Savannah Davis joined Namta in 2020 as Communications & Marketing Assistant. She brings her Millennial perspective of the World to Namta Members of all generations with her featured articles in eNews.

You can send comments or thoughts to Savannah at [email protected]



A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

OCTOBER 7, 2020

Well, it’s October so you know what that means... time to put up the tree and start playing Christmas music in my house. Just kidding, I’m not that crazy. Although to be fair, it is a lot of work to decorate a tree (real, of course) and find the perfect balance of cozy holiday décor versus Hallmark explosion. Any crazy early holiday decorating members out there? I'm a 'day after thanksgiving' kind of decorator, myself.

Growing up in the Hahn house, we made the most out of each separate holiday as it approached- football season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. Football season being the first, and most important, the television stayed on football. It’s important to not miss a single minute of a Chicago Bears game. To be a real fan, you have to watch from start to finish so that the losses feel all the more personal. I am not a very assertive person, when I review my year and set goals for what I want to improve going into the next year…I always hope to be a little more assertive and surer of myself. That being said, my alter ego comes out when my Bear’s play and my husband says I am not the most pleasant person to watch games with. There is no shortage of aggression.

We weren’t big Halloween people but it was enjoyable. Jenna (my best friend) always had a homemade costume from her Grandma, and her Grandma was always kind enough to make me a matching one. We were little identical Madelines and flapper girls, etc. It was a little harder for my older sister, who always tried to challenge my mom with the most bloody, gruesome or just scary costume. Back then my mom was the traditional P.T.A. mom- no playing before our homework was done, no shows or movies over PG, definitely no swearing and nothing scary. I wonder if kids will trick or treat this year? I know my mom would have been sad, scary costumes and all, for us to not experience that. For any of you that dress up for Halloween and are wondering where to show off your costumes- we hope to see you in our Halloween Happy Hour- yes there will be a costume contest!

On to Thanksgiving. I can pretty much sum up Thanksgiving as a child by the adults scurrying around the kitchen cooking and baking all day. The kids would always sit around the table with hundreds of newspaper ads, and while a feast was being prepared, we circled our Christmas list items- each kid with a different color marker.  In my memory, my cousins and sisters and I are almost lost in sight behind a mountain of ads. The roars of our excited high-pitched screams drowning out everything else as we yell things like, “OH MY GOSH LOOK- THEY HAVE AN EASY BAKE OVEN LIKE WE SAW ON TV FOR $24.99!!!!” Razor scooters, Conair hair tools, American Girl dolls and whatever the latest arts and craft craze was for little girls. Bracelet making, paint sets, tie dye kits, box stitch lanyard materials- all circled in different colors piled on the kitchen table. 

Now I wonder, what is it like for retailers? How do you prepare for the holiday craze? How do you appropriately advertise for the uptick in spending that takes place? How do you project what people will buy more of? And what does all of that look like, during a pandemic?

Unlike my last, social media centered, articles- I write this to you with more questions than answers. But fear not- I’m not going to ask you to answer all of my questions. I’m just going to share with you that Kizer & Bender's Zoom session next week is ‘Owning the Golden Quarter: Readying Your Store for Holiday 2020’.. so you do not want to miss that on Namta Connect.

My nephew will turn 2 in February so we’re a little early on him circling his Christmas list but I know he is not far from it. I’m guessing he won't get a marker and circle them out of the newspaper ads anymore, but I will be excited for his list however it comes. The purchases may be materialistic but the feeling of giving is the true gift. Cliché, I know, but it’s true nonetheless. Now I would rather watch my loved ones open something and be so surprised and touched than receive something myself. Giving and creating moments of joy fill my soul with a warmth that can’t be emulated by the latest purchase for myself. Especially this year. When health and a job and the ability to hug my family – is worth more than anything else.

In the spirit of giving- I wanted to share with you all a little bit about our ‘Member to Member’ fund. We cannot take the credit and actually have to shout out Namta member Belle Heppard from Artist Angle for prompting us to create an avenue for donations. Belle asked us if she could contribute to others members who may be financially burdened with their membership this year. Thanks to Belle’s prompting, the ‘Member to Member’ fund was created and we are so touched by those of you who answered on your membership survey that you would consider donating. It has been a really hard year, but the season of giving is alive and well in the Namta family.

With the holidays approaching, no matter what you celebrate, I hope you have moments of childlike joy and wonder. I hope you feel the warmth of generosity and the glow of nostalgia from your age-old traditions…and most importantly I wish you all the chance to witness a Chicago Bears undefeated season.  (Edit: Since writing this we have acquired our first loss..so I now wish you all the chance to witness the Chicago Bears nearly perfect season with only a single loss. Bear Down)

- Savannah


A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

SEPTEMBER 23, 2020


Hi, again!

I feel like I say this every eNews but these articles really do time stamp my weeks and they make me wonder if once you hit a certain age, time just starts moving quicker. I probably bring up age because just turned 28 last week and I feel so grateful. I know I may not always feel that way about the aging process but currently I think it will be the greatest blessing to meet each birthday with a few more laugh lines and wrinkles from a life well lived.

28-years-old already feels like a big year for me- or rather for my family. In the next 12 months my little sister will have her wedding (hopefully- she already got married but no big wedding yet because, Covid), my sweet nephew will turn two, my second nephew will be born, and my parents will sell our family home.

First up, the house. My parents and my best friend’s (me and my best friend pictures from the past to the left) family bought houses on the same street, one house in between us, almost 15 years ago. The same best friend who got married a few weeks ago. Ever since we bought the houses, we have spent the years running across the back yards. Upon reflection, I am only now realizing how our two back yards were the cornerstone of our growing up. We had tent sleepovers on the patio, friends over before Friday night football games, vent sessions over soccer tryouts and friend drama. The back yard witnessed our tearful goodbyes as we left for college and our joyous reunions when we were home. We have mourned deaths, celebrated births, and gotten lots of dogs in between (and two birds). Engagements, proms, showers, graduations, weddings- all of life’s big moments and the millions of small ones have all occurred in two big family homes on Geary Street. There were six of us ‘kids’ between our houses and now we’re all grown up (the youngest is 20, the oldest is 30) and the houses are both being sold. Our parents, much to our (and their) dismay, have not purchased homes next door to each other... and so we are closing out the most incredible season as our lives grow in all different directions. And while this transition is unbelievably bittersweet and sad...the love and investment between our families will always be there because the connection was made and then nurtured on Geary Street.

