14 Sep Future Entrepreneurs: Artists in Action
Future Entrepreneurs: Artists in Action
My first mentor was a brilliant executive at American Express in New York City and Minneapolis; I learned an extraordinary amount from her in business, entrepreneurship and psychology. I spent a great deal of time at AMEX headquarters in NYC and enjoyed events at the Twin Towers (they were part of the American Express complex in the Manhattan Financial District then).
I honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 and first responders who answered the call.
Let’s take a look at entrepreneur inspiration from American Express Open Forum:
There’s a certain belief that the only way for artists to make money is to sell their artwork, preferably through a gallery. But the truth is that an artist can use his or her creativity as a jumping-off point for creating a business. Check out what these 10 artists-turned-entrepreneurs have to say about their experiences making the leap.
1) Benjamin John Coleman built his hobby into Origami Bonsai, a full-time business, with growth after 9/11.
“I was laid off about six months before the recession began from my job managing the construction of propane delivery trucks. The recession began as my unemployment ran out. I did not qualify for extensions. Sent out hundreds of resumes, got no responses. My hobby business making Origami Bonsai plant sculptures tanked. I couldn’t pay my rent. Then I realized I had enough sculptures in stock to write one hell of a book. I wrote the book and was amazed to discover that two publishers were interested in it. Tuttle released my first book “Origami Bonsai” in April, and by January I was notified that it was being reprinted, so I guess it’s a hit. Since leaving the propane truck company I’ve filed for two patents, obtained one trademark, written four books, and created the first mass produced origami flower in the world.”
2) Miriam Rowe finished a master’s degree in jewelry and silversmithing last fall and immediately went into business for herself.
“I was given an amazing opportunity to smoothly transition from the academic art world to the numbers-driven business world. The town I live in offers a year-long incubation scheme for new graduates. The program is called Design Space and is supported by my town’s city council. It offers one year of business classes, a free studio space, and mentoring advice for a selected group of participants who agree to work at least 30 hours a week as self-employed artists. I was planning to start my own jewelry business before I had heard of Design Space, but when I was offered a place I accepted wholeheartedly. Even though I am only a few months into the program, my business has grown immensely and I already have customers in the United States, Canada, and several parts of Europe.”
3) Nancy Cleary took a different path than the typical graphic designer when she founded Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing.
“A classically trained graphic designer from the renowned R.I.S.D., I was a bit of a sell-out not when I decided not to continue with a high-income job at a design studio doing high-brow design. Instead, I launched my own publishing company and used my art background to design and promote books and brand authors. Financially it was an incredibly difficult transition moving from a great paycheck to a struggling business in the red, but we endured because of our devotion to empowering authors’ careers beyond their books (and the addition of our consulting fees which kept the ever-so-difficult publishing model afloat until royalties were enough to cover overhead). We are now celebrating 13 years and over 150 titles!”
4) Ron Kaplan knew from the start that he wanted to make money with his art and started Surf Ohio with that goal in mind.
“When I realized as a high school art student that I could design and then print T-shirts myself (in my parents’ garage!), I was off on a graphic design education track that included making extra money on the side in the imprinted sportswear business. I found it exciting to create art that then was almost immediately worn and enjoyed by many. Ultimately I dropped out of college after two years to pursue that as a full-time career, starting my own screenprinting/graphics shop (Kaplan Graphics, Inc.) in my hometown of Columbus, at age 23.”
5) Glenton Davis left behind a promising career at J.P. Morgan when he wrote and produced a record. Since then, he’s founded Soul Pop U.
“It is Soul Pop U’s mission to empower young people to affect global change beginning in their local communities, by utilizing holistic development and pre-professional programs in creative entrepreneurship.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, I can offer the following advice: If you’re waiting until you’re ready, until you have enough money saved, until this, that, or the other – embrace the fear and step off the cliff. You will never be ready. Trust yourself to build wings on the way down.
Another lesson that I continue to learn – and one that I think is crucial to achieving success as an entrepreneur – is to define your vision, see that vision in front of you, and commit to turning your thoughts into something tangible. No matter what. There will undoubtedly be roadblocks along the way. Some will feel larger than life, as though they cannot be moved and you cannot find a way around them. With time, learn to be strong like steel, to keep your higher purpose for change, for action, burning bright in the forefront of your mind. It will not always be easy, and it will not always feel good. Trust that with committed persistence, you will manifest tomorrow for others what you see today.”
6) Karen Lucchese got serious about making a living from her art a few years ago.
“I am happy to say that after many rejections and hurdles along the way, I am finally in the process of signing a licensing deal that will put my black and white line art on canvas. The canvas line called ‘Inspired Ink’ will help to teach kids how to paint; The concept of a paint by number but modernized for today’s tween and teen. The designs are tattoo inspired and are very bold and fun.”
7) Michelle Dyer was able to take a common situation in her field and make it work for her when she started Survival Jobs for Actors.
“I founded Survival Jobs for Actors. When I was an actress I needed a survival job to pay the rent, but couldn’t find a resource out there, so I created one. It’s a job board focused on part-time, temp, and flexible work that’s great for actors, i.e. Cater waiter, temp reception work, promo gigs.”
8) Eric Telchin turned one individual photo into the inspiration for an entire business, Boy Sees Heart.
“A puddle of melted ice cream changed the way I viewed the world. I launched a web site, BoySeesHearts.com, with the intention of changing the way the world views the world. I see heart shapes in everyday objects: ice cream spills, litter, trees, coffee grinds. I photograph these found hearts with my iPhone and create abstract and representational art. When the response became overwhelming, I started selling made-to-order prints and apparel featuring these designs, comprised of over 1700 found hearts. Since its inception, I’ve launched a line of limited edition gallery pieces and have been featured on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, NYMetro Parents Magazine, and was selected as AHA Life’s unique discovery. In my opinion, I have been successful in launching this business because I have translated the principles of the found hearts into every aspect of the operation. At the end of the day, it all comes down to love.”
As these artists have shown, there are many ways to turn a passion for art into a business.
Schedule at least an hour this week to explore your passions and create your own opportunities.
Wishing you a bright week!
Thank you for reading and we welcome your comments below.
Cheers and fair winds,
Photo credit and blog dedication:
I dedicate this blog to my dear friend and pro photographer, Scott Barnes who passed away this week. We completed a dream of his by traveling to see #U2 on Labor Day weekend and he was so inspired by that concert!
I worked with him at the American Medical Association as we were balancing our side hustle and entrepreneur life. Scott was a very talented photographer in Chicago, New York, Indiana and Miami; he had a heart attack just before his birthday this week.
Please make time to take care of yourselves while you are pursuing your dreams.
I will be working on an exhibit and film to keep Scott’s memory, art and dreams alive.