Welcome, February sponsors!

It occurred to me last week that, whether or not you’ve been reading Austin Eavesdropper for a while, it might be nice to know the faces behind those sponsorships you see marching down the right hand side of your screen.

See, behind every single one of these sponsorships is a story.  I know all of these businesses and their owners personally.  One of them shot my wedding, one of them showed me how coffee is roasted, one of them is in the process of selling me lingerie (which should be a simple task, but is more difficult with a lingerie-buying moron like me, and aren’t we appreciating the non-awkwardness of this little aside Mom, Dad, and in-laws?)

Anyway!  I really, really love these people, and deeply admire what they’re doing.  It’s hard to be an entrepreneur, which they all are.  So I thought I’d take a moment to welcome them to Austin Eavesdropper, and in the process, tell YOU why they are badasses.

To make these intros a little more fun, I asked all sponsors one question:

What makes the best Valentine’s present? 
Let’s see what they had to say, shall we?
How convenient is this?  The first one I’m going to tell you about is a lingerie shop … mere days before Valentine’s.
Kuhmillion Lingerie was started by my friend Beth Hempton and her husband Patrick in 2009.  After getting frustrated by the lack of classy, quality online lingerie vendors out there, the couple thought: “Why not do it ourselves?”  And thus, Kuhmillion was born!  
I’ve always found Beth to be an incredible force of nature.  In addition to Kuhmillion, she helped found Etsy Austin, our local contingent of crafters, and also produces adorable handmade toys.  Don’t you love that?   That Beth helps women feel sexy with lingerie, which in turn makes their lovers love on them, which makes babies, babies she can eventually make toys for?  Cycle of life, people.

