Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Alex Cook, Founder of Stonebalancer Arts, located in Boston, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a mural painter and artist. I paint large public murals for schools, worship communities, businesses, government organizations, and more. I create compelling, beautiful images to bring communities together and focus public thought on beautiful things.
Tell us about yourself
I’ve always loved making pictures. Images come to me naturally and it’s always been a great love of mine to explore them and develop them. It’s become an added joy to use these images to help others express their own deeply felt ideas and feelings in a public way. Creating art has become for me an endless exploration of ideas. One project leads to the next. I’m always learning and integrating new ideas. That’s the most exciting thing – there will never be an end. There’s always something more to learn. My first love is pictures, but it has grown into a love of service – making my work useful to others. It can be a very intimate thing, transforming someone else’s thoughts and hopes into a visual image. I take that very seriously.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There have certainly been large murals over the years. The largest was 162 feet long and 20 feet high. But what I am most proud of is all the work together. Since 1997 I have created 240 murals in 20 states around the US and 3 countries abroad. The images speak for themselves and express ideas I truly believe in. I feel proud knowing I have expressed and helped others express ideas and feelings that are true, life-affirming, and helpful to the community.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
There have been countless skills to learn that were totally outside my wheelhouse. Initially this was very difficult. At first, my only real skill was actually making the pictures. Over the years I’ve had to learn about finances, networking, organization, social media, etc., etc., etc. The cool thing is, after you have begun to understand that you can grow, that you can learn skills that you initially thought were beyond you, you sort of change your internal setting. These days, I feel pretty clear that I can learn new skills even when they seem impossible at first. It’s been very heartening to see that with simple persistence and a humble desire to grow, I can move through the discomfort and enlarge my understanding and skill set.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- The first tip is to find a way to love what you do. This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be pursuing an activity they love, but there must be a way that you can access a feeling of love in your work. Whether it be serving others, using skills you enjoy, or creating an excellent product, there is nothing more motivating than the feeling of living for a good reason. This is connecting to your work through love. It makes every day worthwhile. It’s centering and helps you make good decisions and do things for the right reasons. And that feeling of love provides the energy to do the endless tasks running a business requires.
- Use your business to become a better person. Our businesses give us countless opportunities to succeed and fail. We feel the whole gamut of human feelings in our business endeavors. It provides us lots of opportunities to push back against fear, impatience, greed, and all the rest of the long list of life-destroying vices. There is a prevalent belief that these human frailties are just a part of business and that success may even require them. But it’s not true.
- Finally, find something other than the day's success or failure to base your sense of yourself and your business. It’s too easy to get pushed around by the natural ups and downs of life, especially in business. A sense of consistency enables us to be happier, make better decisions, and do a better job of whatever it is we’re doing. Look beyond the day's (or months, or years), success or failure.
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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