Archive for the ‘Artistpreneurs’ Category

Artistpreneurs (Part 4): Blueprint

AUTHOR:
DATE:
31 December 2012.

blueprintName: Blueprint
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Business: Weightless Recordings

Blueprint (birth name: Al Shepard) is an emcee/producer from Columbus, Ohio. Blueprint quit his job as a computer programmer with the Kroger Corporation in 2002 to make music his full-time occupation.

On top of running an independent record label, Weightless Recordings, Blueprint has released three full-length albums on Rhymesayers Entertainment, a nationally recognized and distrubuted label. Rhymesayers is arguably the most well-respected and high-quality independent hip-hop label in the US. The Rhymesayers roster includes: Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, MF DOOM, Abstract Rude and Soul Position (Blueprint and RJD2).

Blueprint’s solo album Adventures in Counter-Culture released in 2011 and was received with critical acclaim. Blueprint is well-traveled. He’s done several album-supporting tours of the US, Canada and Europe including a sold-out headlining tour as part of Soul Position (with RJD2). He’s had a music video in regular rotation on MTVu, and has been featured in URB, Spin, MTV.com and HipHopSite.com.

While in college at Ohio University I got to open up a show for Blueprint and his long-time collaborator Illogic. It meant a lot to me as I respect and looked up to the these guys. They were part of a group of artists (including J. Rawls, MHz and Spitball) that established Columbus as the place for quality hip-hop music in Ohio.

Blueprint

Although I never got to work with Blueprint musically, he tapped me to do album artwork for a number of Weightless projects after college. Having worked together for a several years, I consider him a friend and have taken an interest in his career.

For me, watching Blueprint develop into a world-class artist is like seeing an athlete from your city make it to the pros. Al is a renaissance man. He writes music and produces for himself and others. He also shoots/directs and edits music videos. When he isn’t touring the globe he is sometimes responding to my emails, including the one I sent asking him the following questions:

 

On Travel

Q: What are your 3 favorite places you have visited in the world?

Blueprint: The top three favorite places I’ve ever been would have to be Vancouver, Berlin, and Los Angeles. I’ve been able to play shows in Vancouver five or six times and always loved the vibe there enough to take two vacations there. I really love the layout of the city and the people there. About four years ago I was able to stay in Berlin for a few weeks while I was doing a tour in Germany. I had no idea how vast or diverse the city was before got there and was completely blown away. It’s amazingly beautiful and has a lot of support for the arts. Los Angeles to me is just a uniquely special place in America. There’s nothing like it. It’s one of those cities that no matter what you’re into – they have it and do it well. There’s literally scenes for everything you could possibly have an interest in. That’s very rare, but Los Angeles is that kind of city. From the glamourous to the gritty – LA has it.


Q: What are 3 places in the world you haven’t been that you’d like to visit in your lifetime?

Blueprint: Australia, Thailand, and Africa. Haven’t been to any of those spots yet, but hope to get an opportunity soon.


Q: Does traveling change a person? If so, in what way?

Blueprint: Definitely. It makes your realize that there’s a lot more to life than the things you see around you. In fact, it makes you feel kind of silly for assuming that your reality is the only reality that matters. Once you realize that the world is this huge place full of different realities it makes you feel more optimistic and energetic about changing your reality. If you don’t take control of your environment it will take control of you.

Traveling the world has made me a better and more well-rounded person. It’s opened me up to how vast culture is and allowed me to step outside of the confines of being simply an American and defining my self as just that. I feel really blessed to have had an opportunity to see so much of the world and talk to people from different places and be exposed to different cultures. It’s made me a much better human being.

 
blueprint-adventures

On Work

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspires you?

Blueprint I’m inspired by how vast and endless music is. No matter how much you learn about one specific aspect of it, you can never learn everything there is to learn. Even if I ever thought I mastered the hip-hop part of it, I’m no more than a novice at other genres. That endless path inspires me to wake up and learn everyday, to push myself further. I want to observe, practice, and experiment with all forms of music every day and find ways to use them to tell my story, challenge the conventions, and maybe think of combinations that haven’t been thought of yet.

