Addie Rawr is the very definition of a creative entrepreneur as a watercolor illustrator, sticker maker, greeting card designer and all-around creative powerhouse. She got her start by seeing a huge gap in the greeting card marketplace—she couldn’t find designs that represented her friends and family. So Addie solved the issue by creating cards featuring modern-day Black women. The artist and designer also mentors Black creatives, and she tells us more about that in her interview, which is packed with advice and inspiration for you.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started with your creative business?
Addie Rawr: In 2015 I was looking for a set of Christmas cards that represented modern-day Black women. I was in my early 20s and wanted cute cards to give to my friends and partner. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find many that showcased Black families and none for a younger buyer. I was already painting and selling my original paintings and figured that if I could paint some designs, I could make them into cards. It took me a few tries and hundreds of dollars on wasted paper, but finally, I created a set of four beautiful Christmas cards. I mass-printed them to give to my family and friends and sold the rest on Etsy.
AJ: At what point did you realize that you could turn your artwork into a business?
AR: After selling out of the Christmas cards—so many people asked if I had other greeting cards. They let me know how hard it was to find Black representation with greeting cards. I was honored to start creating more cards and enter into the greeting card business to represent my culture.
AJ: How do you define success for your creative business?
AR: I believe that selling anything that can be one item or 100 is successful in my business. It’s extremely difficult to have a creative business since it’s usually not a life essential. So I always remind myself that whenever someone purchases an item, I have succeeded as a business owner. I sold something that I created that someone else wanted, loved and thought it was worth using their hard-earned money to purchase. That’s what success means to me.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration?
AR: I find inspiration in everyday people who look like me. I people watch a lot. A lot of my illustrations are inspired by looks I’ve seen at festivals, concerts, walking around my neighborhood or even brunch.
AJ: What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started your creative business?
AR: Your journey isn’t going to look like anyone else’s, and that’s a good thing—keep it that way!
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin selling their art or creative product?
AR: Do it! You’ll be surprised how someone, somewhere in this world, loves what you’re creating. Don’t think too much about trying to get it right or being successful immediately. Pay attention to how to feel when you start selling—that feeling is what’s important.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
AR: I have a degree in creative advertising! Most people think that I have an art background, but I actually wanted to work in advertising and be in “Ad Weekly” one day. Oh, how things have changed.
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
AR: I think I’ve figured out a secret way to overcome my perfectionism. I tell myself that no one (even myself sometimes) knows how the end result is supposed to look like. It’s a fun way to appreciate my mistakes and say, “Oh, well, I guess this is how it was supposed to look,” and be okay with it.
AJ: Please tell us about how you help other Black creatives through your community.
AR: Oh, I LOVE helping other Black artists and designers. I started mentoring artists in 2018 and haven’t stopped. I have a community called Art & Ambition Studios, which is an online platform that highlights other Black creatives and shares resources to help us grow. I update the job listings, grants, programs and blog regularly. It’s a great way to share my experience while inspiring and hopefully helping someone who looks like me.
AJ: What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
AR: That shipping is expensive! I can say before I started my own business, I thought shipping should be free or super cheap. Shipping and packing supplies can cost you so much, especially if you want something fancy to mail your items in. I always try to be transparent with others about that when they start their business.
AJ: Running a business brings joys and challenges. What advice would you give to someone about handling the highs and lows?
AR: Remember the good times as much as possible. Print out your good reviews, feedback or emails. Keep them somewhere you can see them often so when the bad days come—you have something to balance you out.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
AR: My work was highly criticized by a very popular feminine hygiene brand. I was doing freelance work for them, and they just didn’t like how my style translated in the message. At first I was hurt and disappointed. I felt like I needed to change how I illustrated because this was a big brand and an amazing deal. After some days of sitting on it, I regained my confidence and remembered that their criticism didn’t mean I was a failure. I took note of everything they said, so I could apply it next time.
AJ: What’s a cause you are passionate about and why?
AR: Therapy for Black Girls. I grew up being told that therapy wasn’t for normal people. That something had to be “wrong” with you to go to therapy. As an adult, I stand behind everyone being open to therapy, especially Black women. I love Therapy for Black Girls because it reminds my community that you don’t have to handle everything alone. It has helped remove the stigma around therapy in the Black community, and I appreciate that so much.
AJ: Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just love—one that makes running a business a bit easier?
AR: Online Labels! They are the best supplier for all label and sticker paper. The quality is amazing, they offer samples for free, and the customer service is great. I use their paper for my sticker sheets, candle labels and packaging labels.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: what brings you joy?
AR: The sun. There’s something about that shine, heat and brightness of the sun that instantly brings me joy and happiness.
Thanks, Addie! You can shop her work at addierawr.com.
This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.