Rachel Bailey is Executive Director of My Athens, a locally-run business that features other local businesses, restaurateurs, and artists, with an emphasis on bringing the Athens community together through events.
In other words, “My Athens celebrates what’s worth celebrating in our city, and connects people to it.” What started as an Instagram tag campaign (#my_athens) has become a vehicle for honoring and strengthening our city culture.
Letting the Story Shine
To help the community tap into local art and industry, the My Athens blog offers access to information. The goal for each post is to connect residents with creative, independent projects that are often hidden from view. She maintains that the space should be a learning environment, where the lessons come from written and visual storytelling.
In a digital storytelling climate, having a personal brand is the general wisdom. But to Rachel, when your business is about other people’s stories, you don’t want to be a personality. She describes that one of the best compliments she’s ever received is “You get out of the way of the story. It’s not about you.”
If My Athens is going to be the community of people that tell the story, it has to let the story shine.
Celebrating the City
For Rachel, My Athens events are where the rubber meets the road: her goal is to do more than just point to something — she wants her work to be about something. In the case of its most recent fashion show, My Athens wanted to include the local boutiques without leaving out unaffiliated designers and stylists. Ally Smith had the idea of pairing designers with boutiques to collectively build looks based on film and television themes like Breakfast Club, Empire Records, and What a Way to Go.
Above all, My Athens works toward inclusivity. For its upcoming spring fashion show, The Repurposing Project 2.0, My Athens and Olives & Wax Vintage are giving 26 amateur seamstresses bags of used clothing to repurpose in just a few weeks. Participants are coming from various levels of experience, age groups, and backgrounds. The event demonstrates the principles Rachel and her team want to live by, a city that has something for everyone —to participate, not just watch.
Fashion is not all that’s on the docket — last year’s Taco Takedown is meant to grow into a platform for Latin-owned businesses, literally bringing the community to the table. The upcoming Twilight Apps & Taps Beer Invitational will benefit Habitat for Humanity, with specially-brewed beer from 24 breweries, and 6 local restaurants.
Seeing the Needs
Before her work with My Athens, Rachel worked in the service industry, doing public-facing jobs. She engaged many types of people, and learned to anticipate and meet needs without being asked. She applies the same practice when she considers the landscape of the city.
Rachel’s workday varies, but in the past couple of months, she’s transitioned to focusing on management more than execution. She spends a lot of time connecting with people, and listening to who they are, how they see the city, how they see themselves in it. She wants My Athens to live up to its name for every one — to rise to individual needs.
I care enormously that the city remain a great place to live for all kinds of people. It’s important to me to de-fragment the town. I’m good at digital communication, and I have journalism training and a photography background. The things I am interested in and did as hobbies came together into a job.