As I wipe my tears I will redirect my emotional instability to chat with you about another kind of connection. That’s right, back to social media. Aka the platform I will be using to stalk my ex-neighbors every movement so that I don’t have to miss them so much. Instagram and Facebook are no different than an in-person relationship in that, they take hours upon hours of engagement to build connections. Except, even better than a neighborhood, you have zero geographical restrictions of who you can interact with. Perfectly curated feeds and color schemes are aesthetically pleasing and may attract followers, for sure, but those genuine connections (and then potential customers) will come from engagement.

I want to challenge you all to try to implement a couple of more simple items on your feeds and then let me know what kind of response you receive.

  1. WRITE A GOOD CAPTION:  What does ‘good’ mean? Well, good can mean different things- it can be long and personal and detailed, or short and to the point. But in general, your caption should sound like you, and relay your personality. Share a personal story or memory, give context as to why this photo is important, or share a though provoking antidote with a call to action. Different styles of captions will appeal to different members of your audience- so it’s good to use a variety of styles, especially while you’re testing out what you get the best response from. Whichever style you are using, make sure to read it out-loud before you post it. Reading it out-loud will help eliminate the easy typos that come from quick posting. Another good tip for writing your caption is to include a question- if you request feedback, advice, personal stories, etc., you are making it easy to prompt a response from your audience, and then start a conversation.

  2. RETURN THE FAVOR:  Interact with like-minded accounts. My sister and I used to run an e-commerce store that brought awareness to invisible illness through apparel. Our Instagram account generated a majority of our sales. So it was very important to follow and interact with different people amongst our target audience. For example- we followed a lot of people who included details about their invisible illness in their bio, or hashtags or posts. We followed other organizations who were championing similar causes. We followed educational or informative accounts that kept us up to date in what was happening in medical research, disability rights, etc. Not only is it important to follow these accounts, but it’s important to interact. You want to generate authenticity and organic engagement on your post, but you have to be willing to do that on other’s posts and account as well. Follow the right people, have a genuine interest in their posts/topics, provide them with feedback/encouragement/advice (deeper than a like), and then don’t be surprised when these people do the same thing for you. Especially if you have a brick and mortar business, you should absolutely be following, supporting and engaging with other businesses in your local area. Before you know it, you will have created an online community who support you and may even become your real-life friends and customers.

There are a million more tips that can help you with social media and we will be covering some of them on upcoming Namta Connect: The Theater sessions- but start with these tips and see where it gets you.

My closing thoughts on social media is just to remind yourself that it genuinely is not a popularity contest and people really do appreciate authenticity. Instagram has now even hidden the amount of likes your posts receive- so you don’t have to be afraid that you won’t get the amount of feedback you want, right away. Just be yourself, passionately share your ‘why’ of your business in as many different ways as you can and interact with your followers and those you follow. As business people, and just as humans, we all want to connect. We’re all looking for our ‘Geary Street’ group of people- who will support us, advocate for us, laugh and cry with us as we go through the high and low seasons of life. I hope you can begin to look at social media, if you don’t already, as a way to connect and extend your reach.

Have you made any business connections or even friends through online platforms, is there anything you’re particularly afraid of that has kept you from promoting your business on social media? As always, I would love to hear from you - [email protected].

Until next time- Savannah


A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

SEPTEMBER 9, 2020

Hello Friends!

Time for another entry in my pandemic diary aka the Millennial Column in eNews. I just returned from my best friend, Jenna’s, intimate wedding elopement after having to postpone her traditional ceremony and reception until next year. My calendar going into this year was slam packed with commitments but now I feel like it would be more accurate to scribble out the year and replace it with 2021. The clock ticks from 11:59 PM on December 31st to 12:00 AM on January 1st and everything will go back to normal, right? Don’t fact check or correct me because the idea of that magical normalcy gives me the same warm feelings as Christmas morning. This weekend felt like a break from 2020 as I got to stand (socially distanced) from my best friend on a beautiful beach as she married her college sweetheart. Jenna and I have been friends for over 23 years and seeing my oldest and closest friend get married sent me down a tunnel of nostalgia. It feels like just yesterday we were coordinating our first day of school outfits to match and saving seats for each other on the bus.

Now we’re both married, with cars and careers and bills. The only upside to adulthood is having our own homes and not having to ask permission from our parents to have a sleepover. Although, technically we still have to ask for permission (in the form of time off work) and now we buy plane tickets to reunite instead of running down the street. Before I start weeping into my laptop, I will wrap up this trip down memory lane by saying that time really does race forward at a rapid pace. Jenna and I couldn’t wait to grow up and now I feel like I am dragging my feet, pleading with time to slow down. But time doesn’t stop for anyone, even if you beg, even during a pandemic. If this year has taught me anything it’s that what you do with your time, really matters. The highlight of my “time spent” so far this year was witnessing my best friend get married thanks to her Uncle in California officiating over Zoom. Thank you, technology.

Speaking of technology, did my intro lure you in enough to make you forget we were going to chat about social media this week? I am hoping so. Social media is not only how I stay connected with friends like Jenna, but also how I created a majority of the sales for my business prior to working at Namta. If utilized correctly, social media can turn your content into customers. It takes time to build a following and interaction, but once established it will give you the freedom to connect with your customers and generate sales even when you’re not in the store. Because friends get married, graduate college, have babies, get sick, need help moving, etc., and time doesn’t stop to let you step away from your business and focus on those things. The good news is you can take time to be present for life moments as they arise, and connect with your customers, through social media.

There is so much to learn about social media that is above my head and I will not lie to you and say it doesn’t require full time management- because it does. But you can take baby steps to start building your brand identity and business presence on social media.
To get you some basic information I spoke with Jordynn Nicholson, a Social Media and Brand Coach. She sent me the 5 easy steps she shares with her clients to grow their online community. They are really straight forward and a great way to get started. If you already have an Instagram account, the steps below are still useful and I recommend using them as a guide to compare your current strategy with an expert’s opinion.