So Beth, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“My answer to the best Valentine’s Day gift is an out-of-the-ordinary experience that the two of you can share.  Dinner at a romantic restaurant that’s fancier than your typical haunts, tickets to a performance, or a fun weekend getaway — those kinds of things.  Celebrating great food, art and culture together in interesting new settings, bringing out your sense of wonder and appreciation for the beautiful things in life (including each other), and making you forget about everyday worries. For Patrick and I, that kind of break from the ordinary never fails to rekindle the spark.”
Wild Orchid Salon owner, Ana Zapata, and I met while being extras in our friend’s music video.  She opened Wild Orchid a few years ago, around the corner from Whole Foods Downtown, and now hosts little makeover parties during SXSW and stuff.
I’m one of those people who tends to go for a long time in between hair cuts, and this usually earns the shaking-head disapproval of stylists.  But Ana simply puts on a smile, withdraws her machete and gets down to business!  (Just kidding about the machete).
So Ana, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“I’m a sucker for a homemade card. I really enjoy written evidence that people think I’m awesome.”
Magnolia Family Vintage owner, Sarah Jessica Dean, is a frequent and lovely star on Austin Eavesdropper.  We met years three ago when I was interviewing her for a magazine story, and I was just so impressed that someone could INVENT a job as rad as hers: Collecting vintage clothing, selling it, and styling photo shoots with it.  What!
Sarah got her selling start on eBay, then closed that down a few months ago and opened up her own, sweet online boutique.  We’ve thrown a clothing swap party together and are maybe kinda considering doing another one.  Sometimes Sarah does these “secret” garage sales where she sells off extra stock, and that is how I ended up with a metallic, silver sweater so shiny, I think its threads were made from leftover NASA shuttle siding.  It is incredibly awesome.  Some day, if I ever learn how to take pictures of myself, I’ll show it to you (provided its blinding reflectivity doesn’t break the lens).
So Sarah, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“While I am tempted to say vintage jewelry, wink wink, the best Valentine’s Day gift for ME, personally, is a home-cooked meal made by my man, turning the computers off for the night, hiring a babysitter but never having to put makeup on, and watching movies under some blankets with some high school style making out thrown in!  Real romance is about intimacy, not money!
So give a girl a few hours of undivided attention and adoration.  (A lot of compliments wouldn’t hurt either.)  But if you’re really lost … vintage jewelry is one of a kind and the stylish girls of ATX can’t get enough.”
Kohana Coffee is a locally owned and operated coffee bean roasting company run by Piper Jones, whom I met last year during a coffee tasting.  And in between Piper’s mugs of Harrar Dark and Ethiopian Sidamo, as she told me about her story … I just kind of fell in love with her!
See, Piper is one of those people I think all of us strive to be.  Once, when she went on vacation in Hawaii, she tasted a cup of coffee that literally made her stop in her tracks.  She asked the shop owner, “what exactly did you just pour me?” and he told her about the beans, how they were cared for, how they were roasted. When she came back home, she couldn’t find any coffee that measured up to the cup she tasted on the beach, so she quit her high-powered desk job and started her own dang coffee company.  Ballsy!
I really didn’t know the difference between good coffee and ok (or really bad) coffee myself until Piper made me hers.  Piper only gets beans from these tiny, personal little farming collectives, picks out any non-perfect beans herself, then roasts them in this sweet, 15-foot tall red roaster.  It’s so cool to watch.  If you’re in Austin, she sells at both Central Market and Whole Foods; if not Austin, she sells online.
Tanya from A Taste of T blog is a new local blogger buddy of mine!  She writes about her daily life in Austin with her musician husband and rambunctious dogs.  Also, she’s about to have a baby!
I thought Tanya’s answer to the Valentine’s Day question was particularly funny:
So Tanya, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“Love makes the BEST Valentine’s Day gift.   But …
I had a boyfriend in college give me a $5 heart shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day. He said, ‘Sorry I couldn’t afford more.’ What’s better than a heart-shaped pizza?”
Cory Ryan is semi-famous here in Austin, so chances are you already know this fine flicktress.
I met Cory via her business card, sitting on a counter in a south Austin shop years ago, in 2007.  I was planning my wedding at the time, had just moved back to Austin, and when I saw her vibrant, colorful card with people jumping up and down on the front, I thought, I want to go to there.  (As Liz Lemon would say).  I called her immediately and hired her over my cell phone.
After the wedding, I got a call during my honeymoon from my magazine editor.  She assigned a certain “Cory Ryan” to be the photographer on one of my upcoming stories!  That weird coincidence led to Cory and I writing and shooting together nearly every single month when I was freelance writing, and to date, she has shot all four of our Austin Bleet-Up parties.  (I particularly love this little set from 2009.)
I adore you to pieces, Cory!
Chris Trew, co-founder of The New Movement Theater, is quite possibly the funniest individual I know.  He is also extremely passionate about improv, has brought me into his theater a few times to tell stories from my life on stage, and hosts the Air Sex World Championships — begun right here in Austin, Texas, because that’s the way we roll folks.
What’s not to love about this man?
Last year, I joined New Movement’s grand opening party for a type of improv show they love to do.  Basically, someone gets on stage, tells stories, then a group of improv actors take your stories and use it as material for a set of on-the-spot skits.  Which to me, is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.  But they make it look effortless and (always) hysterical.
Chris and The New Movement’s other co-founder, Tami Nelson, now teach acting, improv, sketch writing and more at their theater.  They have a rabid following … of which I include myself.
So Chris, what makes the best Valentine’s gift?
“The best Valentine’s Day Gift is hands down a dog wearing a cat suit.”
Birds Barbershop is the baby of Jayson Rapaport and Michael Portman.  Chances are, if you live in Austin, you have either gotten your hair cut at Birds at some point, or have attended one of their parking lot parties. Such as my favorite, ManFest.
Birds was my very first official sponsor on Austin Eavesdropper!  I still go in for a Lady Bird from time to time, and love the rock n’ roll atmosphere of the place.  To me, Birds is a case study in brilliant marketing — they just really, really got it right.  Theme parties, local blog sponsorships (high five), cool ad campaigns
When I asked Michael for his idea of the best Valentine’s Day gift, he left us with this sage advice, knowing that Valentine’s falls on a wonky Monday this year:
“Celebrate on the 13th so you get a table. Consummate on the 14th.”
Men.  Always practical.
thank you austin eavesdropper sponsors!
I really appreciate you being here.