

I said the estimated fundraising goal is just an intuitive number, and we might be able to do it for less, but Rayan liked that I started large and I liked that the company didn’t. Rayan said the most common funding amount is 100,000.00 which is low for the investment industry. I like that. I prefer small, and many things considered, small may become the way of the future.

In my brief acquaintance, I like the TealFeed people and Rayan, Tealfeed’s fundraising expert. I have presentations to work on. The sample templates and models are for new tech and digital companies because that is the most common type of investment these days, but the person I was talking to was already familiar with our website and knows that Andersen Design makes hand-crafted ceramics and is interested in that. That’s different. Andersen Design is also different here in the USA as a ceramic company that did not export our production to countries with low labor costs back in the eighties, for obvious reasons, being the purpose of the company was fulfilled by being engaged in the work process ourselves, and now as the world spins, work process engagement is at the core of everything including the large corporate agenda and what is emerging is that the best working environment model is based on the small free enterprise business, which large capitalistic corporations try to imitate in order to get workers to innovate for the enterprise. My idea is different, instead of working with corporate teams, work collaboratively with independently owned studios networked together for mutual support but I need to team up with other capable people interested in the idea to make it a reality.

I was curious about what is happening in ceramics in India and found this:

Pottery making business in India is a beautiful example of the journey covered by an entrepreneur from ‘ Mud to Money.’ Pottery in India has evolved over the years into magnificent ceramic art. It is not only a piece of clay for daily utility but is also the most significant factor of the source of income for many. Today entrepreneurs are not just exploring their creative side by manufacturing different pottery patterns but also building their careers based on this creativity. The pottery business in India provides mass employment to the people and the upgraded standard of living. Both the rural and city people comprise the massive workforce in the industry and have contributed tremendously to India’s economy.

The pottery industry comes under the small scale industry of India. Pottery is exported to over 140 countries from India. In the year 2019–20, India has exported pottery worth of 9.97 USD million. The volume of export in 2019–20 was around 5164429.

This is something I can relate to, especially these words:

Today entrepreneurs are not just exploring their creative side by manufacturing different pottery patterns but also building their careers based on this creativity.

That is a core idea of the Andersen Design brand, and the ceramic-making network. Andersen Design, the brand is about individuality. The passages above communicate that idea. Andersen Design’s values have something in common with India because India has large hand-crafted industries. It makes sense that craft-makers in the craft-making nations would evolve toward a similar ideology as Andersen Design’s, which was a response to the factory production of its own time as the world entered into the Age of Plastics. The question is can my idea be done in America? I am projecting that American culture is changing at its roots. The workforce is seeking a better working environment than corporate culture offers and also for ownership opportunities.

So just at this moment, I get an email, from someone whom I also connected with on LinkedIn whom I will call Jenny, with whom I have been in an off-and-on discussion. I am not clear on the intention of the conversation that began on LinkedIn. Jenny lives in Maine and is a ceramist and is involved in non-profit industries and mentioned working some with Grow Smart. I was initially hoping that she might become a board member for the museum but I soon realized that was not going to happen. I try to maintain a positive attitude but I am talking to someone from a different culture. She says things like My understanding is: Social enterprises seek to maximize profits while maximizing benefits to society and the environment, and the profits are principally used to fund social programs. How would the profits from Andersen Design be used to fund social programs? What programs?

The non-profit mentality misses the part where free enterprises pay taxes and those taxes fund government programs. It is hard for those of the non-profit culture to understand that a social enterprise is not a nonprofit and is not governed by regulations that govern non-profits merely because fiscal sponsorship makes non-profit funding available to private enterprises that serve social functions, such as teaching ceramic making on the job, while paying a wage and payroll taxes. Non-profits can use volunteer labor and do not pay taxes. I told Jill I was not going to give our profits to any social program. Our profits are our income, but I did not explain to her that teaching ceramics on the job is the equivalency of a social program. Soon she was telling me that a fiscally sponsored project is an employee or volunteer worker of the fiscal sponsor. This is the definition that Jenny gave for a Model A Fiscal Sponsor:

Model A. Where the individual who approaches the sponsor becomes the sponsor’s employee or volunteer, we call this “Model A,” “direct” or “comprehensive” fiscal sponsorship. The project becomes the sponsor’s, so the sponsor has complete authority to run the project and spend funds for its purposes. This definition is found on the website for the legal firm Alder and Colvin

In my understanding and experience Model A fiscal sponsorship and comprehensive fiscal sponsorship are two entirely different arrangements. The word “comprehensive” gives a clue. In comprehensive fiscal sponsorship, the fiscal sponsor does take over part of the functions of the operations, usually, office and legal functions, and may even have part ownership. Model A just means that as a fiscally sponsored project, I am able to raise funds through non-profit resources, which is my responsibility. I have to have my fundraising efforts approved but the fiscal sponsor does not manage or take over my business functions or run my project. I run my project. The sponsor takes a percentage of what funds I raise. Imagine in one fiscal sponsor were in charge of running hundreds of projects, large and small! How well would that work out?

