A Tale of Two Businesses: Part One (Finding the Spark Again)


My first creative love, music, turned me into an entrepreneur right out of college. After graduating in 2013, my duo partner and I decided we’d do whatever it took to make music as The OK Factor our full-time gig. We both taught private lessons; she worked in a violin shop, and I freelanced with local groups when our duo wasn’t booked.

It was the definition of hustle.

And for a while, it was really wonderful. We were living the dream, performing our hearts out, and reveling in the “starving artist” fantasy, even if it meant living on ramen. But here’s the truth that took me years to find out: the starving artist narrative isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there’s romance to eating ramen on the floor with your friends, but there’s also nothing left over for living the life you actually dream about — having a family, buying a house, taking real vacations. By the time you figure that out, you’re exhausted, burned out, and ready to give it up for a steady paycheck and health insurance.

When you hit that point, you’ve lost your spark.

As a duo, we’ve had our fair share of disillusionment, disappointment, and doubt. Aside from financial strains, it’s a lot of work to keep up a career you’re inventing out of thin air. Practicing, coming up with projects, finding funding, social media demands, marketing — all before we can actually perform our music, and then get up the next day and do it all over again.

We seemed to find ourselves in roles that kept not working for us — private teaching, industry roles like sales at the violin shop, etc. We somehow survived a global pandemic as live performers, where our career was as good as gone. We once had a booking agent who told us to wear more sequins, as if that was the thing that would finally get us the bookings we wanted.

There were many moments along the way when we lost our spark. We forgot why we were doing what we were doing. We got caught up in the problems with this career choice, the hustle and heartache, the rejection.

Every time we found ourselves in a moment of disappointment, though, we kept going because of this one thing:

We bring people joy.

We are the kind humans we want to see more of in this world.

We are leaning into what we love, our gifts, and the community we’re building so we can bring more of that joy and kindness to the world.

I can’t tell you how many times audience members have told us how much they love watching us play, or how a particular piece brought back a special memory for them. It’s the powerful combination of what music can do and what it feels like to listen to music made by people who want you to feel joy because of it.

At the end of the day, whether we find out we weren’t chosen for grant funding, lose a competition, or are passed up for a gig — we come back to the joy and kindness of what we do. When we’re doubting our craft and comparing it to others who are further ahead, when we think too much with our heads and not enough with our hearts, or we’re worried that our career choice doesn’t have enough of an impact on this hurting world, we come back to the joy and kindness of what we do.

We firmly believe with every fiber of our being that the music we write and our presence on a stage or in a classroom is a joy-filled and kind experience for our audience. That is who we are. And it’s also our brand.

We spent years asking ourselves the questions I now ask my clients in an 8-week period, trying to get to the heart of what it meant for us to be musicians and why we’re doing this work. Those years of questions have translated into a brand that has provided us with opportunities beyond what we could have imagined at the start.

Our brand is not just something that we put on. It is who we are, and we’re using it for good, for ourselves and others.

While we never thought we would be the ones to be disillusioned by our own creation, it happens when we forget who we are. This is the work I do with creatives in all kinds of disciplines inside the Tiny Brand Studio. We’re asking ourselves hard questions, turning over our values and beliefs, and figuring out how we can make good money doing what we love to do with a brand that is intentional, purposeful, and beautiful so we can do this work for as long as we want to.

Are you ready to rediscover your spark and build a brand that reflects your true self? Join us at the Tiny Brand Studio and transform your passion into a purposeful, profitable venture. Learn more about the Studio and how you can join us.

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