Are You Innovative?
What does innovation mean to you? To me, being innovative means inventing creative solutions to regular problems. This question was brought up recently by a business blog that I follow and I’ve been thinking about innovation. I’ve been trying to figure out if I am an innovator and if so, in what ways do I innovate.
Working out the idea of innovation in writing is much more clear than allowing it to only swirl around in my head. I think that I’m definitely innovative when it comes to putting on events. Here are some ways that I have been innovative – or at least I think were innovative.
A mutual friend wrote a comment on a thread on Facebook to my business partner, Debi. She suggested that Debi start teaching henna classes since she’s a genius at henna and has her own style/designs that have evolved out of years of learning and practice. At that moment, I thought, what a great idea! Debi is a great henna artist and she is really good at teaching. Perfect! I went to sleep and the moment I woke up the next morning, I had an epiphany, we should do a henna camp! A camp similar to a kid’s summer camp but for adults who do henna or want to learn more about henna. I called Debi and explained the idea and she LOVED the it! We put the plan in motion in less than 72 hours – we had a fully fleshed-out website, a venue, and most of the details set. We had a Facebook page and group and started building fans. Within a week, we opened registration. It was masterful really when I look back at it. I almost can’t believe we pulled it off!
Since then, we’ve started a new event, a horror film festival that will be held in Death Valley the weekend prior to Halloween and we’ve got another exciting event that we can’t wait to reveal!
We just finished up the second year of the Henna Intensive & Retreat (aka henna camp) in September of 2013 and it could not have gone more smoothly. The weekend was an even better success than the year before! More magical moments, even more unforgettable moments, and pure happiness on the faces of the attendees. I really hadn’t thought we could pull off creating a second year that was better than the first, but we did it. We’ll be sure to try to pull it off again for 2014!
These things seem innovative, but does one or two things count towards being an innovator? I kept digging deeper in my memory for more innovation…
Oh! I created the online event Onyx Friday: a black friday alternative! I had a need to promote my Etsy shop before the holidays and I knew that Debi was in need of some advertisement too. Both of us tend to have slow income months in the winter so I figured a kick start would help. I thought and thought about the problem… what is the best way to advertise our own shops? Then it hit me! The best way to advertise our own shops was to promote the shops of others right alongside ours. Thanks to my friend Pleasant Gehman (aka Princess Farhana), she helped come up with the name Onyx Friday and the event was well on its way to becoming a reality. We recruited artisans from all over the country and world to join us in the sale. We created a Facebook event on our Siren Song Productions page and we invited all of our friends lists and had the artists involved do the same. It was a hit! Especially for a first year, grass roots, all online, zero budget event. Almost every artist made multiple sales and they each said it really kick started their holiday season. yay!
The second year of Onyx Friday was 2013 – we held the online sale the day after Thanksgiving, thus the “black friday alternative”. This year, we needed a new angle, we wanted to promote the sale even more. So, we created its own Facebook page for the event, and this time we used Pinterest as our primary source of the sale. Because Pinterest is number one at conversion to actual sales, we figured it would be a great fit. Plus it’s super visual, which really helps when selling beautiful, handcrafted items. This year we also juried everything, from the artists all the way to the actual photos they used in the sale so that everything was beautiful and well laid out like a gorgeous online boutique!
Okay, so this makes a couple more ways that I’ve been innovative… what else?
Definitely while working for MECDA (non-profit, Middle Eastern Culture & Dance Association), I used lots of innovation.
When I became President of our local chapter – Desert Communities, MECDA – I moved our annual fund raiser from a lonely desert location out in the middle of nowhere to a beautiful ballroom in the heart of one of our desert towns. We made more money and had more attendees than the event had ever had in the past! We had great vendors, great dancing on stage all day, and a great workshop in the morning to start the day off right.
Also, while the Chapter President, I grew our annual charity fund raiser “Jingle All the Way”, a holiday event raising funds and toys for impoverished youths. We raised more money and toys year after year. I even got comedienne sensation Margaret Cho to dance in our show one year! The show also featured belly dance stars, Princess Farhana, Jim Boz, Sedona, Katia, Faizeh, Blue Damsel, and so many more (I know I’m forgetting so many!) All while giving dancers a creative outlet and a fun way to celebrate the holidays.
Later, I became the Happenings Editor for the Central Board of MECDA. I took the Happenings (a monthly newsletter) to new heights. First changing the layout and design of the printed newsletter and then by suggesting that we save funds and trees by taking the newsletter online but making it a full fledged online magazine. It was beautiful! And we had so many great articles. I really loved working on the publication for so many years. Click here to see the full version of the March 2011 edition of the magazine, edited and designed by moi!
After some time, the Central Board President of the organization retired and word had spread that no one was going to step into the position, thus forcing the closure of a 30+ year old organization. A friend suggested that I run for office and after some deep soul searching, I decided to run. It was one of the best and hardest experiences of my life. Being a volunteer position, I hadn’t intended for it to take over my whole life but me being me, I just couldn’t give it 50% or less of my time. I quickly adjusted and made the Presidency my full time job, working 40-60 hours per week. On the side, I did graphic design jobs to bring in funds and the organization did provide a small honorarium that helped with expenses on the job.
As Central Board President, the first order of business was to put on the annual fund raiser for the organization – Cairo Caravan. I led the crusade to take the event from the race track in Santa Anita to the luxurious and beautiful, art-deco, Queen Mary. How we got there, is a long story that I promise to tell later. Our first year on the ship was amazing, almost problem free – which is basically unheard of in the event promotion business. Our second year on the ship, we expanded the workshops, added back in the gala show that had previously been cut (prior to my term), and doubled the attendance from the previous year. It was truly an incredible experience!
I planned five years of Cairo Caravan and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It enriched my life in ways that I cannot even describe. I gained life-long friends, learned more about event promotion, and had some of the best times of my life putting on the festival.
So, how do you innovate? What is the most exciting thing you have created? I would love to hear about your successes (and attempts) in the comments!
Innovation image via LinkedIn, All other images ©Blume Bauer Designs