Text and photos by Connie Leinbach
Courtney Contreras had recently lost some enthusiasm for her new-found art avocation, but a marketing workshop on Ocracoke Thursday and Friday with marketing expert Linda Rozelle inspired her.
“This completely reignited my passion,” Contreras said Friday morning in the Ocracoke Community Center after Rozelle had taken nearly 40 local artists, small business owners, and budding entrepreneurs through some ABCs of marketing, pricing, presentation, the world of craft shows and more.
A commercial artist, Rozelle has designed hundreds of corporate identity programs nationwide and has been nationally recognized for excellence in advertising
Following one’s passion was one of Rozelle’s refrains.
“You’ll always be happy with things you are passionate about,” she said.
Contreras creates hand-made signs from wooden pallet pieces, combined with roses made from old book pages, maps or song lyrics.
For each piece, Contreras painstakingly makes roses from the old paper, prepares the wood and creates the lettering.
She told Rozelle that she mostly has given these pieces away, a practice Rozelle didn’t encourage.
“I was blown away by the talent,” Contreras said about the workshop. “I was at the point of giving up and not pursuing (these projects), but now I’m inspired and encouraged and humbled.”
Contreras is certain the seeds planted by the workshop will bloom in the months to come.
Rozelle, of Greensboro, was smitten with Contreras’s work, as she was with a number of the attendees’ art, and encouraged them to charge a high enough price. She likened charging too little with working for minimum wage.
“Your talent is worth something,” she told the group on Thursday. “Stop making it (your art) so everyone can afford it. Don’t sell yourself short. The buying public wants the higher-priced item.”
Artists have to be artists and business people, she said.
“You need a great marketing plan first,” Rozelle said. “Your art is all about the story,” she said and peppered her talk with many stories of clever marketing ploys. “Give us a story. We’re all looking for a story.”
Rozelle, who was giving her final marketing class on Ocracoke before she retires, explained how correctly designed business cards (or flyers) are crucial to sales since they are marketing pieces.
“Your business image is their conception of who you are,” she said. “If you do a good job with your marketing, you’ll make money.”
She encouraged the group to be aggressive.
“You need ego strength,” she said. “Don’t underestimate how good you are.”
Spearheaded by Kim Meacham, the workshop was a collaboration between her Open Source Ocracoke group, Hyde County Economic Development Office and Beaufort County Community College where Rozelle had taught a marketing class.
“I took her class in the spring and I begged her to come to Ocracoke,” Meacham said after Friday’s morning session. She talked to Lentz Stowe, the BCCC small business center director, who helped get it rolling. Sarah Johnson, outgoing Hyde County public information officer, helped coordinate the seminar.
“This was a big success,” Stowe said about the workshop. “It’s all about grass-roots economic development and it creates jobs.”
Rozelle is a subject-matter expert, he said.
“She’s a known commodity across the state,” he said.
“There so much talent here,” Rozelle said after she finished talking to each artisan or business owner. “This was a fun group. Ocracoke is blessed.”
Like Contreras, attendees were energized by the seminar and the networking opportunities with other artists.
“Even being a beginner or an established business, this gave you direction on where you want to go or how to change,” noted Casey Winslow, owner of Stillwater Day Spa.
Mike Woodward, who owns Carolina Wilderness Adventures in Kitty Hawk, came especially for the workshop.
“I learned so much,” he said. “What she’s teaching and presenting is invaluable beyond the intended audience (of artisans).”
“I feel like I want to go home and go crazy and expand my business,” said April Williamson of Kill Devil Hills and who creates decorated head bands and gloves out of felted wool.
As a result of Rozelle’s talk, she will devise a better name for her business.
“She said my name and card wasn’t classy enough,” Williamson said.
April Trueblood, a musician with Raygun Ruby as well as the new owner of Indiantown Gallery in Frisco, consigned some of the attendees work in her gallery.
“I also got an idea I never had before, and I hope it will benefit our whole artist community in Hatteras,” she said cryptically.
Meacham said the workshop exceeded her expectations.
“I can’t wait to see what these seeds bring forth,” she said. “This town was just thirsty for this program.”
Hyde County is also working with BCCC to establish a learning center at the Hyde Davis Business Center in Engelhard.
For related story on Open Source Ocracoke, click here.
See also their Facebook page at Open Source Ocracoke.