“Know your brand. I mean, really know it. Can you pitch it in a sentence or two? Will people "get it" from your Instagram page in a couple of seconds? What do you offer- are you fixing something, entertaining, educating? It may not come right away and that's okay!” - Wes Aderhold
When I pitched my blog to the Huffpost team, I told them that my aim was to highlight entrepreneurs and creatives that are, in my opinion, a bit extraordinary. That’s just what I intend to keep on doing. My most recent discovery is Wes Aderhold, Founder and Illustrator of Chalkscribe greeting cards. I came across these fun, sassy greeting cards via Instagram (naturally). I immediately ordered a few and kept an eye on the company via social media. It continued to grow, and grow, and grooow. Within the first year Chalkscribe managed to partner with Paper Source, Nordstrom and 50 other stores. I HAD to reach out to the man in charge and get the scoop. I kinda felt like he had earned my “2016 Entrepreneur to Keep an Eye On” title.
Give us the skinny on your background. Where did you grow up? When did you move to Los Angeles? Spill!
I couldn't count on one hand the places I've lived, but it's been an eclectic mix. It started in Texas then moved on to North Carolina, Florida and Oklahoma to name a few. Me and my Jeep packed with belongings finally made it out to LA about six years ago.
When did you launch Chalkscribe? What was your inspiration behind the name?
It has been exactly one year, from last week, that we launched Chalkscribe and what a ride it has been! I was tossing around ideas for a name that was simple, but catchy and in the very beginning, the first couple of projects I was commissioned to do were actually chalk art. In truth, my business partner Jordan Dorso came up with the name. I don't think I've touched a piece of chalk since, ha!
I would describe your cards as simple, sassy, witty and relatable. Did I miss anything?
Available for purchase on our website? No, I think you nailed it!
All of your cards are self-illustrated. Do you have an art background?
That's correct! I've hand drawn every design. I do come from an art background, my degree is from the university of self-taught. Truth be told I've never really taken an art class, except for maybe one in high school? I taught myself over the years, doodling as a form of catharsis, if you will. Growing up, I would always hand draw birthday/holiday cards for friends and family (cheap gift idea, shhh) and about a year ago a light bulb went off that said "Wesley, start charging people." So I did, and baby Chalkscribe entered the world.
Have you ever thought about licensing your illustrations to companies like Starbucks or Urban Outfitters to be used along with their digital gift cards?
If the opportunities felt right, definitely! We've actually been approached several times about using our designs for digital cards, but it just didn't feel right at the time. But if the wager was a lifetime supply of pumpkin spice lattes, I'm in!
Anybody who knows you knows that you are an actor and have invested quite a bit of time into your craft. Where did this entrepreneurial spirit come from? All of a sudden you have this booming business and you are working with some of the biggest retailers in the game like Nordstrom & Paper Source.
I have, I'm kind of the Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hours" mindset. I think if you are going to do or be something, you should do or be it the very best you can. Practice creates longevity. That being said, I'm still asking myself where my entrepreneurial spirit came from. I've never considered myself a "businessman," I've always been more of a creative type. I'm tenacious though, that's gotta count for something! I guess creating a business or brand is no different than creating a painting or story, dance, photograph, song, etc. If you have that need, that desire to create, then you do it. I also have a partner who is incredibly business savvy so, thanks Jordan. Yes, Nordstrom and Paper Source, we're thrilled to be working with them!
What advice would you give other closeted entrepreneurs looking to break free and launch their own businesses? Can you offer 5 tips?
Buy a coffee maker, ha! Let's see...
1. Nothing in life happens without ACTION. You must, must, must be willing to try and put yourself out there. Brainstorm, journal or gab with your friends about it, but at some point you have to put it out into the world. Don't let failure or rejection stop you from starting. In the beginning you won't know everything, so ask for advice, seek council. People who are successful in your field have probably done something right. It doesn't hurt to learn from their mistakes or successes if they are willing to share. Take every opportunity you can to get yourself out there (staying on brand, of course). Ask that tiny coffee shop that your uncle's neighbor's girlfriend owns if you can sell your product. You'd be surprised how little steps make bigger waves down the line.
2. Know your brand. I mean, really know it. Can you pitch it in a sentence or two? Will people "get it" from your Instagram page in a couple of seconds? What do you offer- are you fixing something, entertaining, educating? It may not come right away and that's okay!
3. Don’t expect immediate success! Don't expect to work normal hours or pay yourself justly for the time you've put in... in the beginning. What money you do earn, I'd strongly suggest reinvesting back into the company. There comes a point when your company starts to break and really take off. That's when you step on the gas. If you're working a side job to pay the bills, you might have to take a leap a faith and trust that your new forming company is “it”. This takes a little faith in yourself, risk, and perhaps a touch of insanity? But hey, did you really like that other job anyway?
4. Tenacity trumps. You have to break the mold a little bit and be willing to, at times, side step the ‘supposed to's’ and standard etiquette. If you truly believe in your business, you will find a way to get it in the right hands.
5. A toast! Here's two for the price of one: First, know when to put your work down and call it a day. Work for work's sake is unproductive. Keep a notepad around to jot ideas if you need to, but there's no point in building a successful business if you have to put your own life on hold. Lastly, reward yourself! Buy a bottle of champagne or take a couple dollars out of your first tiny little paycheck and buy your favorite soda from the gas station. Celebrate the victories, because lord knows there were and will continue to be just as many hurdles.
What would you say your most successful revenue generator has been; Word-of- mouth, retail stores, social media marketing or online sales? The people wanna know!
E: All of the above. I like to think that they all somehow affect one another, at least in terms of acquiring new accounts. We've picked up stores because they saw us on Instagram, or someone in another state mentioned to the buyer that they ought to look up our company. Now that we're working with some bigger accounts like Nordstrom and Paper Source, I would say our retail stores is the front-runner, then online sales are a close second. I would suggest giving people every opportunity to find you, make it easy for them. Let's be clear though, I'm not talking about over saturation.
Tell us about your favorite charities/causes. Any nonprofits that you would like to team up with?
Funny you should ask, because we've recently been discussing a new venture which would involve partnering with a charity. Personally, I enjoy working with the Boys & Girls club here in Los Angeles- we take the kids swimming, it’s a good time.
Wes, finally… How does the empire continue to grow? Does Chalkscribe evolve into new products in the years to come?
Oh, but of course! I am constantly thinking about ways to grow and expand the company. I try, as best I can, to be one step ahead of success and already have the next venture lined up. We are definitely working on new products, as well as new partnerships and collaborations. I get restless without growth. I'd rather throw in the towel then stop evolving.
Web store: www.thechalkscribe.com