In this episode, we have the pleasure of hosting the multi-talented Michelle Wright. Join us as Michelle shares her fascinating journey of becoming both an artist and an entrepreneur simultaneously. Discover how she built her dream team, enabling her to achieve remarkable success in both fields.
Get valuable insights into the significance of having a well-crafted plan to propel your ventures forward. Don’t miss this inspiring conversation with Michelle Wright, where artistry and entrepreneurship unite!
Listen to the podcast episode here!
So Michelle Wright joins the podcast today. Your Business Art Fluent Creatives.
Welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
I’m excited to kind of chat with you and learn more about your background and your business, and we’re kind of just chatting a little bit about that.
But let’s start off with just what is Art Fluent Creatives?
Art Fluent Creatives is a group of artists that are passionate about art and are passionate about growing their business passionate about growing.
I think one thing that I do in Art Fluent Creatives, that’s a little bit different, maybe, because I encourage everybody to build their own businesses, as well as all focus together on our shared projects. So I try to come up with ways to create projects or opportunities where everybody can kind of flow in their own lane and find their own niches and find their own things that they enjoy. So they could build their own brand and their own name. And then we all come together to work together on the big stuff, the big community stuff.
So when you were describing it, just then it just kind of remind me of like a tattoo shop like your structure…
I would guess maybe minus some of the assumed noncompete types of thing because I wouldn’t ever want to start as I think in the tattoo world, there may be a some element, maybe in some cases, maybe not at all, I’m not as familiar of, if you’re gonna tattoo a tattoo here, but you can kind of do your own thing, but don’t go the other shot, stay here.
So I guess with us, I really encourage everybody to kind of whatever, in their free time and their time that’s not on joint projects, whatever you do you do, I’ll promote everything I can too, for your own separate stuff. And it’s never a don’t do business with them over there, there’s never an element of that.
So more collaborative and just supportive. Where did that idea come from for you? Or just like that mindset?
It’s well, a couple of things. So in starting my business independently, I wanted to be an artist my whole life, but never quite saw a feasible opportunity to do so. Just in the whole starving artist stigma, right? So how am I I grew up in New York, and in New York, if you don’t make six figures, you’re pretty much it’s a hard life? Right? So how am I gonna make six figures out of an art career and how many people have to buy a canvas for me or a painting for me? Like, that’s a lot? Am I gonna do that? So it’s always been something that, to me, was unreachable. So when I was younger, and going to school, my family couldn’t believe I didn’t go to art school. But for me, I just, it seemed like a waste of time, at that point to be able to hit the type of salary I wanted.
The only thing that I could think of in New York to make art make sense is okay, well, I’m going to have to go for graphic design so I can get a job at a firm in Manhattan, and that life will get me the money I want. And that’s not the life I want. So Okay, what else do we get? So I never really pursued art at that time. So why did you go to school for psychology? Okay, totally different. ended up not finishing school, I got a job at GEICO. And it made a whole lot more money than the 25 bucks a week my mom was sending me to be away in school, so God bless her for even doing that. But it was once I started making a couple of bucks, I’m like, I like that. I’ve been working since I’m 13. I’ve not had a job I guess.
Now I can say I don’t have a boss, but I’ve not had a job since I’m 13. Making money is just kind of in Mesa. Being away at school was really against the grain to not work and just to focus on anything, but work was kind of odd for me. So in any case, along the way of my insurance career, I had 15 years in insurance, and I’d run insurance agencies. I sold life insurance. I worked throughout all the different departments of GEICO and kind of mastered so to speak the different departments and the different angles. I was kind of a very well-rounded insurance agent. I can kind of take that in different places. And all the while I would do whether it be a craft fair in the cafeteria around holiday time, or it would be somebody just always seeing me doodle at my cubicle saying hey, do you do it?
To make a little something for the gift you do that. And to me, it was a couple of 100 bucks here a couple of 100 there, and yes good enough. , scratch the art itch, as it would come to be, and then in between I focused on sales and focused on my corporate career come COVID So COVID came quarantine happened, what it was in March of 2020. And I fell down a YouTube wormhole of sneaker customizing. And that was the one thing I hadn’t touched yet. I had painted I done murals, I had made jewelry lines, I had painted furniture, I mean, I kind of did a little bit of everything.
And the sneakers and I love the sneaker culture and the whole thing. So that came to me and I was like, Oh, my little thing started going and I started collecting sneakers from everyone around me who’s that like sneakers, so I’m gonna bring them to me. Okay. And before, it’s I was basically practicing really just having fun with it. And by October November of 2020, they getting kind of good at this thing, like maybe I’m always used to having my art business as a side gig. I put a name I had Michelle Sasha designed for a long time.
Michelle Sasha jewelry, like I always had as a side business, but nothing I focused on at the present time. So over COVID and doing that I’m like, alright, well, maybe I’ll make this another new little side gig like it’s lighting my fire video HD. Sometimes I’m like, all in on something. Sometimes I’m totally out. In this case, I was all in. So like, maybe I’ll make it in Instagram, I’ll make the Instagram to see if I’m getting traction. If I have one or two people, every so often hit me up for a pair of sneakers. Couple $100. It was good to me. So I ended up launching that in December of 2020. And from there, let’s see, by January, I had done my first dozen pairs, I send a pair out to New Zealand and California and I’m sending sneakers, from Instagram, just from Instagram.
