The Chattery, Chattanooga's homegrown adult-education non-profit, celebrates its fifth anniversary this month.
That's five years of cooking classes and calligraphy workshops.
› Age: 36
› Hometown: Franklin, Virginia
› College: George-Mason University
› Age: 33
› Hometown: Dayton, Tennessee
› College: Middle Tennessee State University
The two 30-something founders, Shawanda Mason-Moore and Jennifer Holder, provide a case study in how to transform a friendship into an enjoyable enterprise.
Earlier this decade, the two met when Holder was a property manager at Mason-Moore's apartment complex. The pair became friends and eventually decided to try to replicate The Brooklyn Brainery in New York, a crowd-sourced educational club. Timing was perfect as many colleges and universities were moving away from lifestyle-based adult education programs to more career-oriented continuing-ed classes.
Before moving to Chattanooga, Holder, 33, of Dayton, Tennessee, majored in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked for a talent booking firm in New York. She had also spent time in New Zealand.
Mason-Moore, 36, a graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, was working in Atlanta earlier this decade when she moved to Chattanooga to pursue a relationship with her now husband. She worked for a time at the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, and maintains a food blog called "Eat. Drink. Frolic."
The two teamed up on their first Chattery class in March 2014, a gathering designed to teach participants how to make a terrarium in a mason jar. Over time, the non-profit has gone from sponsoring a few classes a month to several classes a week.
Since its founding, The Chattery has partnered with more than 130 small businesses, non-profits and individuals to offer more than 400 classes. Along the way, the nonprofit has used 42 different spaces. Today, most of the classes are hosted at The Chattery offices at Chattanooga Workspace on W. 6th Street, the Edney Innovation Center on Market Street, or one of several commercial establishments such as Mad Priest Coffee and Cocktails on Cherry Street.
"Most of the classes are for people who are looking for soft skills that they didn't learn in college," says Holder.
Many of the classes involve food preparation. For example, later this month The Chattery will sponsor a class called "Instant Pot 101."
"Food brings people together," says Mason-Moore.
Other classes scheduled for March include "Spirit Communication," "Origami 101," "Soap Making" and "Writing for Stress Relief."
Over time, The Chattery leaders have learned what works — calligraphy — and what doesn't — dance classes. The problem with dance classes is a lack of venues with wood floors. (The pair would like to hear from anyone with wood-floor spaces available.) Classes range in price from free to about $50, although most cluster in the $15 to $25 range.
Five years into their work together, Holder and Mason-Moore say they are involved in a crowd-sourced fund-raising effort. They hope to attract $30,000 to help fund a permanent home for The Chattery.
Currently, Holder serves as operations headmaster for the organization. Mason-Moore, meanwhile, is creative director and board chairman. While both have had outside jobs, the growth of The Chattery has reached a tipping point and they may soon be able to compensate themselves, they say.