Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Navigating the Realities of Self-Employment


Successful independent consultants share wisdom and strategies for building your own business, developing services, finding clients, sustaining a meaningful network, and more.

A roundtable of experienced business owners and independent practitioners share their wisdom and experiences building their own consultancies. Learn how they did it, what they wished they had known before they started, and what they have learned since. They also dive into the current opportunities and challenges launching and independent practice and building our value and services.

Shelley Sather is Principal at Demophile LLC. Shelley uses qualitative, context-driven methods to bring people into the heart of the design process, shape early opportunity spaces and guide the expression of new things. She is drawn to work that constructs the space to think deeply about human problems, cross disciplinary collaboration and projects that have a bit of bravery baked in.

Autumn Sanders is Founder of Quire. Since 2010, Autumn has worked with Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and nonprofits, helping them grow their businesses by understanding their customers. She launched Quire in 2017 to bring ethnographic research and design thinking to organizational leaders that are looking for a way forward but don’t know how to get there. Throughout her career, Autumn has worked with organizations including Target, Samsung, FedEx, SC Johnson, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Chicago Public Education Fund, and many others. Autumn currently serves on the City of Birmingham Small Business Council. She teaches tennis with Better Basics and coaches entrepreneurs with Create Birmingham and EGK Starters. She has served on several non-profit boards focusing on the arts and design. Autumn holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University (Athens, OH) and a master’s degree in design management from the Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA).

Gabriela Sialer is a cultural anthropologist whose applied work has focused on branding, marketing and advertising for the last 15+ years. Currently she leads her own boutique consultancy: Adthropologist, founded in 2018. Adthropologist delivers business ethnography and brand strategy to clients in Peru, and has since expanded its reach to Mexico, with 80+ projects delivered to date. She also teaches a strategic planning course for Domestika and the Brother School of Creativity. Gabriela can only picture research, strategy and creativity as part of the same ecosystem. In her role as Founder, she enjoys what she calls ‘accountable freedom’ among the loose collective of independent Anthropologists she collaborates with. Together, they form a tiny, dynamic team of artisan indies who work across the globe and actively seek to stretch past traditional job silos.

Heinrich Schwarz is Founder of Schwarz Innovation and Co-Founder of He is an innovation strategist, business anthropologist, and design thinker in Hamburg, Germany. Heinrich is passionate about finding unexpected solutions to tricky problems and guiding clients towards products and business strategies for desirable futures. He co-/founded Schwarz Innovation in 2012 and in 2019, people-centric consultancies that help organisations turn a deep understanding of people and cultures into novel solutions and meaningful business opportunities and strategies. He holds a PhD in science and technology studies from MIT.

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