Note from Jenn: Andrea participated in last month’s Right-Brainers in Business Video Summit and shared her bright and whimsical Right-Brain Business Plan on our Facebook fanpage. Here we get to a deeper look at her business, her RBBP, and her delightful artwork. May her colorful creativity brighten up your week! (All photos courtesy of Andrea Stern.)
What is your business and what makes your business unique?
My business is creating small works of art for the home and on the go. My business models are Alabama Chanin, who employs local seamstresses to create detailed high-end clothing, and the textile designer Vera, whose goal was to make fine art affordable for everyone. Ultimately I would like to increase employment in my region by providing good-paying jobs for local people, enabling those who need to stay home to care for children or ill or elderly relatives to be able to provide for their families. For now, I am the only seamstress on the payroll, but I plan to grow the business to include these people. What makes my business unique is my mission statement that “Fun is an attitude, not an age.” My whimsical works can be enjoyed by people of all ages and in all walks of life.
How has the Right-Brain Business Plan™ helped you? What is different for you and your business after approaching planning in a creative, visual way?
The difference is between night and day. I had to write a business plan several years ago in order to qualify for a grant for equipment for my business. It was *so* hard. I was caught up in the details and had a very difficult time seeing the big picture. Between working with the book and participating in the online video summit, I was able to sit down and actually hone in on what I would like my business to be. Hearing about how others made the process playful enabled me to lighten up and see what came out. I was not so wrapped up in having to be perfect, and knew that things can be tweaked as the business grows. The most important part is taking that first step. This was a huge leap for me. Also, having such a pretty visual to work with inspires me to work on the plan and the business. It has helped with my belief in the possibilities.
What goals (big or small) on your business plan have you already accomplished or have made progress on?
I have been taking detailed notes on construction techniques as I work on my purses, in order to have a good training manual for my home workers. Following the recommendation in the book about researching your ideal customer, I looked at demographic information for the publications I believe my ideal customer would read. I also have requested catalogs from companies which sell similar home decor items. This enables me to see what already is on the market, what the price point for such goods are, and how to differentiate my work. I also have made lists of equipment and software that would help make the business run more smoothly, and listed what sort of contracts I will need to hire an attorney for.
How do you use your creative intuition in your work?
I use what Martha Beck calls the “shackles on/shackles off” test when choosing what I am going to work on in any given time frame. I have a master list of what I want to accomplish during the week, and I work on the tasks which fit the energy I am feeling at the time. This goes against many people who advise to make a regular schedule and stick to it no matter what, but it is what works for me. There are more than enough different tasks to be done, that I can make progress as long as I check in and see which task is the most “shackles off” at the time.
What’s your vision for your business?
I had an answer in the mind map phase, which included how I want the business to have a blog and how I want to feature the individual seamstresses and other artisans who help in the creation of the work on it. I also wrote about how part of my plan is to have a large annual picnic or other celebration for everyone connected with the business, and how I also can see licensing the designs to other companies to reach even more customers. Then my husband pointed out that in accounting, the vision is the overall raison d’etre of the business, while what I was mind mapping was the strategies of how to get there. I am not sure which is the “right” answer for this, but my overall vision for this business is for it to be fun for everyone involved in the process, from the designers to the makers to the end users. “Fun is an attitude, not an age.”
What advice do you have for other creative entrepreneurs?
What you love is where the juice is. Every successful piece of artwork that I have ever put out into the world has been the one where I followed my heart instead of what I “should” make. As an example, I spent years trying to create a “Quilt National quilt”, and years receiving rejection notices. The year I made what I truly loved, and wasn’t attached to it being a “Quilt National quilt” was the year that I finally received that acceptance letter. If you’re going to spend the time creating something, whether it is a piece of artwork, a novel, or a business, you may as well create what you love.
Is there anything you’d like to share about your Right-Brain Business Plan in terms of what it’s made out of or how you made it?
I really wanted my initial plan to be something that was bright, colorful, and most importantly, portable. Like so many of us, I have other daily responsibilities which can take precedent over a business which is still in its infancy. I keep an art journal, and make many, many lists in it, and try to capture as many ideas as I can, but, as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” I wanted to keep the momentum going from the process of doing the exercises in the book and creating the plan.
I used Arches cold press watercolor paper for the base, and decorated both sides with acrylics paint before embellishing with stamps and a silkscreen which I had made. It was important to me to use as many of my own images as possible on this plan, so I also used color copies of my past artworks which captured that whimsical, fun feeling I want this business to have. Mary Engelbreit is another of my role models, and I was happy to find an image of her to include on the plan. I included images representing my creative team who will help me to create the actual works, an image of a woman who is happy to be shipping her work into the world, and images of the people I imagine will enjoy having my work in their lives. I smile every time I look at the plan, and I believe that I can make my dream happen.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Read a broad selection of materials. You never know where you will pick up a helpful tidbit or get an idea for something to help you in your work. There is a wonderful book called “The Medici Effect” which talks about how having a wide range of knowledge can help you make intuitive leaps in your work, and I find that to be true for me. It helps my brain make connections that it might not have made if I had read only business books or art publications.
Know when it’s time to stop reading and take action. I still struggle with this one, but I am getting better at being more discerning about when my reading/internet surfing, etc is actually helping my creative process and when I am just using it to avoid doing what I need to do. Mindfulness practice has helped me a lot with the discernment process.
Finally, don’t think you have to have everything in place before you can begin. I am still sewing my purses myself, as well as working on my fine art pieces and keeping my blog updated, etc. It’s not ideal, but if I waited for ideal, nothing would ever get done. While I am working on the bigger business, prototypes are for sale at my Etsy shop http://andreastern.etsy.com I am also happy to work with clients on commissions of one of a kind works.
Click here for more information about Andrea Stern
Access a multimedia library of interviews and resources from the Right-Brainers in Business Video Summit and order the book The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success.