Welcome to this weeks Feature Friday!
Today we are talking to Kristian McIntyre, of Creative Art and Soul, from West Virginia.
Tell us a little bit about yourself...
My name is Kristian McIntyre and I currently reside in the quaint little town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I'm 45 and actually looking forward to my hair turning gray. I'm into living a non-toxic, healthful & happy life. I have a home sandcarving business called Creative Art and Soul. I like to play my African djembe drum really loud in the stairwell when no one is home. I also collect vintage tiki mugs, tiki art, and other tiki memorabilia and I listen to old Exotica and current Polynesian pop while I work. I love being on the river or out in the desert or in the middle of the woods. I also love a good cold beer, breathing easy, dark chocolate, toy camera photography, time to myself, buttery popcorn, natural products, greasy Tex-Mex tacos & enchiladas with a fried egg on top, things made with bamboo, sunshine and blue skies, the songs of birds, toast (toast = fun), green superfood (you know the stuff with algae & wheat grass), ugly comfortable shoes, my pets, laughing 'til it hurts, piles of hot roasted green chiles, my boyfriend, shiny new tools, quiet evenings, lightning bugs, open-minded & honest people, camping, a really good original mai-tai, and stress-free days.
How long have you been in business?
That’s kind of a tough question as I’ve started (and laid to rest) several little side businesses on and off since I was in college in the 80’s. I’ve had a small import rug company and a small brass gift shop. I’ve sold chile ristras on the side of the highway while dressed as a big red chile. I’ve bought and sold items on Ebay and at flea markets, and now I have my wonderful little sandcarving business. I started Creative Art and Soul in 2005. The name Creative Art and Soul stems from my lifelong desire to unleash that nagging creativity bug, to produce something hip, cultural and expressive, and my willingness to look deep within my soul to find out exactly what I am made of and what fulfills me.
Did you start your business full time? if not, what made you take that leap into running your business full time?
Prior to starting Creative Art and Soul, I was a career non-game wildlife biologist for about 15 years. I loved my job because I got to work outside with wildlife and help conserve and preserve important wildlife areas. However, the last few years I ended up sitting in a cubicle for most of the time and was getting bored, unhappy and unhealthy. I went to a therapist who told me I needed a creative outlet...a hobby. I laughed and insisted that I was not the creative type. I took to heart his advice and went home and Googled "You don't have to be an artist". The first thing that came up was a company that sold sandblasting equipment. They had a video on their website with everyday people happily carving and sculpting fabulous items in glass, stone, and tile. After watching that video about 10 times that evening and after a few beers, I purchased a ginormous professional sandblasting system. I spent all of my free time after work putting the thing together, making messes, blasting holes in everything and honing my skills. I experimented with different substrates and tried my hand at selling on Ebay while I was still working full-time. At the end of the first bittersweet and exhausting year, my boyfriend found his dream job in West Virginia. I agreed to move with him under the condition that I get to take a break from my job for a year and pursue my business full time. It took a lot of planning, reworking, soul searching, and trial and error to find out what was really going to work for me and inspire me, as well as be marketable. I started to get frustrated after just 3 months of my full time business because I hadn’t yet discovered my true niche and I was reluctantly looking for a job. That is, until one day when I was cleaning out my jeep and found some colorful pendant stones I had stashed under my seat nearly 2 years before….and the light went on! OMG!!! I could etch these! I was so excited! I worked hard throughout the next few months to achieve the simple but classic style I now have for my pendants. It has now been 3-years since I etched my first Creative Art and Soul pendant and 3 years working my business full time. It has definitely been well worth it.
Did you write a business plan? or do you set regular goals to achieve?
I scribbled out a preliminary business plan for Creative Art and Soul during a small business course I took at a community college. The plan worked well for the class, but I didn’t follow it at all in real life. It just didn’t seem practical as unforeseen things happen every day: the market changes, my mind changes, trends change, among other things. I also took a course called “Finding your Soul in Business” and I learned many very important lessons they don’t teach you in any other business classes. Rather than set goals as most business owners, I list my daily, weekly, and monthly intentions in my trusty and most favorite tool, my moleskin planner. I learned that achieving goals (e.g., I want to sell $500.00 worth of pendants this month) can be difficult and not achieving goals can lead to feelings of failure, despair and frustration. Setting intentions (e.g., I will contact 3 new retail shops today and place a Facebook ad) is about me taking responsibility and control for the actions or tasks that I can and will complete. Committing to realistic intentions helps my business progress forward, keeps my attitude healthy, and my focus where it needs to be.
