How I become a "Creative Entrepreneur"!
A dorky child, my parents and teachers often thought my head was off in the clouds, not paying attention. If I appeared unaware of my surrounds on the outside, my thoughts, ideas, and creative schemes went crazy on the inside. Constantly questioning convention and tradition, I rebelled when told to focus on only one thing and learn to do it well.
The question was, "What one thing would I pick if I had to choose only one?".
I wanted to do everything! And so I did.
Raised in a family that connected through music, I was exposed to a variety of genres. Our vinyl collection included Broadway musicals, current pop favorites, folk, oldies, silly kids songs, classical, ethnic music, and even some comedic musical routines. There were school field trips to the symphony and music concerts under the stars. Our family enjoyed harmonizing through long trips in the car and sing-alongs after dinner.
Aside from music, we all had opportunties to explore the arts through school activities and general lessons. For a well-rounded education, I tried formal piano lessons, ballet, and modern dance. Those were fun for a short while, but being more self-directed than prodigy, I personally preferred drawing, coloring, making things, solving jigsaw puzzles, and reading. I was often content to spend time entertaining myself in the house with dreams and schemes instead of playing outside. My creative mindset was established early on. (*Pictured to the right: Me in the middle with my brother and sister.)
Business "ideas" were always popping up in my head. They were solution oriented rather than income focused. As children, we played in ways that mocked business activity. Our crazy ideas included customers and a service or product to sell, but not a dime was exchanged. Schemes included fairs in the back yard, playing "City" in the house (creating "shops" by pulling things from our closets - but where were our parents?!!!), and a restaurant where my sister took orders and "cooked". My sister and also I drew together under the business "DebPaul's" (a combination of our first names). "DebPaul's" was a manilla paper collection of hand-drawn girl's & women's fashions.
One year during a family vacation, I sketched out a "map" of a resort idea that popped into my head. There were indoor and outdoor spaces for swimming, sports, horse-back riding, arts, crafts, games, and much more, suitable for any age or interest. It was huge! Perhaps this was the mental solution for being stuck on a vacation someone else planned. Unfortunately, still a child, I hadn't the means to implement such a grand idea.
I understood the value of money by the time I was a young teen. Aside from building savings, I loved earning money that I could spend in whatever manner I chose. My first retail job was acquired in person. I simply walked a mile away to the strip mall, going store to store to ask for work until someone hired me. A bagel shop was the first taker. Smelling the fresh egg bagels right out of the oven, I enjoyed bagging bagel orders for customers that summer. Baby sitting was another income stream. Through my early short-term and summer work experiences, I learned that good customer service would assure I'd be asked to come back and work again.
Art for Sale
In middle and high school, I toggled my time between art classes and music. My choice on which way to go depended on who was teaching the class. When my favorite music teacher left, I turned to art. One day, all of my classmates were working on their own variations of "screening" ground enamel on a copper base. This was a technique using preshaped dishes or plates, priming with a clear coat of "flux" (a metal primer of sorts), and fired in a kiln at a very high temperature. After the base was set, the student sifted ground glass (enamel) colors through a screen over the top. Stenciled templates between the base and the sifting created various designs. I was very bored with that idea and wanted to do something different. Instead of settling, I walked up to my teacher's desk and asked her for something else to do. Instead of throwing me out, she reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a small roll of fine flat silver wire. She explained it was "cloisonne' wire and had never tried it herself, but I could try it.
My first cloisonne project was far from perfect, but my teacher submitted it to a Scholastic contest. The piece earned a gold key award! At 15, excited and bursting with confidence, I asked my Dad if I could buy a kiln. He agreed! We purchased the enamelling kiln, copper forms, flux and other colored ground glass, and an asbestos pad for firing safety. I set up the asbestos pad and kiln on our ping pong table in the basement. I determined my target market would start with family and friends who wanted decorative plates or candy dishes to go with other home decor. It wasn't difficult to get paid commissions to create color-coordinated cloisonne pieces. When I received income, I reinvested it in supplies. I was an entrepreneur at the age of 15. From there, I continued to use my creativity to earn income. In college I did some commercial art projects, and sold enameling, woven belts, and other crafts at the farmer's markets. (**Pictured to the left is not my first project. This was completed during my first year of college.)
