Even if you haven’t heard of the multi-disciplined street artist, painter and fashion designer Flox (aka Hayley King) it’s highly likely you’ll be familiar with her work, distinctive for it’s flowing and colourful bird and flora themed graphics.
Starting out with a weekend stall at the old Aotea Square markets in Auckland, was a founding member of Cut Collective, Flox is one of few artists who has learnt to turn her love of art into a paying, flourishing enterprise enabling her to build a business doing what she loves.
RL: When did you start your business and what made you want to start in the first place?
HK: I started Flox back in 2005 with a small seed of a business idea, but more so from a drive to work for myself and turn something that I was passionate about, into something that I could create a career out of.
RL: How did you actually get started? What did you do?
HK: I think what sealed the deal was doing a small business course through winz (after graduating with a fine arts degree from Unitec in Auckland). This really bought my business idea into perspective, and helped me financially, professionally and emotionally to prepare for the hard years ahead. Looking back, this really was a crucial point in my life; It was then, that I made the choice to make use of my fine art roots, within a commercial context.
RL: People often say that starting their business was the hardest thing they’ve ever done – what part of building your business have you found to be the hardest so far?
HK: Well building it was hard, in the sense that I had to take care of everything myself. And of course, I never knew what was around the corner. My philosophy in the beginning, was to really take grasp of any opportunity that came my way, in the hope that keeping busy would not only push the name Flox, but open up new audiences and again create new creative and commercial prospects. Nowadays, I have people who work for me, so I’m able to concentrate on the creative side of the biz and I’m much more selective about what I take on as an artist, from a reputation point of view. Keeping fresh, and remaining forever on your toes is the toughest (and most rewarding) component of running a business. As an artist, you can’t be seen to look stale. I have a really in depth understanding of who my audience is now, so it’s up to me to honour them, and to keep them interested!
RL: What three achievements are you most proud of so far?
HK: I’ve really enjoyed this year, working with some really amazing charitable organisations such as Little Lotus Project, We Are 1, Greenpeace and Auckland City Mission. I feel most proud of my work and achievements when I know that others are benefiting from the work also. I was particularly honoured to work with a bunch of volunteers in Samoa this year, helping to upgrade a a children’s shelter. It was a wonderful experience, and to walk away knowing that you’ve really made a difference to these children’s lives, was priceless.
RL: There seems to be an attitude by many in the art world, that if you’re making money from your art, you have “sold out” and that you have somehow compromised your artistic integrity. Where does this attitude come from and what’s your take on this?
HK: I think this is a typical Tall Poppy Syndrome attitude. Of course everyone has to make money, it’s just a bonus if you actually enjoy doing it. This sort of comment makes me work harder, as I truly believe that you can have your cake and eat it too. Why should I have to choose, when I can do both.
RL: You’ve built your business while also raising a young son – what advice would you give to those who would like to start a business but who feel they can’t because they have kids?
HK: I actually think that being self employed is the best situation to be in, when raising kids. (not that I have anything to compare by). When you work for yourself, you set your own schedule in a sense, so it means that time, although still very precious, is more flexible. It’s amazing what you can achieve after you put them down to bed!
RL: What are the three most important skills or qualities you would advise new entrepreneurs to develop?
HK: I think determination, confidence and not taking yourself too seriously are all important factors to have when running your own biz. Determination is essential, don’t give up. There will always be bad days. Confidence in yourself goes such a long way, it’s that perception of yourself and your business that people really remember. And keep smiling! Remember, in the grand scale of things, your problems are pretty insignificant to what some of the real problems are in this world.
RL: Have you ever felt like giving up and what do you do to keep yourself going when it all seems too much?
HK: I have never felt like giving up actually. However, I do realise that that day is still a possibility, so I guess it’s really all about avoiding complacency. I make sure that I have a good range of stuff going on within the business at one time. I might have two or three commercial jobs going on at once, but at the same time, if I’m not up for that type of work one day, then I always make sure I have other stuff to go on with. This variation of work is what keeps me motivated.
RL: Many people put off starting a business because they don’t have any money. What are your thoughts on this?
HK: Hmm, this is a tricky one. To start a business, you generally need a bit of capital behind you, but then to acquire some capital, you need to get the business going! I think that this crucial time is all about networking, and perhaps doing stuff for free, as it really is all about immersing yourself into certain networking circles. We all do have the luxury now of pushing our brands through the use of social networking sites, in which case, your advertising budget can essentially remain at zero.
RL: What are your plans for Flox in the next few years?
HK: It really is a very exciting time at the moment. Flox is in the middle of a complete and comprehensive rebranding journey. My focus has changed this year, and I’m more interested in pooling experiences and taking a breath gaining perspective of what Flox is, and where it’s going. I’m really excited about bringing other creative’s and professionals on board, to help me solve these questions. The business is eight years old now, so I think it’s grown up in a sense, and I’m trying to honour that along with my audience, and perhaps push it to that next level of brand perception. Watch this space…
Drop into Flox’s studio and check out some of her awesome art and clothing at 13 Great North Road, Grey Lynn or visit www.flox.co.nz. To discuss commission pieces or make an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.