Have you been missing Megan Eckman? Me too! She’s focusing on building her business, Studio MME, and today she’s stopping by to share some entrepreneurial tips with us. Enjoy the interview!
Megan, I know you best from your work here on Create Hype, but can you give us a better idea of all that your creative career involves?
Absolutely! My creative career started before I finished art school. I’d made a pact with my parents that in return for pursuing two art degrees, in drawing and creative writing, I would also start a business before I graduated. Studio MME opened in my senior year and I had landed a small book deal right out of college thanks to a professor. From there, I’ve slowly built up my business, taking up the odd job at Borders when I moved to California and discovered the atrocity that is Silicon Valley rent. After 8 months, Borders went out of business and I was hired on as the community coordinator for Create Hype. That move allowed me to work from home and keep working on Studio MME. I also became a virtual assistant for Tara Gentile, a business coach, and Megan Auman, a business coach and hugely successful jewelry designer. The knowledge I gleaned from them allowed me to slowly turn Studio MME into a sustainable business that is now my full-time job. Yay!
That’s fabulous! Let’s talk about Studio MME, where the tagline is: Rekindle Your Wonder. I’ve seen you speak, and you’re very passionate about your message. Tell us what your creative business means to you.
Funny you say that because this is the pitfall most of us fall into. Instead of telling over and over again what our creative business means to us, what we need to convey is what our business means to our customers. That’s who the tagline is for, after all. To my customers, my business means a small retreat from reality. It’s a way to get back in touch with their childhood imagination and feel happier in their adult life. So often people push away ‘silly thoughts’ because they’ve been told to grow up. My work allows my customer to be childlike again and to keep questioning, ‘Why not?’
With degrees in art and creative writing, you promised your parents (and yourself, I assume) to be in that 10% of graduates that make a living from their work. I often talk to artists about their first sales and the moment they knew they had a chance in business – which often comes as a surprise to most of us! When was the moment you knew you could actually do this thing?
Two moments come to mind actually. The first was when I threw out a price to the professor who offered me my first illustration book deal and they didn’t balk. In fact, they raised it! Sadly, the books funding was cut before it could go to print (though I was still paid) so I never got to see my work for it printed. That hurt a lot and I leveled off a bit in my big milestone jobs. I wasn’t sure people could afford my work. Then I was contacted by Google a few months back to illustrate four maps for an app event they were launching in four different cities. This time when I threw out a price, the art director tripled it! When I received my first 4-figure Paypal deposit, I knew I could make a living from my work.
Good question. It’s taken a long time to figure out a schedule that works for me. I’m a morning person and I know I’m at my most productive between 9am and noon and 2pm and 3pm. That’s the time when I work on new artwork or tweak my website. I want my best energy to go toward that. When I’m not at my most productive, that’s when I go out and contact blogs or magazines to pitch a post, add items to my shops, and research shops for wholesale pitches. Knowing when you are at the top of your game and getting your most creative work done in that time REALLY makes a difference in how many things get crossed off your to-do list.
What has been your proudest moment?
Seeing my work printed out as maps for the participants of the Google app events absolutely made me proud to be an artist. To have people send in pictures from all over the country (and London!) of them using the maps to find cool places in their neighborhood was incredibly moving. I just wish I could have been in London to see it in person.
What has been your biggest waste of time or money in business?
After nearly 5 years in business, there have been a lot. The biggest one though, in all honesty, has been Etsy. Don’t get me wrong, Etsy was wonderful way back in the day. But now it’s a low-priced arena and the rules are constantly changing. There was one year where I was changing my tags every month and then Etsy would change the rules for search in the night and all that work from me was suddenly worthless. You have no control over Etsy and in many ways it has gotten too big for its own good. If you want to be paid what your work is worth, then you need to have your own site. Yes, I still have a shop on Etsy but I only refresh things that sell. I make no move to promote it and comeJanuary 1st, it will probably be closing unless I absolutely need to have one to remain in the Etsy Wholesale section (which I DO think is worthwhile).
And finally, what advice would you give to somebody who’s just starting out and looking to make their first sale?
The most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your business is to understand what your product and business mean to your customer. How does it change her life? How does it help her? How does it make her feel? What does it enable her to do? Your customer doesn’t care about your process or your product; they care about what it does for them.
Thank you, Megan. It’s been a pleasure. Best of luck in every endeavor! Please be sure to visit Megan on Studio MME to keep in touch and follow her progress. Until next time~