I have found hashtags are a thing. They are effective. And especially in the sneaker culture. They’re like if you just put custom sneakers on a tag, I mean, my stuff would blow up to 1000s and 1000s of us like very rapidly. I mean, it would happen in like an hour and it would be crazy. But I got really busy doing that and now
So how do you paint it? What is it like to paint?
It’s a totally different process. So all throughout quarantine, not only was I just practicing and doing it creatively, I must have watched, I’d have to say at least 50 to 100 videos of other sneaker customizers to learn the process, and you have to sand down the sneaker first you sand down the finish line almost to where you seem like you can’t see the white like on a pair of Air Forces. He’s like, if you can take all the white off, you’re golden. Oh, wow. And then you sand it down. You acetone it, and you can then paint it with leather paint that’s very specific leather paint. And you can seal it, the sealant is less important is compared to the prepping the prepping as long as you get that too. So that’s how I learned all the details. , you have to heat set every layer and say, I mean I had so it takes some time to do I had 2025 hours in on a lot of the pairs. I did oh wow. We’re charging. I mean 200 300. So it’s like, oh, wow, it’s more of a passion project than it is paying the bills by any means.
But I got very busy nonetheless. And by March. I mean, I always talk about it where I have this art flame that lives in Maine sometime. It’s like a little pilot, a lightning storm, and a bear I don’t need to paint to keep the pain away from me. It’s dirty. And then sometimes that flame starts getting bigger and I need to paint give me something quick. I gotta paint I gotta draw, I got something and that’s what it was like my flame was on fire like, well, I could think about was fainting. And now Meanwhile, I’m holding a job like we were all working from home at that time. And now I had my craft desk and I had my work desk and I was working from 830 to 430 or 35 and the second five o’clock hit I was over to the craft desk and I’m cranking out orders.
I wouldn’t go to sleep until three-four o’clock in the morning and then get a couple of hours to get back to the desk and then back to the other desk. , it was crazy. My family thought I was manic for a while I was going nuts like I just I was I was short on the phone I wasn’t because I was just so in this like everyone get out of my way. I was like it was just it was so fulfilling to have this new art thing. I moved down to Florida in 2015 and when I moved down I hadn’t touched a paintbrush until that point I was so focused on my sales in my friend’s career.
So, after school, your focus is on sales?
Between that time so I graduated from high school. And between that time I always had a heart (for) art, little here a little there a little craft fair, those things all took place until I moved down to Florida. And I was just all in on my insurance career and kind of building that. So it was literally from 2015 to 2020 that I hadn’t touched a paintbrush. So it was the type of thing that once this fire lit up in me I just couldn’t see anything else. I couldn’t focus on work. I couldn’t focus on anything and as I said, my family’s like what is up with you? We can’t even call and say hi, what do you want? , I’m busy. I got stuff to do if you need something. And everybody just, they’re like, what is up with her? So it became a thing where I started to evaluate, like, maybe this is this time in my life where this thing I’ve wanted all my life, I thought I could never touch an art career, like, I just like, am I here? Am I in this moment? Like, my gut tells me I’m in the moment?
Logistically, I’m not I’m selling underdog sneakers, sneakers can’t pay the bills. So how am I going to translate this into real life and then be successful and then, like, try to really make some money? And it was probably a week after I started having thoughts of what, maybe this is the time I’m feeling it. I’ll take six months to a year, I’ll make a really concerted effort to put some money away. And like six months, I should have enough money put away that I could like, try this art thing. I really do it. I’m like having these mirror talks right? Where I’m like, I could do this, and sure enough, it might be a week later after that first, set of thoughts.
My boss calls me is like, you’re always at the top of the sales charts. He’s like, you’re always like, through the roof. What’s up? He’s like, your numbers are the tank, and like, what is happening with you? At that moment, I am eating was my immediate answer. And mind you, like, days earlier? I’m thinking okay, in six months, I’ll quit, give me something. What’s going on with you? Where are your sales numbers, and I say, what, I’m just not focused. I quit and I hung up the phone. And I like, what I just did. I’m the only one paying my rent. I’m the only one paying my bills. I just tossed away my income. What now? , like how to, I couldn’t, I couldn’t believe I did it. Number one.
And because I’ve never quit a job without having something lined up. I’ve never had a gap in employment. Like it was so foreign to me. Like I just got off the phone with him and was like who took over my body? But it was just I was feeling it, so I didn’t tell a soul. My closest friends and family I didn’t tell anybody for about a week and a half because I knew that I know that I’m impressionable.
My emotions are impressionable at times. And if my mom and my families are calling me excited, oh, now I’m excited too, you’re right. I was I did the right thing, or conversely, what the hell’s wrong with ya do? And now I’m nervous. So I kept everybody away from me in this decision for about a week and a half. So I could like say, with that I wanted, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for this week. Like there. It’s so against the grain of like, there’s so much uncertainty. You’re so excited about it. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know, again, who took over my body. But I quit. I did. I finally told everybody. And there was some hesitancy there was some like, here’s your share, we’re doing this.
Did you ever think about calling him back?
