Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Chris Maze, Founder of Chris Maze: Design + Illustration, located in San Diego, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is Chris Maze: Design + Illustration. I do freelance graphic design work for brand development (logo identity, brand strategy, brand messaging, and brand aesthetics), but my primary business is a maker that creates and sells original and pop culture artwork, which includes: prints, stickers, stories, original art, and more. I sell these on my online store, as well as at conventions like San Diego Comic-Con, for example. My customers are people who enjoy and appreciate the arts. They love pop culture and original artwork. I provide them with an amalgam of both. They’re also convention goers who love to explore new artists and storytellers.
Tell us about yourself
I come from a graphic design and illustration background, and I’ve been in this industry for almost 20 years. I have developed content for Levi’s, Zumiez, ASICS, Lincoln Property Company, Amplifier, Navy Federal Credit Union, Yosemite Conservancy, and more in my career thus far. With my day job, I’m a Creative Director for brand development, in which I help clients develop brands to help them win new business and be successful. Being a maker, however, allows me to work on my passion and first love: illustration. This is what I truly enjoy doing, and I’m at my happiest when I’m creating and doing the convention circuit. This is my primary motivation to keep creating. I absolutely love meeting people at the shows and having the opportunity to talk with those who appreciate and support the arts as a whole. With design and branding, when your work is out in the world, rarely do you receive feedback about it. What’s great about the maker space and doing shows is that you get to speak to people and see how they react in real-time when they see the work. You can ask them for feedback as well, which can be really useful for growth.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is simple: the fact that I’m doing it. I’ve met many people in my life who wish they could start their own business or follow their respective passion but choose not to take that step for various reasons. It’s very scary not knowing where it can land. However, I feel it’s even scarier knowing that you haven’t even tried.
Another notable accomplishment early on in my business was creating a children’s book featuring an original character of mine. I made it for everyone to enjoy, but I really did it for my kids. My wife (who helped create it) and I always wanted to create a children’s book for them to enjoy, and I’m thankful that we had the opportunity to do so.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner, especially within the art space, is its unpredictable nature of it. You never know what’s going to be a hit or a failure. For example, I debuted a print recently that did really well online with engagement, interest, and all of that with my advertising of it. I’ve never seen engagement that high with my work. So I was pumped for it to be released. When it was finally released, it didn’t do well at all. The opposite is also true. There have been many instances where I didn’t receive any engagement or interest online when promoting it, but it ended up being a hit at the shows. It can be incredibly deflating, but I just keep going and creating work that I enjoy producing versus creating work that I think others will like (although that does play a small role in it, of course).
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- I alluded to it earlier, but take that first step and start. Map it out if you have to, and take baby steps to get where you want to be.
- It’s not going to be all flowers and sunshine at the beginning of your business. Accept the failures and learn from them. Understand and study why things didn’t go well and pivot accordingly.
- It takes time! It takes time to grow your product and audience. We live in a world now where most things are provided to us in an instant, or you hear about overnight successes, and that adds pressure to us. Do your best to place yourself in a patient mindset. It’s not easy! I still have trouble doing so, but if you set that mindset early on, your expectations will be leveled.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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