Photo Credit Angela Eunsung Kim
Tell us about your business/company or hustle. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
I specialize in art direction and design in advertising agencies. Ever since I was young, I was always drawing and painting and my parents helped me continue pursing my dream all the way through high school. Eventually I went to Pratt Institute, a specialized art school in Brooklyn New York where I fell in love with Art Direction/Advertising.
Throughout my professional career, I’ve lead photoshoots, commercial shoots, branding, website design, social and traditional campaigns for well known brands. I was very fortunate to start my career off strong at a well known advertising agency called Grey, where I got my hands on EVERYTHING. Some of the top clients I worked with in the past are: AARP, Ad Council, Aflac, Ally Bank, Champion, CDW, Gillette, GSK, Herbal Essences, JCPenney, Keurig, L’Oreal Paris, Marriott, MSC, Oreo, Pringles, Primrose Schools, P&G, SkinnyPop, The Paper & Packaging Board, Tums, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Volvo Cars, Zales and more…
What sets me apart from others is really I try to be human about everything. Advertising agencies are like every other corporations where “professionalism” is the standard for “success”. But coming from fine arts and creative background, I think personalities and being true to who you are can shine brighter than “professionalism”. Especially nowadays, everybody needs to laugh a little and not take everything so seriously. I think we are heading in the direction of where people are starting to embrace each others’ differences in the same room. Another thing that sets me apart is, art school really provided me with the basic foundations of creating “art”. Nowadays there are a lot of top creatives who went to a portfolio school for their Masters, and I’m not bashing them for doing that at all, but there are real differences between them and us art kids. I feel that us art kids create something from their heart and their gut feelings and applying them in real situations to solve real life problems. Also foundational drawing skills are a given to us, where advertising schools just teach you to do just that – make ads.
Photo Credit Angela EunSung Kim
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you got started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
I think I briefly touched on this in the previous question. But I started off as a fine arts kid ever since I was about 4 years old. I was born in South Korea, then moved to Singapore and lived there up to 4th grade then moved to upstate New York where I got accustomed to the US culture. Then we moved back to Singapore where I continued pursuing my art, graduated high school and then came back to NYC to attend college. I graduated from Pratt with Bachelors in Advertising focused in Art Direction, landed my dream internship job at Grey Group. I remember I used to look out my dorm room window into the skyline of the city from afar, dreaming of the day when I finally get to work at a top advertising agency. My entire life I was driven by my passions, and being an immigrant here came with more hardships. Every year when I would land a new internship, I would have to fill our documents and get permission from the school to work. Eventually my dream was to get sponsored for a working visa by my dream company, continue working and getting closer to obtaining the green card. It was a lot to handle, but it also was the driver to my successes. As soon as I graduated Grey called me to come back and work with them. From then on I worked my ass off with tons of talented creatives, fought hard for my working visas (won’t get into too much detail on that, but if you’re interested you can follow @thealienproject on Instagram which is my side project I just started this year on immigration) and figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Along this journey I can say I’ve made great friends, some enemies and lifetime mentors. That’s whats so great about this city and this industry, there are so many passionate, talented people who genuinely want to do great work. And advertising industry can suck sometimes, long late nights, frustrating timelines and ridiculous clients but at the end of the day – we are making creative work to be seen by the rest of the world. The greatest feeling in the world is when that little idea of yours from your brain translates into a real thing and the rest of the world being able to see it. And the journey you had to take with the team will live in your memory forever because this job really takes on a lot of emotional toll. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and these hardships are thrown at you disguised as an another lesson to be learned.
I have had to deal with another hardship – terrible bosses. I’ve had bosses who would bully me literally right in front of a group of colleagues, (advertising can sometimes be like high school), mansplain during meetings, interrupt me, throwing me under the bus, the list goes on. While EVERYBODY has had bad bosses before, it was truly a hard time for me as I needed to rely on them for my future needs. But now I am at a better place. And I think I am at a better place because I have had gone through those terrible times. Now I know what to watch out for, I can detect red flags faster than before, speak out for myself better at work and really just not being afraid. All of those hardships kind of made me… numb in a good way. As in I feel indestructible now. Obtaining the O-1 Artist visa the same year Trump got elected, having to have appealed the visa when an officer didn’t believe in me, all of these obstacles just made me realize I am bigger than my physical size (I’m only 5 foot 3 tall).
What specific obstacles or challenges have you faced while on your journey? What were they and how have you overcome them?
I think I’m answering a lot of these questions way too early, but definitely obstacles and challenges I have faced and still facing right now is on the working visa. I’ve had to hire my own lawyer, get the job done on my own with a lot of nasty comments thrown at me by my own coworkers, getting my petition rejected, having to appeal, running back and forth between the office and the lawyer’s office, working everyday with the visa constantly in the back of my mind, putting a smile on my face when really I was stressed about it every single second of my life. But this challenge really taught me this – if you really really want something and you give it all, you can achieve it. Surround yourself with the people that trust in you and believe in you. Ignore the haters and the downers because it’ll only make you doubt yourself. Everyday work towards the goal you’re trying to achieve whether it’s doing more research, writing in a journal, talking to someone about it for advice, or simply organizing your thoughts.
What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?
Harness your strengths. As a creative we want to be good at everything, and quite frankly people expect us to be good everything from – editing, drawing, sketching, ideating, designing, animating, coding, presenting, communicating…etc. But if you have that one specialty that you excel at, people will notice you from miles away. Be great at one or couple things that you can proudly show off in your portfolio, and be decent at every else. Because not every great work is done by one single person. Teamwork really makes the dream work and when you can bring to the table YOURSELF, that’s the greatest asset any company can have.
Photo Credit Angela EunSung Kim
Another advice I have is to surround yourself with good people. And I mean GOOD people. People who have the kindest hearts, but can be aggressively strong when they want to achieve something. Surround yourself with people better than you. Your coffee talks then will spiral into talking about ideas, innovations, productive subjects. Live and breathe creativity in professional and personal lives, because this is a demanding industry and if you’re not all in, it’s difficult to get to the top.