Press: The Real Business Behind Owning a Business
by Bronwyn Fox Bern, owner of Keshi
in Santa Fe Sun Monthly
Honestly, I consider myself to be an incredibly fortunate woman, personally and professionally. I grew up in various locations around New Mexico, though mostly in Santa Fe, and so I feel anchored here. I have also been blessed with the ability to travel to and live in many places in the United States and elsewhere, which I believe has granted me a unique perspective. The most life-defining experience of all for me was living on the Zuni Reservation, where my mother was a teacher in the pueblo.
I have heard it over and over from customers, employees and the artists we represent that "Keshi, the Zuni Connection is not just any retail shop." Everything is about us, from the way in which the store was started to the way we follow through with the needs of our customers and artists, is unique. Keshi (pronounced "kay-she") was started a a co-op by teachers and artisans from Zuni Pueblo. The driving principle was to give the artists the fairest deal possible for their work and to then pass that deal on to the customer by eliminating the middlemen who are typically so involved. Though I now own Keshi, I still regard it as belonging to the Zunis. I want to give back as much as I can to the community and feel a tremendous amount of responsibility because I have been so tremendously supported.
Santa Fe has a tourism-driven economy and represents a truly "different" locus of intersecting cultures. My coworkers and I know that a primary task is to educate and orient the people who come here. A positive by-product of these ambassadorial duties is that the value of what we're selling is made clear. Misrepresentation and plainly unethical practices go on often in the larger world of Native American art. Those of us who are doing the right thing must make buyers aware and support one another.
One of the greatest compliments to Keshi is that we do have so many loyal local customers-despite the downtown parking challenges! We have cultivated a place that just feels good to visit. In this city of "haves and have-nots," Keshi carries museum-caliber work, and much of it is very affordable.
My advise is pretty basic: Focus! Make a real niche, and have that be something that you deeply love. Build value in your business by offering service, honesty and expertise.
I so enjoy being witness to the constant evolution of contemporary Zuni art and artists. So much of what we do at Keshi is "off the beaten path" or could be considered of an esoteric nature in the general view, and I see a lot of room for exploration in the form of books and other media in the future. I also believe that the art in Keshi is connecting all kinds of people with that which is archetypal, and it's an honor to be a bridge for people in such a way that facilitates a connection to something profound within.