Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts and crafts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lisa McKenzie, Founder of ScART Events, located in Covington, LA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
ScART (which stands for "scar art") is a group painting experience where participants paint emotional or surgical scars on canvas. The class includes therapeutic, thought-provoking homework that gives participants the opportunity to see their scars from a new perspective. Oftentimes, persons with scars (particularly women) think of scars as deformities. Scars tell a story of a person's journey and experiences. Scars are reminders that the body is strong enough to repair itself. The class helps individuals see their scars from a new perspective and helps participants share with others, using the finished art piece as a way of telling their individual journeys. ScART participants have included those diagnosed with cancer, heart patients, organ recipients, and veterans (to name a few). ScART also has programs for professional caregivers (such as nurses) where the group experience gives caregivers an emotional health day and an opportunity to share their experience as a healthcare provider (while bonding with other peers).
Tell us about yourself
I am the founder and CEO of an organization based in New Orleans called "You Night Empowering Events." ScART is one of the programs I created that brings people together in an empowering group experience to find a path forward after a traumatic experience. ScART is available to hospitals and organizations anywhere in the United States. In addition to ScART, my company offers several empowering group experience programs. We are best known for our Runway Empowerment program, where women who are diagnosed with cancer are referred to a "master class" 10-month experience to learn to walk the runway (the runway show is their graduation ceremony in front of friends, family members, and physicians). Another program that I created is called "Story Crafting," which is a 6-week online group experience that helps participants "craft" a story that originates from a traumatic experience. After the six-week program, we help participants craft their stories from a position of strength and learning. In all of the programs, the goal is to help participants look at their experiences using the creative arts as a way of expression and healing. The goal of everything we do is to help participants find strong tribes and to create opportunities for participants to share with the world what they have been through. Sharing journeys can help others who are going through something similar find information, resources, and support. I founded You Night in 2012 after two of my good friends were diagnosed with cancer, and I witnessed how their worlds got turned upside down. I come from a strong sorority background (Delta Gamma, San Diego State University), and I have a strong events background. Everything I learned from being the President of my sorority and the owner of an events background is incorporated into the culture I have created. Women are truly stronger together. Studies show that women who are in socially active support groups have better health outcomes. I have witnessed hundreds of women (once strangers) come together through our programs and become lifelong friends.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I have been very blessed in my ten years running my company with several stand-out moments. However, three accomplishments stand out as my favorites:
- I recently graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program. It was a 14-week commitment with an accelerated MBA college curriculum. The end result was a 110-page thorough growth opportunity plan. I highly recommend business owners look into this!
- I won an international award in 2020 for my Story Crafting Program. The award was a $50,000 prize from Astella's Oncology (C3Prize). where the two other winners were from Nigeria and Columbia. I went on a national multi-media tour with Celebrity Spokesperson Bill Rancic.
- Most recently (in October 2022), my company broke the Guinness World Record for the most models in a fashion show. Four hundred thirty models participated at our annual "Ribbons Rock the Runway" gala (many of them cancer survivors) to help raise awareness and provide information and support for those diagnosed with cancer. So yeah -- look me up (You Night Events) -- I'm a WORLD RECORD HOLDER!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The constant requirement of pivoting! Not only did we have to reinvent our business in 2020 and 2021 (like so many others), but we also have hurricanes here (such as Hurricane Ida) -- where all plans are completely overthrown because of the weather shutting down (for months) our community. However, with that said -- wow -- when you are forced to pivot and get creative, some really incredible things can happen that would not have happened if we stayed in our safe, comfort zone. Two examples were stated above -- the Astella's Oncology prize and the Guinness World Record. BOTH came from having to pivot.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Stop talking about the idea...AND DO IT. Some people will talk about ideas for years, and they create stumbling blocks that keep them from moving forward. A business mentor told our group, "Don't worry, be crappy." In other words, so many people wait around for everything to feel perfect. Perfect website, perfect staff, and perfect logo. Start where you are! You'll never know what doors open unless you put your concept, product, or service out there! There are so many online tools (most are free) that will get you up and running. If you build it, they will come!
- Be prepared to spend three years growing the concept. Nothing comes without sweat equity. My opinion is that year one is your year to launch and get your concept up and running. Year 2 is when your customers start buying into what you built. Year 3 is when those customers RETURN. You need to make it to year three because returning customers will be your company's lifeblood. Establish credibility and stand behind your product or solution.
- I think "stay away from partnerships" if you can. Establish a strong team, but be VERY careful about partnering. The reason is that many people get excited about an idea and bring someone in with them based on the honeymoon stage. Try to find your team without having to dilute your ownership UNLESS you know that partner is essential in the company's future success. If you determine they are, then make sure you have an in-depth conversation about expectations, job responsibilities, and exit strategies.
- I'll add a fourth tip: HAVE FUN, and don't stop dreaming. The world loves fresh ideas and passionate people so GO FOR IT!
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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