Huge Creators: Connect Passions With Ideas

On Thursday, April 2nd Huge Atlanta hosted a panel discussion exploring the stories and motivations of four creative entrepreneurs and the Atlanta landmarks they’ve created.

Huge’s Group Creative Director Derek Fridman moderated the discussion and was joined by: Steven Carse of King of Pops, Ryan Gravel ‘the BeltLine guy,’ Anthony Harper, Founder of The Goat Farm Arts Center, and Catherine Fox of ArtsATL.

The panelists discussed their processes and inspirations, and shared advice and tips for budding entrepreneurs.

Determine the value of your brand.
Consider the value of your idea and dream. Does it solve a problem or contribute to your community? Our panelists started their ventures by noticing an apparent void or a problem.

Ryan Gravel’s master’s thesis shed light on a way to help connect the urban sprawl of Atlanta and provide a space for exercise, shopping, recreation, tourism, and a more sustainable way of living.

Anthony Harper and Catherine Fox both saw a void in representation of the Arts. They created Atlanta institutions that recognize the arts and essentially reestablished their importance back into the culture and community.

Steven Carse built a brand that brings people together in a fun and ecologically responsible way, focusing on local fruit and ingredients.

Consider what you and your brand can contribute that no one else can. Evaluate your plan and determine the need or purpose it could potentially fill.

Create a clear mission.
The panelists advocated starting out with a strong core mission and remaining dedicated to it throughout growth and change.

Steven, of King of Pops, saw an opportunity to make popsicles using fresh, local ingredients. King of Pops shifted their model from the original idea of a main storefront to portable carts at the forefront of their brand, but their mission to provide an ecologically responsible, fresh, all-natural frozen treat in a fun neighborhood environment is always at the core of the brand.

Similarly, the Goat Farm’s model has progressed and grown since inception, but it’s mission to act as a haven for artists to simultaneously live, work, and showcase their work has not wavered. It has become one of the most densely packed group of artists in the nation, and now has a long waiting list of tenants and monthly performance requests.

Instilling a strong brand platform at the beginning will help keep the focus on the mission and purpose of a company.

Don’t expect to predict the future.
Circumstances change, and the road can get bumpy. When Anthony Harper and his business partner bought the Goat Farm property, they planned to develop a conventional development with apartments and boutiques. The 2008 recession forced them to consider other options, which was how the idea for the Goat Farm formulated. Today, the Goat Farm is a staple in the Atlanta arts community — housing artists and their studios, hosting art and music performances, and becoming a deciding factor in many people’s decision whether or not to relocate to Atlanta. Although, not the original vision for the investment – the outcome has proven a success.

Steven Carse says he didn’t have a grand plan. He envisioned sitting on the corner of North Highland and North Avenue everyday, having a small following and someone to help make the pops. Today, King of Pops has its own kitchen, a growing staff, and recently acquired a farm in Douglasville, Georgia.

Embrace your circumstances, both environmental and economical – and be prepared for the original plan to veer elsewhere.

Opportunities exist in Atlanta.
Atlanta is thriving culturally and creatively. Between the growing technology scene and incubators, arts markets, co-working spaces, new coffee shops, bars and restaurants –collaboration is taking place throughout the city. There is no shortage of inspiration and new ideas – but as Steven of King of Pops said, “there is a great chance to succeed in Atlanta because there is room for new ideas, whereas other markets like New York and L.A. are over saturated and it’s more difficult to create an original idea.”

Ryan Gravel agrees that there are more opportunities to make a bigger impact in Atlanta. When he was visualizing his plans for the beltline, he realized that he had free reign to create a plan from scratch based on the lack of progress the city had made to help connect and alleviate the urban sprawl. Now, even in the beginning stages of the Beltline, Atlanta is seeing a more sustainable way of life and a growing biking and walking culture.

The panelists agree Atlanta might be a bit behind the bandwagon compared to other comparable cities, but we can use this to our advantage to capitalize on the opportunity to be a part of and create something awesome.

Have the passion to make your vision a reality.
In order to take on an endeavor such as a new company and be fully dedicated –you’ll have to take on tasks you might not like, or have the skill set for. Therefore, the passion has to be there.

Catherine Fox remembers how she dreaded fundraising starting out, but she believed in ArtsATL and was fiercely passionate about it. She knew Atlanta needed her organization and she took on whatever task necessary to make it happen. The reality is, sometimes our skill set does not lie with our passions. Layer your skills and increase your chances to be successful at what your passions are – learn from every opportunity.

Ryan Gravel remembers sitting through small city council meetings for almost two years before he began to think that his vision for the BeltLine might actually be a possibility. The passion to drive your goal is necessary because success does not happen immediately.

[Photo Credit: Huge Office/Hypepotamus]