Our 2012 Small Business Awards

Honoring the local, independent entrepeneurs who make the city a better place to live, work, and play

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Kelly Malone of Workshop and Indie Mart, our 2012 Woman in Business
PHOTO BY MIRISSA NEFF

WOMEN IN BUSINESS

KELLY MALONE, WORKSHOP AND INDIE MART

In a tech-obsessed society, our hands navigate today's gleaming gadgets more often than those of yesteryear: a sewing machine, say, or a manual drill. DIY goddess Kelly Malone has spent years trying to change that — and in so doing has created a business that serves as a cultural touchstone for the budding Divisadero Street corridor.

Malone's brick-and-mortar shop is named Workshop (1798 McAllister, SF. 415-874-9186. www.workshopsf.org), and it's a place where aspiring crafters receive hours of instruction in oft-neglected skills like sewing, knitting, and terrarium-making — all while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and meeting new friends. After receiving an enthusiastic response from her Indie Mart (www.indie-mart.com), a handmade craft fair she started six years ago in the backyard of her Mission digs, Malone saw a need for a hub for would-be crafters.

"I wanted to create a space that was super 'hit it and quit it,'" she says. "Where you could come in and take a class, but you didn't necessarily need to become some expert knitter. A place for people to sit down and get their hands dirty, learn to make something, and get inspired."

Malone started Workshop on scant funding. Instead of relying on bank loans, she looked to her immediate community for investors. "I've started every business without money, which has forced me to really put myself out there and grow my businesses by meeting people and being super-passionate about what I do," she says.

Malone says having a big budget to open her businesses would have been fun, but saving her pennies and having flea markets and garage sales to pay for sewing machines gives her more street cred, DIY all the way.

And like our favorite kind of businesspeople, Malone hardly sees her enterprises as a sterile way to make a quick buck. "I'm never going to get rich off these businesses, but if I get to the point where I can have a couple people on staff like I do now, and have enough to pay bills and go get some beers, hey, that's good enough for me." (Mia Sullivan)

CHAIN ALTERNATIVE

SPORTS BASEMENT

Although based locally, Sports Basement (www.sportsbasement.com) is technically a chain, as it now boasts four locations: an 80,000 square-foot building at the old commissary in the Presidio, SoMa's brick-and-wood location, a store in Sunnyvale that once mimicked the inside of a computer (look for the remaining "ESC" keyboard sign), and another nearing Mount Diablo in Walnut Creek. But beyond the fact that it offers the only real alternative to national conglomerates when it comes to one-stop athletic and outdoor gear, the retail company is fiercely dedicated to its Bay Area community. Plus, its cozy, with hand-painted cardboard signs detailing specials, comfy couches, and super-friendly staff.