Step 1. Rethink your Instagram Name- She works with a lot of clients who have generic names that don’t translate well if you’re trying to market yourself or your business. Her advice, keep it simple and stay true to your actual name (or business name). For example: @Jordynn.Nicholson is a better Instagram name than @Jnichol32. Don’t complicate your name/business name when setting up your account.

Step 2. Have a Strong Profile Picture- Your profile picture is one of the first things people see when they go to your page. It can either make or break your entire profile. Once again, keep it simple. A pop of color in the background is always great, bright colors or bright whites are captivating and will draw people to click on your page and look at your content.

Step 3. Write a Solid Bio- Before she follows people on Instagram, she checks their bio for the type of content she can expect to see on their page. The bio should be brief your followers on who you are, what you do and what you create.
(For a retail store, I recommend putting what type of business you are if it’s not obvious in your name, where you’re located/ when you’re open, and a link to your website.)

 Step 4. Create Meaningful Content- In the past she has taken pictures she thought were really cool and posted them on her feed with lyrics or a cute quote, only for them to not get good traction. They were good quality photos but lacked substance. What value can we offer others? She encourages clients to dig a little deeper, tell a story, and inspire others.

Step 5. Engage with Your Community- This is the most important part!! When she goes through her clients’ posts during audits, she often views their followers talking to themselves. Giving compliments that are never responded to, thoughts that are never addressed and connections that are never made. Designate time a few days out of the week to respond to comments, contribute your thoughts to followers’ pages and start conversations with the online community. Engagement is so important from a growth and social standpoint.
 
That was all simple enough, right? How does your Instagram account compare to Jordynn’s advice? Do you feel hopeful about the growth of your business through social media or have any positive experiences through your already established channels? As always, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to email me any thoughts at [email protected].

Warmly,
 Savannah


A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

AUGUST 26, 2020


Hello Namta Members-
Another week down and another eNews. Does anyone else feel like time is flying by? On our happy hour last week one of our members shared they absolutely never stop working now- and it was the first thing I’ve seen a large group of people agree on all year. With reduced staff, playing catch up after closures, tedious cleaning rituals, and all of the other unexpected responsibilities 2020 has put on your plate, it’s not surprising that the work is endless. The pandemic has no-doubt shifted the goals we may have previously set for ourselves and how we measure our success. Traveling sales people have never logged less miles. Retail stores have never been closed more. Associations and industries have never canceled so many events and trade shows. And while words like less, and closed and canceled seem to symbolize the year- these things have all resulted in more.
 
More work, more stress, more hustle. More hours and communication and pivoting needed to be successful at your job.
 
And while the tasks may be different, the concept of ‘more’ and never really being ‘off’ isn’t new.
 
Over the last few decades, technological advancements have made us more and more reachable. The convenience of my phone is unmatched- I never have to wonder anything for too long, I just google it. Being directionally challenged is irrelevant because I use the ‘Maps’ app. I send and receive money from my phone, check the weather, and can instantly see my best friend’s face even though she lives a thousand miles away. We have come a long way from car phones, pagers and palm pilots. While I would be virtually useless without my phone, my great millennial flaw, we have the ability to multi task and be more efficient than ever before.
 
I’m sure in 20 years there will be a massive medical study on the mental effects of never ‘turning off’. Always working, emailing, tweeting, liking, researching…scrolling. Even as I type this, I resist the urge to pick up my phone and google- “health effects of constant communication” or “medical study on cell phone usage”. I push past the need for instant gratification of finding my answer because I don’t think I need the screen to tell me what I already know- the burn out will be real. I have seen enough headlines to know we need healthy detachment and ways to unwind, we need boundaries and designated hours to be unplugged and unreachable. Luckily, this time I didn’t google it and I am not in the medical field so I am not here to share with you what a detriment to your health this may be. I am a millennial who spent all of my childhood outside and knew to go home when the street lights came on but has lived my entire teen and adult life with a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a phone.
 
You may wonder where I am going with this. Well, I’ll tell you. All of this tech talk and constant communication is just my way to lure you in before I drop the boom. The boom being what I really want to talk to you about:  social media. DON’T ROLL YOUR EYES AND LOSE ME JUST YET- STAY WITH ME! It’s annoying, I know. You cringe when you see your kids or grandkids posting without any regard for their future employers’ judgement. You see middle school aged kids who look like they’re 30 something doing dances and makeup tutorials and pranks. You see people from your home town sharing about their messy divorce and political beliefs, and you think… why do I need to know this? (These are very specific examples and maybe your feed is better curated than mine, so ignore my last 3 sentences if they don’t apply to you). My point is this: The world never turns off; it is never going to slow down. Healthy or not, it's true. If you aren’t ‘on’ someone else will be and they will get the sale, earn the business, be successful. BUT you can utilize social media to actively stay in front of your customers so that you can unplug without becoming less relevant. There, I said it. If you’re still with me, thank you! I am not an expert (the real experts are Gen Z, but I’m the youngest Namta has so I will have to do) but over the next few weeks I am going to use my column to share with you some very simple ways to get the most out of social media as it pertains to your business.
 
Excited to share with you all! See you in the next eNews.

- Savannah


A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

AUGUST 12, 2020

Hello Namta Members-

I missed you all in the latest e-news. I came down with a stomach bug and was out of commission for most of the week. Getting sick is never fun, but I think we can all agree it’s more unsettling than ever before. I woke up in the middle of the night with a wave of nausea and groaned while I quickly recalled what symptoms of COVID I should be looking for, followed by every person and place I had encountered recently. Before I go any further, I should clarify I did not have the virus, but I would be lying if I said my paranoia didn’t make my heart race as I took my temperature. A few days of rest, Gatorade, and chicken broth seemed to be all it took to get me back to feeling normal. Normal seems like a pretty foreign term these days but I was back to wearing all our “new normal”. Back to not leaving my house without a mask, chatting with my friends about who we knew getting tested, checking out what businesses in Charlotte are closing and discussing updates on work from home situations.

