As a friend and a fan of Kelly Rae for over 20 years, I’ve had the honor of witnessing her incredible journey in morphing her creative mind with a deliberate and focused business acumen.
I spent my early career as a clinical medical social worker — counseling broken hearts, and helping others through the fights of their lives. It was powerful, important work — but my heart began to grow restless.
I painted & crafted & shredded & stenciled & smudged & smeared like my heart depended on it. I started to chronicle my small baby steps, and my big opportunities. My portfolio bloomed. I launched my shop. I got a book deal. I wrote the book. Magazines came knocking. My art found new eyes. Big deals came a’calling. Contracts were signed. My art became licensed — landing in home decor stores & gift shops all over the world (dream. come. true.) I filled my blog with incredibly (true) stories of art and love and friendship, unexpected hearts, photos of my pregnant belly, and labor-of-absolute-love home renovations. I launched an e-course — then ebooks. Through it all, I wanted to share what I’d learned by crafting a creative life — how full my heart had become. People listened. The kindness kept building.
And so, I kept making – and selling – and licensing – my art. My work has gone on to find its way into thousands of boutiques, and bringing in millions of wholesale revenue since I began licensing in 2009.
And now, here I am. A little bit dazzled. A little bit dazed. With a little boy named True who’s 4, and a husband named John who cheers on my once ‘impractical’ but now oh-so real dream to be a working artist and writer.
Life is messy, precious & good.
I’ve been thinking so much lately about what it looks like to grow a team. For years and years I went about growing my creative business alone. And while that was good and economic and helped me stay true to my vision for awhile (ahem, years!), I kept arriving at a place of burn-out. Even worse, I began to feel a bit isolated. Repeated burn-out + isolation = disillusionment.
About two years ago, I was deep in that space of disillusionment. I had a successful creative biz, yet I began to get restless, losing my spark and drive. I was also stuck in harmful work patterns that were certainly maintaining my biz, but left little to no room for growing my biz with new ideas, inspiration, JOY.
Although I had some help in the way of freelancers, I didn’t have the feeling of being a part of a team of people who were all aligned, working toward a greater mission and purpose.
Around this time, a fellow artist (Katie Daisy) mentioned her “business manager” -someone who helped shape and hold the bigger picture and vision of what she wanted to do. Intrigued, I signed up for a consultation with her biz manager, Betsy Cordes.
It was love at first phone call, and I went on to hire Betsy as my brand manager – a HUGE, sometimes scary investment in myself and in my biz. It’s been about a year and half since making this specific leap and with Betsy’s help, I’ve gained enormous amounts of clarity, inspiration, and time. I’ve also gone on to grow my team in other ways, including a full time Community Manager and other part time consultants and freelancers. It’s a far cry from where I was two years ago. I’ve never felt more supported by a team of folks who work well together, and who genuinely support not just my work, but who I am as an artist and where I’m heading with my business. Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned these last couple of years about growing not just a team, but growing a business:
An essential part of creating a profitable, sustainable, fulfilling business is choosing team members not just based on their experience and capabilities, but on whether or not you actually connect with them as people. Are their values aligned with yours? Do they ‘get’ what you are trying to do in the world? If the answer is “yes”, then you end up with more joy, less stress, more sales, fewer complaints, and a business environment you want to be in, with people you want to be around, who want to be there.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have landed here. I genuinely love my life and my work life more than I ever have before. I can honestly say that every single person I work with (developers, audio/video engineers, designers, accountants, bookkeeper, copywriter, etc) are people I adore, respect, and count my lucky stars for. I feel a part of something bigger, something collaborative, something that is growing with the effort and love of many folks. Hello, joy, hello TEAM!