No point No. And meanwhile, it was such an opportunity. And it was. It’s kind of like the universe really tested me because my whole life and insurance have all been leading up to Okay, one day, the way I’m going to make my real success money is I’m going to own an agency, and I’ll have an agency I’ve been preparing for this life forever. , I’ve run agencies, I’ve been the office manager of several hiring, doing. And now, just a couple of months prior I have an opportunity to start my own agency and start my own satellite location. So when I quit, it was dirt in this conversation of having okay, like, we’re gonna move you into your own location, you’re gonna build a sales team, you’re gonna, this is the thing I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Wow. And a month into that. I was like, I quit by? I don’t know. So like I said, so it wasn’t just crazy to have done that. At the moment. It was crazy. Because I had this thing that I thought I really wanted at my fingertips and gave that up for this art thing that always felt uncertain.
Did you like, so your Monday into that new agent, your new location? Were there thoughts of like, okay, this isn’t what I thought it was?
A lot. So it was I was used to holding a position more managerial, managing and helping people in the sales side of insurance and things like that as an office manager. And in this role, they gave me an opportunity to start the agency, but I kind of had to start from scratch. I had to build the book. And I had to call people for auto quotes, which is one of my lower, it’s on the lower end of the list. , he like doing so. So it helped that I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing. And I was like, in my mind prior to signing up for this opportunity, so, it’s just gonna be a couple of months of this like grunt work of the stuff that I used to do that like it’d be worth it though to get the agency, but now that I had my little art flame going my article, I was just like, eating that concept. Terrible today. , this is not so I quit and I quit. The craziest part, when I look back is I quit without a plan.
As I quit, not only at the moment, obviously, there was no plan. But I quit without even knowing what I would want this art thing to even look like. Like I didn’t know what I wanted to be, I didn’t know that I wanted to do murals. At that point, I’d only just been doing sneakers, and I was doing some paint parties on the side like pizza parties. And at that point, I mean, again, looking back, it’s like there was not only was there no preparation, but there was no like, plan or goal to meet the goal and know that. I just, had Uber it a little bit and drove for Uber just to make little side money.
And I knew right after being quarantined, I was making a lot of money on the side. Because a lot of people weren’t driving and a lot of people still needed their Ubers and things like that. So I was making a good amount of money doing that. So in my mind, while I figure out what I want this art career to be, I’ll at least know that I could Uber get my bills paid. And whatever little gigs or whatever little paths of art, I could find myself odd will lead me to where I’m supposed to be. And I just had this utmost faith. Again, in hindsight, the amount of calculation that went in was nil. And it was just all on the faith that this is this thing. I’ve been waiting my whole life so I mean, luckily work.
So that was March 2020. My agreement I made with myself is if, in six months, I’m still Ubering. I’m doing something wrong. We’re getting the resume out again to the insurance companies. I’m going back. We need to go back to certainty. We can’t like live crazy. This is not. And throughout those first six months, I was Ubering. I made enough money I was making enough. But not where I wanted to be. Things were still tight. But I needed Uber. Uber was not somebody I could remove. And I’m doing a little mural job here. Canvas over here, little paint parties, like it was enough that I was like gaining some type of momentum and focusing my efforts on the art. But sure enough, six months came and I’m now putting my resume back together and defeated as hell I’m in I like, again, it’s this thing I’ve been wanting my whole life. I took this chance on myself and made a deal.
And now I’m I gotta pay up now I gotta go back to insurance. And I was actually driving through Dunedin, one-day Ubering, and I’m noticing all the oranges everywhere. And I know there are really talented artists, Steven, I never say his last name, right? But he’s a very talented artist that he started these oranges in Dunedin 1015 years ago. And as I’m looking around at the orange isn’t like, this guy is so smart. , he’s like, if anybody thinks of an art thing, they think, Oh, cool. The orange guy.
And I started asking around a couple of people that I knew they’re kind of prominent in the town and Chamber of Commerce, things like that. And I had started asking, What do about this orange guy?, I tried getting in touch with him. I haven’t been in touch with him yet. I’ve reached out a few times, but I’m trying to understand this, like, was this a project? Or was this, how did this these aren’t just come to be known? anywhere else? Anywhere? Any of them? So again, that’s why I reached out to him to try to like to understand it. The answer I got was that it was strictly for Dunedin.
Which is odd, right? Because it’s not like Dunedin was the only city that had orange
There are orange groves everywhere. So but whatever the case, like no judgment, right? It’s, whatever it was, it was. I had a handful of people tell me, we’ve been asking for oranges in Palm Harbor, but is strictly Donita. We can’t get any over here. Interesting. Well, how How convenient.
So in talks, I think how do I, I’ll never want to step on somebody’s toes and be like the same thing. Never do the same thing. And I’m never gonna go do oranges now in Palm Harbor or something like that. Just to let, it certainly wouldn’t be competing, if he doesn’t want to do them here or something like that. But how do I take this concept and make it my own? And that really came from the thought of me being in sales my whole life, I know that if you put somebody in front of me, we could talk it up, chop it up, we’ll get to a place of doing the right thing by most people.
And I needed a way to not just post up a picture of what I’ve painted on Facebook, maybe something like that hope people called me I really wanted to meet the community. I wanted to become a staple of the community. That was my goal is to become a staple in the community. And when you drive through St. Pete, for example, there are murals everywhere. I was always so envious. Like, I love Palm Harbor. I love living here. I’ve lived here since I moved down. But that was the thing I was missing. Like St. Pete is always this like, God, I would love to be around all this art creative. , it’s like so like the whole environment is crazy. And God I would love for that to be up here. So how do I become a staple of the community and bring that field up here?