Falling into Music
Aside from family music, (and teaching myself to play guitar at 15), I participated in all of the high school choral groups including an auditioned Girl's Ensemble that performed out in public from time to time (pictured to the right - find me 2nd from right on the middle riser).
In college, I didn't want to focus on teaching music or classical/opera vocal style. Instead, my curriculum was focused in health care sciences, with a goal of becoming a registered Occupational Therapist. (In those days, there wasn't Music Therapy. It might have been an amazing fit.) When a fellow Occupational Therapy student asked me to sing at his wedding, I agreed. After his wedding, the priest at the church asked me to come back frequently to sing at other weddings.
In a sense, I "fell in" to a music career because the opportunities presented themselves, and I embraced them.
During the summer after my sophomore year, my first original song came to me. It happed while I was hitch-hiking alone all over the country (a spontaneous gesture in reaction to a faulty love connection)! I gained some unexpected insights on that trip. Through all the ups and downs, writing poems and song lyrics soothed me. I added the music to fully express my emotions. My raw feelings then magically became more distant and turned into stories anyone might experience.
I eventually realized traveling around like a vagabond was boring and returned to college. In my junior year, I started dating a rock musician who's band performed out locally. One night, his band was playing a high school dance in a hotel ballroom. I took a break and walked down the hall to the hotel's lounge. There I saw a girl sitting on a stool playing her guitar. I said to myself "I can do that!" Then I quickly learned what I needed to do in order to get paid to sing in a variety of venues. I started asking hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops to hire me. Voila! I was deeper into the music business.
After college, I moved to San Diego, California and performed around the area. I invested in professional gear and had my first solo photo shoot (one of my promo photos is pictured to the left). When invited to a friend's baby shower, I prepared an original gift (concept now included in "Verses to Go"). It was a lullaby I presented in person with my guitar. I gave my friend a hand-notated copy of the song as a keepsake (years later recording a piano version of "Child of Lil's" on my album "Renewed").
I was part of a new couple when approached to tour the country. Though our management allowed us to tour as a duet, they didn't understand our style and booked us in the wrong rooms. This was not helping our reputation, so we dumped the manager and I started booking us. We later chose Boise, Idaho for our home base, continuing to perform together in the Northwest. I also started an entertainment agency called "Aurora Entertainment". We did great with the music and developed a wonderful reputation.
When All Else Fails, Stay Creative
Unfortunately, the music partnership failed. Now, a new mother, I turned my focus to raising my young daughter alone. I continued to do some writing, and even dabbled in some journalism for the local newspaper, but the music stopped for the time being.
During a stint of traditional employment, I was an outside sales person for an automotive service shop. The job required me to build relationships to gain referral and fleet business for the shop. Over the 7 years I worked for that employer, shop owners I visited would say "I wish we had an outside sales person". Many of these shops were small with no budget for any full time employee. My entrepreneurial spirit kicked in with a potential solution. Since all of my contacts were looking for automotive referral and fleet business, I worked up a viable plan to group market for them, then implemented the idea as "Service Connection".
I couldn't entirely leave my artsy side alone. One of my friends was an actor who loved candy. One night he planned a cast party at his house. I surprised him by decorating his house with candy "arrangements" I created from wrapped candies. He loved it, and encouraged me to start another business doing that. "PS Sweet Innovations" was born. ("PS Sweet Innovations" candy arrangement shown to the right)
From my automotive experience, I created a chess set out of old diesel lifters for a master chess player friend who managed an auto shop.
(Pictured left: Chess set gift I created with diesel lifters and other recycled parts, on plexiglass board with candy wrapper squares)
Various things happened, and I eventually made my way to Raleigh, NC. At first, I started assisting small businesses with marketing projects, including writing copy and graphic layouts, but a medical issue changed everything. When I recovered, I took on traditonal employment again. I survived 9 to 5 by staying creative and using my entreprenieral leanings. Aside from excelling in the work I was hired to do, I used my music and writing skills on the job as the "go to" entertainer for retirement, birthday, and promotion presentations.
The job itself used more of my college medical background and sciences, which also served me well when I returned to performing music. My daughter, then 16, had become quite the singer on her own. As the Christmas holidays were approaching, she asked me if we could duet with a holiday music program at the sandwich shop where she worked. I was floored - and honored! I accepted the challenge. We worked up some songs together and I negotiated payment with her boss, which began the chain of events that brings me closer to the present. That duet performance brought back my desire - and need - to sing again.
