Next Asheville speaker

Marta Alcala-Williams

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April 26, 8:30am • Asheville Masonic Temple • part of a series on Inclusive

Speaker Spotlight – Marta Alcala-Williams 

Parent/Family/Community Engagement Leader, Asheville City Schools


Website  |  Facebook

Month: April  |  Theme: Inclusivity


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.
Making sure I have a racial equity lens in all of my work and the way I show up.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

A dancer and then a labor and delivery nurse. Instead went to school for a BA in psychology


Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?
After I had my children I knew that I had to delve deep into race because my children are bi-racial and how would I support in navigating the world as a Latina with kids that experience my roots and also the anglo side.


What is the best part and hardest part of your job?
Best part is having a group of women that meet weekly for years and growing that are speaking truth every week, discussing racial equity and justice.

Hardest part is having to remind some white folks about privilege and fragility.

What on-the-job tools do you use every day?
Language and processes that reflect social justice and equity.


What about your community inspires you?
Having accountability partners that are in positions of power and sharing the power for all of us to thrive and heal.


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
“Inquire, listen and then share and reflect on what you heard”

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?
Yes, when I first started working for ACS I went into community suggesting ideas and programs and that did not stick. When I partnered and inquired about “what would be beneficial to move community forward then we developed the relationships that now have in Motheread and at Marvelous Math Club


What books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone interested in furthering their creative practice, or starting a creative business of their own?
My grandmother’s hands, Just Mercy and to go see Brian Stevenson at UNCA on April 25th at 7:00 PM


If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?
I would partner with more leaders of color to connect with MMC leaders, go on more vacations and get more massages.


Who are your favorite creators and makers, local and beyond?
Nadine Burke Harris 

Anything else you’d like to share?
Feeling grateful for the opportunity to share what inclusivity means to me.

Speaker Spotlight – Jael Rattigan
Co-Founder and CEO, French Broad Chocolate


Website  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

Theme: Water  |  March 2019

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

Dan and I founded French Broad Chocolate in 2006. We have experienced so much change, growth and evolution since then!  We, and our talented team of 90 Asheville folks, are now crafting all the chocolate that we use in the pastries and desserts at our retail locations, of which there will be three by the end of April. We have developed strong values for sourcing with integrity and making chocolate with a craftsman’s mentality. As far as my practice, at this point, it’s all about people and relationships. We create relationships to the source of our food, and we share that connection with our guests.


Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I discovered my affinity for working with chocolate in 2003. I was making truffles and confections as a passion, and to share with family and friends. The chocolate maker was called Scharffenberger (which has since been purchased by Hershey’s), and was really the founder of the American “bean-to-bar” chocolate movement. Paired with a chocolate cookbook called Bittersweet by Alice Medrich, I was falling in love with simple recipes that really highlighted the unique flavors of cacao.

On one particular day, I was rolling truffles in dark chocolate in my kitchen in Minneapolis, my hands entirely covered in chocolate. My hands literally began to tingle, and I looked down at my open palms. I said out loud, “Chocolate is the thing that will make me happy.” It was a clarity I had never experienced in my life.  I’ve been on the chocolate path ever since.


What is the best part and hardest part of your job?

Working with people is both the best part and the hardest part of the job! I aspire to be a connected, authentic and inspiring leader. Sometimes I feel successful in this endeavor, and just as often, I am disappointed in myself and know I could do better! Our stated business values are almost all about people - serving one another, operating from a place of trust and honesty, giving the benefit of the doubt, and working cooperatively towards shared goals. Our goals are lofty, but we want to create a company that has a positive impact on people, and uses business as a force for good.


What on-the-job tools do you use every day?

Macbook, iphone and my backpack are the tools I use most, as a mobile CEO moving between three locations and all around Asheville.


What about your community inspires you?

I am constantly awed by the collaboration in our community. Asheville is a place where “collaboration over competition” is real, and we have established deep relationships and friendships with other businesses in town.


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

To grow with purpose. Early on, when we were faced with the need to scale our business to better serve our customers, we struggled with what that meant. Was growth bad? Were we becoming “corporate”? Were we being greedy, or growing for growth’s sake? What we realized through guidance from a mentor, was that we truly believed in what we were doing as business leaders. We make awesome products and our business decisions are guided by a set of values that we believe are worth sharing with other communities. And by increasing our production, we can buy more ingredients from our awesome farmers and makers, both locally in WNC as well as in the tropics where we source our cacao, which makes us better business partners.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?We experienced failure early on in our business, when we were still operating as a farmers market business. We actually called it quits. The chocolate business was not supporting our family financially, with a toddler and another on the way, and we were scared. But we had a timely visit from a dear friend who emphatically pronounced that “the world needs your chocolate!”. This gave us the grit and fire we needed to persevere in realizing our vision. We enrolled in Mountain Bizworks, writing a business plan for the Chocolate Lounge, as a beautiful space where the community could come together over chocolate. Without the farmers market fail, I don’t know that we would have been able to envision and create the Chocolate Lounge, or achieve all we have at this point.


