Chin Up, Chinchilla: Launching on Kickstarter today!

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I’ve always wanted to illustrate a children’s picture book. 

Two years ago, I was hanging with my friend Ben Stafford at the Creative South Conference and he showed me some concept sketches for a really cute book written by his wife, Beth. The drawings were great and he was really excited about the project. I have to be honest and say I was a bit jealous. I remember telling myself that my opportunity would come along someday.

Fast forward about a year, we hosted Ben and Beth on our Joy Venture Podcast (you can listen to the episode here). After the interview, Thad, Ben and Beth and I grabbed some tacos at Condado (YUM!) and the conversation turned towards childrens’ books. Beth looked at Ben, then looked at me and asked if I would illustrate their book! I was shocked. Ben is an amazing illustrator! I didn't even pause. "Absolutely! I’ll do it!" 

That was last November and here we are in mid-August, finally ready to release the book. It was far more time-consuming than I had anticipated. Far more difficult and way more rewarding. I started with pencil and paper to rethink the characters and even the style I would create them in. I wanted to push myself to do something different. I’m really happy with the results. 

So today, we release it into the world to see if people think it’s as great as we do. I feel nervous, exposed, and downright terrified. But I know I have done my best, and I learned a lot in the process. I will likely never earn back the hours I put into this book but it has brought me a lot of joy. Working with the Staffords had been a real pleasure and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’m so thankful for the opportunity. I got to do a children’s book!

Hopefully, in 30 days, when the Kickstarter campaign is over, I will look back at this post and remember that–funded or failed—it was the process of creating that brought me joy, regardless of the outcome. 

The Chin Up, Chinchilla Kickstarter Campaign will be running from August 15 through September 14, 2018. If you like what you see, please consider buying a book or four. Christmas is just around the corner!

JOY VENTURE | Brad & Krystal Woodard on what it means to “Brave the Woods”

The one thing we’ve learned about our business is that no one is going to come to you and say “Oh, you want to do a children’s book, here you go” or “Oh, you want to teach or speak more, here you go.” If we want to do it, we’ve got to make it happen.
— KRYSTAL WOODARD, Brave the Woods

In order to brave the woods successfully, you’d better walk into them with a plan, some goals and the right tools. It’s not an analogy on how to work with Brad and Krystal Woodard, owners of Brave the Woods, but rather a mindset of how they look to build a family-run business that’s going to fulfill and stretch them in all the right ways. 

Brad is the face and accomplished designer behind their action-oriented moniker while Krystal keeps all things non-design running and mapping out the journey, quick to push Brad out of his comfort zone for the sake of growing. 

This Boise, Idaho duo stopped in Columbus as part of a cross-country workshop tour and talked with us about what motivates them and how they are motivating others. From Kickstarting a children’s book to support victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines, to crowdsourcing Artists for Education with educational design for teachers to use in the classroom -- doing good and building community are part and parcel of their craft. It’s those brave and unselfish acts that are key to their success and opening up opportunities that fuel their business, which also reveal new ways to do meaningful work and have a positive impact on others. 

JOY VENTURE | Kevin Ely on honing his craft (beer)

I brew beer that I like to drink, and I like to share that. Not that we won’t have 12 percent alcohol beers that knock you over, but that’s not our forte. We’re trying to brew delicate beers. I think simple and subtle can be very powerful.
— KEVIN ELY, Founder & Brewmaster, The Wooly Pig Farm Brewery

Kevin Ely knows beer. And now he knows how to build a brewery — quite literally by hand.

Kevin's story is a pivot of a different nature. Previously the brewmaster at Uinta Brewing, a nationally recognized craft brewery in Salt Lake City, Kevin and his wife Jael Malenke decided to move back to her hometown in Fresno and purchase a farm.

Fresno, Ohio that is.   

Armed with a degree in brewing science from UC Davis (yes, there is such a degree), Kevin is no hobbyist. Beer is indeed his career and he's a recurring judge at the annual Great American Beer Festival. Kevin shares with us his decision to start his own brewery in Ohio, the importance that family and community played in that decision, and why starting a farm brewery in a rural patch of rolling hills just made sense. Curly haired mangalitsa pigs ("wooly" pigs) that inspired the name actually roam his farmland and are visible from his taproom patio with cold beer in hand. It's both idyllic and intentional; it's also indicative of everything about this brewery. From the quirky name to the German-Bavarian style of beers he chooses to brew, down to his hand-made and hand-planed taproom — all of it is crafted with purpose and a story behind it. 

JOY VENTURE | John Robinson on shifting gears

There were seeds being planted suggesting ‘maybe I’m not living the life I’m supposed to be living.’ But I didn’t know at that time what it was or how I was going to do it... and so I found myself in that rut again.
— JOHN ROBINSON, Founder Johnny Velo Bikes

When you're a top performer in your industry, you don't think much about making significant career changes. That is until you find you're spending too much time from home, or realize that your performance alone can't save your job.

John takes us through a bumpy ride from the mountaintop peaks and through deep valleys of his life in corporate banking, revealing just how hard things can get before admitting some sort of change needs to happen. It's a story we believe will resonate with many.  

By the time John fights back the tears at the end of the podcast, hearing his decision to start Johnny Velo Bikes seems obvious and evident. His connection to bikes, cancer (as a survivor himself), community, and the surprise opportunity to finally become an entrepreneur are tailor-made for this story. But to seize it, to fully own it, he had live it out. And that's the hard part.

