Posts in Business
Joy vs. Happiness

"You will find happiness within your joy. It’s hard to convert your lack of happiness into something meaningful."

— two guys on Joy Venture  

This is a recurring theme in the pursuit of any joy venture. It’s also a stumbling block for those who find that the journey becomes difficult.

But the joy/happiness dilemma isn’t a zero sum game. In fact, it’s not an either/or proposition. It can be a both/and reality.

We have some pretty strong opinions, convictions and examples that begin to outline the difference between joy and happiness as it relates to the joy venture. We won’t spoil it here, instead have a listen and let us know what you think.

You might also want to check out the blog post we wrote on this same topic.

Learning as you go — with John Zappin

"I remember I got on the mic and I was terrified, just terrified. I did it, and I didn’t get booed. People seemed to think that I was okay. I survived. So I went back and started getting more involved in the scene."

JOHN ZAPPIN, writer, rapper, recording artist and content creator 

What does a teenage farm kid growing up in Pataskala, Ohio know about launching a career in hip-hop music and becoming a rapper — in the no-internet era of the mid-1990s? Arguably very little, but that didn’t stop a young “John Reuben” Zappin from pursuing his joy anyway.

Always using humor as his safety shield, John embraced the uncomfortable moments of dropping his rhymes in front of audiences at summer camp, the church hall, and open mic nights to build his confidence and find his voice. That voice would eventually ink a deal with Gotee Records where he would go on to record six albums.

In a pre-file sharing, pre-American Idol world, John put in the work to carve out his niche in an unlikely genre of rap. John shares his story and drops some wisdom for anyone pursuing their dream. But now on the cusp of 40 and having already achieved a level of success that any recording artists would envy, John is like that teenage kid all over again: back in Ohio and asking “what if” and wondering “what’s next.”  

John Reuben

Why the world needs your weirdness — with CJ Casciotta

“I was waiting for it (the big idea) to go away. A year went by and it didn’t go away. I sat on it for two years, which is not my nature… and when I found the name, I knew things were lining up and it was time to act.”

CJ Casciotta, Author of GET WEIRD and Lead Misfit of RINGBELLER

Have you ever felt like you were the weird one who just didn’t fit in with the crowd? If so CJ has an important message for you: weird wins.

CJ is a writer and author, creator, filmmaker, mover and shaker, and all around disrupter — and he’s doing all this with one goal in mind — and that’s to help misfits like you and me embrace our weirdness. Because in a sea of same, those of us who think a bit differently are needed more than ever before.

CJ recounts the long journey he’s been on, why he’s written a book to help others get weird, and where all this weirdness is leading. For CJ, it’s back to the classroom where the idea of fitting in has misguided generations of people. By building a media-based curriculum for schools that is rooted creativity, empathy and kindness — the soft skills that leading companies say will be needed in the automated workforce of the future — he wants to redefine what it means to be sweetly, uniquely and powerfully weird.

CJ Casciotta

Ringbeller

Moving from maker to mentor — with Jessica Barry

“A VP at SAA said they had a recruiting position available and wanted me to interview. I remember my first inclination was —absolutely not. I'm a designer, not a recruiter. This is what I went to school for.  

I went back after the interview (that I thought did not go well) and talked with my friends and said if I take this, this is the end of my design career... my design skills are going to die... but my friends kept saying 'just try it.'"

 

JESSICA BARRY, President & Owner, The Modern College of Design  

Jessica wanted to be a designer — a really good designer. And, like anyone with the talent and tenacity to fulfill that kind of dream, she went to art school, learned from great mentors, honed her craft, and eventually became that really good designer.

But what if there's more than that... more than just being a good designer? What if the dream was merely a stepping stone to something else despite the design skills she worked so hard to cultivate?  

Jessica recounts her journey from attending the small upstart School of Advertising Art in Kettering, Ohio, to the unheard of act of buying — fully purchasing — the same school she once attended. The move from maker to mentor wasn't easy and it certainly wasn't her expected career path. Jessica talks about weighing her new opportunities and rethinking what a career can look like if you take it one step at a time.

At the time of this recording, Jessica and her staff were preparing to officially open their doors to the new Modern College of Design — expanded and rebranded in time for the 2018-19 class. She talks about the risk and reward of these ambitious changes and the big, hairy, audacious goals she has for the school in the not-so-distant future.   