I remember in March, seemingly overnight, most of the people in my life became remote employees. Non-clinical healthcare workers, human resources, banking, sales and marketing roles, etc… all started being conducted from home. As someone who has a chronic illness, I have always found comfort in a job that has the flexibility to be completed from home. Sometimes it’s impossible for me to come into an office but I can easily complete tasks on my laptop from bed instead of dealing with PTO and sick days. While most of my friends scrambled with this location transition, I felt relatively prepared when Namta made the inevitable switch. Maybe it was naïve of me, but I would never have believed that we would still all be working from home 5 months later.

Several of my friends or family members are now permanent remote employees, as their companies have eliminated the overhead and liability of massive workspaces with thousands of cubicles. With social distancing nearly impossible and employees proving to be efficient out of the office, companies all over the country are seemingly questioning what a workspace in the future may look like.

Work from home used to be most commonly reserved for traveling sales people, free-lance, and entrepreneurs- and while the shift had already begun to offer more flexibility, will COVID be the final straw on a “traditional” workspace?

Because my outlook on remote work is swayed by my own personal health experiences, I turned to my group of friends to get their opinions. Aside from a few outliers, everyone I spoke to felt relatively the same about where they work. In short, they look forward to being back in an office because they miss the social aspect of their roles, but they would love to continue to have the option to work from home when needed.

I am interested to know how you feel. Have you found it impossible to focus from home? Are you ready to pack up the office and never go back? Do you have a role where this even applies to you? Email me at [email protected].

In closing, I want to acknowledge that my ability to discuss preference on working from home means I am extremely privileged. I am so grateful to have a job when so many people are without and, above all else, I wish everyone a workplace that is accommodating and safe for them.  

- Savannah


A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

JULY 15, 2020

I have always been a tentative writer. If I am listing off my skill set and strengths, it is not something I include. Probably because I come from a ‘yes man’ family where anything I ever attempted was met with praise and encouragement. Unconditional love from parents and siblings comes with an inherent bias. I blame that bias on why I had the confidence to play basketball for two seasons and try out for the middle school team. I can assure you I am a horrid basketball player and I vaguely remember asking people to not give me the ball about half way through my first game. My stats sheet proudly holds a single point made by pure luck after an air-ball, and no that was not for the middle school team (obviously and rightfully so, I was cut immediately.) After my second season, I tossed my baby blue basketball shoes in the back of my closet and it has been a blessing to courts all over that I never pulled them back out.

 So despite my parents beaming pride over any word I’ve ever written- I have zero impressions that my writing will be the skill that I forge a career around. Nevertheless, I have spent the last two weeks praying to writing gods everywhere that I have enchanted you enough to read my column. I pleaded that you did a slight chuckle or empathetic head nod or even a ‘cheers’ at your computer screen while reading something I wrote- so that maybe that connection would bring you back. If you’ve made it this far in my rambling, I am going to cut to the chase and tell you that I need you here because I have something really really really important to share with you.

During the recent Zoom Happy hour, I was fortunate enough to virtually meet General Pencil Artist Julia Maddalina, while answering the ice breaker question she casually shared about a recent undertaking of painting healthcare worker’s portraits.

On March 30th, she sent a tweet out offering to create portraits for healthcare workers.

Portraits of the Frontline

The portraits would be her way of giving back to those on the front lines of COVID-19. She had a slow initial response but on April 7th she shared her first portrait and after that it took off like wildfire. Requests poured in from parents and friends and children of health care workers, and from workers themselves. As it gained popularity, Julia knew she needed to cap it and settled on challenging herself to complete 100 portraits.

I have had the pleasure of viewing these 100 portraits and the results are . . . indescribable. This is a time where words and writing fail me and I just beg you to look. To study each of the hundred faces. When I look at Julia’s work I see selflessness and exhaustion. I see bruised faces and tear stained eyes. I scroll through each face and give the portrait and the person the respect and time they deserve as I silently thank the stranger on my screen.  

Some of the portraits have captions with them and the combination of first-hand accounts with Julia’s life like paintings mutes the rest of the world. I keep clicking through and read about a healthcare worker named Alex from New York. The image she shared with Julia to create the portrait was the same image she texted her husband to show him her PPE to help ease his worries. Alex had just intubated her first two COVID patients and mentions trying to look brave. One of those patients was discharged weeks later, the other passed away. Tears slide down my cheeks and I don’t know if they’re for Alex or her husband or the two patients. But I keep clicking. I see Allison’s face and my heart explodes with sympathy, her cheeks imprinted with a mask that’s pulled away from her face for the image. Allison is also in New York and shares how she played voicemails and read text messages to a dying patient in hopes that it would comfort both the patient and his family who were not able to be with him because of the restrictions. I thank Allison’s portrait and keep clicking. I read accounts and see portraits of nurses, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists and doctors. They share stories of growing brave with their colleagues, grieving for their patients, and feeling the support from their loved ones.

It was hours before I pulled away from my screen and I’ll admit that I am still struggling to come up with the right words to describe Julia’s Portraits of the Frontline. I am reminded of a quote by William Wilberforce and so I will deflect to his words to sum up my feelings, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

I am grateful to Julia for seeing what is happening in the world and using her skills to bring awareness and support to our healthcare workers. For putting a face and a personal story to the statistics we hear. For sharing with us, a glimpse, of what our healthcare workers are experiencing. For reminding me why I will never, ever, complain about wearing my mask.

I am not a famous basketball player with a massive fan base, I am not an artist that creates portraits that bring people to tears . . . but I am a writer for Namta’s eNews and I could not see Julia’s work and not use my small column to promote it. I am making a personal commitment to share her work with as many people as I can- and so that starts with you.

View Julia Maddalina’s Portraits from the Frontline here.

Julia has partnered with Worldbuilders, who will be producing grid posters with all hundred portraits on them. The posters will be available for purchase as a fundraiser. Julia’s goal is to eventually have the original portraits on display together in a gallery show- before ultimately being returned to the healthcare worker depicted.

Follow Julia on Instagram @jmaddalina.


Stay Safe - Savannah


A MILLENNIAL'S VIEW
by Savannah Davis, Namta

JULY 1, 2020

“There is so much going on in the world right now... I hope you stay well.”

