Aimee Guzman shares her experience as a young creative entrepreneur after attending The Women’s Design Salon: Community Builders event on March 10, 2016.
As I walked into an eclectic Arts District studio, I could tell that this event was not going to be the typical networking event. In lieu of standard rows of chairs, the setting was intimately lit and sofas were situated into a cozy setup. It really did feel like a salon from long ago where creatives would gather for community, discussion, and inspiration. The only indicator of it being present times were the few iMacs situated here and there.
I have seen both Joanna Waterfall and Audrey Bellis in action through the Yellow Conference and Worthy Women series as organizers, emcee’s, and moderators, but not front and center like I did at the Women’s Design Salon. Both Joanna and Audrey have large, established communities of ambitious, talented women. And, these leaders have created business models from the idea that developing relationships with other creative women and building a community is important to success. I was surprised when I walked away from the event with something more than just the importance of community; I walked away with a new way of thinking about success. I discovered how success unfolds through the journey we take.
Creating your dream career comes with its own unique challenges. It can feel like a roller coaster and it can feel isolating. I recently launched my own design studio specializing in brand identity, website development and digital presence for creative entrepreneurs and creating a community has become a necessity. Without coworkers or a boss to turn to, each decision, each step of the way can feel daunting and can bring about feelings of insecurity. It wasn’t until recently that I moved passed the type of networking that involves handing out business cards into a more intimate relationship with my fellow creative women, whom I call boss babes. This is how I have created a true creative community for myself.
When you look at Joanna and Audrey, it’s hard to imagine them in any state other than confident and on top of the world. Can you really imagine Audrey in stretchy pants and Joanna be anything but upbeat and welcoming? It’s the darker stories that these women shared at the Salon that we never hear about that make us falsely think success is created overnight. What these two women have in common is that their businesses were started as a result of them being in dark places with their careers and what they accomplished despite the challenges they faced.
So how do you get from a point of darkness to a point of success? How did Audrey become a DTLA tech maven? How did Joanna create a community of creative do-gooders from scratch? As Audrey put it, “Getting from point A to point B is about bridging small actions.” It’s through a series of small steps that success begins to reveal itself. The best thing you can do for yourself as a creative entrepreneur is hear stories of other entrepreneurs where they experienced failure and moments of uncertainty. As a creative entrepreneur myself, I’m now seeing first hand that entrepreneurship is not void of uncertainty, mistakes and missteps. But when our businesses are tied to who we are as people, how do we ensure that our business missteps are not a reflection of who we are? How do we maintain what Audrey calls “worthiness” which enables us to keep pushing forward?
We’ve all experienced unworthiness in our careers and personal lives. But rather than being ashamed of this, both Joanna and Audrey share their stories. By being vulnerable, they are able to connect with their communities on a deeper level and learn and grow from these experiences. In the words of Joanna, “adversity leads to bonding.” It’s easier to have compassion for each other and bond when we are real with one another. Have you ever walked into a room or a networking event and felt like the only way to network is to brag about your business, but what’s really on your mind is how you’re going to get your next client? I think there is a general feeling with creative entrepreneurs that in order to be successful we should “fake it till we make it” but what that can inevitably lead to is being ungenuine to what’s actually going on in your business. What I long for are experiences and relationships in which I can be honest and not have to put on an #insta-worthy exterior. The consistent theme of this evening that answered this need is that vulnerability leads to connectivity, which leads to stronger business partnerships and support with other female creatives. Fostering a community takes more than putting a handful of fabulous creative women in one room. The Women’s Design Salon did more than this, it set the stage for creating lasting relationships with fellow creatives and opened a conversation for how we can be active community builders. Participants can now take those relationships and conversations to a deeper level and open up with one another if they choose to. What I see myself gaining from this series is the ability to learn from women I look up to, like Joanna and Audrey, and the opportunity to meet fellow designers with whom I can connect. For any blossoming graphic designers, creative entrepreneurs, and female entrepreneurs, I definitely recommend the Women’s Design Salon. It is a program that AIGA Los Angeles has designed for creative entrepreneurs like myself and it is truly unique.
Aimee Guzman is an L.A.-based creative entrepreneur and illustrator. As founder of Little Trailer Studio, she aims to empower entrepreneurs to follow their passions through unique brand identities and websites that speak to who they are as creatives. Visit her blog to get great tips on how to forge your own path by creating a career or business that is rooted in your creative passions.
Photography by Nicole Chin, an L.A. based Art Director.