As far as motivation goes, I think my biggest motivation is time. Understanding time means acknowledging how little of it you have to do things you really want to do; whether that be daily or in your life. Time itself motivates the hell out of me to get things done.


Q: What is success?

Blueprint: At a basic level, I think success is being able to say you completed your goal – no matter how big or small that goal is. Success isn’t really about money or accolades, because both of those things come and go, but knowing that you did what you set out to do is something nobody can take away from you.


Q: What tools or resources do you utilize to expand your skills and knowledge?

Blueprint: The best tool I have is my ability to listen and learn. The ability to watch and observe has served me better than any technical skill I may have. I love to study new things and find ways to introduce them to the things I’m already doing. I learn from everybody and everywhere. When I’m not on the road I read no less than two hours a day. Everything from books to blogs, I’m reading it. Exercising my mind and trying to always accept information and ideas from alternate sources. I guess if I had to pick one tool that has served me the best in the past few years it would be my library card.

 

On Life

Q: What’s the best (or at least a very good) piece of advice you’ve gotten or can give to young creatives, musicians and aspiring small business owners?

Blueprint: Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. At the beginning stages it’s so easy to second guess yourself, even though the work you’re doing is amazing. We all fall into those periods of indecisiveness but it’s important to finish projects, first so you can gain the confidence from knowing you finished, and second so you can move onto other projects. Don’t over-think things, get things done.


Q: What measures do you take to stay healthy mentally and physically?

Blueprint: I had many years where I wasn’t really taking great care of myself: I was eating anything and not working out much. Fortunately I realized the error in that. Now I know that being in good health is a big factor in being able to do what I love at a high level. You can’t be good at anything if you’re hungover, or eating bad food, or physically a mess. You may have some successes but you won’t have the consistency until everything is in harmony.

Specifically, this past year I’ve cut meat and refined sugar out of my diet and it has worked wonders for my energy levels. I can work longer and I no longer have those up-and-down, rollercoaster days. I’m not exactly a vegan or vegetarian but I only eat meat once or twice a week and 80-90% of the food I eat is fruit or vegetables…and a lot of it is uncooked. That’s made a huge difference.


Q: What qualities or personality traits do you look for in business partners or employees?

Blueprint: Honestly, I try to look at people who have passion and are already conducting themselves in a professional manner. They don’t have to be making money or anything yet, but if they act professional and handle their business as a professional then I’m down to work with them. Sometimes newer people think they have to talk their way into opportunities, but in most instances their work and conduct speaks for them already. They don’t have to really do anything but stay consistent and their opportunities will come. Those are the people I like to work with. People who would be doing their thing at a high level anyway. That way our relationship is complimentary and not based on dependency.

Video for “Radio Inactive” from Adventures in Counter-Culture

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Blueprint just finished up a US tour for Deleted Scenes his follow-up to Adventures in Counter-Culture. Deleted Scenes included work that was done during the same time period as ACC but thematically did not fit the album’s concept. Blueprint is an avid blogger on everything from music to personal improvement. He maintains a YouTube channel with his music videos and is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Artistrepreneurs (Part 3): Amy Black

AUTHOR:
DATE:
26 December 2012.

Amy black Leather jacket
Name: Amy Black
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Business: Jimmy & Joe’s Pizzera / AmysVintageCloset.com
 

In 2006 Amy Black and her family opened Jimmy and Joe’s; an award-winning pizzeria in Chandler, Arizona. In 2012 they opened their second store in Mesa. Jimmy and Joe’s has been voted Readers’ Choice “Best Pizzeria” and “Best Slice” by several Arizona publications. I’ve had their pie. It’s the good stuff.

