Thursday, 21 February 2019 15:07

Erica Lang: An outfitter that fits right in

Written by  Missy Black
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Erica Lang Erica Lang Photo By Katy Batdorff

Erica Lang’s motives are clear: Everyone knows what it feels like to be left out. She wants to cultivate the exact opposite.

Years ago, Lang founded Woosah Outfitters, an art and clothing store specializing in handcrafted woodcut prints. It became so successful, she relocated the business to Wealthy Street and used a grassroots approach to bring the community together around revitalizing the corner with the shop, creating a lot of buzz. It didn’t hurt that she also opened Outside Coffee Co. with her fiance, Kelly McPhee.

Now, Lang wants to use her businesses to make a difference.

Let’s look at your journey from when you started Woosah to where you are now.

Looking back, it’s unreal. I can’t fully grasp how far we’ve come, especially because I’m always setting new goals for the future.
I think there’s a few lessons. First, always listen to your gut/your intuition, especially when it scares you.  Second, if you want something bad enough, and you’re willing to put in the work, you can manifest it. The universe totally listens to what you ask of it. I know it’s corny, but it’s true.  Third, don’t get stuck in your ‘little mind.’ Instead, zoom out and view the whole picture. It’s easy to focus on the issues, tasks and challenges of the moment and lose sight of the big goal. It’s OK to get off track. Just notice it and hop back on the path.

Where have you had your art featured that you’re proud of? 

Every opportunity to work with a company or brand that I believe in and align with feels surreal. To name a few of my favorites, Merrell, New Belgium Brewing, Harmony Brewing and Mountain Film Fest with Saugatuck Center for the Arts (happening this March).

Do you do any work for people on the margins? 

Opening Outside Coffee Co. has been a great way to celebrate the community, especially minorities and the LGBTQ community. Last year we partnered with The Diatribe, a local nonprofit organization specializing in teaching poetry and spoken word. Their Summer Showcase event took place in our garden and shone a spotlight on a very diverse and talented group of students who performed their poetry live to the crowd. It was a beautiful experience. I love seeing people gather in that way in our space, to celebrate each other.

As LGBTQ business owners, we aim to provide an open, welcoming and safe space for all. Keep your ears open for a Pride event this June!

Let’s talk about your commitment to environmental causes and some of the things you’ve done there.

Back in 2016, I created a piece, Shut Down Line 5, during ArtPrize. I teamed up with my friend Stephanie Mabie, who founded Kent County Water Conservation, to spread the word on the issue. It was my first activist piece and it taught me a lot. We were able to educate people on the issue and add quite a few petition signatures. A portion of the funds raised went to KCWC to help fund their ongoing work with water issues. 

What are some local causes where you lend your support or feel most called to join and contribute? 

We threw a party called Stoked to Vote last spring to get people registered to vote. I realized that I can contribute by making voting accessible and by making it fun. We also teamed up with Urban Roots, and they help us minimize our footprint by composting our waste from Outside Coffee Co. We hosted them in the garden to teach others about composting and the work they do for the community.  

Why did you choose the Wealthy community?

Woosah’s foundation was built on Division. That space allowed me to see my vision come to life and for our community to gather but we soon outgrew it and I started dreaming a bit larger. We set out to find a new location that could include space for a coffee shop. 

We instantly fell in love with the green space attached to the Wealthy building. Once I toured the space, everything aligned. I love the energy over here in Uptown. The opportunities on Wealthy Street feel abundant.

What does success mean to you? 

In one word: balance. Until recently, I always thought success would be making a living off doing what I love, period. The older I get, the more I see success through a wider lens. Sure, it’s an amazing success to make a living by doing what you love, but success also means having balance, boundaries and mindfulness.

Your love of nature is inspiring. Tell us how to be a good creature in this world.

Oh man, I’m just out here trying to be a good creature myself. Some ways I practice are by approaching things with love, being open-minded, practicing patience — that one is a challenge for me — mindfulness, gratitude and taking care of myself. Most importantly, just don’t be a jerk!

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