If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?Write. I have a goal to write a book about chocolate and our experience, and I would devote the time to working more actively on that pursuit.


Who are your favorite creators and makers, local and beyond?

I’m a big fan of East Fork, of course. I love their values-led business model, and their focus on simple and functional beauty. I adore the artwork of Andy Farkas, who does stunning wood engravings and moku hanga printmaking.

Live music makes the morning better! For February, we celebrated with Asheville musicians Brooke + Nick to get the morning started!

Speaker Spotlight – John Vigeland
Co-Founder/CFO, East Fork

Website  |  Instagram  |  Facebook 

Theme: Symmetry  |  February 2019

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

Well I started down this path by studying the traditional pottery of the southeastern US during a 3 year apprenticeship with a potter down in the piedmont. That looked sorta how you might imagine: preparing clay, cleaning buckets, maintaining the kiln, cutting firewood, and learning how to throw pots in relation to a particular traditional lineage, and a lot of earnest striving.

Now my day-to-day looks quite different: I create and maintain financial models that allocate and track the flow of resources through our small company which involves a good bit of computer time. I work with different department heads to troubleshoot operational problems like inventory management, budgeting, production planning, marketing spending and analysis. And spend a lot of my mental real-estate on worrying about the best, safest, bravest, truest path forward for East Fork.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

I remember having artistic aspirations as a young child–nothing specific, but I imagined I would grow up to do something “unconventional.” A flower farmer in the south of France who writes killer haiku, an abstract expressionist, a hunter-gatherer, etc.


Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

A career potter came and presented to my ceramics class my senior year of college. Hearing her talk, it was the first time I put it together that being a potter for a living was even an option. I was really in the thrall of making pottery on the wheel at the time, and the idea that I could do that professionally was intoxicating. It aligned with my sense that I wanted to do something a bit outside of the fold to earn my keep (see above).

What is the best part and hardest part of your job?

The answer to both of these questions is the same I suppose: the unrelenting call to step into difficult situations and be vulnerable; to be asked to try your best and know that you’ll fail sometimes. On the other hand, it’s a privilege to get to bear witness to the people around me stepping up to things, misstepping and succeeding, growing and changing. Opportunities for growth–they’re so hard but totally what it’s all about.


What on-the-job tools do you use every day?

O man–it’s cheesy as hell but the first thing that springs to mind is compassion. Being able to coordinate a group’s efforts efficiently toward a shared goal and to problem solve along the way requires that we all continually try to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings and perspectives.


What about your community inspires you?

Getting to see a group of people looking out for and taking care of each other is always inspiring. Also doesn’t hurt that everyone here is smart and funny and talented and delightful in a thousand different ways.


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Just because it’s the status quo, doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. It takes more effort, but scrutinizing why certain structures or policies or systems are “standard operating procedure” for businesses is the only way you can own the process, and create something that is authentically a reflection of your values.

If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

I imagine that during these 3 hours I’m also a more virtuous, strong-willed individual than my current self–so in this fantasy I would go out for long pleasant runs where I reflect meaningfully on the day and poetically observe the cedar waxwings eating the dried-up crab apples in the neighbor’s tree. 3 hours of peaceful contentment if possible.

Speaker Spotlight – Dr. Bradley Williard

Researcher, Opera Singer, Creator & Founder of The Williard Method

Website  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

Theme: Surreal  |  January 2019

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you think you know exactly where you’re life is going, and something greater than yourself takes you on a very different path?

Almost two-decades of being in the performing arts as an opera singer, all-but-dissertation in my doctoral degree, and I was thrown face first into my “Eat, Pray, Love” moment. That moment change the trajectory of my life: I left a partner of 4 years and multiple friendships, sold everything I owned, and dove into the unknown. I lived in Berlin for over 2 years, experiencing every color of emotion and aliveness. I thought I was going to Germany to sing, but really I was going to find the truth of my voice.

Fast forward, I am the creator and founder of The Williard Method, a somatic breathing and voice integration process that I created from my doctoral research. I help thought leaders, voice professionals and unheard voices discover what it means to embody their voice and truth, helping them to step into a life of purpose and love.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be in the performing arts. I started out in ballet in the Dance Preparatory division at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, but I stopped dancing because my family had a different idea of masculinity. I am so grateful I followed my heart and passion for the arts, and that my love for self-expression was greater than the gender barrier I knew growing up.


Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I starting studying vocal technique when I was 15, but the work I do today with the voice, breath and body is pretty specific to my gifts and experience. To be honest, there are not a lot of people doing this type of healing work, which is why I created the method. I wanted to introduce a new a way of looking at the voice that did not put the voice first, but instead focused on creating a deeper relationship with our inner and outer experience of the breath, body and life. I knew I had landed in my purpose when I could fully let go of the singing career and step into the path that my soul was calling forth.

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What is the best part and hardest part of your job?