The Black family employs a kick-ass staff, including Amy, who began managing the Mesa location full-time after returning home to the Phoenix area. Amy had spent the last few years managing restaurants and doing it big in San Diego.

On top of helping to run the coolest pizzeria in the Phoenix area, Amy started a fashion, style and beauty blog this year called Amy’s Vintage Closet. Her content has been picked up by more established online outlets such as: NYTimes Street Style, Coco Kouture Blog Spotter, and Lucky Magazine.
 

On a daily basis Amy is rocking outfits that pair vintage pieces, inexpensive buys and thrift finds with modern high-fashion accessories. Lots of color, lots of texture and lots of style.

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Artistpreneurs (Part 2): Robert Croak

AUTHOR:
DATE:
8 December 2012.

Photograph copyright PokerStrategy.com

Name: Robert Croak
Location: Toledo, OH & Las Vegas, Nevada
Business: SillyBrandz Global

 

Robert Croak has been a Toledo-area celebrity for some time. When I was high school aged, I knew him as “Mr. Eastside” because he basically ran the entertainment district on Toledo’s east side.

Fast forward a few years, I began working for Rob in 2004 as a digital designer while I was finishing my degree. Rob and I got along well. He was energetic, fun and smart. Some days after work we would hang out, play poker and toss ideas around.

One of those ideas really took off. Rob noticed the popularity of Lance Armstrong’s signature yellow “Livestrong” bracelets (see picture above). If you recall these things were everywhere and the demand outweighed the supply as they were sold out in Foot Locker locations nationwide. We mixed a market observation with a trend and decided to sell a Poker-themed silicone bracelet. Not long thereafter, Rob decided to offer silicone bracelets with a customizable message and color.

Rob first sourced the product abroad and after the profits began to roll in he purchased equipment to do the job in-house. It was wildly successful and grew Rob’s staff by at least 3x it’s original size.

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Artistpreneurs (Part 1): William Steinman

AUTHOR:
DATE:
5 December 2012.

William Steinman - photo by Kate MissPhotograph © Kate Miss

Name: William Steinman
Location: Los Angeles, California
Business: WilliamSteinman.com (filmmaker/painter)

William Steinman has two full-time jobs. He works and lives in Koreatown (Los Angeles) with his fiancé and graphic design entrepreneur, Kate. His daytime job is working as a handyman in Hollywood. Previously he was employed by Dwell studios in NYC as a production set builder. His night time job is creating art in his studio.

Will and I used to paint trains together and fill up notebooks in college. We met through a mutual friend that knew we’d get along. He was the guy who would organize a fund for paint by cutting back on a precise number of Natty Lights over the course of a week. Always working the angles.

Will is a craftsmen. He loves to work with his hands and experiment with strange substances and processes. He’s a gritty ex-street artist turned fine artist with a distinct point-of-view.

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The Artistpreneur Series: Handlin’ Biz

AUTHOR:
DATE:
3 December 2012.

artistpreneur series

It’s no secret to people close to me that I have lusted towards entrepreneurship for some time.

In my mind, to work for oneself is one of the ultimate expressions of freedom. No boss. No set schedule. You get out what you put in.

I read something recently that inspired the idea for the Artistpreneur Series. The article included the best pieces of advice the founders of some of today’s biggest products and companies had ever received. I thought that was a pretty valuable piece of content. So much so that I worked it into my questioning.

So Here’s the Deal:

I’ve made some personal/business connections with some pretty remarkable people. A few of them liked me well enough to reply to a brief questionnaire about Travel, Work and Life. The initial group of features will include: artists, restauranteurs, musicians and leaders of small empires.

Some of these people work for themselves 100% of the time, some of them hold down 9-5 jobs as well as a side business. Some are sole proprietors and others command a small army. All of them are comprised of at least one part creativity, one part devotion and one part gunslinger.

Artistpreneur (Part 1) will release later this week, so stay tuned and thanks for reading.