Circles of Change:Conversations with Dr. Zara Larsen
on Change Leadership and Career Fulfillment
July 9, 2008
“Never Tell People You’ve Been Talking about Your Fetishes”
Guest:Kent McManis, Grey Dog Trading Company
1.My goal initially was to become a social worker to help the Native American people; but, I could see the impact would not be as great as compared to my going into business to help them market their products.
2.Fetishes are the stone carvings (talisman, charm stone) from the Zuni tribes known to bring specific powers to the owner.For example:Bears keep you well, Owls keep your home safe, and Frogs bring rain or children (42 of 45 of Grey Dog’s customers seeking fertility assistance have conceived!) Stone color and striation direction influences the power of the fetish.
3.I began collecting at age 3, a Katsina doll from the Hopi Indians – over 400 types exist, each with a story and meaning.
4.I opened my first shop while still in college, more out of self-defense to liquidate some of the art I had collected over the years.After seven years, I worked for a trading post for the next nine to really learn how to run a business – day-to-day operations, employee and customer management, working with artists – than to our shop now for 15 years.
5.All merchandise presented at Grey Dog was purchased directly from the “authentic source”, with a keen appreciation for the culture, history, and specific story of each Native American artist.Multiple trips to over 180 reservations (50% of the total across the US), visiting with multiple generations of the same family has afforded me unique and deep connections with the people.
6.Products include:Zuni fetishes, Navajo weavings, Hopi Katsina dolls, Inuit carvings, Black Feet beading, basketry, and jewelry.
7.Key to success has been keeping very high standards, in particular when working with and being very fair to and respecting the artist.They keep ME in business.
8.While the internet is now 40% of our business, I miss not knowing every customer by face and name.I really enjoy talking about the art and giving feedback and ideas back to the artists.
9.I have been in business for 35 years, and I am just now getting the hang of it – every day there is something new to learn.What is the story behind every piece we have?
10.Why retire?I’m having so much fun!
Copyright The Larsen Group: Architects of Change 2008