I have received so much help from the Entrepreneur Center at Mississippi State University I hardly know where to start. All I can say is that I wish I would have found out about it 2 years prior when I first transferred to State.
Even before I put my massage therapy practice on hold to finish my bachelor of fine arts degree, I knew I always wanted to do my own thang as an artist. I had been vending at farmer's markets and festivals since high school, and was refreshed by each experience. It just felt right.
Corporate graphic design / illustration jobs NEVER appealed to me personally, though I don't discredit their value to our society and economy. So when a business professor friend of mine saw the work I'd started on with Wanderite, he mentioned applying for a start-up-fund grant through the e-Center. I had no clue such a thing even existed.
After a few meetings and a couple weeks of preparation, I pushed Wanderite into the world by presenting to the executive board of the e-Center. Normally when you mention the word grant or proposal or money to an artist, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into overdrive and fight or flight mode sets in. Involuntary shaking and general stupor ensues. However, I have to admit that the process was absolutely approachable and uncomplicated. The e-Center (at Mississippi State and most other universities) was there to help at every step of the way. Truly.
Getting my little ducks in a row took some work of course, but it was for my own benefit as an entrepreneur and I was cheered on at every turn. I even lost my voice on the day of my presentation because I was stressing about it so much. Regardless, I was so well received by the executive board, I was awarded a small grant for start up funds ($2,000 to be exact), and have had opportunities thrown at me ever since. They genuinely want to help and see students succeed!
Soon after I received the start up funds for my eco-friendly screen printing studio, I was approached about moving my studio into the business incubator in the Research & Technology Park right across from campus. I was told that there were a couple of guys who had also started an apparel company recently, albeit quite different in style from my own. If we wanted to meet and see what resources we could share, the possibility of moving into the empty space together was open.
We met on a chill sunny morning in November and immediately hit it off. We seriously couldn't shut up. A few days later we signed the lease.
Because I was finishing up my last semester at the time, we were able to have the space subsidized (the e-Center subsidizes business incubator space for students only). So that brought my half down to $110/month. That's ONE HUNDRED TEN DOLLARS A MONTH for awesome studio space! I was stoked to say the least, and my partner at home was relieved to have half of our tiny house back. The building is brand new and designed in an eco-conscious way, even better!
But the story continues! By this time I was already in over my head in terms of running a business by myself. I had drawings to do, catalogs to make, website and social media to update, tax and legal documents to stay on top of, and a long list of other exciting tasks that come along with being an entrepreneur. I was absurdly happy and unimaginably stressed all at the same time. I had grown accustomed to unimaginable stress having just gone through senior thesis in the graphic design program, but finally doing what I was really passionate about added the euphoric element I had been missing. Still, I was in need of some serious assistance.
Shortly after getting settled into the new space I was approached by the Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator about a program called Students in Startups. Basically, the program allows start up companies to hire students as long as they can pay them $2/hour (for roughly 135 hours of work per semester). Students in Startups pays them the remaining $6/hour, so all in all they make $8/hour. Great deal for both parties.
I then arranged to hire my dear friend and marvelously talented artist/sculptor, Hal. I knew he would be a perfect fit because he's even more of a perfectionist than I am (cray), and there are few people I trust to produce results consistent with my own aesthetic and level of craftsmanship. So, Hal is now officially on board as my production assistant. I desperately needed more time to focus on illustration and design (why I started all this in the first place!), and having Hal in charge of the actual screen printing process helps me out tremendously! I am so incredibly grateful for his assistance and friendship!
Lastly, I have to mention my lovely new photography intern, Raeley. I met Raeley while teaching for Mississippi State's first summer art camp for high school students. She came from a home school background and had already put together an amazing portfolio of photography on her own website, pretty durn impressive for a young'n! Her photography is simply beautiful and the girl really knows what she's doing behind the lens. Going forward, she will be in charge of most of my product shots, model photography and look books, as well as social media assistance.
I am ridiculously thrilled to have arrived at this point with the help of so many caring people. I am ridiculously thrilled to be doing what I love in an eco-conscious, people-conscious, sustainable way. I am ridiculously grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.
Truth: I started this endeavor completely from scratch. Zero. Nada. To be able to get going regardless of lack of financial stability has been heart-warming. Don't get me wrong, I have been (and continue to) work really really hard at all of this. But the fact that I'm working so hard at what I truly love makes it difficult to sleep at night-because I am about to burst with excitement.
Truth: Entrepreneurship is jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.
I am more than happy to share some of the resources that have been shared with me in terms of making a business out of what you love.
Hit me up over here.