However, I see that since a few years ago when I was paying attention, some have been busy rewriting all the models. Fortunately, The Field, my fiscal sponsor uses the original definition of Model A Fiscal sponsorship.

Notice the way this definition of Model A takes over ownership of the free enterprise company and turns the owners into employees of the 501 C3 organization? What exactly does the free enterprise get out of this redefinition of Model A fiscal sponsorship? Why would anyone do that? This is the first time I had ever seen fiscal sponsorship put in such slave-ownership terms and I am very certain that I have viewed the definitions on the Alder and Colvin website previously. In the past, non-profits merely framed fiscal sponsorship as a transitional step to becoming a non-profit organization and not a stand-alone option on its own terms. This new definition reflects how much everything, in the minds of some, inevitably leads to the individual or small enterprise being controlled by a hierarchy and not a free and independent actor.

I told Jenny that there are laws that govern employee-employer relations and that I had never heard of the fiscal sponsor issuing a paycheck to projects. The sponsor takes a small percentage of what the project independently raises within approved parameters, and if volunteer work is required then it is not volunteered it is obligatory, trying to maintain a positive attitude. At one point Jenny also claimed that to qualify for fiscal sponsorship one must be a non-profit and I quoted from the American Bar Association:

Fiscal sponsorship is a contractual relationship that allows a person or organization that is not tax-exempt to advance charitable or otherwise exempt activities with the benefit of the tax-exempt status of a sponsor organization that is exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3)…….Because fiscal sponsorship does not refer to a relationship that is defined by the law, it may take many different forms. American Bar Association

I told Jenny many times that I am fiscally sponsored by the Field but she ended up the conversation advising me that I should look for a fiscal sponsor.

Regarding “maximizing profits” that Jenny associated with a social enterprise, such terminology was never part of our lexicon. No one ever said those words or thought that way. If it were, we could have charged much higher prices for our work, but the idea was to make a handmade product affordable to the middle classes, back in the day when there was a middle class. That is a purpose distinct from “maximizing profits” which Jenny seemed to believe is part of the definition of a free enterprise. No, actually it isn’t. That is part of the definition of large corporations with shareholders.

Now she is suggesting that I should sell the business and recommends a Maine business broker that I can use. She is not suggesting that I should do a fundraiser for the space we need and that she would connect me to resources that can help me with that. Nor is she suggesting that I could license the designs. No, we must relinquish control of what our family built and let others do with it what they will.

I avoid responding to that by telling her about my conversation with the financial advisor in India, who advised that for our situation we should locate investors, not sell, and I sent her the models of the various presentations I have to work on. The Indian company helps with that but I want to develop my own presentation to start the conversation. Perhaps she could connect me to someone locally who can help me with the presentation but I don’t think she looked at the models or considered helping me from the perspective of what I am looking to achieve.
Jenny writes back:

Red. Flag! Be.Very.Careful. Work with a local bank or company that you know. Seriously. This smacks of danger to me. Why would you go that route, it is grasping for straws when you probably have not exhausted local connections.

I highly recommend Renee Kelly, she is wonderful and also familiar with production methods. https://umaine.edu/innovation/people/renee-kelly-2/

This is the way many conversations in Maine go. There is no willingness to work with the direction that the small entrepreneur wants to pursue but to lead away from it as if the person most centered in the business doesn’t know anything about the business. I thought back to the last person I connected with from one of the State programs, apparently someone admired by many but a complete A***** to us. He started the meeting by asking me why I thought we were there and I said “to have a dialogue” and he said, “You know what I think a dialogue is? Me talking and no one interrupting”. He made it clear that he looked down his nose at us, but nonetheless, he couldn’t help gushing about the value of our product line and brand as if it had nothing to do with us and was a thing apart. His attitude is very typical of what one finds when one interacts with Maine’s economic development services, and relates to the policy advanced by the University of Maine that holds that authors no longer own the rights to their own intellectual property, the owners of facilities do.

