How I Got My First Major Collaboration: Refinery29 + Adidas
I wish this was a ‘How To’ guide on getting a sponsorship. I wish I had the blueprint on how to make things come to life for our career. Sorry in advance for the disappointment. I’m just a girl out here trying really hard and being true to herself. While things have been pretty sour the past few months there was a large opportunity that made it all worth it. One random day, I received an offer for a collaboration with Refinery29 and Adidas that would give me a positive reminder that this was meant for me.
As an entrepreneur, we naturally want things we deserve or at least think we deserve. We’ve got to register for an LLC, start a business social media page, purchase a logo and immediately think that we should have enormous support systems. Sometimes we’re so confident with our craft we think that it alone will carry the business and we should be successful without work. As an artist who dislikes begging people to enjoy my work, I understand. We see our business as the best thing in the world but it takes showing the world how great it is without being arrogant.
My start as an artist wasn’t very formal. I never had a straightforward business plan. When I decided that artistry would be my full-time focus and passion I wrote out a sloppy yet stable plan of execution aka my version of a business plan. I knew the basics and thanked VCU for my education in business and advertising. I knew what I had to do and what I was capable of doing with little to no money, no popularity, no famous friend or plugs to get me started. The other day I was listening to Drake’s Forever and I just kept repeating the same line “it may not mean nothing to ya’ll but understand nothing was done for me.” This is my everyday feeling about what I’ve accomplished. Some only care about the end results and disregard how they got there. I believe the journey to getting there is just as important as the outcome. My plan was to stay relevant on the internet and try to meet local artist every chance I got. Since I wasn’t living in the city I wanted to be in I tried to make the best of it. After a couple of years of just posting on social media and doing odd local pop up shops and events I had to be real with myself that I wasn’t working hard enough. I never believed I was doing a lot, I just thought I was doing enough. I was doing what was expected as an artist; creating, sharing and wearing myself thin.
One thing for sure, I was staying true to myself and being consistent. I’ve changed my medium a few times, from Sharpies to pastels to acrylic to watercolor. My subject matter matured as I matured with age. However, I never stopped creating. The longest I’ve gone without creating at all has only been a few days. And even then, I was still networking, collaborating and finding relevant hobbies that I could incorporate into my art career. That’s how my product line was created and months later the blog I’m currently sharing this on. I used to think that no one noticed I was “real busy”. I was utilizing every free time I had to build my brand and practice the small talents I possessed. It wasn’t until I received a surprising email from Refinery29.
July 2017, I was hired to be part of the 50 State campaign for Adidas Ultra Boost X sneakers. A campaign designed to connect women artist with women in sports that allowed me to customize a pair of Ultra Boost X sneakers for the state of South Carolina. When I first received the email, I didn’t believe it. I questioned its authenticity for days before finally believing that something good and major was really happening to me. I think what took me back was how they simply found my email address from my Instagram and contacted me. A lesson learned that if someone’s serious about commissioning me or simply working with me they will find a way to professionally contact me, just like a company of a caliber of Refinery29.
So, this is the part that I admit I don’t have all the rules. They found me. They looked for and located my contact info all on their own. This was my hard work and consistency paying off. This was God saying “Girl, I told you it was coming!” After years of being myself and doing things I taught myself, I was finally getting what I deserve.
-- Thanks to all who’ve sent me congratulatory messages and motivating emails during the project. It’s truly appreciated!
Tips to getting a sponsorship / collaboration:
Be honest with yourself about your work ethic
Call yourself out if you’re not working as hard as you could
Follow your heart, not others’ opinions
Make your contact info accessible