Name: Shannon DeBord
Creative Industry that you are in: Music & Calligraphy
Years in Business: 2 years
Favorite Food: ice cream! (who doesn't love ice cream, am I right?!)
Favorite Color: deep blue or blue-gray
Favorite Drink: coffee, and then more coffee, and then more coffee...
Best music (singer or group): Death Cab for Cutie
A pet peeve you have: I really dislike when anyone cracks their knuckles
Name something that brings you joy: Nature! Specifically being out on a lake somewhere.
In 3 words, how would a friend describe you? encouraging, passionate, free-spirited
to the heart talk...
What is the passion behind your business? We know all businesses have heart behind them, but in what ways does your business give you purpose?
First of all, as a calligrapher, I love taking someone's story along with words that hold deep meaning for them and creating something that reflects their story & emotions with a little ink and paper. The other two-thirds of my business is education, and this is very intentional. Not only do I love creating art and music myself, but I also have a strong desire to share these creative arts with others. I think all artists want to perpetuate a love for the arts in new communities and generations, because that's how we keep these traditions alive. Calligraphy is a dying art, and music is continually overshadowed or demeaned for other interests in our schools and communities. If we can inspire and encourage joy in music and calligraphy/fine arts in new artists, we can ensure that these art forms don't become obsolete. I want to be a part of inspiring a passion for art and music in new people, each and every day. I strongly believe that's part of my calling as an artist.
As an introvert in the creative industry, what has been the most difficult for you in growing your business? Have you made any adjustments to work through this difficulty?
Marketing and networking have definitely been the biggest struggles I've encountered in starting my own business. As an introvert who is much more happy at home by myself (and a large cup of coffee!) than out in a large group of people I don't know, the idea of talking about myself and what I do for a living has always been very difficult for me. I hate being in the spotlight. But being able to share with others is such an important part of running a business, and I always want to push past my comfort zone and challenge myself. So I've sought coaching from other creatives and mentors, and with their help and examples I've been able to create a strategy that works for me, without giving me too much anxiety. For me, having a written plan to follow makes it so much easier to market myself in ways that I'm comfortable with because it feels more like a natural part of the business, rather than being this overwhelming idea of having to be more aggressive and spontaneous in selling myself.
What do you excel in as an introvert owning a business? When did you realize that this is a strength in your business?
As an artist, I am a storyteller...I retell people's stories in the artwork I create for them. I love creating commissioned work for exactly this reason, because - like a lot of introverts - I love connecting with people on a deeper level. Because I'm able to share in each person's story, the finished piece is woven with emotions and sentiments that we share throughout the process. I never forget the stories behind each of my pieces, or the connection I share with each of my clients. For a long time, I thought my passion for commissioned work over pre-made work was a disadvantage...it's a lot easier to stock an online shop and sell prints than it is to make everyone an entirely unique project! But I began to realize earlier this year that my passion set me apart from others, and made me unique. Instead of attempting to create pre-made work because I felt I should, I began focusing on bringing in more commissioned work, and created a niche for my business.
What have you learned about yourself in this business process so far? What goals do you have for your personal growth in the next 5 years?
I've learned so much, it's really hard to pick what to talk about! I think one of the biggest things I've learned about myself is that I can do more than I think I can. I've always been pretty afraid to try anything without thoroughly thinking it through and planning it out. But running a creative business has meant running with a lot of half-baked ideas, and learning from mistakes. I've discovered just how much I am capable of, and what I can achieve with a little nudge and a lot of determination.
What tip would you give other introverted creatives who are looking to make meaningful connections with others? (Ya know, beyond the small talk) :)
As introverts, I think it's really easy to stay home and work all day by ourselves, in our yoga pants, on the couch. REALLY easy. But I've learned over the past two years that it's SO important to intentionally carve out time to seek out other creatives, business owners, and entrepreneurs, and spend time getting to know one another. Unfortunately this is difficult to do even when we drag ourselves out of the house....we creatives are a shy bunch, and difficult to find out in the wild!
Firstly, if you can, find a networking group or something similar that specifically focuses on creative businesses. If you can't find that, seek out a group that focuses on relationships rather than referrals...you may not meet as many creative entrepreneurs, but you will find a lot of folks who are genuinely interested in learning more about what you do. I am involved in both kinds of groups, and I love each group for it's own reasons. I've made good friends -- both creative and non-creative business owners -- through participating in such groups.
Secondly, seek out other creatives in your specific field. Attend workshops, sign up for classes, or search the internet for local artists doing what you do. The community over competition movement is dear to my heart, and I strongly believe that knowing our local communities offers us better opportunities to serve our audience than if we're each out for our own gain.
Wherever you find them, be intentional about following up with the creatives you meet, and get together one-on-one if you can. Get to know each other, and focus on building a relationship rather than getting something for you out of the meeting. Referrals, advice, and mentoring are all natural outcomes of relationships, so focus on serving someone else with a coffee date rather than yourself.