What I do is embedded in my life. It’s a business and I’m lucky enough to be able to live of it, even though I don’t call is work. It is my passion and the one and only thing I see myself doing everyday. Its part of my daily routine and its intertwined with other parts of my life that keeps me sane and inspired.
At least that happened until I entered the maze of online tactics and blueprints that I found not so long ago and decided to give it a try. Once I found the first blog post about building an online business, I was intrigued. At the end, who wouldn’t want to have the flexibility that technology provides while sharing photos of your next exotic destination? Ask anyone, and the response will be the same. I’m not interested in building a nomadic business, I am interesting in being able to have the time to work on labors of love I’ve collaborated with amazing friends and peers in other countries, so establishing a business that can run purely via email and Skype call was very intriguing. So I started reading about it in blogs, bought a couple of books that the experts were recommending and even signed up to online programs that had the ultimate formula of things you need to do in order to thrive as an online business.
Ok. Let’s do this.
My to-do list became something like this:
- Blogging: but for real this time and with intention (check!)
- List building and nurturing my list, at least with my blog I had a small talk to have with my new virtual friends. (check!)
- Offer free content that’s valuable: I created a video course introducing people to one design principle each day for brand building. (check!) Yes, video. Me. Video. I got people in, but then the technical problems of passwords and playbacks became a major inbox message and I decided to drop the video and create an autoresponder on email so there’s no tech difficulties involved. (hmmm.)
- Created a Facebook group to talk to my audience that joined this program to start a conversation. Well, it started as a conversation on why they couldn’t log in and see the videos and once I dropped the videos it was me and my good childhood friend Carolina chatting on it, trying to engage others (check! but failed).
- Then I decided to offer webinars based on the classes I was teaching in New York and it was great, people were engaging and they loved to see me working on the computer. But I was not getting too many people in and then I learned that Facebook Ads are the secret sauce for these… (Will try in the future)
While I was still working as a consultant and taking care of my clients. You. Can. Do. It.
There’s no one size fits all sort of solution.
So after months of jumping around and testing new “offerings” and reading so many blueprints and proven formulas, I decided to shut down my computer and go out for a walk. Went to the coffee shop on Seventh Avenue I love and while waiting for my cafe au lait started chatting with the boys behind the counter about their shop, who busy it was, how successful they felt they were and what they loved the most working there. They both smiled and said that even though it required long hours of work, lots of standing, dealing with vendors and having the place tidy, it was the people that made them want to come everyday and open the shop, offer new things and have them fall in love with their shop all over again. That for me, is the secret sauce of entrepreneurship. Love your people so much that you’ll be there for them.
That same week, while chatting with my super smart friend Maria, I shared with her how this fully online biz idea might not work for me: first off, I’m the unpopular kid in the block and second of all, I love the connection that happens In person. I love teaching and brainstorming, and I love to be present and see clients and students experience growth and satisfaction while I’m there with them. After that conversation, I decided to dedicate time during the day to discover new businesses around me and really see them from curiosity. I started collecting cards and materials, and many many stories that went beyond what people could see or experience in these shops and studios. The story behind the story. The human face and journey of the one behind the idea.
The first idea was to create a show where I could share my findings with the attendees, and who knows, eventually collect it all in a book: you know á la Humans of New York, and create a new project to be inspired and inspire others.
While I was doing all this, my blog went silent, my newsletter was not getting delivered and my social media channels changed from industry posts to my own photos and quicks shares of this new project.
I even had this idea of driving my Smart car and offering pop-up workshop! How brilliant is that? But the details were too many, and put that idea aside (I might come back to it!) So instead of creating a mobile workshop, what if I go to these shops and studios, offer a workshop there and record the entire experience. The owner of the shop would be involved, and the theme of our class would have to do with design + that line of work.
It was time to take action.
I shared my project idea with my talented friend and filmmaker Daniel, and after a coffee conversation I started emailing artists and creative entrepreneurs and showing up at stores and studios unannounced. I decided to give it a try and get their stories out there, share them in a way that people would not only fall in love with these artists’ businesses but also desire to build a business that felt that way.
I got a lot of unanswered emails, rejections (in person and via email) and questioning of why would I do this. I get it. I was weird to have someone show up at your space of work and want to get you on film for (another) interview, mostly because this woman had no clear idea of the format and/or shape of these videos and because, well, she’s not a known filmmaker. This I understand and I respect.
After a month of touring shops and neighborhood in a very hot summer, I had a list of 7 artists that said yes. And I started seeing how this would become my new way to talking to strangers online while inspiring them and making them care about nurturing their local community just as the online one. I started using the words “season” and “movement” and got more comfortable with the idea to be on video (again!) with amazing people to talk to, and it all made sense. I never dreamed or had any expectation to be in front of cameras, but for this project, I didn’t care because it wasn’t about me. It’s not about me. It’s about them, it’s about all of us and the struggles and successes we go through while building a business from our passions and what we love doing the most. It was not a video of me giving a lecture on design (please check attempt #1), it was me having a conversation with these interesting, smart, talented and badass creative entrepreneurs and learning from them their journey, how they ended up where they are and what they’ve learned so far.
We spent two weeks in August filming.
I suddenly had an amazing crew of talented people that helped me shape my vision and make it something beautiful and desirable. We had conversation after each episode on something we learned or brought with us after that conversation, we were also inspired.
We ended up filming five episodes. Two of my the artists had conflict with their schedule, and even though five is not a number you see in Netflix or HBO or whatever idea you have of a show, it felt right. Mostly because these five stories told the story I wanted to share in the most compelling and human way possible, and they were all different journeys, backgrounds and setups that could inspire anyone.
It took time. It took sleepless night of thinking and really wondering if the investment (time, energy, money) was worth and if people would really react to it. But as the incredibly smart designer says: “Don’t create your experiment and judge it at the same time.”
The labor of love of Candelita. When people ask me now what my business is about, I have a manifesto in the shape of a season. I have a project that makes me proud and makes me don’t care about my weird gestures on camera or how imperfect I look, because what happens in that conversation is what matters. Because having people take one thing from Matt Dilling and Matt Nelson, Daniel, Monkey or the Shag girls (Sam and Ashley) and see how they can fall in love all over again with their business is what matters.
Marketing, blogging, social media and posts are needed as well to get these stories out there. But this time, it all makes sense, it’s not forced into following a blueprint and feeling icky about after hitting the publish button, it feels good. Giggly good and alright again with my business and why I decided to take this journey and work with people the way I do.
These days I can’t help to remember a talk I went to at SVA with swissmiss (my spirit animal) about side projects: The Power of Side Projects and Eccentric Aunts. I went there with three of MFA DT friends and we left the place for dinner so inspired that I remember that a DT Lady night project was conceived while dining at a Venezuelan restaurant that night.
I found the same talk in another venue on Vimeo. Enjoy!
Is there a project you’ve always wanted to work on?
What would be the next step to make that project happen?