Sometime over the last few months, my standard polite conversations with the grocery store clerks, acquaintances I ran into at the gas station and food delivery drivers shifted away from my rushed “hi-how-are-you." You know the greeting I’m referring to, it’s the one that we all rattle off without much of a thought as we quickly cram change into a wallet while reaching for a receipt-  "I hope you stay well.”

I remember a few months ago typing in my pin number while the clerk bagged my groceries and thinking, “how are you doing?” feels like a pretty dumb question. You’re doing your job to make money while encountering hundreds of people a day because you are essential. You probably have some gratefulness for your job as millions file for unemployment, but does that gratefulness outweigh your fear when you leave your house while most of us hunker down? That question is not something I can ask as the line is multiplying with panicked shoppers behind me. It was such an apocalyptic feeling to walk into the grocery store for the first time to be met with rapidly emptying shelves and face masks but I hoped that as my brain fumbled the clerk could see in my eyes that he/she was appreciated. Humans are adaptable and eventually going to the grocery store didn’t feel quite as ‘Hunger Games’ as it did that first time in March but the reality still exists that most of us are working from home, Covid cases are going up, and our clerks are absolutely essential.

I had a relatively similar thought before logging on to Namta’s happy hour last week, reminding myself to not cheerfully and absent-mindedly ask how you were unless the space was suitable for a potentially intimate and vulnerable discussion. Rick Munisteri and I had chatted days earlier on what an acceptable ice-breaker would be, because the feeling remains that while we want to know “how you are doing”- it may not elicit an easy response. Despite getting feedback from a lot of you on how your businesses were, we don’t really know what this season has been like for you and your loved ones. What we do know, as we have said before, is the value on human connection has never been more highly regarded in our minds and we felt the overwhelming need to see and interact with our members.

For those of you who were not able to participate last week, we started by going around the “meeting room” and introducing ourselves before sharing how we have been either keeping busy or de-stressing since the pandemic. Members from all over (California, Lithuania, New Jersey, Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia, and more) sat with a beverage of their choice and shared about reading a book or watching a movie, laying out by their pool, walking their dogs and learning to garden. We had a member share about being furloughed and another member share about being a traveling salesman missing being on the road. We had members talk about redoing entire seasons of work because it is no longer relevant and a member honestly responding about how hard it is to answer the ‘how can Namta help’ question we posed. We also had a member tell us about an amazing project they dedicated this time to and I cannot wait to tell you more about that in our next eNews.

As we all shared, two things became glaringly obvious: 1) we have all been insanely busy scrambling to adapt our work, and 2) that it was genuinely nice to be networking again. 

In mentioning that, I invite you all to participate in our next Happy Hour, currently scheduled for August 18th - Schedule.

With that casual invitation I acknowledge that for some of you there are not enough hours in the day to give one to us. That is okay. Our invitation holds zero pressure but we do have several times and dates reserved to hopefully accommodate different schedules in the future.

To those who could participate last week, I know how valuable your time is and I cannot thank you enough. Especially being the ‘new girl’, it felt nice to get to put faces to names and connect with you. I have thought of each of you in the days that followed, wondering how my new friends were doing. I look forward to visiting with you again on Zoom and, as always, anxiously awaiting our in-person meetings at Art Materials World 2021.

While the chaos continues and there is so much going on in the world, I will close with reminding all our Namta members that we sincerely hope you and your loved ones stay well.

- Savannah
 


A Millennial's View
by Savannah Davis, Namta


JUNE 17, 2020

Anyone else find themselves constantly deleting emails? I feel like April, May and June have just overwhelmed my phone storage and I am quickly approaching a necessary upgrade. This sounds oddly like how 2020 has been on all our mental capacities so I don’t know why I am shocked at my phone’s limits. It’s very millennial of me to say this, but come December 31st I think we all deserve participation trophies for 2020!

Anyway, back to the emails- it goes without saying that the communication storm arriving to my inbox at all hours of the day was in regards to COVID-19. Unlike relentless sale messages that I quickly unsubscribe from, I found myself scanning all of them. Understanding the urge to say something, and recognizing this wasn’t limited to emails but also social media postings, handwritten notes on shop doors, etc... businesses everywhere frantically communicating to their audiences. Store hours, contactless pick up, deliveries, closings- words jumping out at me everywhere I look.  
 
It’s been several weeks since the influx in correspondence and I have taken a lot of that time to evaluate how companies I support have handled their message and what has stood out to me amongst a sea of similarity. As consumers, we had a real opportunity to look at how thousands of companies reacted to an unfathomably bad set of circumstances. We are all consumers- consuming products, news and updates, information and graphics, trends and changes.
 
On a more personal note than my favorite megastores with finely crafted PR messages, working for Namta, I have taken in significant information from our members on the art materials world and its retailers. We see you and the determination this season is taking, and I will sing your praises whenever I look back on 2020.
 

"It’s very millennial of me to say this, but come December 31st I think we all deserve participation trophies for 2020!"


But for just a selfish moment, I want to help you see us. I want you to see Namta.  
 
Like you, and everyone else, we have aspired to become masters at pivoting. Just a few months ago I had my first day at Namta. My new job jitters lasted until about lunch time where I looked around the table and listened to a close-knit team of people tell me about Namta and of course- Art Materials World. This was back before the real chaos of Covid started and we felt comfortable huddled into one booth and working in a small office filled predominantly with hand sanitizer for the upcoming show.
 
Fast forward a few months and we have had to cancel two Chicago show dates. The weeks in between each cancellation filled with a lot of fine-print contract reading and negotiating, booth layout adjustments, updating financial reports and marketing, and transitioning to working from home. So, without a show on the horizon until 2021 you may have wondered if Namta is taking a second to catch its breath. To feel the disappointment in not getting to see all the hard work come to fruition. Let me assure you, they have not. This team, if anything, has went into overdrive navigating how to still deliver for you.  
 