Where does that idea come from? Like just being a part of the community instead of just I want to create art?
I think knowing that with an art career I mean Facebook was something I wasn’t on Facebook for years prior I was so the all the unnecessary chatters and things and stuff. I just stayed off Facebook for a long time. So it’s very against my grain for most of my business comes from Facebook. And the thought for bringing that up here and trying to immerse me in the community was really just knowing that if you have a community that backs you, I mean, the sky’s the limit, you can then reach out to the town, Hey, can I put a mural over here, and now you have a name. And so it’s really just this desire to like, build this business that scalable that. And in order to do that, you have to find better marketing avenues than just kind of posting the picture and hoping people are just like everybody else, right? So just trying to do something different trying it. And again, my claim to fame and sales is just to get me in front of them yet me.
And we’ll be able to talk. And if it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t. But if it does, I’ll find a way to make it right. All right. So lo and behold, so I go home, and I call my mom. And I’m, like, have an idea. Like, tell me this crazy? Like how do I do this? Because my mom, she’s ran several law firms. And she’s not a sales business. She’s not a salesperson, but she’s savvy in business. So I give her this idea. And like, I need to find a way to get into the community like this may try to find because to this point, I should say in this first six months of trying this business, it’s all word of mouth referrals.
So how do I beef up my word-of-mouth referrals? I need that to exponentially increase. So, so I called her one night and I’m like, the oranges and things and like, he doesn’t come over here. I heard and what if I did a palm tree for Palm Harbor? And I just, like, offered them out. And maybe I’ll make them like 3040 bucks. And, she was like, No, you got to do it for free. I was like, you do have to do it for free. Knowing that I mean, listen, I saw I’ve done about 500 to date.
Only Palm Harbor, okay. I’ve done about these 500. And out of the 500, there might have been maybe 15 that somebody didn’t give me a tip. Or, maybe only give me a couple of bucks or something. Most people are so generous and so grateful. And in 20-40, some people just handed me 100 I was there. 15 minutes from the palm tree. And what I realized out of that I think the biggest lesson that I learned or the biggest nugget that I got out of it was for everybody that I met, not only were they very grateful for doing such a kind gesture, right? But it was more I got this feeling like art was brand new to them. Like almost everybody I met was like, oh my god, I can’t believe I’m an artist. Whereas if you do that in St. Pete, it’s like Tuesday, you gotta be an artist on every corner painting. It just feels normal.
So the thing I started realizing is wow, this is a community that like, is hungry for art. They’re hungry for everybody I met, I would walk up and I’ll meet, but, Bob and Mary and Bob’s, like, my wife has been talking about you for the last two weeks, right agree to come like I couldn’t believe truly like to this day, I still can’t believe how much excitement came from these palm trees. It comes from the inlet and it’s so cool. It’s like, it’s kind of a FOMO thing. Everybody kind of wants to be in within now we have this town logo or was getting one Oh, I went to one too. , so it worked out beautifully. I met so many phenomenal people. I mean, I think that was the other like, the coolest thing about this is I met my community. , I moved down again in 2015.
I worked in a demit insurance. In fact, I drove six minutes over there every day back and forth. I didn’t have much immersion into the community I was in there wasn’t much but going into the stores or things like that. So now I really felt like I was like meeting the people. I’m like, this is such a cool, eclectic place, everybody. I mean, I’m from New York and Long Island, you have like your perfect siding and your perfect homes and nobody’s painting a palm tree on the front of their house like they didn’t exist. So it was just so cool to meet the community. And everybody like with open arms was just so gracious and so supportive. I mean, my first so when I first launched it, I put it in Palm Harbor happenings. Does anybody want a free palm tree? I think the post one is a little something like hey, we all know the orange project. Very talented artists. He does these oranges. I know we’ve been wanting them for a long time. I’ve got an alternative. We’re gonna do something different. I’ve read palm tree for anybody who wants one. And I had 100 people sign up within 45 minutes. My phone was like Bing, bing bing. Like it was off the hook.
I remember calling my mom like it was working. Now how do I do this? For free, right like, and now that’s for free. So it’s like now I have demand. I haven’t done any. So I don’t know, the graciousness finance. , I don’t know if anybody’s going to pay. I knew it was going to work because I was going to meet the community. That’s the goal. But like, how do I find the time to do that and still keep my money-making in action? Yes, I can’t count on that for money, it’s free. And then within the next couple of days, I mean, I’d like to 200 at that point after just a couple of days. So now I have a spreadsheet full of people.
As I mentioned, I’m like super ADHD. And I’m looking at this list. And now I’m like, How do I tackle this? Where do I even start, Palm Harbor is big,, how many can get to a day I still need? It took me a few weeks to just recalibrate and try to figure out a plan of attack, I didn’t want to just do it, off the cuff, I want to go out, like really have a plan, and really figure out how to do it right. And finally, I figured out how to do it. I kind of I imported the spreadsheet onto Google Maps, I got little pinpoints of where it’s worse, I say, Okay, this week we’re doing here and this week we’re doing here and started doing that, that and that plan fell to the wayside because things got a little more hectic, but it at least started me on a trajectory. , being able to, like tackle this.
