How did I get here??? That's a great question!
If you told me five years ago that I would be running my own business one day, my jaw would have dropped! And then I would have promptly gone to the registrars office at my university and signed up for a business class. Instead, five years ago I was studying Studio Art with a concentration in Illustration at Framingham State University. I felt pulled towards art, but with no true path or vision laid out in front of me. I thought maybe I would work in an art gallery, or perhaps do graphic design work for an important non-profit. And for awhile I did just that. I had an internship with an art gallery, and another with a Breast Cancer non-profit. I enjoyed both, but when I graduated from University with my degree I felt totally stuck. I wanted more creative freedom and intellectual challenge than the jobs I could find, but I had no clue what I was really looking for. The existential dread was real, and I was questioning my whole existence on a daily basis.
While looking for jobs, I was simultaneously creating artwork and using Instagram as my main outlet for sharing my work. My friends and family would reach out to me often asking to buy something I made. My art style is somewhat mainstream mixed with humor, lots of color, and a little quirkiness--making it feel relatable to people. It's kinda like the saying "what comes first the chicken or the egg." Yes I was creating art, but initially I don't believe I had the intent of starting a business. It was only once people began regularly asking me to make art for them or to buy my work that I thought "hey, maybe I could make this a business." At least that's how I think I remember it! I was also obsessed with Shark Tank at the time (and still am), and have a very free-spirit. So with those contributing factors, I decided I wanted to try and build my own small business.
Once I made it my mission to grow my art into a business, I stopped looking for art-based jobs and I began working retail at my local mall. I wanted something that was customer service based because I love people, low-stress, and flexible hours. I worked at the mall as an "Optical Stylist" (eyeglasses salesperson) full time for a year while growing my art business on the side. When I wasn't working at the mall I was making art, vending at weekend art markets and events, entering art exhibitions, dabbling with Etsy, reading business books, and attempting to make connections with other artists.
Around January of 2020 I began working part-time hours at the mall, so I could dedicate more hours to my growing business. Then in March, the Covid pandemic began and I lost my retail job when our store branch had to permanently close. I used the pandemic and loss of my job as the catapult I needed to fling myself head first into my art business full-time. Was I ready? No, not really! I learned and grew so much in those initial months. It took me four whole months to stop telling people I was unemployed when asked what I was doing for work, and gain the confidence to say I was running my own art business called quirky burp illustrations.
Flash forward to current day, and it will be quirky burp's two year anniversary this month. Crazy how time flies! My best advice for the readers out there starting your own businesses, is to grow at your own pace while always challenging yourself. You might choose to keep your business as a side hustle for 10 years, or you might fully commit to it right off the bat. There's no right or wrong way, and it is totally dependent on your personal situation. What matters is that you are growing, learning, and loving the process!