by Mike Templeton
The migration of Appalachian people to cities like Cincinnati for jobs in industry created a set of dynamics in which mountain people needed to adapt to a different way of life, and in doing this they also came to re-define the cities with the ways they brought with them. These dynamics are what created the conditions for the emergence of the Urban Appalachian Council and later, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. With the waning of urban industry, urban Appalachians are again adapting and re-shaping urban life. One way this is happening is with people who are creating their own industry. Entrepreneurs, if you will, who are building small businesses out of a mixture of things they love to do and skills that are marketable. Brandi Martinez Hildebrand is one of the urban Appalachian entrepreneurs who is building a business out of her skills and hard work and her love of beautiful things.
Creations by Brandi offers floral design and arrangements, but Brandi Martinez Hildebrand made it clear that there is much more to be had from her project. “In addition to flowers and floral design, I make home baked goods and chocolate covered anything,” she told me. What Creations by Brandi is all about, in her words, is “to take someone’s ideas and make it visual and beautiful.” I would say edible and delicious might be another important dimension to all of this. A quick look at the photos on her Facebook page reveals creations that include combinations of flowers, chocolates, and baked goods. She seems to enjoy putting the whole project into one package. I might add that woodworking is yet another part of the picture for Creations by Brandi. If she can conceive of it, she makes it.
Brandi said her business started out small. It has all been coming out of her home in the Hartwell/Carthage area. She explained: “I’ve been doing baby showers and small events for people who need both gifts and a decorator.” But the small start is quickly picking up speed. “I have material all over the house, and I am finally looking for a storefront,” she said. This momentum is leading to larger projects. Brandi Martinez Hildebrand is gearing up for her first wedding in the Spring, and she is already lining up orders for Valentine’s Day. “I went to a wedding expo recently to see where I want to go with things,” she said. Keeping up with all of this is becoming a challenge. To that end, the family is getting involved.
Martinez Hildebrand has four children, one young boy and three bonus daughters, and of course a supportive husband. She has begun drafting everyone in various capacities. The girls are a little older and have been helping wherever they can. This all seems completely consistent with the urban Appalachians before her to have the entire family pitching in to get things to a better place, and it is something Brandi Martinez Hildebrand comes to quite naturally. Her mother was Diane Raider who was extremely active in the Urban Appalachian Council and just as active in her urban Appalachian community.
Martinez Hildebrand explained that her parents came here from Hazard, Kentucky and settled on State Street in Lower Price Hill. Martinez Hildebrand remembers living in Lower Price Hill. She attended Oyler School until they moved to East Price Hill. The urban Appalachian bona fides are strong with this crew. The commitments to family and community are just as strong. Brandi’s mother, Diane and aunts Evelyn and Regina were active in the Urban Appalachian Council’s early efforts to address environmental issues in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood.
Martinez Hildebrand explained that one of the most gratifying things about being an entrepreneur is the lessons she is passing on to her children. “For these young girls to see me doing all this, for them to be involved, and for us all to begin seeing some success are priceless gifts. The girls are learning what we can accomplish, and they are learning the work that is involved.” As an urban Appalachian entrepreneur, Brandi Martinez Hildebrand makes this project a business undertaking as much as it is a learning experience for everyone involved.
Brandi Martinez Hildebrand summed up everything she does with Creations by Brandi by saying, “I love beauty, and I want to bring that beauty out in everything I do. I want every kind of celebration of life.” One of the things that stands out for many of the new breed of entrepreneurs is that they are not following anyone’s direction but their own. It is clear that Brandi Martinez Hildebrand has fully embraced this idea, and while she is most definitely in business to succeed, the priorities are family and community.
The factories and industry that once defined urban Appalachian life have all but disappeared in greater Cincinnati. Rather than waiting for new industries to fill the vacuum, many urban Appalachians are simply creating their own industry as they take on the role of entrepreneurs in what some have called the maker economy, small solo ventures that emerge from one person’s skill and passion. Brandi Martinez Hildebrand stands out as one of these urban Appalachian entrepreneurs. With Creations by Brandi she is carving out her slice of the pie while providing powerful lessons for her children and family.
Just as our urban Appalachian predecessors gave us things like educational and economic opportunities through hard work, the new breed of urban Appalachians are passing on the values of providing for our own by making our own. Just as it was done in the mountains, and as it was done in the cities of the last century, and so it continues today. Brandi Martinez Hildebrand comes from the urban Appalachians who helped lay the groundwork for the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, and it is folks like her who will define how our urban Appalachian culture might unfold in the future.
Are you an urban Appalachian entrepreneur? Contact us by emailing [email protected] to tell us your story for a future article.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iskra Books. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.