I reached the point where I do not want to put my energy into the entrenched Maine system a long time ago and not for lack of trying. Why would I go the route I have chosen? Because I am treated respectfully? Because in India hand-crafted ceramics are valued both for economic development and creativity. Because I was connected to this firm through a company that I am getting to know because of this newsletter where I express my own ideas. Jenny knows that but I do not think she reads my newsletter. She takes the attitude I so often encounter when presenting my vision of where I want to take the company I inherited- the professional experts tell you to do it their way instead and do not engage with our ideas. They have it all figured out and the people are just units in their master plan.

I looked at the link she sent. It’s written in ubiquitous corporate speak. It is the University of Maine, an educational system that is also a for-profit corporation. I don’t like the message of the banner image displaying luxury corporate real estate. Ms. Kelly teaches students how to be innovative at the University of Maine which claims intellectual property rights over any innovation taking place within its publicly funded facilities. Double Red Flag! I do not like corporate buzzwords used in the presentation. I find it cold and alienating. Furthermore, it features a company that I associate with corruption:

Ms. Kelly was a founding member of the leadership team for Blackstone Accelerates Growth, which transitioned to become Maine Accelerates Growth, an initiative to create a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation in Maine. source

Blackstone is a global investment company and has ties with Jared Kushner and the Kremlin and various untrustworthy foreigners. Triple Red Flag!

Before Weston moved to Maine and owned a double-ended sailboat, he drew this double-ended sailboat with design instructions when he was living in Ohio. An idea became a reality but he didn’t design the boat, he just bought it.

I think I will go with the “grasping at straws” route but I prefer the metaphor of steering a boat in the fog since there is no one to advise me, that is how it feels. I liked that I asked Tealfeed for a mentor in writing a consulting portfolio and instead they connected me to financial advisors that can help to connect Andersen Design to investors. I would not even be thinking about this if it were not for Tealfeed. Tealfeed correctly identified my core purpose, rather than ignoring it, and I did not proactively initiate that kind of support. It seems like a worthy straw to grasp an understanding about. I liked the way that process worked. Kind of off the wall but seemingly right and furthermore that means I don’t have to take everything literally. Following the same pattern, I can translate the model presentations for investors into a presentation speaking to the firm that offers services to connect my company to investors. I can use the models to define what I see as the challenges of trying to put this all together and what I need from the other side, at this point in time, TealFeed is offering to give me the type of support I need. Maine State Inc doesn’t do that- at all, not in the least!

By “chasing after straws” I get to explore the possibilities of forming a relationship with a company that acts as a liaison between investors and my project, and one of the services the company offers is to help with the presentation that is shown to investors and they are suggesting American investors. There is a fee, while not small from my perspective, it is not large from an industry perspective. I will need to do a small fundraiser for that, if I decide to go ahead with this.

My presentation should articulate our company philosophy and the challenges I perceive in bringing this together, which I hope their company can help to solve. The way that they respond to my presentation will give me information about who they are that I can use to determine whether they are a good match.

Or I could attend a local economic development group’s meetings for a year in silence to show them my supposed respect in hopes that after a year of groveling before the highnesses I might be allowed to present an idea.

I think I will grasp at straws instead, maybe I can weave the straws into a lifeline with my craft-making skills.

This newsletter was once just a straw. Now it is a boat and has a Domain Authority rating of 91 on hrefs.com, which is incredibly high, and I am fiscally sponsored by the Field, and I am a peer reviewer for Humanity and Social Sciences Communications, and now through TealFeed I am talking to a company that can potentially connect Andersen Design to investors and so I will keep writing my way into the future, this week it is taking a new form.

Andersen Design was once just a bunch of sketches on paper.

Before there was Andersen Design, there was a pen and a piece of paper.

The new revolution will be fought with pencil and paper and YES! Straws! Go grasp at a straw and let the current take you where it may! The answers are-you know the rest! I might get sued if I finish that lyric here!

About Susan Mackenzie Andersen

I was blessed with being raised in this amazing business in a home that uses ceramic slip-cast production as an art form. My mission is to set this business up so that others can enjoy the same lifestyle while benefitting from what Andersen Design created. Follow me on my substack blog, Mackenzie Andersen's The Individual vs The Empire! I write about the public-private-non-profit-profit wealth concentration and redistribution industrial complex - and then I dream a better world.

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