All of my peers deserve a standing ovation (or large glass of wine) but today I want to do a not-so subtle brag about the other “new” girl. While most of you already know Leah Siffringer, having been apart of the team since 2008, she started 2020 in a new role as Namta’s Executive Director. These are not times in the world where I envy anyone in a leadership role but there is no denying she was made for this type of position. She is the workhorse behind the scenes constantly pushing everyone to think bigger and do better for our members. Persistently researching and finding information to get shared on every platform so that it makes its way to whichever member may benefit from it.
 
To any of you who haven’t been on Namta’s resources page on the website recently- I implore you to go there now. I’ll make it easy, click here! But then come back...
 
As you scrolled through you saw The Palette, The eNews archive, The Gallery, Member Directory, Healthcare coverage options and so much more. Or maybe you have noticed the emails that say, “Hey members, we thought you may be interested in this..” directing you to outside resources, or participated in one of our Zoominars with Rick Munisteri and an expert(s). Or maybe you’re planning to participate in the upcoming Next Generation Happy Hour with Rick and myself (shameless plug because there’s nothing worse than being the only one at a happy hour). These resources are our way to connect with you outside of the show, and are being put together at the urging of the new Executive Director. Leah has also repeatedly shared that these items are not being put into place simply to serve you during the pandemic- these are tools that will be ongoing for Namta members in addition to the show. Our world is experiencing very trying times but Namta is taking it all in and making adjustments to continue to support you. These newer resources are just the beginning and knowing Leah’s style of ‘rolling up her sleeves’ and doing whatever it takes to get the job done, I know Namta will continue to be an association you are all excited to be a part of- and one I am proud to work for.  I know you would all agree with me, if you had gotten the chance to spend any time with Leah this year at Art Materials World…so the anticipation for 2021 will continue to build and in the meantime you can find us pursuing new ways to connect with you. 

We know your inboxes are full, your to-do lists are long and your worlds are transitioning into a new normal- and we hope you know that Namta is pivoting along side you and cheering you on every step of the way.

In the spirit of growth and expansion, we are taking in all feedback and genuinely listening to what resources are helpful for you. Please share any insight, praises or criticisms at [email protected]

Savannah


 


A Millennial's View
by Savannah Davis, Namta

June 3, 2020

I remember the first time I ever did a Zoom call.

I guess to be more accurate I am not sure it was Zoom, but same experience of replacing an in-person exchange with a screen created interaction. I was a freshman in college and snow was absolutely pummeling my mountain university. In the beginning that used to excite me, coming from Charlotte, I was programmed to believe that it took just the thought of snow to result in school cancellation. In Boone, I quickly learned snow means layer up and leave for class sooner. You want to get to class early enough to strip off as many articles of clothing as appropriate- otherwise you will sweat profusely in an over heated classroom and then be unreasonably damp when you attempt your walk home in below freezing temperatures. I simultaneously shiver and sweat just thinking about it years later.

Back to Zoom. One glorious day the snow surpassed the school’s comfort level and I got the golden ticket email informing me that the university was closed. I turned off my alarm and sunk into my memory foam covered extra-long twin bed, smiling as I rejoiced over the brilliant human behind black out curtains. The smile wasn’t even off of my face when my phone began pessimistically beeping at me that I had a new email. With a quick slide of my finger, my snow day vanished as quickly as it had arrived. In my inbox sat an invitation link for the zoom-like presentations that would be taking place at their regularly scheduled times despite the day’s closures. I remember being so confused as to how this was going to work and felt like my mom (no offense to any tech-savvy moms out there) as I carefully followed the step by step directions to allow audio and video on my computer. After several delays and frustrations to get everyone on the call, our presentations began. I will never forget how funny it felt to stand in my dorm room while talking to my professor and peers.  I remember experiencing an odd juxtaposition of comfort and invasion of privacy. On one hand, I was running through my presentation with the confidence that usually only existed in the safety of my dorm-room rehearsals. On the other hand, I was acutely aware of my unmade bed and the extra-large box of goldfish that was dimming my professionalism. I still remember closing my laptop screen and laughing at what an odd experience it had been- thinking I would probably never do anything like that again.

Now here we are, several years later, and Zoom has almost entirely replaced meetings, happy hours and conference calls. What once felt a little odd and uncomfortable behind the screen is now our new normal. In reflecting on my first experience with video based meetings, I can’t help but feel proud over how quickly the world adapted. This wasn’t a one-off snow day but an already months long pandemic that needs social distancing and minimal in-person interaction. Where I once rolled my eyes over the awkwardness, I now hold back tears over the sanctity of human connection and interaction. We need each other. I am so grateful that while we can’t shake a hand and wrap our arms around each other, I can still look my friends and coworkers in the eyes as we replicate the in-office meetings that haven’t happened in months.

The caveat to all of this being, I speak from the perspective of an ideal 'zoom-er'..I live with one very sleepy dog and a husband who, deemed essential, has never stopped going to his office.  But from an ideal 'zoom-er' to any non-ideal 'zoom-ers' who may be reading this, I hope you know how much I enjoy the interruptions. The dog barks, the kids barging in and then being chased out, the forgetting to mute your microphone as you yell out your take-out order. I love the make-shift home offices crammed into bonus rooms and doorbell rings and oddly angled cameras showing me a fraction of your head but mostly your ceiling. I love the visible cups of coffee and pictures hanging on your walls and screen adjustments that reveal pajama bottoms instead of suit pants. I see these normal life things and I am reminded that we are all human- behind our titles and ranks and roles. We are all doing our best, to do our jobs, despite life moving full speed in a lot of uncomfortable directions. I don’t know how long this will last, or if we will rush back into conference rooms cringing over the veil that dropped between our work and home lives – but for now, I raise my coffee mug to you (my fellow zoomers) from an Ikea desk crammed into a guest bedroom and let out a little chuckle as I push my snacks out of view before I get on my next video call. Hang in there everyone, and stay healthy.