 

The Modern College of Design

 

What is a Joy Venture?

“What you can't get back is lost time. If you're sitting on an idea or if you're sitting on capability that's not being used, and if you have the wherewithal to say I WANT TO DO THIS and I want to surround myself with people who are going to push me forward — that's what this is all about.” 

— Thad DeVassie

“But what this isn't is a call for people to recklessly abandon the jobs they have right now and start out on their own... before you realize you have something.” 

— Jeremy Slagle

A year before starting Joy Venture — and two years into it — we are still asking questions. The questioning isn't solely reserved for our guests who appear on the JOY VENTURE podcast, but of ourselves, our motivations, what we believed or intended going into this endeavor, and what we've learned along the way. 

Listen in on the discussions that we are constantly having even when the guest interviews aren’t rolling.

  • What is a joy venture?

  • How do you discover your joy?

  • How do you develop it?

This series of shorter podcasts are meant to supplement the interview series as we wrestle with the bigger questions about discovering and developing joy — and leading a life with intention and purpose.

Riding out your dreams — with Jeff Frane

“I like the idea of falling in love and having that object for a very long time, and that's what steel (bike) is for me. If I’m going to have something forever, it needs to be special. I don't like disposal culture. I like being intentional about what I buy and I want people to get value and years of happiness and experience out of each of our products.”

 

JEFF FRANE, Brand Manager, All-City  

Like most kids growing up in middle America, Jeff loved to ride his bike. But unlike some, it’s a love affair that's never waned. When he was old enough to drive a car, he chose to keep riding bicycles instead. Jeff is a bike guy and gearhead through and through, and you could say that his lifelong passion borders on the obsessive — although that would be selling his story short. 

Jeff isn’t an entrepreneur the way they’re often idolized. Rather, he’s the once-plucky kid from the warehouse with an idea and an email, who was given a green light to go build something. That something was his dream job, and it would evolve into All-City — a bicycle brand under the QBP banner and named after the All-City Championship bike race Jeff founded in his bike-friendly city of Minneapolis. 

Jeff takes us on an unvarnished ride that holds nothing back about the steep valleys (getting laid off from his bike shop job, living in van and being flat broke) that sometimes need to be traveled before reaching the peak.  

His story is a street-smart testament to grit and determination, building community and fostering culture, and believing that dreams are meant to be fulfilled if you have the tenacity to power through the trials head-on.  

All-City Bicycles

Bike Jerks

A master craftsman on the making of his craft brewery — with Kevin Ely

"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.  

Wooly Pig Farm Brewery

Building the Wooly Pig brand

Shifting gears & embracing change — with John Robinson

"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.  

Johnny Velo Bikes  |  The Purple TuTu Society

Pouring into people & purpose — with Kenny Sipes

"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).

The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

Advantages of going small & going home — with Katie & Josh Emrich
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“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. 

The power in pursuing small things — with INCH x INCH
 
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“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.  

inchxinch.org

Growing one word & sketch at a time — with Bob Ewing
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“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.  

bob-ewing.com

Adopting new ways to live & work — with Ben & Beth Stafford
 

“There's much to be said about investing more in people than your business; and one may directly influence the other.”

BEN STAFFORD, Foxmeadow Creative

“It's something really important to us that we prioritize, family time and work time, and that's helped us keep our sanity. We don't work all hours of the night and day, we want to make sure we have time to spend as a family outside of work.”

BETH STAFFORD, Foxmeadow Creative

 

A move. A pivot. A layoff.  And a whole lot of pursuit into the unknown.

For many of us, this kind of change, disruption and lack of clarity can be unnerving. For Ben and Beth, they are choosing to see an alternative plan for how best to approach work and the art of living a purposeful life.  

Becoming familiar with their story, one could easily be reminded of the lyrics to Divine Intervention, the opening track to Matthew Sweet's classic 1991 album, Girlfriend.

I don't know where
I'm gonna live
Don't know if I'll find a place
I'd have to think about it some
And that I do not wish to face
I guess that I'm counting on his
Divine intervention.

Hopeful, heartbreaking, funny, honest and real— these are perhaps the best ways in which to illustrate a conversation with two big-hearted creatives that are pursuing a path less traveled with no regrets. 

