Atma Studios interviewed Kavitha Amarnath, an Artpreneur and Founder of Zuggri, to know more about her path from a homemaker to a Digital Creator and launching her own business.
1. How did you discover the Artpreneur Program?
I first heard about Artpreneur through an alumni from Cocoon of fireflies 2019-2020. It seemed unique and interesting.
2. Prior to attending the Artpreneur program, what were you doing?
Previously, I worked in the media and advertising industry, but didn’t return to this after motherhood. In addition to being a homemaker, in the last few years I had worked for a microfinance non-profit organisation.
3. What prompted you to enrol in this program?
I had a strong urge to do something for myself and invest in my skills and capabilities after many years. I have always had a creative side, and wanted to rekindle that. But at the same time, didn’t want to take a path that would push me down the commercial media / advertising industry path. With this in mind, I had dabbled with various things such as a Mandala course, and even Zentangle.
But after doing this for a while, was looking for something with more rigour and structure. Artpreneur seemed to address these desires because:
1. The course appeared rigorous and well-structured
2. Art was at the center of the course
3. It promised to help each person chart their own journey and become independent rather than moulding everyone in the same way
Above all, I was keen to prove to myself that I am still capable of doing something creative after so many years.
Talking with an alumni of the course who is also a mother, inspired me that Artpreneur was the right program for me.
4. Apart from technical aspects what have you learnt from the Artpreneur program?
The non-technical lessons from Artpreneur have been as valuable if not more valuable than the technical fundamentals. As the course name suggests, the program is tailored towards equipping students to become independent creative solo-entrepreneurs, and this obviously requires more than just technical abilities.
Through Artpreneur, I learned a lot about the branding process in different contexts, and how to effectively marry this with design and illustration activities. We also got a lot of practical advice on how to effectively run a client engagement from start to finish, including communication, pricing, setting realistic expectations, and very importantly, when to say no to a promising opportunity.
We also learned a lot about design aesthetics and appreciating different types of art and design. There was a lot of focus on Indian folk-art forms (as well as a few non-Indian forms), and being able to understand and practice these has refined my aesthetic sense significantly.
Very importantly, we also learned about establishing a personal brand, and branding and marketing ourselves. Our mentor provided a lot of ongoing advice on how to think about my own career growth and development as a creative entrepreneur.
Possibly the most valuable thing for me has been the discipline the course has instilled in me. Throughout the course, we were taught to be extremely diligent about tracking our time, tracking our work output, and recording and capturing our progress and learnings. This is something I continue to do today, even though the course lessons ended nearly a year ago.
5. How did you balance your roles as a homemaker and an Artpreneur during the program?
Sometimes I’m not sure if I did balance it well!
This was very difficult initially because I was spending 10-11 hours on weekdays between course time and homework. This was a shock to both me and my family because my kids weren’t used to me not being available for them.
After a while, I got into a better routine of dedicating specific times to the family, and specific times for coursework and assignments. My family also started working around my schedule. Sometimes, when there was a particularly challenging module, I would still be drawn into work completely, but I’d make sure to compensate that with more family time on other days.
One thing I did learn as I juggled this was the value of deep focus on one thing at a time. I used to think that multi-tasking as a mum was something to be proud of, and a great achievement, but the course made me realize that I was doing many things, but none of them to 100%. There’s certainly an illusion of productivity with multi-tasking, and I’m consciously trying to avoid being sucked into that now.
6. What do you do now? Can you describe your Journey after Artpreneur Program?
After the program, I opted for a portfolio mentorship with the mentor and worked on a virtual non-profit education brand called Muskaan. I have a strong interest to contribute to the non-profit education sector.
Mr. SCD Balaji guided me through this branding process and then pushed me to work on an ad campaign for Muskaan using the Bengal Patua art form. I found this process to be a fantastic confluence of everything I had learned in Artpreneur, as well as my experiences from my prior background in advertising.
Following this, I worked on building my own personal branding and launching Zuggri - my branding and illustration house.
At this point, Mr. SCD Balaji suggested for me to work on an illustrated children’s book. He said, “come up with a story and a book that your children would be attracted to”. I didn’t have a specific inkling towards this, and at first wasn’t sure where to start. However, one thing led to another and within a couple of months, I had authored, illustrated and published an original children’s picture book called “Why Can’t I See God?”.
“Why Can’t I See God?” got very favorable reviews from friends and even teachers at my sons’ school, and this led to an opportunity to co-author and illustrate a book called “Unfair & Lovely” that is targeted at slightly older children. This book has also been published recently.
There are now a few other book illustration opportunities that are in the pipeline, and I’m also looking to build my portfolio and brand through other types of works.
7. How was your collaboration with the educator and mentor, during and after the program?
My educator, Ayesha Bilmoria, hand-held me throughout the program and gave a lot of direct support and encouragement throughout that time. My interactions with her started a month before the program started, and she would closely scrutinize my work and help me out on a day to day basis.
The mentor, Mr. SCD Balaji, has provided higher level direction and guidance, and this has been particularly important after the program completed. Although he is pushing me towards greater independence, I continue to take his input and guidance on a frequent basis.
8. The challenges you have faced during the program? How do you tackle it?
The two biggest challenges were time commitment and self-doubt.
Time commitment because the course required commitment and sustained effort day in and day out for a period of 9 months. This definitely was a struggle at times. It also led to a particularly intense relationship with my educator Ayesha who is scrutinizing your work for 4-5 hours on every day pushing you to get better. I certainly would not have developed the way I did without this push, but at times it did get overwhelming.
The self-doubt came because you saw that sometimes others may be picking up something better than you, and you constantly wondered why things were taking so long for you.
Consistency and discipline were the key to working through these challenges. One thing that was very important was keeping a journal. This helped me to understand how I have progressed rather than continually measuring myself against others.
Finally, the encouragement from those around me and the educator really helped me through some tough weeks. The fellow students in my batch were all very supportive of each other.
9. Would you recommend the Artpreneur program to others? What would you say to people looking to join the Artpreneur program?
Yes. But with a disclaimer that you should take it up only if you have the will and discipline to commit to it for the upcoming year. For anyone who does this, I think that the diversity of topics that the program covers, along with the individual attention you will receive, make it a very attractive choice.
For anyone considering the program, I’d advise them not to go in with fixed expectations about their path or desired outcomes. It can be good to have some goals in mind, but don’t be too fixated on them, and don’t resist a change in your path. Let the program’s process work on you.
10. Who do you think would not be attracted by the Artpreneur Program?
I think people who are looking for a short course on particular tools or techniques, or just wanting a qualification that will land them a job should not consider this program. There is nothing wrong with these aspirations, but Artpreneur isn’t really tailored towards this.
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