It’s such a great idea because I think a lot of small businesses or people just starting out in business could do something like that. Right? Not, just offer something of value for free. That’s that simple. And, just to get just to be able to meet people.
Are you familiar with BNI? Yes. So I’m in a BNI group. And the thing that led me to be an I was the model givers game. It’s very much my motto, you give something to get back tenfold. You have to mean that. So this book is right here Go-Giver Great. but you have to mean it. Right? You can’t give in like, Hey, guys, I’m getting some free, and then you get on my after it’s, it really has to be the purpose is like, really genuinely, I wanted to give these palm trees. And if I didn’t make $1, I was still just as happy to meet everybody. So what ends up happening is, not only do I get to meet everybody and see the excitement, but now one out of every two to five people or I’m so glad I met you. I’ve been wanting to do something in my backyard. Hey, do you do bathrooms and hate them? Do you do canvases? Hey, I got this box over here. I need somebody to paint something on it. Can you do that? And before it, I just had, I mean, like I said, maybe one or two out of every five people had some type of project.
And now things are moving quickly. So now you have the excitement of this palm tree project. And I have to keep that moving because it’s my prospecting. It’s my canvassing. And then I have how busy it was getting. And now I have all these new projects. And I want to talk about chicken with that ahead. I don’t even know where I was during those months. Like it was from September when I launched it to about February. It was just pure chaos. Like nobody bothered me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going out. I’m not going to dinner, I have things to do.
And by February I wrapped up February, March, I wrapped up about those 500 I just made once I started seeing that money was coming in from it. I found out a few $100 a day if I can get really quick. And I think my best day I did 15 in one day. Okay, even just traveling to 15 different homes and not doing anything just stepping in the driveway and leaving it will take hours. It was big when you get to East Lake and they go all the way across a beach. And you kind of cruise around. It’s a large area. So sometimes I’ll have an appointment over here and then 20 minutes waiting for another appointment supposed to be in five and I’m around like, Hey, can I switch you around? Can I switch you to four can I do. And this is on the fly like I have never. I mean like I say I have ADHD I currently don’t medicate, but when I did, and I was on medication, and like, that’s how you feel that you’re just like a million miles an hour. It was a very natural medication.
Just it had my motor running all day long. But it got me very busy. And then the other cool part is after every day of doing the palm trees or daily or weekly, depending on how busy I would post up, I would take a selfie with every single person I did the mural with in front of the palm tree and then I would post those on Palm Harbor happenings. And that’s where the FOMO started to come in. And everybody wants one that was posed for like 500 comments deep. And it’s happening. It just feels crazy. And now people are recognizing me which is, unexpected, to be like in public. So I’m like, Oh, you’re the boundary lady. And it was just cool. And it was a whirlwind. So I ended my 500 or so let’s say let’s call it March. So that traction that I had built up. By June I was now booked out for three months and booked a mural award the palm trees are just okay palm trees now took it, I stopped promoting the palm trees as heavily so that I continue to projects in the real money-making stuff.
And like I said, By June I had a mural a week and booked out for three months and it was awesome. It was awesome and super overwhelming because how is just one person which is one painting hand I only got one little hand that can see. It’s hot and there’s a lot to do in some of these jobs there. scheduled for a week. But realistically, I mean, I would like two weeks, maybe for some of those, and I’m just now like, Man, I need help, like, I need to hire somebody. And I ended up putting a post out. My first thought was, how do I, at this point, I’m doing everything by myself? So how do I get it? How do I promise somebody enough time? How do I know that I’ll have enough work for them to leave a job to come to work with me? And if you’re not going to leave a job, then I need multiple people that I can kind of fit in as being in your on-call, Hey, can you can Okay, I can call this one. And so my first thought was to kind of make a team of younger artists like I really wanted to encourage younger artists, my whole story starts from I love art, it’s in every bone in my body. And I never sought it out because it just felt impossible.
So for me the concept of just like diving into the young 1617, eight teens, that you kind of just inspire them College, and they’re like, Man, I wish I could go to art school. What am I gonna do in art school, how’s this gonna be my career, so many people have that sentiment. So I’m like, let me gear towards them. And they could be my mentees. They could be my assistants. Hopefully, they don’t have too much of a demanding schedule, especially at that point. It’s June, the school’s out. So I’m figuring, who doesn’t want some easy work? It’s fun work. I mean, half the time people do it for free but most of the people I’ve spoken to are like, I would do this for free. Like, Well, luckily, I pay you.
But so I got a response back from about 30 Girls on that first shot, and I put out a post on Facebook. And then that was overwhelming, because I’m like, Alright, how am I gonna do this? How do I use it? I got to choose, I have to vet them, and I have to make sure they could keep up. Or is it going to be more of a hindrance than a help for me to have to train all these new people randomly for different projects? How do I find, so there was just so much to it. And again, my brain needs to like, have a very clearly defined path before I could just jump into something. So except for the art, when you just jump right into like, a whole different thing. That leads to a different part. , it’s just a whole different thing. That my brain needs organization, and my heart is where my art is. Just dive right in.
