The fear of being jobless post graduation lingers in many creative students’ worst nightmares. Yet, the panel presentation on the second morning of SCADstyle radiated with inspiration from four female entrepreneurs. Even better, these women are SCAD graduates who have made successful careers for themselves in the artistry business. Not only have Kristen Baird, Eny Lee Parker, Katy Skelton and Eleanor Turner survived SCAD, but they have learned and are willing to share the tricks and trade of business management from the glamorous times to the not so wonderful.
Kristen Baird is a jewelry designer who graduated in 2012 with her B.F.A in metals and jewelry. From this degree, she built her brand Kristen Baird Jewelry from the ground up, specializing in quality metal work incorporating organic shapes. She grew from a mostly sterling silver company to using top metals like gold and platinum.
Next to Baird sat Eny Lee Parker, a recent graduate of the furniture design masters program. Parker creates home accessories, furniture and ceramic jewelry with great attention to shape and modernity. She offers a contemporary New York-based brand that she promotes heavily through social media.
Katy Skelton, a graduate of furniture design in 2011, started making trays to support her business plan and is now an established furniture and lighting designer who works with sustainable materials and American production facilities.
While Baird, Parker and Skelton all have namesake companies, Eleanor Turner is a little more mysterious. Turner is the Co-Founder and former Chief Creative of fashion brand Argent, but she is now working on a new, top secret business brand releasing Fall 2019.
The discussion at SCADstyle focused mostly on how these four women were able to take their artistic abilities and turn them into business models for the current market. As entrepreneurs, they explain the process can be lonely, scrappy and life-consuming.
So what are the benefits? Hearing these alumni speak about their brand and be so proud of what they built was empowering. All of the “scrappy” times they mention have led them to success in an art world and the business world. This mix is interesting and diverse. They can agree that business is not an extremely consistent job when starting out and stress the importance of the ability to multitask. Parker uses the word “hustle.” Juggling tasks and having that side niche has been crucial to their success. If you can imagine life feeling like a constant repeat of finals season leading to self-reward, then this life is for you.
Anyone can make an idea a reality. The women shared some helpful tips on how students can get a head start in the entrepreneurial world:
1. Stay curious and have a desire to learn and keep growing. Turner noted that having a Masters degree is almost inferior to having the real world experience. Go out and talk to local business owners and have a desire to be spontaneous.
2. Start now. As SCAD students we have access to studios, photographers, videographers, professors, etc., and it is never too early to plan and take action. All of these services only become more expensive post-graduation.
3. Know your strengths and weaknesses and have clear brand direction. Baird’s brand branched from her expressed naivety which she says, looking back, was a strength and a weakness. Self-reflection is key to growth.
4. Find mentors who you trust. Making meaningful connections can lead to support and guidance. Get to know your professors and foster a healthy relationship. Do not just send a direct message to your favorite business person; let the connection form naturally through your work.
5. Grow your social media platforms to create a particular message. All of the panelists noted that when looking at potential hires they google names and look at what comes up in the search. Even Parker, who often curses on her social media, is trying to find that balance of personality and professionalism because the media is watching. /h