The End of an Era (and a New Dream) PART 1
If you would have told me in August 2015 (when I launched Kindred Cinema) that after a year and a half of brand stories I would find myself burnt out and feeling like they just didn't fit me, I wouldn't have believed you.
I remember taking a course on branding my business in April 2015, while being stuck in a soul-crushing job with an abusive boss. That branding course was my biggest outlet in a time when I wasn't supported by the leadership I served or allowed to step into my full creative capacity.
Every day, I'd do a little more branding homework and flesh out a little more of my brand as fast as I could manage so that by the time my one-year contract expired that August, I could leave the abusive job behind and dive into my calling on my own.
At the time I was a one-year post grad from University. I was young and hungry and motivated. I was also a little bit naive.
I remember coming to a foundational question in my branding homework that asked: "Out of these three business roles, which one comes most naturally for you? Are you the worker-bee, the visionary, or do you love administrative tasks?"
I knew immediately that I HATED admin, so I crossed that one off. Then I took a look at the other two. Which one was I? I knew in my heart that I was a visionary. It ran in my blood. I regularly wake up with fifteen new ideas bursting in my mind, each one tugging at my heart and fighting for preference. But when I thought about filmmaking (what I got my degree in) I didn't believe I could trust someone else to get my vision. So I proudly put pen to paper and answered the question: I'm BOTH.
I would learn later that I should have been honest with myself, because that question was foundational for the rest of the course. And I built my business on it.
I created all of my services around that answer. And that's where I believe I went wrong.
Fast forward to Autumn of 2016. I had recently moved out of Orange County (where all of my brand story clients were at the time) and had several projects left to finish by the end of the year. By this time I was feeling very weary. I had heard the first year of business is hard, but I had hoped to prove those voices wrong. Turns out, I wasn't the exception to the rule.
To make my first year even harder, I quickly learned that my brand stories weren't profitable... and that it would be a miracle if I could JUST barely pay my bills.
Because I was a one-woman band, I had to do all the admin/pre-production/production/post-production work and everything in between all by myself. This took a lot of time, and I wasn't being paid enough per project to devote that time solely to THAT client. I couldn't raise prices any more or they'd be too high for my client base, and I couldn't take on more than one project at once because I needed staff to help me manage it... and I couldn't yet afford to do that (even if I could finally bring myself to trust another person to carry out the vision). It led to a Catch-22 scenario and I was breaking down trying to handle it all.
While I was wrapping up my last client projects for 2016, I found myself praying a LOT about brand stories and about my proud, stubborn decision to refuse help and create a business founded on the thought of me being both visionary AND worker-bee. I considered every option I could think of to fix the brand story process. I invited mentors and biz friends who are very close to me to speak into my life and pray with me.
But when I heard God speak and felt him nudge me in a potentially different direction, I was shocked... and more than a little resistant.
I had felt little pin-prick thoughts (sometimes I call them "inklings") over the last couple months of 2016 that were freaking me out: What if I laid down brand stories for good? What if it's time to let them go?
Could I let them go?
My heart and head played tug of war. I remember thinking that letting go would mean I failed... That changing course meant I would always be an ideator but never a "finisher." That I must not be called to entrepreneurship after all, that I would never be successful, and that I should quit this pipe-dream and go back to a steady 9-5 with my head hung in shame for even daring to try something different.
But my core group of Biz Besties saw differently, and they asked me, "Kristen, what if you opened your hands and made this decision with freedom?"
Freedom. It's my word of the year for 2017. And it's shown up in some crazy ways... some light, some unbelievably hard. But always good.
I stepped back to think about it. What IF I looked at this with eyes of freedom?
All at once, it was like a great weight fell off my shoulders and I could BREATHE.
"Kristen," Treacy (one of my Biz Besties) said as I wrapped up my last film of 2016, "I wonder if brand stories were given to you for a season. Sometimes God gives us callings that last a lifetime and sometimes they last just for a short period of time. If brand stories were just for a season, do you think you finished your season well?"
I didn't have to think about it for very long. "I do," I said, and felt a flood of emotions swirl in my heart. I knew I had given my ALL and my very BEST, even as I was breaking and becoming weary. Even if I had made a stubborn decision, I had honored it. I had seen it through. I had finished. I was a finisher.
My Biz Besties followed up with one last question:
"If you looked at this with freedom, what is calling to you? What steals your breath? Awakens your heart? Brings tears to your eyes? What is calling to you?"
My heart swelled with what came next.
To be continued in Part 2.