PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
The Importance of the F-Word and Taking Smart Risks
Failure. It’s not a topic we often talk about and is typically associated with a popular four-letter F-word, but sharing the lessons we learn from failure are often far more valuable than sharing our successes.
The past 3 years have taught me a lot about the importance of failure and risk. Failure, or more importantly the fear of failure, is a paralyzing force. It stops you in your tracks before you ever get started. It keeps you up at night twisting your stomach in knots…what if, what if? For years, my artistic career was stuck in neutral and I ended up spinning my wheels because I was afraid to take even the tiniest risk. Earning my MBA in Entrepreneurship and listening to my customers and brand advocates provided me with the skills and insights to know what opportunities are worth the risk and which ones aren’t. I’ve also learned how to better evaluate what success and failure for a project would look like for my business.
An example of a project that failed occurred last fall when a friend of mine and I collaborated on a special jewelry collection for her boutique. The collection was designed to compliment her fall fashions and priced in the $50-150 range. The collection was well received by her clients and we both made a nice profit from our efforts. However, while this project succeeded from a financial perspective, it was a failure for my business. It failed because it confused my ideal customers and brand advocates.
My ideal customers and brand advocates have supported my large-scale jewelry, priced in the $1,000-18,000 range, and have helped me share my pieces at prominent events in major cities and fashion publications. These wonderful individuals are also part of my personal advisory board and we regularly chat about my business and how to help it grow. They saw the boutique collection as being rather “boring” and far “less special” and “less memorable” compared to my one-of-a-kind work. Was I in business to “make and sell pretty baubles or stunning high-fashion wearable art?” Reality check, ouch!
During our conversations we discussed a variety of issues, such as did this project really fit into my overall goals with my business and target market? As a one-person business where do I want to focus my energy? Do I want to spend my time making smaller work or focus on the larger work, that was getting great media attention, or somehow divide my time between both?
The lessons I learned last fall helped me make the commitment and take the huge risk to build my business around my one-of-a-kind large-scale pieces. This commitment has resulted in incredible opportunities such as showing on the fashion runways in NYC. The most recent show in late April came about because of LinkedIn and it was a risk that paid off on all levels.
First and foremost, my LinkedIn profile is written for building connections in the fashion and luxury goods industry and I’m very active with the various groups that serve these interests. In late March, a discussion/invite to participate in an April fashion show was posted in the Fashion Buyers & Designers group. The post was from a group member I didn’t know, but over the course of several emails and phone calls I felt very comfortable in accepting the opportunity and taking the risk to show my work at her event. The risks of working with people for the first time can be huge and usually involve a healthy dose of Murphy’s Law, but the potential benefits, even if the show was a dud, far outweighed the risks.
While Murphy did make a tiny cameo appearance, everyone involved rallied together and the audience had a fantastic time and was none the wiser. This event was a success for my business because it increased the perceived value of my work and my credibility as a high-end jewelry artist, expanded my network and client base, earned a nice profit and is leading to some very exciting summer and fall projects.
No decision is without risk. Learning how to effectively manage risk along with success and failure is important no matter what career path you choose.
I would love to know about the outcomes and lessons learned from some of the risks you’ve taken over the years. Feel free to share your wisdom and stories in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading,
Great point to analyzing failure not just from a financial perspective.
I've seen many artists have a hard time keeping their lines cohesive. It's easy to get excited about something new or different and not realize that it doesn't fit with you other products at all.
Great post as always!