In retrospect, John just might tell you this was the most challenging ride he's ever been on — but also the one he was meant to travel.  

Jeremy receives an honorary degree from the School of Advertising Art at commencement

On June 3, I was privileged to accept an honorary degree at commencement from the School of Advertising Art.  The administration and faculty at this fine college have become my friends over the years and I'm a proud supporter of what they are doing. I'm excited to see what the future holds as they reopen their doors next fall under a new name: The Modern College of Design.

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JOY VENTURE | Kenny Sipes on pouring into people & purpose

A lot of people think I’m crazy and they’re like ‘I don’t get it, I don’t understand why it’s working’ and I tell them it’s because I got out of the way. My favorite saying that an old guy taught me years and years ago is — if you want to be happy, forget yourself.
— KENNY SIPES, Founder, The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

Talk to anyone who frequents The Roosevelt Coffeeshop in Columbus, Ohio and they'll tell you what a great guy Kenny Sipes is and how they love the mission of his shop. His nonprofit coffeehouse has become a magnetic hub for people looking for community, good coffee and to do a little good in the process. The Roosevelt is fueled to give back by supporting three human-centered, justice-driven issues: providing clean water, fighting hunger and abolishing human trafficking. 

Kenny's story continues to gain coffee clout and the Roosevelt has become a community darling in the social enterprise space. That reality is a far cry from the 40-day stint he spent in rehab as a teenager, the years growing an urban record store, and his beloved service as a youth pastor to middle school kids. Even as he employed the hard work and discipline he first saw his father model, he also recognized his gift of being a connector of people. For Kenny, an ideal way to be faithful to what he was being called to do was open a communal space centered around coffee so he could pour into people and purpose in life-changing ways.  

Kenny is an open book on this episode, sharing his unconventional road to entrepreneurship as well as his next moves with The Roosevelt -- including one rather lofty aspiration (we hope you're listing Jeremy Cowart).

JOY VENTURE | Katie & Josh Emrich on going small & going home

I feel I’ve found this calling working with small businesses and I don’t feel like I have to make excuses for not having these big clients. I’ve worked with big companies and I’ve just found it to be a soul-swallowing process because they are so risk adverse, so many people have to sign off on the work, and you’re so far removed from the decision-makers.
— JOSH EMRICH, Emrich Office
Design becomes other things. It’s not just on a computer or on a piece of paper. It’s how you see the world.
— KATIE EMRICH, Emrich Office

Emrich Office is perhaps best summarized as the artistic vision of Josh and Katie Emrich that is made full with their four kids and one rather spectacular basement studio in Indianapolis. It's also a long way from Colorado and the design mountains Josh was trying to scale just a handful of years ago. But as Josh explains, summits can look awfully good from the ground, but from the summit, base camp has a genuine appeal, too.

Josh and Katie share their journey of slogging through a recession-era climate in attempt to go big,  and keep the gears cranking. What they ultimately found was a greater reward in embracing the appeal of small — both with regard to their business size and those of family-owned businesses that comprise their client list.   

We learn that behind a great designer is... another great designer. And that's what makes this duo work so well in running a successful design business and designing a deliberate way of life for their not-so-small family.

Insight, wisdom and lessons learned abound in this third installment of our "Indy or Bust" series featuring Indiana-based creatives. 

JOY VENTURE | INCH x INCH: there’s power in pursuing the small things

We didn’t set out to create a business. It was more about how can we create something cool and possibly do a little good in the world.
— DREW HILL, co-founder, Inch x Inch
It sounded just ridiculous enough for us to get really excited about it.
— BOB EWING, co-founder, Inch x Inch

When two longtime friends and artists decide to finally collaborate, naturally they land on... one-inch buttons?

As quirky as it sounds, Drew Hill and Bob Ewing gravitated to this tiny canvas with much a bigger purpose in mind. What if they could get other artists to submit designs? What if by buying a series of rad buttons from Inch x Inch, patrons would also be supporting arts education (which is continuously in danger) and fuel a future generation of artists? What if their own idea about collaboration turned into an organization that was fully reliant on collaboration and committed partners?

Drew and Bob talk about the importance of side projects, how theirs came about and ensuring it wasn't all about them, and how something as ridiculously inconsequential as one-inch buttons is actually making a tangible difference. 

JOY VENTURE | Bob Ewing on word at a time

There were lots of days that it sucked or I thought (the work) looked horrible. But it didn’t matter really what the outcomes was, it was more about that I did it every day. If you’re going to do something new, set attainable goals.
— BOB EWING, art director/designer at Element Three, handletting artist

Want to get better? Want to develop your talent or birth a new one that's been waiting to emerge? Then show up every day and do the work. That's exactly what Bob Ewing did for more than 500 days with his self-described "daily lettering project." Each day Bob would draw a new word and post it to social media — not for the likes and love, but mainly for the discipline.

That discipline has paid dividends for Bob as a designer. It's led to new opportunities, new collaborations, and deeper connection to community — something that's every bit as essential to his growth as a designer alongside his markers or stylus.

Bob shares his journey of perseverance and how, as a creative, he's had the opportunity to design a path for himself — as well as one that others can follow on and travel as well. 

Bob is the first in a series of Indiana-based artists we're featuring on our INDY OR BUST road trip.