Carving out a Career as a Creative Entrepreneur

Blog Series, GenDIY

Coral Lani

I have been hustling art for as long as I can remember. At the age of four I had a corner in my mom’s yarn shop where I produced arts and crafts to sell to her customers. By the age of five I was independently knitting and sewing clothes for my dolls. Other kids dreamt of becoming veterinarians or firefighters when they grew up, all I wanted was to make art, or circus costumes. Throughout elementary school I never once learned of a career that sounded appealing to me, the whole career system seemed off. School was easy for me, but I didn’t understand why it was so important. Society told me to do well in school so that I could go to college to get a good job so that I could go to work every day, but it just didn’t make sense. There had to be a way for me to do something I actually cared about.

I feel like my path was destined from the very beginning, but I really began to walk it while I was in high school. I remember stepping in the door of the guidance counselor’s office. I had a large black sketchbook in my hands, a few magazine clippings and the drive to stay in that office until I got what I wanted. Together we came up with an agreement in which I would write my own curriculum for a self taught course in fashion design and I would receive school credit for my work. That was the moment when I learned the true power of living my passion. A door was opened and I realized that anything was possible as long as I believed in it and I believed in myself.

While my peers were going off to college, I was packing a duffle bag of my creations and hitting the road, determined to live my dream, I was fearless. At first I sold my clothing wherever I could; farmer’s markets, concerts, craft shows, sometimes on a blanket in the park. I started traveling to music festivals and fairs where I had my own booth amongst other vendors. We all lived on this festival circuit together, packing our cars and setting up shop in a new place every weekend, I felt like I lived in a fairy tale. I had opportunities to be featured in fashion shows and make custom pieces for performance artists, people knew who I was. As much as I loved this lifestyle I could see that the market was crowded. I moved around for a few years, continuing to sharpen my skills and explore my craft. When sales were slow I got barista jobs and took on part time work for other independent designers where I was able to learn more about construction and production sewing.

Over the past few years I have taken classes in business and fashion marketing. While I work I get business advice from listening to creative entrepreneur podcasts. Social media allows me to build an online presence for myself as I continue to craft and grow my business into my dream job.

As a creative, you may not fit into the mold that society has laid out for you, but you are not alone. Technology today provides us with a platform to be who we want to be, do what we want to do, and to turn our ideas into reality. Information has never been so within reach. There is an online community to support you in your creative entrepreneurial endeavors. There are business advisors, e-courses, free tutorials, blogs, and discussion groups to help you succeed. Through social media we have the opportunity to share our art and ideas with the entire world.

Over the years I have learned that dreams really can become reality as you have a vision, passion, and a drive to succeed. Three things that I would tell anyone who wants to make it as an artist or a creative entrepreneur are:

Believe in yourself. Living your dreams is not always easy, there will be tough times, people may question your choices, but, as long as you believe in yourself, you will get through it.

Set goals and work on them, every day. Create lists, long lists, of everything you want to accomplish, even if they may seem unreachable. Try to move the needle on at least one thing on your list everyday. Cross things off, scribble, start your goal list over. Hone your goals by looking at everything that you write down. Maybe one goal is far more important than the others. Go after that one.

Never give up. You can only get better at what you do. Find value in even the smallest wins. Take time to recognize your progress, and celebrate it.   

About “GenDIY”
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY. For more on GenDIY check out:

Coral Lani is an independent fashion designer, check out her work at Follow Coral on Instagram, @coralani.


Nelle Jurgeleit-Greene /

I have the pleasure of not only knowing Coral Lani, but also of selling her creative wares in my little shop in Haines, Alaska. We are proud of our young entrepreneurs and encourage you to support young artisans, artists, crafters, musicians, chefs . . .

Great job, Coral!