My favorite part of what I do is getting to attend inspirational events and learn from people truly passionate about what they do. Whether it’s listening to a panel of top tech execs or hearing a student recount their side of things, getting out to functions is always a highlight of my week.
This past week was Global Entrepreneur week and South Florida was thriving in events. But there was one event I was more excited about than others: the Creativepreneur Meetup. Put on by Laura McGlynn, this was their inaugural event focusing on bringing creative entrepreneurs together in community and network. It was a casual fireside chat event attracting all manner of creatives while featuring five of South Florida’s creative favorites.
Fulltime: 1 year
If you’ve ever stepped foot into an Anthropologie, then you’ve probably seen some of Hayley’s work. For nine years, Hayley was the Visual Manager and Display Coordinator for Anthropologie’s stunning in-store art installations (#anthrowindows). Motivated by the birth of her daughter, Hayley left her retail roots behind to begin her own business as a custom visual stylist and display artist.
Fulltime: 5 years
Sometimes all you need is one person to sing your praises for everything to change. Jenny is a SCAD alumni and perpetual vagabond painting organic watercolors from her backyard. While she was selling out local trunk shows, her exposure was exactly that – local. Then Grace Bonney of Design Sponge got a hold of her art and to say things took off is putting it mildly. Currently, her Instagram boasts 162K followers as she contines to paint while developing stationary and fabric lines.
Fulltime: 2 years
Jules may be many things – a bartender, a publisict, a chef, a holistic wellness coach – but first and foremost she’s a writer. Growing up, Jules would tear through the pages of glossy fashion magazines ultimatly deciding New York City is where she needed to be. Making her NYC dream come true, she graduated with a degree in business and worked at a publishing house only to quickly find those glossy covers came with all manner of corporate chains. However, she stayed in NYC and used her new-found freedom to really give her interests a go during which she authored her first book “Zen and Tonic”. She’s since released “Vegan Cheese” with two more books in the works.
Fulltime: 5 years
I hope you ate. If you didn’t, Libby’s photography will leave you starving. Libby is a South Florida food photographer who stages and takes stunning photography of, you guessed it, food. These aren’t your typical Instagram shots, but contrasting works of art reminiscent of rich 17th-century oil paintings. Getting her start photographing for newspapers and PR agencies, she decided she could no longer work in her job anymore. Five years ago she made the leap into entrepreneurship with the support of her husband. While he had no timeline to measure her success, he helped her establish benchmarks disclaiming that any unmet goals meant, “we’ll have to have a conversation.” Fortunately, Libby’s work ethic and continuous growth ensured they never had to.
Fulltime: 2 years
Stephanie is a professional ballerina turned fashion blogger who’s quickly making a name for herself in the fashion blogosphere. In 2008, she was dancing fulltime when the recession hit – taking her job with it. Going back to school, she began a short-lived career in PR. As part of her job, Stephanie began working with influencers, building the foundational skills she now uses on a daily basis. Like most creativepreneurs, she found the corporate lifestyle stifling, making the leap to freestyle hustling and began The Style Bungalow. Fast-forward four years and Stephanie now runs her blog business full-time.
Fulltime: 4 years
Laura led the night’s conversation as moderator but has more than plenty of entrepreneurial wisdom to dish out. A twice-over creativepreneur, Laura began in the corporate world as a software designer. Wanting to be more hands-on – both in terms of design and in crucial decision making – she started a graphic design hustle designing stationary and other solutions. While designing, she shared a space with a few other creativepreneurs in a cramped studio. While loving the community, she craved roomier quarters – as did everyone else. It was this thought that gave birth to the idea of Social House, thus a vibrant community for entrepreneurs and local businesses was born.
Each woman brought a different aspect to the event having faced different obstacles along the way to achieve full-time success. While each story was unique, there were a few themes that evolved throughout the course of the night which helped them get there.
Create a Support System
No matter how independent and capable you are, no one can go at it alone. Each woman spoke in depth about how crucial it was to have someone supporting them through their endeavors whether financially, emotionally or in mentorship. As Jenny put it, “marry well.” Calm down, calm down. Not in a gold digging way, but in a way where your partner is you greatest support system.
Libby recalled, “It was the confidence of someone else (in what I do) that I really remember.”
Also, know when to hire. Hiring allows you to scle a business. Your business will hit a plateau and it’s knowing when to hire that will take it to the next level. Creativepreneurs have to wear so many hats, and there are things that you’re not good at. Hiring those tasks out will free up your time and allow you to pour that energy into areas you excel and love.
“You don’t have to do this alone, and it’s better if you don’t.”
– Andy J. Miller
Set Goals and Benchmarks
Libby’s husband had her set benchmarks or a series of smaller goals leading to a larger goal. Studies show establishing benchmarks rather than one large goal allow us to celebrate small wins and keep motivations high through an overwhelming, taxing process.
Jules quit her publishing job to pursue her interest full-time, which was invigorating at first. But after a while, she began to burn out on consulting and knew she couldn’t keep merely reacting to her environment and situations. She needed to get ahead of life and be proactive in her intent. She traded the bright lights of NYC for stars, packed up her dog and rode out to a remote cabin to spend the summer in search of clarity. It was this break from the grind that ultimately led to writing Zen & Tonic.
Entrepreneurism is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
More than a few times, Stephanie made it clear that her growth was never the result of one big, “ah-ha” moment. The Style Bungalow slowly evolved over time where it had the ability to gain a strong foundation before picking up momentum in growth. Nine out of ten businesses fail. Most of the time, it comes down to persistence and false expectations. Your business will NOT be a hit overnight and even those startups that seem like they came out of nowhere have years and years of trials behind them. Keeping going in your business and never underestimate how much one small move in productivity will snowball later on down the line.
Your business can’t sustain on passion alone. At some point, you have to monetize. Whether it’s raising your prices, charging for brand exposure or collaborating with other creativepreneurs, you will need to drive revenue to take the company further. As Jenny’s work gained popularity, people would ask, “do you sell prints?” Her reaction? “Prints!? I’m a painter! That’s sacrilege.” But being the good entrepreneur she is, Jenny eventually checked her ego, started selling prints and now it’s a majority of her business.
When you’re producing work that’s getting noticed and building notoriety, copycats are bound to follow. Jenny had people completely trace her work only to claim it as their own.
“I could actually hold it up and it was exact. It was my painting!”
The only thing you can do is ignore them. I know, it hurts your pride, but take comfort. One, you’ll always be ahead of their game. Two, if they don’t have the work ethic to create their own craft they won’t have the ethic to sustain it nor the passion to keep it going. Plus, in the world of social policing, true fans of your work have a way of having your back and coming to the rescue.
Words of Wisdom
Learn to say, “No.”
Get out of your comfort zone.
If your mom likes it, do it.
Celebrate and count your small successes.
Fake it until you make it.
It’s hard, but learn how to self-promote.
If you’re passionate about it, don’t worry if it will sell.
Put blinders on and create from a place within. Don’t ply the comparison game.
Listen to your customers.
Everything there is to make has already been made. Don’t let it stifle your creativity and do it anyway.
Don’t take criticism personally.
Prow inspiration from other areas of life: art, poetry, music, nature.