Friday, January 18, 2008

Shawnimals Interview

One of the greatest things about owning Schmancy is watching people I have worked with become super successful. I remember talking with Shawnimals when I opened in 2004. Since then I have seen his name pop up more and more. From art shows, vinyl toys, craft fairs, exclusive toy runs and more, he has been an inspiration to many. I finally got around to hitting him up for an interview and I am so glad I did. I can't wait to see what surprises are in store for him and his company!

S- I was lucky enough to meet you and your wife this last summer during your honeymoon. Since then what has been going on in Shawnimals world?

SH- Likewise! We want to visit Seattle again some day. Let's see... since then? It's all such a blur! Where to begin? Soon after our honeymoon adventure, Jen and I got back to work for a show at the wonderful Domy Books in Houston full of paintings, drawings, and, of course, plush friends. It was a blast! Immediately after, I got on a plane out to NYC to pitch a video game idea based on Ninjatown to a potential publisher. They loved it, and we started working on the deal. Now, some 7 months later, we're working on the game for Nintendo DS which is due out in the Fall. In addition to that, we're always making new characters, plush, and other fun stuff alongside our trusted employees.

S- Shawnimals story reminds me a lot of Uglydolls story. You started small, making stuff in your home and now you have games, vinyl and are getting some of your plush manufactured. It's just amazing. What have you learned along the way? What suggestions do you have for those still making stuff in their studios or in their kitchens but aspire to be successful like you?

SH- The Uglydoll comparison is a fair one, though they've definitely taken a different direction and ran with it! We'll take it as a compliment in any case. :) We've learned so much along the way, it's ridiculous. I don't need to tell people this, but if you do what you do full-time (making stuff, being an artist, etc), be prepared to work harder and potentially be more stressed than ever before. It's completely worth it though, because you love what you do, and no longer have to go to a job you hate.

Besides that, I used to think that it's easy to start a business as an artist nowadays because of the internet (etsy, myspace, personal sites, etc), and more and more galleries and boutiques being turned on and into handmade and limited run stuff, but I didn't full understand what was involved to do that same thing on a much larger scale, and still maintain your sanity. I still think it's easier than, say, 10 years ago in some respects, but doing it right is much more complicated.

By "right", I mean making sure you have your finances and taxes in order, getting proper licenses and permits, understanding what it means to bring on employees and do payroll, and plan ahead at least a few years at least to consider how your business might grow or change. Then, perhaps most importantly, how do you find time to be creative when you're dealing with all of these day to day business issues? Be willing and prepared to pay people to help you with this stuff, because it will pay off in the long run and allow you time to be more creative.

I realized a little while back that I was playing business rather than running a business, and this playing was getting in the way of me being creative. After realizing that, and inviting the business part of my personality to sit and have a few beers with the artist side of my personality, I finally have some semblance of internal peace in the office / studio.

Read the whole interview here

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