Heidi’s journey has taken her from Silicon Valley to Phoenix to Portland, leading creative teams at big and small brands alike. She was head of production design for Tiny Prints & Shutterfly for 8 years, where she lived the start-up life and the early seeds of entrepreneurship took hold.
Heidi met Sonja Rasula, founder of Unique Markets, at HOW Design Live in Chicago where Sonja was the keynote speaker. Inspired by the maker and design community and driven to make an impact in her city, Heidi made the move to leave her 9-5 job and immerse herself into laying the groundwork for launching Unique Markets Portland in 2020.
She’s a Roseway resident and lives with her husband, a 3rd-grade teacher, their two little kids, and adopted rescue pup. When she’s not hustling, she enjoys time with her family, getting immersed in a good book, and volunteering at her kids’ neighborhood school. She’s always down for a glass of wine and exploring vintage shops around town.
We loved how Heidi has been helping small businesses grow during the pandemic and we're so excited to share this interview with you!
Let's dive in!
For our readers that don’t know about Unique Markets Portland, how would you describe it?
We create modern pop-up shopping experiences shining the spotlight on local small businesses then we invite the public to come shop, support, and have fun!
Our markets are highly curated and feature up & coming brands, artists, and designers.
We exist to help them showcase their work and grow as businesses. We also create a fun and inspiring setting and produce our markets on a seasonal basis like Spring, Summer, and Winter.
We believe in the impact of shopping small and the benefits to a community when they put their dollars right into where they live so we preach that message.
How did the idea for Unique Markets Portland get started? How did you bring it from dream to reality?
Unique Markets Portland is a franchise of Unique Markets which was founded by Sonja Rasula in LA 12 years ago. Sonja wanted to bring together all the amazing, high-quality small businesses into one massive shopping experience and help small brands grow big and thrive.
After spending years working at big and small brands alike, climbing the ladder, failing, thriving, feeling both valued and underutilized...
More and more I felt driven to have a more positive and lasting impact on my community on a hyper-local level.
As a mom and a serial hustler when it came to my job, it was also important for me to be able to take total ownership of my time, energy and output when it came to my work.
At the end of 2019 I ditched my successful 9-5 as a design director to launch Unique Markets in my city because my Portland community is everything to me.
What’s your favorite thing about the work that you do?
Meeting the people behind the brands that we feature at our markets.
Getting to know the talented entrepreneurs who sacrifice, push themselves, dream and believe in their product…
They inspire me!
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs who want to host events or scale their events to your size?
Success and growth happen over time and hard work. Don’t be afraid to start small and wear all the hats; learning and growing along the way.
How do you find your collaborators?
Connect with people who have the same values as you and find ways to support each other.
Don’t be afraid to ask or reach out. I’ve received way more Nos than Yesses, but the yesses have been amazing!
Did you have any mentors when you started out? What does your business inner circle look like now and how have they helped you grow?
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to have mentors over the years that have inspired, pushed, and supported me.
As a small business owner who has no coworkers or employees, it’s super important to nurture these relationships because you can easily get stuck in your own head. I have a circle of friends both nearby and far that I keep in touch with.
From former bosses to people that I’ve worked with to fellow moms & friends that I’ve made along the way.
It doesn’t have to be all business, either!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started this business?
Launching in a pandemic year meant that my business was shut down before it even got started… I wish I would have known that everything would turn out ok. ;)
Seriously though, to survive and maybe even thrive it takes adaptability and flexibility.
You’ve got to be able to flex, learn new skills, and break things down in order to rebuild.
How do you use social media to promote your business? What tools, apps, and processes help you out the most?
I mainly use Instagram although it feels like constantly trying to keep up.
I’ve found that planning posts in advance has been super helpful for me and also allows me to be more authentic, avoiding the pressure to have a perfectly polished feed.
Do you have any time-saving life or business hacks?
I used to be super old-school and do all my designing in Illustrator, but for quick and professional-looking assets I love using an app like Canva. You can share it within a team too which is great for collaborations.
Were there any mindset shifts or “aha moments” that helped you grow as a business owner?
When the pandemic hit and my business was literally cancelled, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I had barely gotten started and after leaving a steady paycheck, putting my family’s financial stability at risk and taking a chance on myself, I went through a period of second-guessing my choices and abilities.
I went from having a clear path forward to having no certainty at all.
That took time to work through, and finally, I realized that while I couldn’t change the circumstances, I could control my mindset and reaction to it.
That makes all the difference!
How can people connect with you?
I’m also more than happy to connect by email email@example.com
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*Photos Courtesy of Unique Markets Portland