The impact of COVID on the creative industry has been devastating. With about losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide finding a way to climb out of this deficit poses many challenges. With zero to no in-person events creatives had to (pun intended) get creative in how they sustained their businesses and their art. Well, one founder is committed to seeing that creatives continue to remain connected and thrive during this pandemic.
Black Hippie Art (BHA) was founded by Keyonna Butler, which is a digital art platform that empowers Black, POC, and Womxn artists with resources to help them become successful in the creative industry. BHA is a network of creatives who collaborate with each other to showcase their art. It's a meeting ground for creatives who otherwise might not be able to connect in real-time.
Tell us what your business was like pre-COVID?
Every other month or once a month, they would conduct meetups in different locations to celebrate art and culture. The events were either low-cost or free. Sometimes Keyonna would find venues that people have never heard of before. This is an opportunity for artists to find inspiration and resources. In the past, Keyonna curated networking events at WeWork. Sponsored vendors would sell their art and services to the broader community. Artists showcased their work, and speakers presented. Part of these curated events' impact was exposure and collaboration and for artists to identify art spaces and art galleries.
In which ways have you pivoted your business so you can continue to operate and serve?
Black Hippie Art's business model included in-person interaction. They weren't much of a digital platform. However, since COVID, Keyonna had to strategize and readjust the business model to serve her community. She transitioned Black Hippie Art to a digital platform. She focused on curating highlights of different artists entrepreneurs who were negatively impacted by COVID by sharing their work. Through that process, they amassed a sizeable social media following.
Next, she created artist chats. Keyonna said, "Because of COVID, I had to get creative, so I created an artist series where I talked with three different artists, a production designer, a clothing designer, and a visual artist." These artist chats gave the community exposure to what it was like to work in these industries and a deeper dive into the career paths as these artists shared the timeline of their work. This helped to cross-promote while also giving an inside look into the artist world. Keyonna then created a virtual sketch-club where artists would meet together to chat, support each other, and sketch.
What has helped you to pivot?
"What helped me pivot the most is having the time to sit, think, and brainstorm. That was the main thing. When the shut down did happen, I took a little bit of March and April to write things out and brainstorm and map out where I wanted to take BHA." She also took the time to survey her community to create valuable workshops and events. By doing so, she had a massive turnout at her events. COVID gave her space to solidify a timeline of what she wants for the next year or so, how she wants to grow the brand and how BHA can continue helping others.
What advice would you give to business owners who are experiencing a crisis in their businesses?
"I think the first thing I would say is try not to panic. It may be scary because you don't know the outcome, and you don't know how long it will take. And to use this time to brainstorm to really think about where they want their business to be. Because sometimes, when you're in it, and you're running a business or a brand, the only thing you're thinking about is the next steps. And you're potentially just going, going, and going. Look at the silver lining of it all, take a breather, write a plan for what you want for yourself, take each part of that plan and create action steps, so you can know how you can use this moment to better assess your business and brand."
The lesson Keyonna is taking with her is to think about your business in ways that you never thought of it before. Do things that your business may have never done before. During this time and year of COVID is all about thinking outside of the box. And find different ways to enhance your skills so that you can grow. Try to figure out what you're doing and where you want to see your brand to go and write a perfect plan, enhance your skills to grow, so you're better positioned when COVID is over.
What's next for your business?
Keyonna plans to continue to grow Black Hippie Art. She plans to continue the monthly Sketch club. She will continue the various workshops and plans to bring back the artist lunch series she used to do in-person with selected artists. If you're an artist and looking to deepen your connections and further enhance yourself as a creative, please reach out to Keyonna to stay involved.