How I Did It: Susan Nisinzweig, Founder, EytanArt.com
I didn't think I'd be starting a new business in my 50's but that is exactly what is happening. Our oldest son Eytan (25) has autism, and although his language and social skills are limited, he has the kind of spirit and talent in music and art that has inspired so many people over the years -- especially me.
Last October, after many years of thinking about this, I finally put Eytan's designs on t-shirts and note cards to sell at a fundraising walk-a-thon for the agency he receives services from. At the last minute, the social worker side of me thought of pairing his designs with inspiring messages about respecting differences. The shirts and cards were a hit and many people encouraged me to market them.
The positive comments weren't just coming from those in the autism and Special Olympics communities that we have been part of for so many years but from those involved with racial issues, adoption, gay rights, and basically anyone who ever felt different or bullied. I began dreaming that Eytan's drawings and our messages of acceptance could change attitudes around the world.
I knew nothing about creating websites, copyrighting and trade marking, blogging or using social media, but my motivation was high, my determination strong and my vision clear. I explored other websites to get ideas of what I wanted my site to look like. By learning from family, friends, colleagues and strangers that I found online, I managed to find the answers and resources I needed.
I chose to use a WordPress website so I could do most of the editing myself and wouldn't have to depend on someone else for every page, post and change. I chose a t-shirt printer who not only produced great quality shirts but also did fulfillment which would make my life easier. Within just three months I opened our website http://www.EytanArt.com.
I've had tremendous fun using my existing strengths and developing new ones. I've discovered what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) means and how to see the effects of it through Google Analytics, which tracks all the ways people find their way to our site. This provides invaluable information. I've gotten into the habit of regularly taking photos and videos to document EytanArt's life and posting them on our website, Facebook page, YouTube page and in our monthly newsletter which I send out using a system that provides templates and a contact manager -- very helpful!
I've brought my past expertise as a parent, social worker and wellness consultant into the picture through our EytanArt blog called "On A Better Note" where I share tips and insights that I believe can help others live their life on a better note. I've also worked on an anti-bullying curriculum, utilizing Eytan's drawings to teach important lessons to children (and even adults) about acceptance and respect. We'll be choosing a group of teachers and therapists to pilot this. Anyone who is interested can email me at susan@EytanArt.com.
We have some EytanArt items in a store and hope to expand this aspect of our business as well. I've had booths at several events, from autism conferences to folk festivals, and those were both fun and a great way to reach out. People are drawn in when they see the designs. Their smiles broaden when they read the messages and then when they hear about Eytan and realize the drawings were made by a young man with autism, they melt! I love talking about Eytan and sharing the life lessons that we've learned from having him in our lives.
My top 5 tips for how I did it!
1. Pay attention to your intuition. When an idea comes that makes your heart pound with excitement, that is a good sign that this is something you should pay attention to and pursue. Don't put it off for years (like I did) because life is too short. It feels great when you acknowledge those ideas that have been knocking on your door and you finally let them in!
2. Create your detailed vision not just in your mind but on paper. Think about what skills you need to learn, what help you need to find and what direction you want to go and who you want to reach. Prioritize the steps and start tackling them one at a time. Don't let obstacles or doubts prevent you from moving forward. I'm still amazed by how much I learned in such a short time. Now I know it is possible to learn anything, so nothing seems insurmountable.
3. Find the resources around you and ask for help. The more you ask questions, the more you learn. In the beginning I decided I should talk to ten people about printing and then make my decision on how to proceed. That really helped me to make the right decisions and to find the right quality. In addition to getting support and guidance from several family members and a few good friends, I am also a member of a BNI (Business Networking International group http://www.bni.com) and the contacts I've made in my group have been tremendously helpful for providing information, ideas and/or support around printing, computer needs, social networking skills, tax information, business coaching, and marketing and branding guidance. This group also provides a whole team of fellow group members who help me spread the word about EytanArt.
4. Create a team, even with a limited budget. My budget was small but I managed to create a team anyway. I did pay for some coaching and services that I really needed to get off to a good start - i.e. marketing and branding consulting, learning to use social media, Photoshop skills and back-up website support when I run into something I can't do by myself. In addition to this, I was able to get two summer interns. I made it a point to give them work to do that would support their areas of interests and enhance their future resumes so the experience would feel worthwhile for them. Make a list clarifying what each person's role is on your team.
5. Keep balance in your life. It's very easy to get so busy with a new project that you never come up for air. Your family can suffer and your body can suffer when you over do it. So, it's important to remember to breath and take time to meditate regularly, eat well and use effective supplements, sleep enough, drink healthy water and remember to have fun. There is nothing worse than having a great project and then burning yourself out so you can't accomplish it. Keeping balance and living a healthy lifestyle gives you the stamina to follow through with your project or business for the long term so you can enjoy your business, your family and your life.
Eytan and Susan
Susan Nisinzweig, a parent, social worker and wellness consultant- turned entrepreneur - is the founder of EytanArt. Her son Eytan is the artist and the inspiration. A free downloadable poster is available on their website at http://www.EytanArt.com.