One of the most comforting things that I got from the Chicago Creative Expo from the Artists, Designers & Entrepreneurship panel was a resounding ‘We didn’t know what we were doing! But we did it anyway and eventually, something worked.’ The panel was led by Scott Reinhard and included Luke Batten from Tenspeed Hero, Matthew Hoffman from You Are Beautiful, Zach Kaplan from Inventibles and Lisa Smith from ODLCO. Each of these artists started in very different ways, but none of them seemed to have started with the idea for the practice/business that they are now running.
Luke Batten talked about starting Tenspeed Hero as a blog. His reasoning was: I want to start a blog, I like cycling and design, I like blogs that update frequently so that’s what I’m going to do. The idea for selling and designing cycling gear only came after they had a few extra socks that they had created for themselves to sell on the website. The socks sold out almost immediately and that small seemingly insignificant (at the time) decision led to the whole line of clothing he works to design and sell with his team today.
Matthew Hoffman talked about entrepreneurship being in his blood, i.e. buying candy in bulk as a young kid and reselling it individually to make a profit. The roots of his current practice lie in the sticker he made, a simple sticker with the words ‘You Are Beautiful’ on it. Determined to create simply for the sake of creating, he printed a batch of these stickers out with his own personal funds and shipped them out to anyone who requested them. He simply had whoever wanted the sticker pay for the stamp, and even that was sometimes covered out of pocket. And then he appeared on Oprah and the project exploded overnight, so much so that he talked about being thrown into a completely overwhelming situation with more success than he felt he could handle.
All this is super encouraging for those of us who don’t know what we’re doing but for some reason we’re compelled to do it anyway, right? While I’m not necessarily trying to end up in the same position these guys are, meaning I don’t know that I want my practice to resemble their current practices since what I like to do is quite different from what they like to do, but I am in the same position of having this itch to create and to create something that I myself love. All of these panelists, including those whom I did not cover in depth came from somewhere and had many hurdles to jump to get to where they are now, but they kept going and are now in a place they genuinely enjoy. That’s the dream, right? To create something you are proud of and to do something you enjoy. What I got from the panel was that we each take very different paths to get to where we need to be and there is no right way of doing things, but if we follow our guts, eventually we’ll end up somewhere, perhaps a place we never imagined ourselves to be.