(Pictured right - Mom & Daughter duet post a holiday performance at Rack Room Shoes)
I took my music into senior and healthcare (instead of nightclubs and restaurants). One of the best parts of this refound joy was that my daughter has remained willing and interested in performing music duets when her schedule allows.
I worked around my employer's schedule to continue music performances in the senior and healthcare industry until I retired from the traditional employment. Then I returned to performing music full time. A couple of years into my updated music business, I was researching ways for my daughter to do some public speaking. (She'd indicated an interest in paying off some student loans.) I was already active in several entertainment lead services, so I kept an eye out for speaking opportunities for her. Unexpectedly, I came across an opportunity for myself! It was the association for activity professionals (my music clients that hired me to perform in senior and healthcare communities). They were looking for a keynote speaker to open an upcoming conference. Though I had no experience as a speaker, I understood my potential audience. After tossing some ideas out to the conference organizer, she hired ME for the keynote! Both pleased and nervous, I decided to join Toastmasters club for some ideas and practice without much time to spare before the conference.
I successfully presented that keynote and received a great reference from the organizer. Just like singing, it sparked me to look for more speaking opportunities. Since that time I have presented in person and virtually. I continue to learn from and enjoy Toastmasters, achieving several levels of competency in both communication and leadership through Toastmasters Legacy & Pathways Education programs. (As I write this, I am the president of our club and an district area director for 3 other clubs).
If I can learn to motivate/inspire others and do all these weird, challenging, crazy, and interesting things - so can you! Be *B R A V E! *(an acronym I use to share a simplified process of creative attitude and problem solving) (Pictured left - photo from a virtual presentation "Ignite Your Hidden Creative Genius: Tools to Embrace the Unknown" 11-2020)
If you look at my home page here on this website, you can see I have taken all of these creative expressions and turned them into viable income producing activities. Aside from being an entrepreneur to pay the bills, I get so much JOY out of living life creatively! I love being able to choose what I want to do, trying some new things, and mentoring others. Each opportunity brings a new flavor. Life is so exciting.
Musically: Not only do I bring old favorites to seniors, I am performing in public at Farmers Markets, Art Fairs, and Festivals. I honor special occasions with personalized serenades, background music, and party ambiance. Grandma Paula encourages little ones to express themselves through song. Writing, producing, and publishing original music is a whole different level.
Speaking: Toastmasters brings me new friends, interesting stories, lots of technique and practice. I particularly enjoy presenting to groups and try to inspire others to think creatively to get through life's roadblocks. There have also been some recorded interviews to inspire various groups. One interview was about careers in music for aspiring high school students.
Writing: I have been working on a book for a while about Staying Inspired, completion date not set. In the meantime, I have been guest blogging here and there, assisting with a book project for The Woman's Club of Raleigh by helping some of the women tell their stories. I should be getting back to my own blog soon. Most of the time, my creative writing along with commercial art skills has me writing custom poetry for others and laying out the visual for keepsakes.
Art: Pick Pretties (my line of guitar pick earrings) came out of becoming my alter-ego, Grandma Paula (who wears a smock and guitar pick earrings I created). I use the art skills for layout and design and anytime I need to have a creative solution.
Life can be balanced. Things we must do can be fun. We can explore new paths, or the paths we are already on. We can choose how we experience things, and nothing can really stop us from imagining or dreaming.
When I Grow Up
I don't dream any more about what I want to be "when I grow up". (I think I am more of a "do-er" than a "dreamer" anyway.)
Nobody really knows what the future holds. The world has a way of changing unexpectedly. As we age, we may have more aches, pains, intolerances, or loss of function. Eventually, we transition from life.
I decided, if I ever have to stop doing what I am doing - or the way I am doing it - I can still do something. It may be something different, or a different method of accomplishing what I do now. If I can't sing, I will speak. If I can't speak, I will write. If I can't write, I will find a way to convey positive messages through glances, silent smiles, or hugs.
What is growing up, anyway? At what age are we grown up? What should we accomplish before we "arrive"?
There are no rote or accurate answers for these questions.
Here's what I believe. Growing up is what we decide it should be.
For me? I want to keep the childhood wonder and the wisdom of experience. It's no longer about age. What a great place to be! We don't have to label it. Let's just LIVE it!
Growing up gracefully? Now, there's an idea for a new business... Are you a creative entrepreneur too? Bottle that!