Happy 1st birthday to Motley! We can hardly believe that our baby business has been around for a full trip around the sun. We wanted to share with you a bit of “A Year in Review” but more than just a recap of projects we’ve worked on, we wanted to share about how and why this whole thing got started, and how we’ve allowed it to change us along the way.
I didn’t want to start this business.
I used to think that saying that made all of this less valid, but now I know that isn’t true. A year and change ago, I would have told you that right now I’d be working a 9-5 tech job, perfectly using my new college degree in a city I really like.
A year ago, I was wrapping up a job in Atlanta. I was working in marketing for a social entrepreneurship resourcing non-profit where I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and innovators, but I never thought I could be one of them. I didn’t have a good enough idea, I didn’t have the capital to start something, I didn’t know enough cool people to get it off the ground, and I didn’t know enough about business.
But I knew I cared deeply about placemaking and communities. I knew how much the places I loved had affected me personally. I knew that when I started to look for jobs, nothing seemed right. And, I knew that when we started dreaming of exactly what Motely is today, I couldn’t let it go.
We spent the summer planning this business from 353 miles apart, and on August 2, 2018, I headed back to North Carolina for good and we received our LLC paperwork that Motley was the real deal.
A couple weeks later, after a quick backpacking trip through Oregon, I started my senior year of college, freshly self-employed. I was a full-time student, working part-time at a coffee shop, and launching Motley. So when people said the first year of business was the toughest, I knew they weren’t kidding.
Since then, we’ve gotten the opportunity to work on exciting projects and come alongside some pretty amazing communities. Our company has stretched and changed in ways I didn’t think were possible and I’m proud of what we’ve made and how we’ve grown into as a business.
I’ve learned that we’re in the business of people more than anything else. As a work-driven, goal-oriented person, Motley doesn’t allow me to hide behind my output. I’ve learned that this work needs my heart and a full embrace of the grey areas, and it’s pretty uninterested in my to-do lists.
I’ve learned more in the past year than I thought possible: about myself, this field, and other people. I’ve learned about the pendulum of it all. This work is so fun, healing, fascinating, and redemptive. It feels like the most natural thing I’ve ever done, the very thing I was meant to do. But sometimes it’s frustrating and heartbreaking, and every move feels stumbly, unnatural, or like I’m 18 steps behind.
A quote that has stuck with me over the past 365 days is this: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.” — James A. Michener
I didn’t want to start this business. Now I couldn’t disconnect it from the rest of my life if I tried. Here’s to another year of doing both.
It’s been a year. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since we submitted our documents, approved the logo and made this whole thing real. I love what I do. This year has been a learning experience filled with fun client work, challenging projects and beautiful, community led successes.
This is more than work to me. And we feel like we try to communicate this every chance we get, but I wanted to spell it out again as I reflect on this past year.
I’ve taken a few career paths since I finished school. My first job out of college was working in refugee resettlement. I was assisting newly resettled refugees in finding work and equipping them to navigate their new home. This work was so rewarding, but incredibly difficult. Every day, I was working with people who had built entire lives in other places and then had to be uprooted for their safety, working to rebuild in their new home where nothing truly felt like theirs. Everything was new, most of the time in a really big way. What created an environment for them to be able to claim their new space and create ownership, was having a way to provide for their family, to be able to navigate their neighborhood, have healthy relationships with their community and a way to express themselves and be heard. Twenty-one year old Chelsea had no idea how much this work would inform the work I do now.
From refugee resettlement I went and worked at the Sustainable Business Network in Philadelphia. I loved the people and politics that surrounded, challenged and supported the work we did at SBN. I went on to open a retail store and loved every minute of the downtown revitalization efforts I was able to have my hands in (however, the retail side of things wasn’t for me). From there I worked in a non-profit doing community development in a centralized downtown. Here is where I fell in love with murals, business recruitment, community summits and placebased marketing as a way to love and amplify communities.
Up until now I didn’t know how my resume worked together. Now, I get it. I have a business background, I have experience working with refugees and how to represent underrepresented people groups, I have experience working on a main street and a town that I love dearly. All of these things, as disjointed as they felt, brought me here. And now here we are, one whole year into Motley. I’m beyond excited and humbled for the work that we have had the opportunity to do and the work still to come.
This work is people work. It’s redemptive. It’s bringing people a home that don’t feel comfortable. It gives voice to newcomers and highlights beautiful histories. This work gives a voice to those who need to be validated as community members. This work gives a paint brush to a kid growing up needing a creative outlet. This work brings businesses and community members together to strengthen the health and wellbeing of their community.
These are the parts I hold at the core of what we do: caring for people, creating spaces of justice, art and peace, integrating beauty, sustainability, and redemption in the building of places and people in ways that show goodness and light in this world.
Thank you to those who have worked alongside us. Thank you to those of you who have supported us in our work, our growth and our shortcomings. We very literally would not be here without you.
So, cheers to year one. We will be over here celebrating with our cute cake and margaritas. Y’all stop by! :)