So, I want to ask you, like when you’re when you have that many projects, right, as an artist, do creativity does it become hard and difficult to be creative in that in that sense, or do you ask that because that actually it’s one of the other reasons why I never jumped into art. Like most artists, I would say 99.9 and nine out of 100 will be overly critical. hate a lot of what they do, while the rest of the world is clapping and does not feel like they really hit the mark that they want to hit.
So it becomes a very stressful environment. When I was young, I was painting things I understood, like how frustrated I would get when I couldn’t quite get the piece of the project right where I wanted it, I feel frustrated, and then I wouldn’t finish it. And I would start something else. So that train of thought told me that there was no way I’m going to be able to do this and put $1 amount on it. Because now I’m gonna grow to hate this thing that I now have to be dependent on, I can’t enjoy it. And that was a part of it. So as far as the creativity side, I was actually very surprised by kind of where I land today. Because with that mindset back then I felt like I had to be perfect to even think to put $1 figure on this and like depend on it. Where I am now is I mean I do a little bit of everything. I could be doing graffiti, one-day logos, the next a sunsets, realism over here, like, we do so many different things. I was just so excited that it was working. So the passion behind being excited that this business model that I was planning for is working was keeping the engine running. But there are certainly times when it’s like another sunset.
Okay, I’ll do another sunset. Excited about it, and there were those times but you’re still so grateful for the opportunity that that feeling is like fourth, fifth sixth to all the excitement feelings, so it gets me through and then, the other side of it too as an artist. Some people may feel the same way some may not but there are some artists like many of the artists in St. Pete, who has a very clearly defined style, you could spot so and so’s mural anywhere I could you could put 100 murals in front we all know exactly which one’s his I know exactly what transpires because people have these defined styles I’m so envious of that. I wish I had that very clearly defined style and thing and only recently have I really started to really appreciate that I don’t have a style now.
People that work with me they’re like Michelle, you have a style I don’t see many people say I do I think my style and techniques are one thing but like I really characterized style is something I don’t know. But now I’ve grown to love it because if you have this one style, you have to hope you get enough people that want your one style. if I can do anything. And I could do anything. And if I may make a team of 10 of us that each could do anything, but we all kind of like one thing in particular. Now, I’ve got specialists in all different things and people that could do it. And now we could tackle.
That’s why I circle back to like the tattoo shop, right? It’s kind of like they each have when I had legendary tattoos, Mitch on he was like, he was that’s what he was saying. He’s like, I have one artist that does like this technique or this style, right? And now the line was The Classic American Tattoo.
It’s very much like that. I’ve gotten to a point where I know my girls well enough that I have a certain mural that comes in, I jump on your own, I’ve got one for you, you want this one listener, and they started salivating. , it’s like, another Monstera leaf, or whatever it is. And so now, so now circle back to that, that summer, where I just start getting busy. I have this spreadsheet of girls to try to get help. I ended up calling one of them. This is Meredith, who now works with me now. And she had come in work for me, but she was in VanCamp. So she had other obligations, too. And I worked with her one day, and I was awesome. Like the first person I hit. She was great. She was really sweet. She did a great job. But she had other obligations and I can’t count on her regular sleep. Okay, this plan of having these, multiple people is not going to be that I need to find one person. So while I’m stressing about this, because it was literally again, beginning of June, where I have all like, I can’t take a day to even think I have everything stays on track.
Like I can’t let one thing fall short or the next 15 projects fall short. So I go to my mom’s house, my sister comes over and we’re having a powwow my sister owned a business for a couple of years now she owns Smith in Maine Hair Studio in Palm Harbor also, and her having run a business my mom having run in several like how do I find how do I like how do I do this? My brain was all over the place. So in the middle of me freaking out my sister’s like, well, as a matter of fact, this girl just hit me up in my DMs the other day, this younger girl she’s in Palm Harbor lives right by the salon. And she’s an artist that asked me if I need a mural I had just painted a mural and Morgan salon so Morgan’s like, of course, I don’t need a mural I, she doesn’t know who you are, of course, but she goes, Why don’t you call her she seems like really like a go-getter like, and I love that me being a sales go-getter type of girl walk in anywhere and stick my hand out and shake a hand.
So I met her right away and for the work that she had done at that point, it didn’t parallel a lot of the work that I typically do. So my first thought was okay, well, we’ll have to see if our art styles are aligned first, but I’ll give her a shot. The hustle is the first thing I see beyond anything else in most situations. So she helped me out on a mural and the rest is history. This little Cheyenne now runs the Palm Harbor palm tree project because now after we got the summer and our craziness out of the way start art flow. And I said I’d really love to bring this palm tree project back as I would hate for this thing that I started. , I started this thing. So I said why don’t you do it now. So now she doesn’t Cheyenne. She is first of all, she is so talented. And she is such a badass, she has this little five-foot-nothing.
And but she’s got the biggest spirit in the biggest drive. Like I’ve never met a person, an adult who is more driven and down. I mean, we were doing during that summer of like these back to back like being so busy. We’d be working two jobs at a time we’d be working 14, 15, 16 hour days leaving places at three o’clock in the morning getting up at eight going to the next one, and running around like lunatics.
