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Thomas LJ Harper[edit]


Founder of creative youth-based social enterprise Tote Street Studios

A.K.A., "That guy who got all excited about rearranging the NB Member Shelves and came up with all these awesome ideas and spreadsheets and shit and then flaked out like a little bitch because his small business exploded and he had to forfeit all 'hobbyist' commitments."

OH YEAH, now you remember me.

Tote Street Studios:[edit]

 The reason I'm abandoning the shelves (for now)

Because you didn't come here to read ten pages of business model, I'll just cut to the exciting parts- the changing the world bit.

[INCOMING WALL-O-TEXT] [scroll down for tl;dr]

Mission Statement: Empowering self to generate income, selling what you make and doing what you love.

I believe that the education, bureaucracy, marketing, licensing and trade systems have proven to be far too complicated and broken when I see youth in shelters, drawing and creating incredible, mindblowing products and art and blueprints for accessories which promptly go to sit in notebooks and gather dust. These talented and exhausted youth are then forced to forfeit their talent and passions and spend all their time and energy searching for food service jobs that simply aren't there.

If they even knew where to start, if they had the energy to research their markets and improve their product design, the money and time to cut through the bureaucracy of licensing and copyright, the knowhow and funds to contact manufacturers and material distributors, the basic skills to work up a simple budget, the business savvy to locate and generate important contacts and distributors, the confidence and keys instilled in them to be able to approach someone and say confidently "you should sell my product and here's why," and so many other things that are out of reach for homeless impoverished youth, maybe they could make money from their art.

I'm working to build a program funded by grants that will address these problems.

It's all still in planning stages, but roughly, I'm putting together a braintrust of ten volunteer specialists to help me assemble a bi-weekly, 7 week workshop that is a crash course in:

-time management, communication, professionalism

-portfolio building on a budget

-understanding your market & power-googling

-blueprint/pattern making, product revision, improvement in presentation

-assistance with prototypes

-copyrights/licensing; legalities

-creating a budget; spreadsheets, funding, taxes etc.;handling

-networking for resources & bargain shopping for materials

-networking for manufacturers

-networking for distributers

-networking for promotion/marketing/sales funding

-the power of the internet- online sales, social networking, promotion, kickstarter etc.

-presentation for funders, carriers, business partners+

-your product: is it ready?

This class will be hosted on the premise of free trade of information. There is no compensation either direction for attending the class. It will be grant funded, and those students who attend regularly, show promise and comprehension of content, and graduate with a marketable product/portfolio... will be fully funded for all of the legalities of copyrighting, licensing, and producing a limited run of their own product, be it posters, apparel, books, clothing, art, postcards, maker widgets and so forth.

Thus turned loose into the free trade economy with the savvy, experience, and confidence to sell and promote their stuff, we will have stimulated the economy and produced jobs right in the heart of poverty.

I believe barriers to generating income doing exactly what you love should be torn down and guidance through red tape should be provided to people who know how to MAKE THINGS. I will be focusing on empowering the youth shelter system first but the program may expand later.

The positions I'm looking for to build the volunteer braintrust in Phase 1 development are:

-Youth Program Assistance Coordinator

-Financial Services Coordinator

-Grant Writer

-Web Developer/Social Networking

-Video Producer/Social Networking


-Print/Maker (yeah, maybe that caught your eye)

-Copyright/License/Marketing Adviser

-Non-profit/Social Enterprise Specialist

-Art Appraisal/Curator/Marketing Adviser

The job descriptions and so forth will probably be linked this week. But in a nutshell, you show up for a team meeting once a week, get a research assignment, do a little powergoogling, and post on our community board what you've learned. I pull in your research and resources and continue to develop the programs based on what you've got for me.

Having been with me from the beginning, volunteers in the braintrust will be first in line for Americorps positions (full and part time) when we move into Phase II and apply for Americorps grants.

This will be updated as it becomes less nebulous.




There is a great deal more to know about Tote Street Studios, but this page contains only relevant information, as I plan on recruiting for my braintrust from Noisebridge's incredibly knowledgable, creative, tech-savvy, anarchist, socially-aware, powerful base of young individuals.

To learn more about what I'm about, visit (Bookmark my Blog and Site News page to stay updated on my business progress!)


   Business Phone: 209-206-2458
   LinkedIn: Thomas LJ Harper
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