- Savannah



A Millennial's View
by Savannah Davis, Namta

May 20, 2020

I am disappointed in myself to report that I have surpassed the phase in social distancing where I am obsessively cleaning. To be transparent, I am not sure that I ever reached that point. I did a little spring cleaning followed by a curb side pick-up for Sherwin Williams “Pure White” paint and felt surely my life would be transformed. My husband felt less convinced, and more bemused as to why it was necessary to change our living room from the light grey the previous owners had selected to white. I love the clean, pure, brightness of white walls and we had nothing but time so I picked up some supplies and was two walls in before he even got home from work. He refuses to be the husband that sits on the couch while his wife tapes the baseboards- so that is how he ended up at 1 A.M. spinning in a circle saying, “maybe it’s the paint fumes but I really can’t tell the difference, Savannah."  I acted utterly shocked by his comment and suggested he wait until tomorrow to look at it with fresh eyes- then he would recognize the “monumental” change. I will not be forwarding this week’s article to my husband because I will not give him the validation…but you guys, it really was hard to tell that we had painted at all!!  Now I am convinced the paint wasn't transformative because we really should be “overgrouting” our stone fireplace to help achieve the aesthetic I am going for and my husband is praying every night that I will get off the “Chris Loves Julia” home renovation blog. I will keep you all posted on how this turns out but I am dangerously close to hitting ‘checkout’ on my online cart filled with mortar, industrial piping bags and concrete dye. The persistent 'Marie Kondo-esque' thoughts in my head, begging me to purge all the unnecessary items I’ve collected over the years versus start another project, are getting a bit tougher to ignore but for now I push them aside and keep scrolling through fireplace before and after images.

I’m reminded of this need-to-cleanse feeling a few days later when I am on the phone with Johanna Wiseman (left) from Akamai Art Supply in Hawaii. She has generously spared me a few moments of her time even though her to-do list is rampant as they prepare to re-open their doors on a modified schedule and capacity limit. She tells me about how this unique time of having their doors closed for so long gave them the opportunity to go through and “make a real mess” of the store. Pulling items off shelves and taking the time to go through inventory, evaluating what they may have even forgotten they carried. Because of this large inventory undertaking, Johanna says they were able to make the best grab bags for their customers- filled with wonderful products at a drastically reduced priced. I look around my newly painted white living room and think of Hawaii- the beauty and color, and I swear in that moment Johanna read my mind and went on to tell me about the amount of support they have gotten from new people moving to the island. With everything shut down, Akamai Art Supply ran curbside pick-ups and in addition to the support from top customers, Johanna said they gained a lot of new customers from people who had recently moved to the area looking for ways to occupy their time. With so much suffering going on, I cling to the visual of new neighbors in Hawaii experimenting with paints and other art materials they got from Johanna and I can’t help but smile.

Later in the day, I chat with Cindy Hoeper (left) from Lakeshore Art Supplies and Framing in Wisconsin, and she echoes the sentiment of providing for their customers in the safest way possible, even offering free local delivery in addition to the no-contact pickup. I instantly draw similarities between Johanna and Cindy- both sounding so stead-fast on the phone, energized by their passion in running their stores, I suppose, or maybe fueled by the craziness of our current world.

Like Akamai and retailers all around the world, Lakeshore Art Supplies had to pivot to keep providing for their customers. After chatting with Cindy, I get follow up information from Erica Block, the marketing director for Lakeshore. She tells me that they asked customers to place their orders by email or social media message, telling me that they don’t have an online store so it required extra effort and some challenges for owner, Cindy, but that it achieved the goal of keeping sales moving. They were able to use social media to promote painting kits, calligraphy sets, books and other products, encouraging people to use their time at home to try something new.

I reflect on my conversations with Johanna and Cindy and Erica and think maybe good energy is contagious. Over the phone and through emails I can tell all three of these women work so hard to keep their art stores thriving and after each interaction I did a fist bump for girl power and entrepreneurs and small businesses everywhere. When the idea was suggested to me to reach out to retailers, I was a little hesitant, thinking the last thing people would want to do is talk to me after they have had their shop doors closed for months and their worlds turned upside down. But boy was I wrong. Would you believe that I didn’t hear a single complaint in all my research and interviews? What I heard was perseverance, the ability to adapt. I heard stories of community and support for small businesses and the ability of art to bring people together when physically we must be apart. I heard the love that poured out as shop owners insisted their number one priority was keeping their customers and employees safe and healthy. I have heard of ordering local take out and purchasing gift cards for later use and promoting neighboring businesses new hours. I hear compassion and my heart swells and my eyes get a little misty as I think about how resilient the human spirit is and how proud I am of the retailers and artists I’ve spoken with and seen online.

I am no expert on Corona virus or the economy, I don’t know if we’re on the tail end of this madness or just getting started, but what I do know is that I believe in people. I believe that we can take a load of lemons and make juice for our neighbors and that the hearts of our communities are good. I also believe my husband is going to leave me soon if I don’t stop pretending to be an expert on home renovations- but I guess only time will tell.

To the retailers who took the time to chat with me over the last 2 weeks- from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Namta is truly rooting for your success, impressed by your efforts and working every day to help provide you with resources and communication outlets you need to support each other. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out the Namta Connect outlets including The Gallery (an online forum), The Theater (educational zoom sessions starting this Thursday, contact Rick Munisteri for information) and The Café (happy-hour style zoom sessions starting in June).  Hang in there and stay healthy!

- Savannah

If you'd like to send Savannah a message, email [email protected]
 



A Millennial's View
by Savannah Davis, Namta

May 6, 2020

You know the proverbial scenario of you're stranded on a deserted island and you only get to bring 3 things with you? To make this game more relevant, let’s consider it is a pandemic and you’re able to acquire a few additions on top of your essentials. You have food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, face masks and your health and sanity (clearly this is a game because who actually has all of those things). This ‘3 things’ game is purely for entertainment items, so with that being said, I will be selecting wine, my dog, and Netflix. Don’t tell my husband that I am putting Ozark above him, but if you’ve seen it, you understand.

Luckily, for the sake of the world, there are people using this time to dive deeper into their craft. I aspire to be like those people. Like Erin Stewart who would grab Windsor & Newton watercolor paints, Princeton paintbrushes, and Canson watercolor paper. While I have finished work every day and religiously turned to Chardonnay and Jason Bateman, Erin says the pandemic has only increased her awareness of the necessity to create beautiful things. When I chatted with Erin she shared with me that it is so easy to look around and notice destruction, fear, and hurt.  She went on to say that she believes artists have the opportunity to help people process dark and heavy things through their work, and that it is, “a beautiful gift to offer a struggling world something lovely, beautiful, and hopeful- and to allow them to think about those things through art.”

