Interviews: Diana Antohe, Mike Baughman, Sharon Lyle

In this post, you will find three interviews with three entrepreneurs. They were created to reflect on the possible parallel between entrepreneurship and the mythic structure of the journey of the hero, as articulated by Joseph Campbell. These interviews were conducted as part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program. 

Diana Antohe

Q: In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant Arts Entrepreneurship, Antoheobstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

One of the biggest obstacles has been exposure – being able to market yourself to your audience. At least on the photography side, a lot of it is just word of mouth recommendation, but in the digital age, being able to put yourself and your website out there and use social media really helps. I think gaining experience, like I’m doing right now, will help people know about what I do too. Another obstacle is learning to adapt to all the resources you have today like using social media. I also think the transition from an academic environment to putting what you want to do into a reality has been a jump as well. You’re used to working in school and then you want to be able to jump right in, but you have to have perspective and know that it’s not all going to come at once.

Q: Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

Right now, I am working on a two-pronged approach of having a studio practice alongside a photography business. Studio wise, I think there have definitely been moments of doubt where you just get worried because you compare yourself to other people who are on completely different trajectories. You think, am I doing things right? It’s a blessing and a curse, but in the arts, you can’t anticipate everything; you can’t put a label on everything – opportunities you would have never expected fall into your lap – or you go and run after. So, yes, there have been moments of doubt and wondering if this is the right way of going about things. I think it’s important to have mentors, whether or not you have them in your own life or look for it outside to help you along the way.

Q: What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

I think I’ve always enjoyed photographing people, but last year before I started Dianto Photo, I didn’t really think I could make money off of it or turn it into something. That’s what happens in arts entrepreneurship. If you want something to happen, you go for it. I didn’t really think I could ever just start doing that in a serious way. That’s a change in my outlook in realizing that I can actually make this part of my financial repertoire instead of just a side project I do. Taking my time and my work seriously – that’s the biggest change I’ve been working on – and I still struggle with it. Being in the arts, sometimes you might be taken advantage of and people want to use your talents and skills in ways that doesn’t necessarily benefit you. You have to respect your work.

Q: What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

My key takeaway is the importance of community. In school, people talk about networking, but really it’s just meeting people, making friends, and being able to collaborate with them. Be open and friendly with everyone that comes your way, regardless of what they have to offer. You never know what opportunity is going to come around and you never know when.

Mike Baughman 

Q: In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant Arts Entrepreneurship, SMU Baughmanobstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

A: One of the biggest was convincing key stakeholders that this wasn’t just a good idea, that it was better than their ideas. A couple things that helped me overcome that – definitely, just tenacity. One of the things I found really helpful too was recruiting people who were willing to help fight for the concept. It demonstrates that there are more people involved in this idea than just the person, which gives it legitimacy. Funding and fundraising is another challenge. It takes years before most businesses are self-sustainable and despite the fact that Churches thrive and survive only on donations, getting people to donate money isn’t something they teach you in Seminary. How I overcame that was really just help. Another challenge we’re still working on overcoming is figuring out what our identity is when we don’t fit a category easily. We’re still wrestling with – are we a coffee shop that happens to have a church in it or are we a church that runs a coffee shop? What is the relationship between these two entities?

Q: Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

A: In all three of those hurdles, I can think of times when I was ready to just go okay f*** it, I’m done. The whole pitching process was at least a 20-hour a week unpaid job for 9-10 months. The sheer work makes you go, “what am I sacrificing for this thing that I don’t know is going to come to pass?” Then, the battles with the Board of figuring out who we are; I believe I lost years of my life going through that. It was really painful and detrimental and the fear of failure that comes along with that. What if this all falls apart? I remember times looking at the spreadsheets and thinking, we’re just never going to get to that point. We’ve weathered some good storms.

Q: What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

A: I don’t think any business or entrepreneurial venture will work without change. When I was pitching our concept, I would walk into meetings and say at the end, “there’s no coffee shop church for dummies out there, so 50% of what we’ve proposed might have to be thrown out the window in the first month.” So, a willingness to be nimble and to adjust is huge. I’ve changed a lot over the past couple years. I’ve learned how to manage staff a lot better, learned how to be humble about things a lot better. I’m still learning.

Q: What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

A: I think the importance of finding work that gives you joy. I’ve identified a lot of the difficult moments, but the reality is I have yet to have a moment where I’ve looked back on the day and said well, s***, that was a waste of time, because I’m so in love with what it is that happens here. I’m so excited that I get to do this. I think it’s because I find joy in what I get to do here. I think we find joy in those people and those things that tell us that we matter. That’s the essence of joy, it’s not necessarily about happiness, it’s this assurance that you matter, and I’ve found that in this. And I can’t go back.

Sharon Lyle 

Q: In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant Arts Entrepreneurship, SMU Lyleobstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

A: The first and most substantial is just that mental block of how much time it actually takes to get anything done. The law in entrepreneurship is it’ll take three times as long as you think it will. And it absolutely does. When you’re really driven and passionate about getting something done, you want it done yesterday. Being really clear on articulating the value composition and the messaging is often something that’s an iterative process and while it’s so crystal clear in your head because you’re living it, figuring out the language to tell the story and really fine tuning that compelling “why?” is worth spending a lot of time on. Being true to your finances is the third obstacle. I’ve done a lot of work with entrepreneurs and startups and I tend to be of the mind frame of if you show me a classic entrepreneurial financial projection where your income is going to go from flat to through the roof, I rip it up and throw it away because it’s not realistic.

Q: Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

A: Really truly giving up? No. Because I believe in what we’re doing and I believe that it’s really important for companies and nonprofits to ask themselves, what would happen if my company no longer existed? If you believe that what you’re doing is still meeting a need or fulfilling a purpose or your cause is genuine, then you won’t give up. There are days when I just don’t want to do the work, but giving up? Not really.

Q: What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

A: I think it really is true that the one constant is change. Change is particularly relevant, because youth is part of what drives creativity and continues to push the envelope and bring new ideas to the table. So how do we surround ourselves with fresh, new ideas and keep ourselves current when we’re not necessarily the generation that’s doing the creating anymore as much? It’s a cycle. Everyone has a seat at the table and there really is a place for all the different voices. I feel like a lot of what we do is to commission creative companies and creative people to help communities understand change.

Q: What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

A: This community-rooted work has really fundamentally changed me. I feel a much greater sense of connectedness within my own community, of getting to play a part, of getting to have access to a moment or an opportunity as opposed to ownership. I think I’ve debunked this original vision for my life that I was going to be a business owner and what I’ve realized through doing this community-based work is my ultimate goal now would just be able to be a part of something that really made a difference. Nothing has been that profound as this real shift in where the value really lies.

These interviews and analyses were conducted by student Angie Reisch for the Arts Entrepreneurship program at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU. They were created for the class Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure and are part of a blog series called Heroes Among Us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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