Foxmeadow Creative

Ben Illustrated (illustration website)

Ben Stafford: How to Become an Expert (Making Midwest Fest)

Finding joy after tragedy — with Ian Burkhart

“(Regarding my injury) there’s a point where insurance believes you’ve plateaued and you’re not going to make any more progress. I wasn’t ready to accept that. I wanted to do more.

I asked my doctors about other types of therapy, what else might be out there for me. And that’s when I was at the right place at the right time. I was the perfect candidate.”

IAN BURKHART, Founder, Ian Burkhart Foundation and first-ever neurobridge implant patient

Ian remembers being a typical, jovial college student having fun on vacation at the beach with his friends. He also recalls the moment when he dove into the ocean waves off of the Carolina coast and hit a sandbar — that very moment when everything changed.

Ian learned shortly thereafter that he had suffered a devastating spinal cord injury. His diagnosis: paralyzed for life. At age 19, Ian’s life was forever altered.    

Ian shares his story that is equal parts heartbreaking, heartwarming and, truth be told, literally mind altering. Ian is the first person ever to undergo an elective brain surgery to implant a device that can read his brain waves in effort to help him regain movement. It is here — where life and science intersect, and joy and pain coexist — that Ian speaks with a steady cadence of hope and reason borne of a tragic accident. 

We return to the site of his first internship, Brainstorm Media, which was the type of place he could envision a career after college. Ian gives us the encouragement to be optimistic and inspired, especially when a new set of aspirations are ready to replace those best laid plans.   

New York Times article  |  Columbus Monthly article

TEDxColumbus talk  (photo credit: Time Tank Labs)

Ian Burkhart Foundation

Losing that spark and finding it again — with Mark Henson

“I felt like every conversation with a mentor on another business person came back to ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up’ and I didn’t like that because I knew for the longest time — this is it. I love what I do and want to do it forever... and then I didn’t. And that was weird.”

MARK HENSON, Founder of sparkspace & author of Ordinary Super Powers

Anyone who knows Mark would likely agree that he’s one of the more upbeat and positive people you’ll ever meet — and as the founder and creative force behind sparkspace, he’s running one of the coolest places on the planet for creative inspiration, personal development and team building. 

And that’s all Mark wanted to do. Run a business just like that.

Until he didn’t. 

Mark opens up about what happens when you lose that spark for the thing you love, how depression can still get its grips on the optimist, and how figuring out what you’re good at — and not simply passionate about — is the key to unleashing your ordinary super powers. This is a story of rediscovery and finding that spark again to do your best work — that stuff you were meant to do.

We also discover some interesting back history on Mark as he reveals tidbits about his life as as Top 40 radio disc jockey in middle America, with a not-so-middle-America on-air persona.    

sparkspace

Ordinary Super Powers  

Bikes, brews & the things that move you — with Chris Bishop

“I never worked in a bike shop until I owned one. My first day on the job I was reporting to myself. Sometimes we fear what we don’t know but forget to celebrate or praise what we do know. There's this really awesome saying: we fail at the margins of our experience. When we do, great. We grew. We don’t grow by having a cushy, comfortable life.”

CHRIS BISHOP, Founder, Backroom Coffee Roasters and hop merchant 

Pulling up to Chris’s airplane hangar turned “workshop” — where he roasts beans for Backroom Coffee Roasters today — is a much different setting for his business compared to when he was fueling his coffee fix out of the back room of a bike shop, hence the company name.

Chris is far from being stuck in the same gear. He’s the kind of guy who has multiple interests and a willingness to pursue them as far as they will go. He’s also a guy who avoids getting too comfortable with any venture, knowing that comfort has a way of stunting growth and breeding complacency. 

Chris charts his entrepreneurial path and insatiable desire for discovery, from motor sports to bicycles and from coffee to beer. And he believes in doing the kind of work you’re passionate about and can pour yourself into. It’s how he has turned his passions into paychecks and immensely enjoyable work.

Chris’s story will encourage you to go for it — whatever your “it” might be.   

Backroom Coffee Roasters  |  Crosby Hop Farm  

Trading the cubicle for tiny living & bigger vistas — with Nick Couts

“People ask me all the time ‘how did you convince your wife to do this?’ when the fact is she’s the one who spearheaded this whole idea.”

