Last week CUE attended ‘The Power of Starting Small,’ presentation by Jenna Walker former CEO and co-founder of Artifact Uprising. SheSays hosted the event. Walker discussed the journey of starting the e-commerce branding force that sells custom photo books and prints.
CUE has attended many founder presentations and events, but this one stood out because of Walker’s honesty about her moments of struggle and success in running a small business that turned into an international success.
These following four themes, taken from the presentation and subsequent Q&A, are a valuable insight that can help any small business, entrepreneur, or person with a dream of starting their own business.
Be Motivated By Your ‘Why’
Artifact Uprising was built to solve two problems: the first was the disappearance of digitally-stored photos that we all neglect to print out, the second was finding a good use for recycled paper.
The founders referred to these two motivational factors when they had to make business decisions. It is an often-repeated point for startups and small businesses, but it is an important one to remember: to have a mission behind everything that you are doing. When times get tough, or you have to make important decisions, this ‘why’ can be your compass. Walker and her co-founders used their ‘why’ to support sometimes inadvisable decisions that ultimately shaped their brand and made it unique.
Walker was also driven by creating authenticity: in her relationships with colleagues, interaction with consumers, and by allowing customers to express authenticity with Artifact Uprising. The desire to be authentic is woven into every fabric of Artifact Uprising, and Walker says they continued this successfully even after VSCOM purchased the company. It was this authenticity that Walker says resonated with the influencer marketers that initially pinned the company on Pinterest. Initially, this desire to pursue her passion led her to quit her corporate job and become a wedding photographer. Further, it was her honesty and commitment to authenticity about the struggles to build Artifact Uprising that made her presentation so compelling.
Failure is a Learning Experience
Walker was honest about the setbacks and failures that she and her co-founders experienced while building Artifact Uprising. There is even documentation of one of the lowest moments: a black and white image of Walker’s co-founder and sister, head in hands after they had spent 45 nervous and teary moments in a conference room, waiting for bad news. Given this evidence and other honest admissions of the difficult times, it did not sound trite when Walker subsequently said that it was these moments were a valuable learning experience.
Take Care of Your Health
Most startup founders are not sleeping enough, and many small business owners work too hard. While there is a mythos that often correlates working hard with success, Walker says that in retrospect it is essential to take care of your health no matter how busy you are. She was honest about how this period was hectic, raising two kids under three and building a company. Walker says that looking back she wishes she had slept more, exercised better and taken her health more seriously. Who knows, she said, how this might have changed the business for the better, but advocates that all founders, no matter how busy, take their health seriously.
While each small business has its own trajectory, Jenna Walker and Artifact Uprising’s story is one that can provide valuable insight and inspiration for those running or looking to start their own business. It is a testament to starting small, building something you believe in and trusting your gut.