Don’t Fear Change – Pivot When You Must
Kimberly Senn spent eight years in advertising before realizing she wasn’t enamored with her career. Battling her desire to fulfill a greater purpose. She couldn’t let the fear of change hold her back. Instead of continuing in work that wasn’t fulfilling, Senn applied to graduate school at Parsons in New York for Interior Design, following her passion to help people create spaces they love.
When you make the decision to set out on a new path and fulfill your dreams, there will be bumps along the way. Senn was delighted to be accepted into the Interior Design program at Parsons, but had to defer because she was pregnant. She decided to incorporate her passion into her new circumstances, and focused on designing the nursery. This drive to create grew, and Senn was still painting at nine months pregnant.
Great Ideas from Unexpected Places
When you are on the right path and engaged in fulfilling work, it shows. The authenticity of following your passion reaps rewards. When Senn took photos of the paintings in her nursery and posted them on Facebook, the reaction was immediate. People wanted more.
With a new addition to their family, Senn and her husband knew one of them would need to stay home with their baby. Since Senn was already on the brink of a career change, they decided it would be her. She could care for their child, continue to explore the art world, as her husband continued his own career becoming an executive in advertising.
Becoming a new parent leaves you with your hands full, to say the least. Senn quickly identified the importance of making the most of the time you have. She worked when her baby napped, giving life to her creative side and opening an Etsy shop displaying her work to the world.
Expanding Your Reach
Senn’s early business centered on commissions. When a painting of a whale that she’d posted on Pinterest garnered massive interest, she found herself painting hundreds of whales. When pregnant with her second son, Senn found she couldn’t paint one more whale. Since Senn’s paintings are illustrative and graphic as opposed to multi-layered paintings, each one didn’t need to be done by hand. She could paint one, then reproduce it digitally. This allowed her to maximized the value of her own time while simultaneously expanding her reach.
Balancing Creativity, Business, and Home Life
Finding a balance between her creative side and entrepreneurial identity takes focused effort. Senn schedules cycles of work for each so she could remain focused on the task in front of her. On days when her mindset is firmly on creating, she ignores emails and the business aspects of her work. Conversely, there’s equal value in devoting time to marketing and the promotion of her business. Of course, there are also times when her kids set the schedule. “(At) 4:30pm, it’s pencils down,” says Senn. “I don’t care how into something I am. I need to pick my kids up.”
Sell Your Story, Not Your Product
Senn applies the same method to both large and small-scale marketing — telling a story. “You have to have an authentic story that’s really true to you, your brand … talk about it and learn to tell that story,” she advises. If you’re telling your story and you’re passionate about it, people will pick up on that and respond to it. On social media, you need a visual story, that is, a consistent look and feel. Senn’s social media look includes bright colors and invokes the feeling of wanting to smile when you see something. It just brightens up your day.
When Senn’s friends Maribeth Romslo and Cara Greene Epstein made the movie Dragonfly, they brought Senn on as the production designer. She created environments and props. It was a new way of exploring her art and an alternative exercise in creativity. The beauty of being an entrepreneur is an ability to respond to the ebbs and flows of life, like adapting to a growing family or responding to opportunities such as working on a film. In this regard, Senn doesn’t have a traditional vision for her future, because she wants to remain flexible. This allows her to capitalize on opportunities that come up.
“I think you end up feeling so much more valuable when your skills can be applied to something that’s a true need in our community,” Senn says. The need she addresses is through Art 4 Shelter, an annual event in which artists donate a 5×7 or 8×10 painting to be sold for $35, which is the cost of shelter for one night for one person at Simpson Housing in south Minneapolis.
She’s also been on the development committee at Simpson Housing for the past year or so. In addition to addressing the immediate need of shelter for someone who is experiencing homelessness, Simpson Housing also provides services that help people find jobs, get into stable housing, and provide tutoring for children. Our goal isn’t just to shelter people for one night and then kick them out, but to help them find a path toward taking control of their own lives again.
By honoring her artistic drive and entrepreneurial abilities, but remaining adaptable along the way, Kimberly Senn created a community-minded success. You can find Senn & Sons online at SennAndSons.com.