With a doubt, the best part of my profession is getting to work with clients that are really invested in their inner and outer growth. That particular mindset tends to create more vulnerability and emotional openness around the voice and its connection to the breath and body. On the other hand, someone who has a fixed idea about their voice and body can be very challenging, because the emotional body has already created walls. The voice is a very intimate relationship for most people, and it always needs to be approached with gentleness, compassion, and great sensitivity.


What on-the-job tools do you use every day?

The only tools I need to guide my clients are my ears, hands, eyes, breath, voice, and intuition – and my client’s willingness to dive deep!


What about your community inspires you?

I am constantly inspired by our community’s commitment to equality and inclusiveness. We have a ways to go when it comes to race, but I am happy to see the women of this community finding their voice. My hope is that the community as a whole can move beyond the confinements created by gender and race, and focus on creating the relationships that make room for all of our voices, while healing our community.


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Make mistakes, and make a lot of them!

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

My biggest moment of failure actually came during my doctoral degree - I failed my first attempt at the qualifying exams. I realized that I had focused on the intricacies of music, and glossed over the foundations. For six months, I relearned the basics and re-built my foundation, and passed the second round. As much as that failure hurt, I learned a very valuable lesson - it is not about the impressive details, it’s about how solid your basic foundation is. That lesson became invaluable when I created a healing modality for the spoken and sung voice, built on the foundations of the breath and body.

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What books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone interested in furthering their creative practice, or starting a creative business of their own?

One of my favorite authors and researchers is Brené Brown. We both tend to look at vulnerability and self-worth through the same lens. Everything she has written thus far is solid from a social science perspective, and she walks the talk of being vulnerable in her research and writing. She is paving the way for how scientific research can also speak the language of the heart, while helping people awaken to their own possibilities.


If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

Can I be choosy as to where I want to use these three magical hours? I would love to have two hours in the morning that doesn’t include feeding the dogs or getting ready for the day. Simply walk from the bedroom to my office, with a cup of coffee, and begin my creative process! I would like to give the other hour to my beautiful and loving partner. I know, I didn’t give him half… that’s the Capricorn in me!  


Who are your favorite creators and makers, local and beyond?

One of my favorite creatives here in Asheville is local artist Matt Willey who created the Good of the Hive initiative. Matt is hand-painting 50,000 honeybees in approximately 50-70 murals around the world to raise awareness about their population decline and celebrate their incredible behaviors. I admire his focus and commitment to standing in his joy, truth, and purpose.


Anything else you’d like to share?

For all those voices who are trying to find their way to their truth: true power lies in our willingness to cultivate a relationship with ourselves, grow our self-confidence, and embrace vulnerability as a strength.

Speaker Spotlight – Melissa Weiss

Author and Founder of Melissa Weiss Pottery

Website  |  Instagram

Theme: Tradition  |  December 2018


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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

I am a self employed studio potter. I have a teenage daughter. My partner and I run a studio that houses 18 artists. My partner works with me and we each work on average 40-50 hours per week. A typical day is waking up at 7 getting ready, dropping my daughter off at school and getting to the studio by 8. I make work until 5 then head home to meet my daughter. We cook dinner and eat together. I will usually do some business related computer work after dinner. On a good day i will get outside for run.  


What did you want to be when you grew up?

I had no idea! I didn’t know any adults that did anything exciting or cool. I seriously thought being an adult meant having a boring job and life. I wasn’t resigned to that fate but i had no examples of an adult that had a passionate life or profession. So i knew i didn’t want to be boring but i wasn’t sure how. I didn’t understand that anyone could be an artist. I thought that was reserved for people who had some talent they were born with and if you had it you would know.

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Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I had never met a potter or even looked at any pottery. I couldn’t name a single potter or anything about it. I took a pottery class because it sounded fun and I had just had a baby and needed a break. I knew that i loved it that first class because for three hours i didn’t think about my baby at all for the first time since i found out i was pregnant. I didn’t really learn anything about other potters and pottery in general aside from technical skills until i took a wood firing class and learned about pottery outside the shiny, glazed studio pots i had seen in my classes.


What is the best part and hardest part of your job?

The best part of my job is that i absolutely love what i do. The hardest part is managing all the aspects of running a business that aren’t just the making pottery part.


What about your community inspires you?

The ceramics community is truly generous and supportive. Potters are a special people in general. I had never worked and communicated with such a large group of people who go out of there way to help and uplift each other. It’s inspiring and teaches me to better in my daily life.


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Raise your prices. Value your work because it is you.

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What books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone interested in furthering their creative practice, or starting a creative business of their own?

My book! “Handbuilt, A Potter’s Guide.” by Melissa Weiss

And “The Unknown Craftsmen” by Soetsu Yanagi
If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

Run or walk in the woods, take a yoga class and meet a friend for cake.
Anything else you’d like to share?

Speak out about injustices.



Follow Melissa Weiss: Website  |  Instagram

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