INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN SCHAEFER ON FLOAT ON AND HATCH
Alumna, Lauren Schaefer, gives personal insights into the world of small business and social entrepreneurship.
Can you tell me a about what you’re doing now?
I am a sensory deprivation specialist at Float On (in Portland, Oregon), which is the largest sensory deprivation float tank center in the US. It is much more than the shop though- we have a publishing company, record label, and a consulting company. My role ranges from the basic shop duties, such as tank chemistry, deep cleans and member services to program development, marketing and graphic design. I am working on developing a program, which highlights the physical benefits of sensory deprivation. I’ve also been helping with the preparation of the Float Conference, which is the largest in the world and happening this weekend right here in Portland.
Are there connections between your capstone and your current work?
I am learning about small business and entrepreneurship. Interestingly enough, I actually met a couple of the owners from Float On through CAKE (Consulting and Knowledge Exchange), which was one of the resources in the book I created for my capstone, Access PDX. I met them during my thesis and here I am working for them now. Float On strives to be as local and sustainable as possible. Both of these values influenced my capstone. Although, it was not an A to B track getting here, I feel that I’m very satisfied in the position, because it allows me to pursue my interests and develop new talents. I also am working with Hatch, which feeds my interest in social entrepreneurship.
I work with Hatch to help run Soup, which is an international model for micro-grant fundraising events. People come to Soup to pitch their community good ideas to Hatch and the Portland community. It brings people together, by having them pay a little bit of money, eat food from local businesses and listen to inspired projects. There is a real sense of community at Soup. Actually, I met one of our recent presenters while in the Collaborative Design program when we were making Blight Magazine. His nonprofit, SCAFE, helps reduce recidivism for those transitioning out of incarceration. Now he is launching a food cart to employ people and teach them about running a small business. His project ended up winning and he received about $500 to assist his project.
What advice would you give to students about to embark on a career in Collaborative Design?
Get out while you still can (laughing)! I would say don’t let your expectations rule what you do. You may care about urban planning, and you may end up remotely in urban planning, but you may also end up in some avant-garde theatre in Omaha, Nebraska, because that’s just what happens. I think it’s going to save you a lot of stress to let things happen and adapt.
How do you maintain your creative practice?
Lately, it’s been floating. I go into my floats trying to think about my creative work. This is also sort of difficult because you can’t control the float experience – and you wont have an optimal float if you try to control it. Sometimes though, I can have epiphanies (Thanks, Don!) about what I’m going to paint afterwards or ideas for design fiction projects. Intensely creative experiences can come out of a floating.
What keeps you motivated and engaged?
I’ve been motivated by witnessing the successes at Hatch. Also, I keep engaged by seeing all the enthusiasm of everyone at Float On. Their story about how it all came to be is chaotic and awesome. Despite the stresses of running a small business, they are relaxed, positive and incredibly encouraging people. Who wouldn’t be when you spend all your time at a float tank center? Despite the fact that I am often considered a cynic and a curmudgeon, I’m definitely motivated by the positive vibe of where I am now. Recently, I have been thinking that the best way to help save the world is by starting with maintaining your own wellness. I am in the right place for that.
Can you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed your work?
In Portland, I feel encouraged to practice art and design that is outside the realm of what people expect to consume on a regular basis – like design fiction. I love design fiction. You can just imagine what would happen for the future of cars, clothing, grocery stores, etc. and execute a small project or a whole world around it. It allows me to use both my intuitive creative powers and more regimented research abilities to develop work.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Come float and come to a Soup event! The Float Conference is this weekend, so check that out too.
Also, one of my favorite ideas about Float On is the permission to do nothing. People think they’re relaxing by zoning out to Netflix or planning a camping trip, but that’s not doing nothing. Most people cannot actually conceive the idea of nothing. Depriving your senses of information is an experience unlike any other. We like to say we sell people nothing - that we’re in the business of nothing, and that’s such a radical idea in our time and age. So float on, and try nothing.