And she was down every time I’d be like, alright, you want to go home, I know you’re tired. She’s like, I’m not tired. I never sleep. Like she would keep me going. Unless I’m 38 years old. , it’s not easy to keep my motor running for 18 hours straight. , her energy is contagious. And she is probably the biggest reason why my business has turned into it without confidence. I mean, besides the fact that she’s talented, all the other stuff that goes along with it. If you can’t have somebody that you can count on that, whether in a bind or whether you just need somebody to help you get this thing finished because we got to start a new one tomorrow. I need the person that’ll be there no matter what, she never took a sick day. Never. I mean, we had our times to take off but she would never.
There was never a time where she flaked in a moment that I needed her and in fact, anytime I needed her when it was like okay today’s rest day and then I call her like alright, I know your say it was a rest day, but we got this thing and I forgot who she was alright, I’ll be there in 10 minutes like to have that on your side. I tell her almost every single day that she single-handedly really changed my life without that tight because anybody else I could have hired could have been months’ worth of training, months worth of understanding how to, but there’s a lot about intuition. And just good work habits. Knowing how to talk to people who like is just innate within people. And if it’s not there, it’s hard to teach. She just had all of it. So it was just easy. I felt like I just had another little meat that was way more energy.
It’s almost like every I think every business at some point needs that right. Oh god, you need that extra hands extra person?, for sure. Just collaboration and stuff. What am I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask you what’s your biggest I say biggest mural completed? Let’s do that one first mural completed
As the one that I’m finishing tomorrow is. So we’ve done lots of big cool projects, but biggest square footage wise, we just finished up. This is a really cool story. Actually, this is a mural for an apartment complex. That’s right next door to USF. So it’s an apartment complex that caters mostly to students. And they asked me to do something new with the front of their there. It’s an 800-square-foot wall. And I have gotten to the point now that I have a pretty decent team, I want everybody to start learning how to design in all different types of things. Like I don’t want to just call on the flower girl for the flower stuff. I want everybody to start practicing everything.
So when we’re coming up with renderings to pitch to a client. So anyway, have everybody send me ideas. I read the guide, the client wasn’t sure what he wanted. He just said these are This is our demo, think of something cool. Send me a couple of ideas. We’ll figure it out from there. So I didn’t know what direction to go. But I know if we’ve got everybody on board, we’ve come up with some cool stuff. So Meredith, the first girl that I worked with that first time, who now started working with us again, of course, designed this mural, she came up with a most beautiful design.
The cool client loved it. It’s her first design on wall on a wall crazy, and it’s our biggest one and she’s going to USF in the spring. Go there and be like Hey, why don’t we take this road? So it’s I, I mean, I get no greater joy. I don’t have kids, but it’s very much like the proud mama, like when I, when I’m in a situation where you were Cheyenne, Cheyenne is running around doing the palm trees. Part of the beauty of this palm tree project is that you’re picking up little projects as you go, Hey, I have this little statue outside, it needs to be repainted 200 bucks, have a mailbox, okay, another 100 bucks and something. She is so busy.
And it’s like it’s my proudest moments, the projects now or it’s just Tuesday. It’s just a job, my proud moments, and the things that pushed me or my team, I want my team to be doing more than me making more than me, I want them to feel as fulfilled as they possibly can. And that drives me I wouldn’t work as hard if it was just me. This is, however, it sounds to say it is I have them and I get so much joy and fulfillment out of seeing them grow. And like it’s almost every day, almost every day, we could be on a job. And it could be four of us painting. And somebody just starts looking around and I look and she goes, Can you believe this? My job? I believe we do this for a living. We probably say that every single day. And it’s the coolest thing. And Meredith and Cheyenne. They’re 18 years old, so this is a world that I wish I could have been in when I was 18. I have an amazing.
It’s part of like, why you’re so passionate about like the team.
Because we all talk about it, we all talk but I’m always open to meeting new artists, some artists you meet, and might feel like a good fit at first things happens, those things will always happen in any business. But we have this core family of the four of us right now. And then we have like probably another 10 that we have relationships with that still work on projects that time but not really in a full-time capacity, but still part of the family. And it’s just it’s phenomenal. We have one artist mana min somebody that I met through a client and she’s in the mid-30s
So she’s younger than me but older in life, she had tried her hand at art and graphic design for many, many years. And she was doing it but feeling like a struggling artist, you’re still trying to really make it work and while she’s doing graphic design and that was very fulfilling her true passion is art right? And then we connect and now I’ve got murals galore please come paint with me. And now she feels tremendously so it’s there’s so many fulfilling things for me that like the new the younger girls, they have an avenue mana she’s in a position where I feel like I can give you this thing that you’ve been fighting hard for your whole life. And now we’re here and we can do it together and like so now when the four of us get together and we talk about we’re like, I don’t know how other artists do this alone.
So much more fun together. , it’s possible you can keep the check. , mural money is nice money, and you can keep the check for yourself and work Tripoli as hard. , and that mural might take four weeks instead of one if you had a few people working on it. And some people prefer to do that. We all decided we’d rather make a little less and do 10 times the amount the quantity does together. So when I’m a little down, and I’m looking at this bird that I’ve been painting for two hours, that just doesn’t look right. And I look over, he was like, Is this done yet? And they’re like, yes, please leave it alone, whatever you’re seeing doesn’t exist, go away, go do something else. And you have a backup, and you have people that are helping you grow. , when I’m working on something that I don’t know how to kind of work through or something like that. Men are super talented. She’s done a lot of work. I can have her like, how do you do this? I know, I shade this thing, get this look realistic.
