Growing up in Bad Axe, Michigan, Stephanie Sheldon learned the power of self-sufficiency and the value of small businesses. “I grew up in the middle of a cornfield,” says Sheldon. “We had the most beautiful garden. We got our honey from a local aspiring apiary, and we canned all the stuff from our garden to use in the winter. In town, we shopped at mom-and-pop shops. That type of self sufficiency and supporting independent folks really spoke to me.” An advocate for local start-ups, Sheldon founded the coaching and business consulting firm Indie Foundry in 2010 and the wildly popular Cleveland Flea in 2013.
DREAM ACADEMY: Driven by a creative approach, Sheldon made an immediate impact on the local business scene after moving to Cleveland 10 years ago. “Before I started the Flea, all these people would call me saying that someone had told them they should find me. They were people with big ideas and dreams but no understanding of how to make them a reality. And somehow people connected that I was the person to help those dreamers. They became my niche market.”
PERSONAL POWER: Sheldon believes in the power of self-motivation and breaking away from business practices that often stifle small business owners. “To me, power is being internally motivated — knowing yourself well and using your energy to support things that are of value to you. You can use power to influence or influence can make you powerful.”
GAME CHANGER: Describing herself as “a disrupter and a changemaker,” Sheldon says traditional businesses rely too much on metrics and not enough on motivation and mission. “My business is a visionary business,” she says. “I feel like I’m the defender of creativity in Cleveland. We’re an inspiring brand because we educate and bring positives to light.”
STEPPING BACK: “In 2018, I built an amazing team so I can truly become a CEO and do things that make me happy like exploring markets of the world and continuing to help those dreamers.”