THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
ONE OF A KIND DESIGN
BUSINESS OWNER, ENTREPRENEUR, ARTIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER, MUM TO BE
Alysha Sparks once told people she "takes photos and paints" for a living. Now she tells them she's "an artist and photographer". It may sound like a subtle difference, but it reflects a distinct change in Alysha's confidence and self-belief.
So what sparked that change?
Arriving in a light, flowing leopard print skirt looking stylish, oozing a contagious energy and spirit as always, Alysha sits down and immediately offers up inspiration without even trying. "If you are doing what you're passionate about, you will succeed. You'll have that natural drive and passion that will get you to where you want to be." Hang on Sparks - let me hit record!
Alysha left school with little direction. She always loved art at school and in her career counselling sessions she was always directed to becoming an artist, but brushed it off because "you can never make money being an artist." Her dad told her she was creative so she could go and study graphic design, so that's just what she did. She landed her first job with the Adelaide Crows while still studying in her final year, and after finishing there she entered a full time position with the Hurley Hotel Group. Frustrated with working for someone else, "making rich people richer" and having minimal creative freedom but still not having a clear idea of what she really wanted to do, Alysha left to travel over seas for six months. After this amazing adventure and journey of self discovery, Alysha returned back to her former role, doubting her ability to self motivate and keep on top of things in order to run her own business.
Eight months later Alysha finally began to follow her passion and paint, trying her luck and putting her first one up for sale on Facebook - it sold within the hour. She knew she was on to something and kept this up and soon after a friend asked her to photograph their wedding. Alysha didn't feel prepared, but she wasn't going to let this opportunity pass her by so she did courses, she asked the right people the right questions, learnt her camera inside and out and nailed it. Word of mouth quickly spread and she booked another wedding, and then another. Things were falling in to place.
Alysha attributes finding a good mentor as one of the key components of building a successful business. "A mentor can give you all of their answers and you can learn from their mistakes rather than repeating history." She could see that this could really become something but she was juggling a lot - doing graphic design, refurbishing vintage furniture to sell, painting, doing photoshoots... Alysha could see that she needed to simplify things. It was time to sit down and pinpoint her passion. She needed to focus on what she loved and what she was best at, stopping distraction and providing her clients with the best possible result. She streamlined her business to Photography and Art, created a website and a logo and One Of A Kind was born.
It wasn't all easy. Alysha's journey was bumpy at first, self doubt creeping in causing her to question whether she could really pull this off and whether it was the right thing for her. She struggled initially knowing that she had to take full responsibility over how much money was or wasn't coming in and felt a huge amount of pressure. There were teary calls to her mum and dad, with her dad suggesting that there was always a spot for her on the family farm and she could be in charge of the sheep if things didn't work out. Alysha said she would have been happy to do that but she would have always had that creative passion that was left unfulfilled. Self-development became Alysha's antidote for these down moments and reinvesting in herself and her business is what eventually gave her the confidence that she needed to move forward. A proud purchase of a panel van for transporting her art, a studio space and a switch to beautiful, professional high quality framing of her work was a major turning point. She says "You need to spend time and money on your business for it to thrive" and that initially all of her income was being poured back in to the business. With this dedication and consistency Alysha in her mind was now legitimate. She was an Artist and Photographer, not just someone who paints and takes photos.
Alysha keeps on top of her schedule using her online calendar synced to her phone as her bible, ensuring that she sets reminders so that nothing slips past her. All deadlines and appointments go in here including when to send invoices and check in with clients. She likes to keep a flexible schedule so that she can be free to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. She says “each morning I write a list of priorities for the day and work through the most urgent first” leaving the afternoon free to head to the studio and paint or to book in photo-shoots. Every day in the life of Alysha Sparks is different and while she has been guilty procrastinating now and again she says “I love what what I do so I don’t feel the need (to procrastinate)”. Her approach to avoiding procrastination is to paint a canvas for ‘fun’ first allowing for complete creative freedom, getting her in the mood to create something commissioned with more constraints.
Walks with friends scheduled in to her week allow Alysha to fit in socializing with exercise throughout her working days. She feels that a balance between working and spending time with family is important for her wellbeing and finds that she becomes run down if this gets thrown out of whack. She says “balance is everything, but also harder when you work for yourself.”
Alysha lives and works in country South Australia and feels that this has been a major contributor for the success of her business. She says “…our community is very supportive, our town and surrounding towns are all made up of small businesses, we all help each other. What is that saying about ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’?” Humbly, Alysha states that she can’t believe how well business is going but recognises “you get out of it what you put in.”
When asked for one key piece of advice for anyone looking at starting their own business Alysha says without pause "Do it now - because there will always be some other excuse that comes along. Just do it."
Now Alysha begins her next journey, seventeen weeks pregnant with her first child. She smiles as she envisions painting with her little one in a baby carrier, setting up a little painting corner in her studio, letting the little one get messy and creative their their own canvas. I look forward to following Alysha's journey from entrepreneur to work at home mum and will be sure to update you once she settles in to this exciting new role.