We are so excited to have Heather Allen at our upcoming Homegrown! Heather Allen is a business and marketing consultant who helps artists earn more for their craft.
If you haven’t bought your tickets yet make sure you get them ASAP! Head on over to Eventbrite: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/homegrown-heather-allen-so-you-can-design-itbut-can-you-communicate-it-tickets-13513353805?aff=eorg
1. Tell us a little about yourself
This question always begs me to start from the beginning but I’ll spare you! I’m the kind of person who laughs at her own jokes. I’m currently in an improv class and have considered trying my hand at stand-up—which seems like something everyone should do at least once. Improv helps me to stay on my toes, flexible, and lighthearted—I recommend it to everyone.
I grew up in St. Louis, lived in Paris as a four-year-old, and had traveled to 25 countries by the time I was 22. Travel has had a pretty big impact on my life—there are so many fascinating people in the world. And, I find the best serendipities happen when I’m on the go.
My mother is a well-respected scientist who studies the effects of drug abuse on the brain. No, she is not taking test subjects—somehow this question always comes up.
My father was an entrepreneurial computer engineer who sang jazz standards with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. My upbringings were colorful, to say the least—all of my siblings are at least 20 years older than I am!
When I picture the future, my vision sets me up to live on a farm about an hour outside of the Triangle with my soon-to-be husband. He wants to start a biodynamic/organic vineyard, and I want to create spaces for creative people to rejuvenate and collaborate. It helps to be pursuing an entrepreneurial path together.
2. What made you want to focus your business on visual artists?
I thought I wanted to be an artist or a designer for the longest time. In St. Louis, there are two arts centers that nurtured my creative spirit: The Craft Alliance and the Center for Contemporary Arts (COCA). I’m forever indebted to them for teaching me the language of performing and visual arts, and developing my creative intuition
Fast-forward many years later—my career began in architectural design. I worked at an awesome firm with great people. Naturally, the recession stalled a lot of projects, which meant I needed to find a new direction. I pursued a business innovation dual-Masters, which added some practical, business-oriented tools to my wheelhouse.
From there, I lived and worked at Penland School of Crafts. My neighbors were all internationally recognized artists and craftspeople, which meant I was seeing the best of the best at work. This is where I discovered how much goes in to a creative career path—one that requires a lot of soul and physical demand.
When I came back to Raleigh, I followed up with an artist I met in grad school to find out business was going. He had been successfully self-employed for twelve years. Had made a good name for himself in the Triangle, up the coast and through DC. But like many, he saw dramatic shifts in buyer behavior and was intimidated by the rate that technology was changing.
I helped him acclimate, and re-empowered him with the tools he needed to pick up and keep going. I was his business development go-to and publicist. At the same time, I was working for a small business consulting center and noticed a huge gap between the consultants and the creative businesses that walked in the door. If you can’t talk the talk, how can you truly relate to the people you’re serving? I saw my window of opportunity and started my own consulting practice to help artists and creatives in business.
3. Tell us a success story about an artist or someone you’ve worked with who came to you to help improve their business.
I’ll tell you a story about a reluctant artist who I absolutely loved working with. We’ll call him “Greg.”
Greg left a career in commercial design—but not by choice. He was incredibly talented and worked with a team of designers for years, but found himself on his own with little desire to return to his field. Coincidentally, he discovered his late to surface passion for watercolors. His style is incredibly unique, and so is his story—he grew up in Hollywood in the 1950’s. So he decided to make a go at being a professional artist.
When Greg and I started working together, he had nothing to show for his talent. No website, no sales, no awards, no plans. That quickly changed. I helped him pull together his visuals and story into a cohesive identity; identified the best markets for his work, and got him prepared to meet opportunity half way.
Once he started showing his work to the public, it was like a domino effect in the best of ways. He was back to his confident self. Every opportunity presented a new opportunity. You see, that’s just what happens when you’re prepared. I specialize in preparation and transition. At the end of the day, when someone can take what I’ve helped them with and run with it on their own, I’ve done my job.
4. So this new book that you’ve published sounds really interesting! What do you think AIGA members will get out of reading your book?
My book, Let Your Creativity Work for You, is a resource for creatives who identify themselves as “solopreneurs” or “freelancers,” and are either starting a business or want to “level up.”
I’ve designed it as a step-by-step, but let’s face it—we’re all in different places at different times with different business and marketing needs. I encourage readers to read the book through once, and then use it as a reference for whatever they need later.
Here’s what else is in store for readers: interviews with creatives who are living the “Let Your Creativity Work for You” philosophy; marketing and business checklists that you can use and add to; and a boatload of resources, tools, and helpful short-cuts.
My book pre-sale is happening right now, and AIGA members can take advantage of a promo code when they email me directly (info@HeatherAllenOnline.com).
5. What are some of the biggest challenges that you see your clients facing?
The biggest challenges I see my clients face are the same challenges I’ve experienced firsthand: Wearing all of the hats in a creative business when you really only got into business to wear one or two.
Here’s the thing, as a creative solopreneur, you only have to wear these two hats in your business: the maker hat, and the business development (scouting for opportunities) hat.
When you focus your strengths there, and find the right partners to help you affordably in other areas, you’ll be cooking with fire. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats.
6. What is your favorite quote?
A quote that sticks with me and feeds my risk-taking passion pursuit, is from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who says, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
My late mentor, Dr. Lynn Jones Ennis who was the curator of the collection at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, shared this quote with me years ago. To me, this message is one that reminds creative people of the inherent risk of NOT pursuing a creative path when you know in your heart that you should.
7. Anything else you’d like to share with our members?
I’m thrilled to be speaking with such an awesome group of people. I’d encourage anyone reading this blog post to remember: “There’s no time like the present.” Do today what your future self will thank you for tomorrow.
Thanks so much for letting us get to know you Heather! For those interested in learning more, buy your tickets now!