Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sheri Oneal, CEO of Learn & Create, located in Nashville, TN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Learn & Create is an online creative learning platform offering tips, interviews, techniques, skills, resources, videos, courses, and business insight to artists of all kinds. As a commercial photographer, artist, writer, and educator, I recently combined all of my passions into this new business project. I wanted to create a space that could help other creators grow. I used my photography, art, and writing skills to put together a site that would offer different kinds of inspiration and knowledge.
My customers range from artists to hobbyists and freelance creative entrepreneurs. While my site is still in the early stages, I am excited about what I have planned moving forward. I continue to grow my podcast and blog called "The Creative Push." I am actively building new courses now that will teach creative freelancers the basics of how to start and run a freelance business. I also interview other successful artists and share their stories so others can learn about many of the hurdles involved as a self-employed freelancer.
I still shoot commercial photography through my Sheri Oneal Photography studio, make art for the Inspiration Avenue site, and vlog from time to time in order to grow my content. The goal is to share my years of knowledge with others to help motivate and enhance their own skills. Learn & Create grew out of a difficult year brought on by Covid-19 in 2020.
With no ability to work due to the shutdown, I spent months trying to figure out what I could do that might save my photography business. As I began learning and building from my ideas, the online learning platform was born. It took a year and a half to build the platform myself on a limited budget and with limited knowledge. Now I can also offer that information as part of the curriculum in the future.
Tell us about yourself
I have been a commercial photographer and artist all of my life, offering services for ad campaigns, marketing companies, independent businesses, magazines, and individuals. I have created all kinds of photographs for my clients -travel, products, architecture, and people. I also write blog content as well as other small freelance assignments.
Over the years, I have mentored, taught courses, and offered consultations. After teaching on the side for ten years and building both photography and business-related content for a prominent Nashville art college, I decided to start my own online course-driven platform.
My life has always centered around creativity and helping others. I am very passionate about the art of storytelling, as well as offering insight from the knowledge I have gained after being in business for myself for more than 30 years.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I have been fortunate to make a living doing what I love as a photographer, traveling, and working for large companies over the years. My biggest accomplishment, however, was starting a Nashville flood relief non profit in 2010 called "ReTune Nashville." It ran for one year and helped raise money for uninsured musicians in the industry through the sale of artwork created by flood-damaged instruments.
The relationships I grew with other artists in the community and the ability to have artists create beautiful art while keeping destroyed musical items out of landfills was amazing. We also took pride in raising more than a hundred thousand dollars for the cause.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Turning off the business to enjoy the simple things in life outside of my passion as a business owner. Not becoming complacent, staying focused on marketing, continuing to grow my online content, and getting better at SEO. It seems that there are never enough hours in a day sometimes. Most importantly, don't freak out when the money isn't coming in.
If you manage your money well, you will skate through those times and be ok. When those times arise, put more out into the world, try new things, and let others see you are busy doing what you are passionate about. It is often in those times that you share new ideas that open new doors.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Set a budget and stick to it; you don't have to have the latest and greatest tools to succeed.
- Network, share and be authentic. You have to get out there and be seen and heard. Others are drawn to real people, so be yourself and market your product or service based on your true authenticity.
- Be sure you are passionate about what you are doing; if you're not, you will lose interest, and your customers will too.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We are so used to things changing, and we have such limited attention spans, so we need to be clear with what we are offering to the world. We also need to change with the times. Don't get caught up in what everyone else is doing; instead, do what is true to you.
Work hard and push yourself to keep growing rather than conform to what everyone else is doing. Most importantly, DO SOMETHING....take action, stop thinking so much and just make something happen. Being different is cool!
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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