AFCI speaks with Jennifer Rizzo, founder of Jennifer Rizzo Design Company. Get a sneak peek into her 2021 Creativation+ education session, how she got her start in the industry, what’s important to keep in mind when diversifying your brand, and so much more.
AFCI: As someone with so much experience under your belt (owning a successful company, becoming a published author, running a successful blog, etc.), can you tell readers a bit about your career journey and how you’ve established yourself within the industry?
JR: My career journey actually started out in a funny way. When I left high school I was actually a theater major and I probably should’ve gone to art school. At the time, artist wasn’t really seen as a very viable career and I somehow ended up as a firefighter/paramedic for a combination of almost eight years. After I left, was married and started a family, I really missed creativity and I fell into doing craft shows, painting mason jars and picture frames! At the time, blogging was brand new. I loved the idea that I could share my creativity with other people so easily and it used to be very hard to break into the publishing field. For a long time, it was just a hobby while raising my children. Once earning money was an option, it became a little more serious and more of a legitimate “job”.
Things like working with brand collaboration and working with magazines all kind of unfolded as blogging evolved. From there, I wrote a book, developed a stencil line, a licensing contract and started working as a brand ambassador. For me, success never came super easy or viral, and it never came overnight. It was building on baby step after baby step and growing organically — and a lot of trial and error, and quite a bit of failure.
AFCI: What can attendees expect to take away from your session, “The Financially Diversified Creative for Creators, Artists, and Independent Retailers”?
That there are many opportunities to grow and stretch creatively and earn income. Building a healthy creative financial “pie” is important when you are a self-employed creative. Income waxes and wanes as seasons change, so if you have multiple ways you are earning using your talents and strengths, you are less likely to feel financial fluctuations. I really want to share with people how they can diversify based on their talents and gifts that they already have. The session will also explore ways to branch out within their existing brand as well.
AFCI: What is most important to keep in mind when trying to grow and diversify a brand/business?
JR: Focus on what you do well; try not to fall into the trap of trying to do too much and becoming scattered. One of my earliest mistakes was not trimming down what I did to what I did best, because I liked to do so many things. Sometimes as creatives, we have so many different micro-areas of talent or creative joy that we’re good at, that it keeps us from really focusing and pin pointing the things that make us feel the most fulfilled while giving us the biggest financial reward.
AFCI: Where should you start?
JR: Really, just start! Write the first paragraph of a blog, open your Instagram account, paint a picture, try that digital product. Not starting is the worst mistake someone can make. We become so afraid of failure, we never even try. Failing is a part of the learning process. I have failed a lot in some really big things. But sometimes, when you try something and it becomes a “no,” it [ultimately] leads us to that “yes.”
AFCI: What are typical mistakes creatives make and should avoid when trying to diversify their brand or product?
JR: Having too many hats in the ring. There are lots of ways to earn income, but it’s focusing on the 20% of what you’re good at that brings you 80% of your reward. When you have too many things going on, you can’t be focused on making one thing or two things really successful. See how things play out first, and then move in different directions. I’m a big believer in “follow the favor.”
AFCI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JR: So many people focus on what’s already been done, not realizing this digital world now offers so much opportunity. For the creative, there’s endless opportunity, no matter how big or small they are or if they’re just starting out. “Being big” or having a huge number of followers means nothing in terms of financial or professional creative success. We have to stop looking at our fellow creatives as competition. There’s so much more strength in collaboration over competition. I really mean it when I say this is a time when anybody can have success no matter what your background or where you’re starting from.
Jennifer Rizzo is a DIY/lifestyle/blogger. Over the last 13 years, her hobby has evolved into a brand which includes product licensing, product development, retail sales and retail business consulting, brand partnerships, E-courses, book publishing, teaching and speaking engagements, and hands-on creative workshops.
As a blogger, license artist, published author, brand trend forecaster, and former retail store and Makery co-owner, she’s learned there are always new ways to develop your brand and business, and take it to the next level by using out of the box thinking.