I’ve always had an interest for art, but I’d say the spark had really started after my first event with Holt Renfrew. I was working for Holts at the time and the marketing team had seen some of my work and they asked if I’d be interested in doing a live illustration event. I had never done live illustration or quick sketching before, and I had absolutely no plans on making a career out of drawing but the opportunity presented itself. Up until this point illustration had simply been a hobby, so I said yes out of excitement and decided to run with it. It wasn’t until I started to receive interest from other companies that I started to pay attention and quickly realized I had stumbled upon a new career opportunity. I started to look at my illustration from a business standpoint and began branding myself. I said yes to pretty much every event and opportunity to get my name out into the industry and to simply gain experience. Once my bookings became more consistent and my client list began to grow, I was completely hooked. I was learning everything on the go and the more work I booked, the more my style developed and the more my style developed, the more opportunities I received. It’s all been really exciting and the fact that I’m learning so much as this progresses makes me want to see this through.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
There were definitely a few hurdles in the beginning, mainly because everything was so new to me, there was so much I didn’t know (and so much I’m still learning). I’ve found that the biggest ongoing hurdle has been self confidence. Unfortunately, I think that comes with the territory when trying to find your “self worth”. It’s so easy to compare yourself as an artist to another artist and their work. It’s not difficult to get into that mindset and when you do, it can be a complete inspiration and confidence killer. An artist is their own worst critic, it’s very true, but the more work that I produce, the more I paint and sketch, the more I see myself changing and developing as an artist and as a person. Being able to see my own progression and development gives me confidence and encourages me to carry on with what I’ve started.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
One of my favourite books is actually one I find myself constantly revisiting. It’s an illustration specific book but it has taught me so much about using different mediums, techniques with so many illustration tips, “Colours for Modern Fashion” by Nancy Riegelman. It’s amazing. However, any entrepreneurial skills that I have developed over the last few years haven’t been from text or book but were developed through connecting with other illustrators and artists working directly in the industry. First hand knowledge and experience is invaluable and it completely put me on the right path and helped me set the foundation to build a career. With that being said, I do try to read as much as I can. Although, whenever I find spare time to do so, I convince myself I should be sketching, painting or adding to my portfolio in general. I did just finish reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*CK” by Mark Manson. It’s a pretty popular book at the moment and worth the read. I’d recommend it and found it to be somewhat helpful. I tend to be quite the over thinker and this book helps the reader to not sweat the small stuff and learn to let things go.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
There will always be the naysayers and the people that doubt you. My family and friends have always been very supportive. My Mom is an artist too, as are a lot of my friends and we’ve always had nothing but support for each other. Initially, when I had decided that I wanted to go to school for fashion design, my parents were concerned as fashion design is an extremely difficult and competitive industry to be in. I gave it a shot and I’m proud of the work that I had produced but it never quite turned out the the way I had hoped it would. Freelance can get tough at times too and work isn’t always consistent but with illustration, the opportunity had found me. When my family and friends saw that this new opportunity brought me happiness and fulfillment, they were happy for me. When I was able to show them that illustration could generate money and that there was a market for what I was doing, there was nothing but encouragement. Even within the community of other Toronto artists and illustrators, in an industry where you might expect there to be contention between artists, I’ve experienced so much positive feedback and encouragement from other artists. It’s great to see artists encouraging one another, building each other up, offering guidance, or support or even working opportunities when possible. When I look back at when I had first started, I believe that I handled every situation to the best of my ability at the time and I wouldn’t do anything differently. My opportunity unraveled the way that it was suppose to. Just always prove yourself to YOU, before you feel the need to prove yourself to anyone else. Despite how cliché that may sound, I think it’s so important to remember that and to remind yourself.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
100% the fact that I love what I do. If there wasn’t any passion, there wouldn’t be any direction.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish that I had a better understanding of pricing. When I first got started I didn’t have a proper sense or understanding of self worth. I had no idea what to charge, how to charge or even how to properly invoice a company. Everything was a first for me. It was one learning experience after another. Thankfully nearly 5 years later, I know how much my time is worth today and I know how to value myself and my work. I think I’m always going to be learning about this industry though, because there is always something new to learn and there’s always room for improvement.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
My advice to any entrepreneur would be to simply love what you do and see it through. If you follow a passion, follow it to the end, especially through the difficult times because it’s the hard times that make it all worth while. Also, familiarize yourself with other professionals in your field and absorb everything you can from them and about the the profession itself. Having someone that you can consider and call a mentor could make all the difference on your entrepreneurial journey.