Shannon Maldonado, the mind behind acclaimed Fabric Row design shop Yowie, is in the midst of opening a second Philadelphia location that will also house a 3-story boutique hotel and full-service coffee shop. In all his free time he also produces and stars in a video series.
Called “Small Enough,” the show chronicles the day-to-day life of turning a vision into reality. The 15-minute pilot debuted on YouTube last week, and its creators are looking for support.
Maldonado, a 39-year-old Philadelphia native, teamed up with fellow executive producers and longtime friends Nathan Nedorostek and Sean Sullivan to create “Small Enough” because of what they see missing in small business reporting.
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“I feel like a lot of the information that’s out there either over-glamorizes what it’s like to run a small business, or there’s gaps in what actually goes on in day-to-day life,” Billy Penn said. “A lot of the stories I see are like, ‘I had this idea, and then it took off, and here I am.'”
Years of creating her own tape and talking to other founders convinced her that she had more to say about the trials that can come from living what was once a pipe dream.
Drive for new challenges
Filmed in and around South Philadelphia, Episode 1 follows Maldonado from her storefront at 716 S. 4th St. to her new space under construction at the corner of South Street and American Street.
Along the way, we learn the overarching themes of “little is enough” — concepts like scaling with intention, self-discovery, and building community. Each principle is revealed through the conversations Maldonado has with others.
At one point, she’s talking to Lindsey Scannapieco, managing partner and co-founder of Scout Ltd., the urban development firm that owns and operates Boka, a former vocational school turned creative hub. Scannapieco conveys the concept of adaptive reuse as he shares startup stories, like how Bok once chilled beer in children’s pools of ice when he hosted events.
Conversation turns into the paradoxical power of inexperience, when supported by creative vision and pre-existing skills in other areas.
We see Maldonado lean into what she doesn’t know as the show follows her to her future boutique hotel, which she calls Yowie 2.0. Standing in the skeleton of the space, Maldonado cracks jokes and chats with Billy, her main contractor and business partner.
As she describes how she wants it to “never be finished”, including the room which is regularly redecorated, Billy openly laughs. “Honey,” he quips, “you couldn’t afford it, I promise you that!”
A desire for new challenges is a common thread among the people Maldonado talks to on the show, whose projects and philosophies are often driven by past experiences in more familiar places.
“For many of us, we either left a comfortable position or went out on our own to do this small business for a lot of reasons that we didn’t enjoy in our previous jobs,” Maldonado said.
Part of her vision for “Little Enough” includes ensuring that entrepreneurs and artists are treated fairly while doing their work. She hopes to add an educational aspect that includes workshops, talks, tutoring and a resource center that offers business case studies and frameworks, sample small business plans and white papers related to the world of small business.
Scaling with intent and embracing collaboration
While building Yowie, Maldonado found that she was often asked for advice and readily gave it, whether to customers or artists she worked with or fellow entrepreneurs.
“People ask a lot about business strategy, how to grow their brands, marketing,” Maldonado said. “I talk a lot about brand voice with people and consistency – and those are things I’ve learned entirely on the job.”
One of the core concepts of the show, scaling with intent, has a direct example from the early days of Yowie, when she was offered the chance to expand and turned it down.
“Maybe 8 months into my business, I was approached by someone who wanted to help me open another store,” she said. “It didn’t feel right at the time and actually it still doesn’t feel right, 6 years later.”
The dangers of tokenization can also abound as a black creator, Maldonado said. But she has embraced what she calls the critical skill of saying “no.”
Now, the team behind “Small Enough” is presenting the show, seeking funding to support more episodes featuring small businesses and creative entrepreneurs across Philadelphia. Episode 2 begins production in a few weeks and will have a clearer focus on collaboration – another aspect of Maldonado’s work.
“To create a beautiful space, 90% of my work is logistics and communication,” said Maldonado. “We thought it might be an interesting angle.”