What selling venues do you use?
The majority of my sales come from craft shows and festivals (30-35/year) within my 4-state area (WV, MD, VA and PA). My main online selling venue is Etsy which I really love and have much success with. A whopping 1/5th of my online sales are from custom orders dreamed up by fabulously creative customers. I also recently opened a newer online shop on ArtFire. I’ve contemplated selling on other online venues in addition to Etsy and ArtFire, but I certainly do not want to spread my attention too thin and lose my focus. I do offer wholesale accounts and currently sell to retail shops in WV, NY, and MD.
Give us one tip on how you stay motivated (to run your business full time)?
Gratitude rules my motivation. I’m grateful and appreciative for each experience I have and how I grow and progress from it. Gratitude inspires me to move toward actions and activities that speak most deeply to my spirit, reconnects me with my authentic self, instills beliefs that even the seemingly impossible is possible, honors the best part of myself and what I do, helps bring clarity to my life, and contributes to my personal growth. Growth and success in my personal life lead to a prosperous business life. I find contempt and negativity to be the biggest demotivators.
Where do you draw your design inspiration from to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
My biggest inspiration comes from the diversity of people in this wonderful world of ours and their cultures, beliefs, and concepts. I am interested in iconic symbolism in world cultures (i.e., African adinkra symbols, Celtic symbols, Pagan and religious symbols, Spanish and Mayan symbols, Native American symbols, modern and pop-culture symbols, etc.) as symbols and icons provide concise pictorial information: a meaning, a belief, a myth, a concept, a history, a story or an expression which I find fascinating. Adding cultural expression to wearable art pieces speaks to people. It is thrilling when someone is drawn to one of my pendants; their eyes light up, they identify with it, and they seem to shine when they are wearing it. It is a wonderful thing to experience.
What is your best advice on customer service?
First and foremost is to be grateful to your customer. Your appreciation to your customer is evident to them from your wonderful unique handcrafted and well-made item, attention to detail, friendly service, prompt communication, careful and clean packaging, fast shipping, understandable and reasonable shop policies, and most important of all a simple and heartfelt thank you.
What is your favorite tip you received from a mentor or someone in business?
My father repeatedly told me to “Just go do it” years before Nike coined their famous slogan. Don’t worry about the obstacles, don’t worry about the time, don’t worry about the investment, don’t worry about what others are doing or saying, stop making excuses… Just go do it.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone just starting a business, what would that be?
Discover and follow your inner voice. Clear away any emotional, physical, and mental clutter. Jot down and follow your intentions. Be gracious and appreciative. Take criticism lightly… listen, and pay attention, but don't take it personally. Think positively. Believe in yourself. Just go do it.
If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be? LOL sorry had to add this, I feel like Barbara Walters - haha - I was going to take this out but there have been some great answers so I left it in :)
I’ve always loved quaking aspens. There is nothing like the smell of an aspen grove, clean, crisp and sweet. Aspen groves generally stand out from the surrounding environments with their tall trees, light bark, trembling leaves, brilliant greens and yellows in the spring, oranges and reds in the fall. Aspen groves maintain a high diversity of birds & mammals, bryophytes & butterflies. You can see and hear the constant activity, scurrying, singing, feeding, nesting, fluttering, tap tap tapping. Aspens reproduce by sprouting suckers….like little feelers radiating from the parent trees, seeking, growing, and spreading, much akin to how we in business tend to network to help our business grow. Aspens are survivors as they can withstand and regenerate fairly quickly after forest fires and harvest. Hmmm, I could mention another analogy to life or business here, but you get the idea.
Find Creative Art and Soul online here ....
eeesh! I think I'll stop there!
Thanks Kris for taking the time and for offering such in depth and thoughtful answers. Good luck at all your upcoming shows!