When Phoebe Sherman first decided to sell her artwork and feminist apparel at craft shows in the Bay Area in California, she made an unwelcome discovery. Not only would she have to apply and be chosen as a vendor, but she’d also then have to pay a hefty fee to participate, sometimes as high as $800 for a weekend.
“That price point is not really accessible for a lot of beginning artists,” Sherman says.
So, she came up with a solution: She’d throw her own fair. She enlisted the help of a friend who owned a café in Oakland, recruited other artists she knew, and on a summer day in 2017, Sherman held her first Girl Gang Craft event. It was such a success that she decided to do it again. And again. And when she moved to Salem last year, she decided her business should join her on the North Shore.
Today, Girl Gang Craft is a thriving bicoastal business that hosts craft fairs, produces a podcast, and runs classes for aspiring entrepreneurs, artistic and otherwise. It is an explicitly and unabashedly feminist enterprise. Sherman describes her mission as “femme-forward,” focused on lifting and empowering women as well as transgender and nonbinary people.
“It’s really empowering for creatives, for femmes, for really anyone to work for themselves and really build something,” Sherman says. “I just want to see them making money and not having to rely on some of the patriarchal systems that exist.”
Sherman knew she was not cut out for the conventional 9-to-5 life from the time she was a child. “I knew from a very young age that I really didn’t want to work for anyone else and I didn’t want to be tied to a desk 24/7,” she says.
When Sherman graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2013, she skipped the entry-level office job track, instead training as a yoga instructor and making jewelry to sell. She waited tables on the side to pay the bills while she developed her businesses, but at least there was no desk involved.
Then, during the 2016 presidential election, she saw Hillary Clinton subjected to widespread sexism and was inspired to create a line of feminist prints and apparel that quickly gained attention. That was when she realized she’d need to forge her own path to build her business.
Right as the craft fair side of her business was growing, however, the COVID pandemic hit. Sherman had to let her staff go and scramble to figure out how to reimagine an events business in a time of lockdown and quarantine. She turned to the internet. She started a podcast, interviewing female entrepreneurs. She also began running webinars and classes to share her knowledge of marketing, branding, and social media with small, largely creative businesses trying to get off the ground.
“I really wanted to be a support for the creative business and small business community,” she says. “I really leaned into that role of teaching marketing.”
In 2021, after a year and a half of wearying pandemic life, Sherman and her partner decided it was time for something new, and they made the leap to the East Coast. They chose Salem because it just felt right, Sherman says. The art scene and the city’s spiritual, witchy side resonated with her.
“Salem felt accessible,” she says. “I had only been here one time, but I sort of had a good feeling about it.”
Shortly after they arrived, Sherman participated as a vendor at a craft fair in Salem’s Old Town Hall. She liked the space and knew she had found a venue for Girl Gang Craft’s first East Coast event. The first Girl Gang Craft fair took place in April, and a second is scheduled to kick off the holiday shopping season on November 26.
Sherman’s vendors and students appreciate her knowledge, her detail-oriented organization, and the hard work she puts into promoting her brand for everyone’s benefit. Alexis Dascoli, founder of Vibes Candles, follows Girl Gang Craft on Instagram for business and promotional tips, and participated in the spring fair in Salem.
“She’s doing a lot of work for us small, women-owned businesses,” Dascoli says. “I am so grateful to her and her skills and her resources.”
As Sherman continues to build the East Coast branch of her business, she delights in helping other new entrepreneurs find their way toward financial independence doing what they love. It is a feeling Sherman knows well, having grown Girl Gang Craft to the point where she can support herself on her work.
“Is it cushy? Absolutely not,” she says. “Sometimes it is terrifying. But I am doing it. It is really cool to be able to support myself doing this work.”
For more information visit girlgangcraft.com