Devona Stimpson: Co-Founder, Strive & Grind

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Devona Stimpson is an entrepreneur, artist, best-selling author, speaker, and branding expert. She is the Co-Founder of Strive & Grind, an international Branding and Creative boutique that helps entrepreneurs create memorable, disruptive, and badass brands that dominate. Amongst being the co-author of Passionistas: Tips Tales & Tweetables From Women Pursuing Their Passion, Devona is the Creator of gangSTAR* CREATIVE, and is on a mission to annihilate the status quo of the “starving artist.” You can find her being featured in the press, rocking stages, and creating dope exclusive paintings.

http://devonastimpson.com  & http://artbydevona.com

IG: @devonastimpson, FB: https://www.facebook.com/DevonaStimpson/

1. How did you get into the industry?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about how or why you initially got involved with the industry relating to this business)

My whole life I was always a creative. My background was in graphic design. I created my first website when I was in the 4th grade. I taught myself how to code websites and learn graphic design software. I thought that’s what I wanted to do with my life all the way up into college. Then I took a painting class and realized I didn’t like graphic design. Actually, I hated it. I decided to pursue painting as my career. So that’s really how I got into being an artist and becoming a painter.

2. Any emerging industry trends?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any new or relevant industry trends that you are noticing: movements, developments, advancements, etc.)

A trend I see a lot in the Art Industry is that  a lot of solo creative entrepreneurs are really stepping up and taking ownership of their creative careers. Back in the day, many artists relied on galleries, having agents, and things like that. We live in a world with social media where creatives are able to build their own following. They’re able to create their own brand and online presence so that they can thrive and making a living on their own.

3. Any industry opportunities or challenges?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any new or relevant business opportunities or challenges that you are noticing in your industry) (e.g. , opportunities, such as a better way of doing something or a product/service that suddenly becomes more attractive,  could arise due to new trends, technological advancements, or increased customer demand; challenges, such as market barriers or decreasing sales, could arise due to changes in technology, low market demand, or prohibitive regulations)

I feel the biggest challenge is that being an artist is one of the hardest careers that anybody can choose. As creatives, we’re very passionate about what we do. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the business side of things. I think it’s sometimes hard to have the discipline to work on your craft, but also focus on the marketing and branding side of things too. That’s also part of the reason why I created my movement, gangSTAR* CREATIVE, where I’m helping other creatives learn how to thrive in both business and life.

4. Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about what originally inspired the business concept, and tell us what the desired future of the business is)

My inspiration for creating my movement gangSTAR* CREATIVE came from seeing too many creatives settle for the status quo of the starving artist. I went to an art show one time in LA featuring dope female artists coming together to show their work. My husband and I went in there and the majority of the creatives weren’t at their booths. The majority of them wouldn’t look at us or talk to us. Some were just sitting on the ground and some were on their phones. There was only one girl that actually spoke to us. And it really made me angry to see all these creatives -- so talented and with such potential not taking advantage of their opportunity. I realized that there are not enough leaders in the creative community teaching the business, social and people side of the art business. I feel like that’s where a lot of creatives struggle, especially with so many being introverts. So I really wanted to be a leader and share my experience as an entrepreneur, especially as a creative entrepreneur, and help other creatives thrive in both business and life.

5. What's next for the Business in the near future?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about anything new and exciting that could be expected in the short term, such as in the next 18 months: new products or services, changes in direction, mergers/acquisitions, leadership changes, etc.)

I’m currently working on building my online art store using Shopify. So I’ll be selling prints, canvas prints and originals on my online store.

6. Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about any successful or profitable activities or decisions that you have been involved with, such as marketing strategies or partnerships, that have contributed positively to the Business)

For the last three years I was building a branding company with my husband. This year I was able to transition out of that business to focus back on my personal brand and artwork. I would say the main initiative is just hustling right now.  I’m pretty much starting over. I had put my artwork on the back burner over the last three years. So now I’m focused on getting as much work as I possibly can, getting my name out there, showing people my artwork and becoming known for the artwork that I do.

7. Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about the most significant challenge or obstacle that you have experienced as it relates to the Business, and tell us what this experience may have revealed to you)

When I was running the branding company with my husband, we invested a lot of money into a mastermind and business coach. In order to be on track with those payments, we had to make at least $3000 a month. There came a time where we were almost there but we weren’t making enough. It was Thanksgiving, and rent was right around the corner, and we overdrafted $3000. We had to learn to be really resourceful, work harder and know that we can’t just rely on online marketing and online presence to make us money. We actually had to go out there, really talk to people, be resourceful and reach out to our  warm market to get the business we needed to survive in that moment. So going into my art career, I know that I have to really hustle and be resourceful with my connections that I currently have so I can get the work I need to thrive monetarily.

8. Ideal experience for a customer/client?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us what you think a recipient of your services or products would most enjoy, appreciate, or benefit from)

I’m a strong believer in processes and systems, especially creating great experiences for clients. Being a Co-Founder of a branding agency, that’s something we really focused on. For me as an artist, I really love making sure the process is seamless for  the client. I have a process where I have an intake form and I get to know my client. It’s not just transaction based - I build relationships with my clients and customers. I like to pay attention to detail. If I’m sending something, I may add little pieces of my brand to the packaging. I send written cards. I like to send out gifts or items throughout the year to my collectors, just letting them know that I’m still thinking of them. My focus is on being remembered as an artist and building those client relationships.

9. How do you motivate others?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us about your most effective techniques or strategies for inspiring and encouraging those that you work with)

The best way to motivate others in my opinion is by being the example. A lot of creatives struggle with business side of things. I know I have to step up as the leader and do the things creatives need to take more action on. Also sharing stories of my career and my journey is the best way to motivate others.

10. Career advice to those in your industry?

(EXAMPLE: Tell us what you think is an important tip or piece of information that may help to advance someone’s career path:  something that you have learned through experience that others may not know)

I think the most important thing is to create a brand for yourself. There are a lot of creatives out there – painters, writers, graphic designers etc. So you have to think about how you can stand out in the crowd. Being in a digital age, we see a lot of overnight success on social media. I think it’s important to know that things don’t happen overnight and it’s a process. Trust the process of the journey.  Be patient and be consistent in what you’re doing. I know as creatives we have a lot of ideas that come up and we do a lot of different projects at different times. But the best thing you can do is to be consistent in your journey and do what you need to do to build your brand and get your work out there.