And so we’d like to teach each other. It’s, I never could have dreamed that when I quit my job in March of 2021 and had no idea where it was going, it would turn into this and like, and I actually attribute BNI to it. So I started BNI. And during that crazy summer, that first crazy summer, I started as Michelle Sasha’s custom artist. And I had Cheyenne at the time. And my goal was just to keep building my business.
So are you just doing murals at that time?
Pretty much. I mean, there was some canvas work. It’s not my forte, it’s not the thing that drives me as much. It’s the big money. It’s the big thing. It’s a mural. , so cool. And so when I joined BNI, and I believe it’s August or September, I had a couple of conversations, and I’m in a big group with a lot of heavy hitters, and I just start looking around like, I want to get like these guys, like, you start looking around, and I had a meeting with Ford keys, he runs action coach of Tampa Bay. I just had Scott Bunnell on here. , they’re really, they’re really, really great. And I had just an obligatory meeting with him to be like to join the group. So it wasn’t necessary to focus. It was just him telling me a little bit about what he does, and we were just having a cold conversation.
And the moral of it was, I trained business owners how to have a business that they don’t have to work in, or that they can sell and could still run. I was like, wow, well, my first thought, let me sit not say that my first thought was, well, that’s not me. I can’t make money if I don’t paint. , how do I make my if I don’t paint? And then it started ringing over and over in my head when he was talking about that. I see everybody else in every group every week. I’m like, watching I’m like, I and along this time, I’m meeting new artists. I’m meeting artists that have been doing murals for years and years and years. And by themselves, by themselves. And we’re, we’re starting new, really great friendships.
And these very experienced artists are coming to me and saying, okay, so how do I get as many murals as you got? And I’m like, oh, no, why are you asking me? I don’t know, I’ve literally just been doing this. Now again, you got a lot of work. And, it’s hard to find work. So how are you finding your work? And sometimes they’ll call and be like, so I have a client that needs this, like, how do you? I don’t know how to sell it. How do you sell it? Like, I don’t know, doesn’t work.
I’m feeling like it’s look at the in the moment. In hindsight, it’s my whole world coming together in this sales. Everything like working at GEICO, working in GEICO was in a call center, and every call is recorded. And they call you off the call. And then they basically greet every single word, you say you could have taken this one word out, you could have shaved a couple of seconds, and you could have done. It was like a boot camp for how to speak to people. I give a lot of credit to Geico and how they train again, while you’re in it. It feels very bootcamp II. And it feels like very, like, just let me do my thing.
We talked to the people, they made me a communication monster, I can have conversations with almost anybody from any walk of life. And it trained me to know how to effectively hear somebody and effectively respond and effectively like take a conversation where it needs to go and things like that. So like even just working Geico, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I didn’t have that experience, I wouldn’t be able to have those consults and communications same way, which is
Crazy. Because if you would have started art out of school, you wouldn’t have been able to you might have been like one of those starving artists.
Everything happens in the universe. Me down the path for a reason. And I’m just happy to be here. Happy to be here. I’m happy to, I have podcasts like this. I mean, there’s no greater joy to me then. If just one person listens, and they’re like, I love making pottery, but I could never do it. No, like, just go. Go do it. Yes, go do it or find a way to do it a little bit. , just do it a little bit.
And then you’ll find ways to do it a little bit more and a little bit more, and then some, you’ll pay a little bit more, and just do it. So I never realized I was a person that needed to build people around me or build, I didn’t know that that was a thing of mine until I started feeling it. And now I can’t get enough. I would scream it from the rooftops I would, I’m doing art camp this summer because I’m thinking okay, these little kids, I could teach little tidbits of how to draw ahead if they maybe they’ll remember one day, I I set up a bunch of art classes to do for adults and for teens. So I’m trying to touch as many artists as I can. appropriately and kindly and nicely and well.
Have a big, just inspire them, motivate them by them. I want if I, and listen to that, there’s a part of it that I can’t help but feel like, there are times where I say, Well, I am far from the most talented artists. I mean, every artist I know around me, I think is far more talented than me. But if you can get the equation of finding people that like your art, there could be a million people who are better than me. But if they like your art, focus on them, And then if you can find so it’s really just about, I think that thought stops most artists, most people most creatives, , you can want to create any kind of business and like, oh, that’s crazy. How am I gonna get people to come in the front door? And, so anybody that just wants to? , I think everybody goes, like, everybody can get in your own way. Really easy, for sure.
Alright, so last question. What is what’s your like your bucket list, mural?
I had my bucket list mural. The first thing I’m thinking when you ask that is they just put out a call to artists for the water towers on 19 up by the countryside right here. I was passing those water towers for the past two years with Cheyenne my assistant in the friend’s seat saying we’re gonna paint those things one day, painting those, look how big those things are. We’re gonna paint them. We didn’t get chosen.
Recently, I’m okay. I’m sure whoever is chosen for it has a larger portfolio of proof to do things of that scale. And one day, we’ll be there. So I think the thing for me, there are lots of really talented artists that, the fatality brothers, for example, in St. Pete are they’ve been doing it since the 90s. And they do the biggest grandest walls. And that’s what I would love to do. I see other artists doing the side of let’s say a 10-story, high rise, do the whole wall. I want people to see it from far, far away. That’s what I want. So that’s, that’s kind of like that.
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