NICK COUTS, Founder, LOVE Cinema, LLC, and full-time traveler 

Most people who think about purchasing an RV and traveling around the country plan to do so in retirement. For Nick Couts, taking that leap as a millennial was a calculated move to enjoy the world now and not wait for another 35 years. After taking a sabbatical from the acclaimed Spacejunk studio, getting encouragement from his wife, and honing a motion graphics skill set that doesn’t confine him to a cubicle farm, Nick is now two years deep into being a nomadic artist without a permanent address. He’s a man happily living out his plan in a van. 

Traveling the wide open west with his wife and a massive Saint Bernard, Nick talks about the challenges and rewards of working remotely, a radically different shift in lifestyle and the inspiration a creative gets when the landscape is constantly changing. 

Nick supplies us with his story of mapping his own road, as well as a handful of photographs he’s taken during his travels, with links to his Facebook and Instagram account to show more of his adventures.   

Nick's Website

Facebook

Instagram

Life at the seams of product innovation & personal purpose — with Daniel McKewen
 

“I remember my wife saying to me, ‘if you don't do this, if you don’t see it through, you're going to wonder what would've happened — and it's going to drive you crazy.’ And that was the absolute truth.”

DANIEL McKEWEN, founder,
Seagull Bags & Singing Needle Studio

 

At first glance, Daniel isn’t likely to be pegged as a guy who spends his day sewing or cutting fabric. Yet when presented with a need for a better messenger bag, Daniel picked up his grandmother’s sewing machine and went to work. What started as out as a personal project while in art school was suddenly turning into into a word-of-mouth business with international clients before he graduated. With growth of more than 300 percent for the first five years, his epic rise also came with epic challenges — leading to a need to pause and reassess everything. But as the calloused fingers of any true craftsman will tell you, giving up just wasn't an option.

Hear Daniel’s story and how he’s kick-starting a second chapter for a beloved brand and is embarking on a crowdsourcing project to solve a problem for musicians like himself.

www.seagullbags.com
www.singingneedlestudio.com

The adventure & advantages of never growing up — with Greg Walter
 

“We’re trying to do something that appeals more to the child in everyone. We want to invite people to bond with a brand and have fun together rather than just being impressed by it.”

GREG WALTER, Bossman, 2Tall Animation Studio

Greg is a like a lovable kid in a tall man's body — a 2Tall one to be exact. To view his work today, it’s seems rather obvious this self-proclaimed expert daydreamer was destined to make animation videos for Sesame Street Studios and turn otherwise mundane content on its head. But finding his stride hasn’t been easy. After a 2,400-mile move from Seattle to Columbus, getting laid off and essentially starting from scratch, Greg plumbed his inner, optimistic child and found his voice...while being chased by wolves, no less. For a man who claims he’s “barely qualified to run a lemonade stand let alone an animation studio,” it’s clear he's taken his lemons and made lemonade.

Whether it’s laugh-out-loud ridiculous or surprisingly heartwarming, his trademark style of animation is always joyful and infectious. We talk with Greg about the “rock cycle” from our middle school days in science class; monsters and yetis; where his inspiration comes from; and the fine line between comfort and doubt in creating his line of work.        

www.2tall.tv

 
 
Believing in & living out your authentic self — with Brittany Baum
 

When I was a kid drawing, I may have started with an idea, but I was always interested to see how it would evolve. It’s kind of how I feel about this business. I don’t want it to be this monotonous, boring thing.”  

BRITTANY BAUM, founder/owner of Brēzel

Our interview with Brittany is peppered with laughter and revelations, and words like “weird” and “crazy” and of course, “pretzels” — but don't let that fool you. Her commitment to discovering and developing her craft is a serious one. Leaning on her unique food experience in Germany, she’s checked the box on corporate and government work life, transitioned to DIY experiences and farmers markets, and experienced a major learning curve while working odd jobs to make ends meet. Brittany drops plenty of inspiration and wisdom on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur. She also wears her inspiration on her sleeve (literally) and possesses enough spunk and can-do attitude to make the most outrageous challenge seem achievable. After all, we are talking about pretzels.

www.brezelpower.com