After my conversation with Erin I sat in deep reflection over her words, her sense of responsibility to create beauty. As I ponder this reality I wonder how many other artists are creating what could be their greatest work- and what an exciting prospect that is. I reach out to another artist, Karah Hamel, to see if she shares Erin’s sentiment. Karah considers herself to be a growing artist who loves to experiment with new styles and methods, but tends to gravitate towards very bright colors and playing with the mixture of realism and surrealism. She tells me she has tried everything from oils to watercolor to wood burning tools, but acrylic allows her to do the work that she feels most inspired by. Her love for acrylic is fueled by it’s versatility and affordability. Karah is a recent college graduate with student debt and navigating a job market filled with hiring freezes and lay-offs. “Since I use some very bright colors and sharp lines, using a heavy body acrylic prevents me from having to keep going over it again and again with more layers to make it bright enough, and it gives the canvas some interesting texture. For more detailed components, I can also water it down a little to blend colors seamlessly, and acrylic dries so quickly and is heavy enough for me to be able to paint over portions and start again if I'm not happy with how it turned out”, she rattles off and I absorb it all, impressed by her adaptability and desire to  create regardless of circumstances.

Pictured,  "LOVE IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK" by Karah Hamel

I think of the greats- the songwriters and painters and authors, and think about how common it is to hear the story of their struggle before they hit it “big”, how the world’s pressures and dark circumstances created greatness. Will my future children take a field trip to view a Karah Hamel masterpiece? Will they look on at the captivating art and try to fathom the farfetched history of the 2020 pandemic that forced us all to retreat to our homes, but bore out of it greatness? Artistic greatness is never a worthy trade off for humanities’ suffering, but maybe it’s a sliver of joy among the wreckage.


So thank you Retailers- for your online orders and curbside pickups and supply kits. For navigating your stores ability to supply the greats with the materials they need to help us all process this world. If you’re a retailer who has sadly had to temporarily shut down, thank you, too. When the world opens back up there will still be a lot of processing to do, and we know you will be there.

Thank you to the Artists who contributed to this story with their interviews.

  • View Karah Hamel's work here.  
  • View Erin Stewart's work here.

 



A Millennial's View
by Savannah Davis, Namta

April 22, 2020

Turkey Trots, Dance Recitals and Spaghetti Dinners

Who else is guilty of making plans and then breathing a sigh of relief when they get canceled? Sometimes between friends and family, exercise, grocery shopping, cleaning and everything else on life’s never ending to-do list, you must put up a mental out of office and say, “nope, not today”. Today I am saying no to all obligations and sitting in my pajamas and binge watching Schitt's Creek (again) while indulging myself in an all-day diet of wine, cheese and crackers. If you’re hesitant to make this confession, it’s okay- your secret is safe with me. But considering social distancing, I would like to go on the record and publicly apologize for my sporadic personal days throughout the year. If I could, I would go back and say yes to attending your fundraising spaghetti dinner, my second cousin’s dance recital, the unnecessarily early 5K and that high school friend’s Facebook request for moving help. (Maybe don’t quote me on the 5k participation- Turkey Trots are not my thing).

If I knew then how much I would miss everything and everyone now, I wouldn’t have turned down a single invitation. I had no idea how appealing an uncomfortable auditorium chair and never ending dance routines to Disney songs would sound after so many weeks of seclusion at home. How would I know to miss that?

On the flip-side of 5Ks and spaghetti fundraisers, when I got the official word that Art Materials World in April wasn’t going to be possible, I knew that I was missing out on an incredible experience. You see, I am an Art Materials World virgin and I was brought on to the Namta team specifically to help during the show. I had been anxiously awaiting the end of April so that I could finally see what all the hustle turns into; what the staff pours every ounce of energy into making so successful. I have quietly combed through so many of your company’s social media accounts and websites so that I could see your stores or products or artistry- I just couldn’t wait to see everything in-person.

We exist in such a digital world that events like trade shows are the welcomed pause on emails and text messages and phone calls- and rather the immersion into face-to-face networking, exciting demos and energetic showcasing. All the exhibitors have a story to tell and I was prepared to soak up each one like a sponge. But then Coronavirus happened and instead of packing my suitcase for Chicago I am making sure my top half looks presentable for a Zoom call later. It goes without saying that canceling the April dates was the right decision, our health matters above all else, and in the big-scheme of things my disappointment is insanely trivial and minute in comparison to the world’s grief right now. But to any of you readers who thought you, too, would be gearing up to attend Art Materials World- I hope you know just how excited I am to meet you when the time is right. What an experience Art Materials World will be with our re-discovered appreciation for human connection!

Until then, you will find all of Namta doing our parts to flatten the curve by staying home, pivoting our expectations for this week, and diligently pursuing new ways to connect all of our members.

 


A Millennial's View
by Savannah Davis, Namta

April 8, 2020

Hi there! I am new at Namta and, like previous jobs, have been dubbed the sole millennial of the office (not that I had much time in the office before Coronavirus turned the world upside down).

When surrounded by the counterparts of Namta, each with impressive resumes and the amount of knowledge that can only come from several times the amount of work experience I have had, I wonder how I can contribute. But in an effort to stay connected, simply being born between 1981 and 1996 (I think those are the right years) gave me a seat at the table with people far more impressive than I am - and I am smart enough to take advantage of my opportunity to learn. So while we practice social distancing and the "seat at the table" is actually a small Ikea desk at home next to my dog, you can find me doing different tasks on the website in my endless rotation of athleisure and pajamas. I look forward to getting to know you all and am hopeful to get to meet you at Art Materials World.

And for whatever it is worth, here is my millennial take that I will leave you with: when eventually the world opens back up - may we all re-enter it with a deeper appreciation for our grocery store clerks and teachers, our health care professionals and delivery workers, our chatty neighbors and kind strangers; may we tirelessly promote our favorite small businesses, openly acknowledge the impact the arts has on maintaining our mental health, and never take for granted the ability to embrace and catch up with a friend.