Ep 7 - First Failed Business

Alongside her branding agency, Shannon has been a partner in another business - renting out artist studio spaces. When it comes down to expanding or closing up shop, a mix of factors means that she's looking at a first failed business rather than a smashing success. 

Listen in to hear how Shannon responded to her first failed business and go back in time to the moment that everything changed. Hint: it involves meditation, a building catching fire and client calls on the edge of disaster. You never knew Google hangouts could be so eventful.

Shoutout to Sarah Entrup, the woman behind the meditation that Shannon was following when everything changed. Powerful stuff.


Shannon: They say that many of the best entrepreneurs and successful business people failed multiple times. And they say fail fast and you know what I am excited to say that I am one of the people who failed and failed big.

Kerri: Hi, it’s Kerri, content strategist for House of Who. Last inbetweenisode, you met Amanda Peterson as Shannon interviewed her about the balance she’s struck between art and business. Back in Shannon’s world, she’s just closed down a business that had a lot to do with art.

Shannon: I guess it’s not that big. I mean, relatively. It was just a failed business and I feel like, alright, first failed business under my belt. Thank god it’s not more than a few thousand dollars that I lost.

Kerri: For the record, if I was about to lose a few thousand dollars, I’d be having a panic attack.

Shannon: We had artist studios for several years, 3, 4 years...

Kerri: Let me give you some background. At the same time that Shannon has been building House of Who, her naming and branding agency, she also was managing artist studio spaces. She and her partner had a warehouse where they rented other artists space to work, while also running their own companies.

Shannon: We tried to expand from a dozen artist studios to more and we had the business plan, the loans, the capital, the idea, the enthusiasm. We didn’t have the right people yet, but we were on our way. We had each other. And it just didn’t work.

Kerri: But before the expansion didn’t work out and Shannon was running her business, House of Who out of these studios, they were busy. She was landing her first five-figure client job and hiring more and more contractors to handle the work.   

Let’s do a little flashback. One night, while in these artist spaces, Shannon is contemplating the idea of having-ness and having more, pushing herself beyond what she believes is possible to have for herself and her business…

Shannon: I’m literally in the middle of a meditation, feeling myself at the threshold of my comfort zone and this guy runs in the door -

Man’s voice: “The building’s on fire, everybody get out!”

Shannon: It was almost like I had sparked this change in my life - quite literally. It manifested in real life and the building caught fire because of the passion I was tapping into.

Kerri: Hey, I can get down with that. The electricity goes out and Shannon doesn’t have another place to run her business on short notice.

Shannon: I’m trying to have client calls, huge client presentations for really big clients and really big projects in this broken down old warehouse that has no electricity. Our generator is out of gas and I’m running with my last 10 minutes to the gas station to fill up the tank, run back, put it in the generator, kickstart the generator, run upstairs, click on the wifi, wait for it to boot up, just before I sit down and open up my laptop for my video conference call and I just sit down calmly say, “Hi, how are you?” and they have no idea. I’m thinking, “Oh my god I don’t think I can do this.” Totally feeling like a fraud.

Kerri: But she got through it. House of Who continued humming and she started paying market rate Bay Area prices for a place to work. This is when she started looking for new and bigger warehouse space to expand the artist studios. But, like you heard - it didn’t work out.

Shannon: It didn’t work out. It was really just the technicalities of the cost of doing business in the city where we were doing business and what it would have taken to improve the building enough to meet fire safety requirements in order to get permits, and get a business license, and therefore a business. And the landlord didn’t want to - and we just decided that it wasn’t worth sinking $100,000 into a  building that we didn’t own.

Kerri: $100,000, for sprinklers? But hold on, isn’t it kind of funny that the reason they moved out of the old building was a fire and they can’t get the new building because it needs sprinklers?

Shannon: So we folded! And we closed up shop. It was just very clear that the timing wasn’t right and it feels really good to drop that very heavy stone.

Kerri: But what Shannon isn’t telling you, is that losing her artist studios wasn’t just a weight off her shoulders. It was partly an identity crisis. She wrote me an email that said she had to toss a lot of scripts and costumes that she didn’t have space for - and, I quote “I have no planned performances nor plans to plan performances.” There ain’t no crisis like an artist existential crisis ‘cause an artist existential crisis don’t stop. But still, it sound like she’s really trying to just focus on her business right now.

Shannon: I just feel like I’m continuing to learn the nuances of this lesson - do one thing at a time. One thing. And yes, you’re always going to have multiple plates spinning and I think more than anything that’s what building a business has been - learning how to know which plates you have to give a little extra spin to and which ones can spin on their own. It’s just really making me stop and think about when I add in new things or when I move onto the next step. There’s always this feeling of wanting to grow. Right now, I’m just learning the value of going slow-ly…

Kerri: Shannon’s letting go of the artist studios and focusing on House of Who. And in terms of her art? Well, there’s not much happening right now. Will it last? Join us next time on ArtistCEO as Shannon takes on being a CEO with her full self and learns a few more tough business lessons in the process.

ArtistCEO is an Arthouse of Who Production, a division of House of Who, Inc. Find out more at www.houseofwho.com. Subscribe to our newsletter at helloartistceo.com to get a heads up when the next episode releases. Music is by cf watkins at cfwatkins.com. My name is Kerri Lowe - til next time.

Kerri Lowe