This is How I Find Inspiration as a Creative Entrepreneur
I was recently interviewed by the Australian-based luxury footwear brand, ESSEN The Label for their "In Her Shoes" series.
I wanted to share the feature to spotlight this incredible brand (that's become one of my style staples) and to provide a little more background on how I find inspiration as a creative entrepreneur and lifestyle blogger.
Aja Edmond is a woman of many talents, with a title of marketing and branding strategist, she is also creative entrepreneur, and lifestyle blogger/digital influencer. Currently based in Berlin, she spends about 25% of the year in New York and Chicago.
Aja lives with her partner who was formerly a German diplomat and now a political strategist for the German government (thus her move to Berlin from New York).
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND – WHAT PATH LED YOU TO WORKING AS A DIGITAL INFLUENCER?
Believe it or not, my academic background is in Computer Science. Though I loved the analytical curriculum I couldn't see myself being a programmer so after university went into finance (investment banking and then asset management) of all things!
Despite performing well I knew it was only a holdover and the 2008 market crash gave me a great excuse to start envisioning a more fulfilling career.
I went to business school and during/after my grad studies I worked for a variety of iconic and emerging/startup fashion brands and retailers. It was a great way to meld my strategic and analytical skills with my underdeveloped creative side.
However, I also discovered my entrepreneurial spirit while living and studying in Silicon Valley and working for others was only a temporary stepping stone.
I finally left corporate America in order to launch my independent brand consultancy. I partner with fashion and lifestyle companies of all sizes to help build their brand, social, and content strategies.
Everyday I revel in the fact that I’m able to do meaningful, rewarding, and fun work while still having complete flexibility in my day-to-day schedule.
Once my business was underway I knew it was time to get started on my ultimate goal: launching a digital destination that would allow me to freely nurture and share the creative side I’ve suppressed for so long.
WE LOVE YOUR BLOG AND INSTAGRAM – COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT IT AND WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?
From the 16th through the early 19th century you had these gatherings (or salons) in large European cities made up of likeminded individuals who would come together to discuss art, literature, philosophy, politics, etc.
Being an intellectual as well as an aesthete, I’ve often read about and mused on what it would have been like to participate in these. This inspired me to create my own version of a salon through the form of a lifestyle blog for thinkers and creators with discerning taste.
In order to be consistent I decided that I would draw on my minimalist ideals and focus the blog on what I call “sophisticated simplicity” in style, design, travel, business, and culture.
At first I assumed this niche focus would only attract a small following. However, through original and curated content as well as high impact words and visuals, I was able to grow my community to over 75,000 followers in less than 6 months.
I’ve also started partnering with select brands that fit my aesthetic which has allowed me to quickly evolve the blog from a side project to a legitimate business.
What I love most is (a) it’s an authentic reflection of my ideas and interests so it never feels like work; and (b) it’s contextual as well as inspirational so there’s a wealth of practical information a reader can takeaway and apply to their own life.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORK DAY INVOLVE FOR YOU?
There is no typical day but there is a structure I use each day when planning out how I want it to flow. I created a modular routine that allows me to be more efficient by grouping like activities together.
I break the day into four chunks and then specify what I will focus on during those blocks of time. For example morning (personal development), afternoon (client and blog work), evening (socialize and explore the city), night (wind down/sleep).
Other than that, I have a lot of flexibility. One of the most significant motivators for working for myself was having the freedom to spend time doing what I love and not be restricted by a traditional 9-to-5 schedule.
Here’s what yesterday looked like:
Morning (explore city)
Wake up, dress, quickly plan the day. See early showing of a Berlinale film. Have lunch at House of Small Wonder cafe.
Afternoon (do work)
Shoot editorial for my new style series Back to Basics. Schedule my social media posts for the week. Review analytics to inform one of my client’s content strategy.
Evening (read, socialize)
Call family in the states. Call partner (he’s traveling). Eat a light snack while Whatsapping my NYC girlfriends. Read articles on Aeon, Axiom, Mother Jones and a few blogs.
Night (wind down)
Shower. Drink a cup of tea. Peruse Rupi’s Milk & Honey. Go to sleep.
HOW DO YOU AVOID INSPIRATION FATIGUE?
I consume an incredible amount of information from my daily readings made up of dozens of books, blogs, and publications across a variety of categories from design to politics. On top of that I’m an avid curator of images :)
It’s hard not to find inspiration when you are open to the diverse ideas, opinions, and creative work of others. My issue is not finding inspiration but having the time to turn it into fully flushed out concepts.
If my “salon” continues to grow I may eventually have to step away from my consulting work and commit totally to it.
WHAT DOES STYLE & SUBSTANCE MEAN TO YOU?
Oscar Wilde wrote an essay called the "Art and the Handicraftsman" and there’s a passage in it that sums up my personal thoughts about style and substance:
People often talk as if there was an opposition between what is beautiful and what is useful. There is no opposition to beauty except ugliness: all things are either beautiful or ugly, and utility will be always on the side of the beautiful thing, because beautiful decoration is always on the side of the beautiful thing, because beautiful decoration is always an expression of the use you put a thing to and the value placed on it.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Well it’s not exactly advice per se but exposure to a philosophical way of thinking. I mentioned that I read a lot and for about two years straight most of my books were personal development in nature (which also meant reading or re-reading a lot of classic philosophers).
Of all those the Stoics stood out because their way of thinking so closely matches my natural personality. Stoicism is all about having self-control primarily as a way of handling destructive emotions. It helps you be more calm and in difficult situations, especially those you have little or no control over.
I’ve enhanced my own innate habits by adopting some of their principles and it has really helped me weather the ups and downs I experience as a creative. This is especially beneficial as my creative side is often in conflict with my analytical side which can cause a lot of confusion and frustration.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS IN BERLIN?
I have a massive list of Berlin spots that I love but tried to narrow it down to a top 10 by focusing on the places I tend to frequent the most. In no particular order:
- Distrikt Coffee – coffeehouse with excellent brunch and lovely minimalist interior
- ORA Cafe – an old apothecary converted into a stunning cafes and bars
- Dottir – high-end Nordic restaurant in stunning renovated space
- Lode & Stijn – contemporary bistro in a sophisticated yet casual space
- Berlin Philharmonic – orchestra housed in a state-of-the-art concert hall
- Vabali Spa – an upscale textile-free sauna, spa, pool, and lounge
- Sammlung Hoffman – meticulously curated private art collection housed in a former factory
- Soho House Berlin – I hang out a lot in the Kitchen Store (cafe & concept shop)
- Voo Store – super hip concept shop featuring designer and street style apparel
- C/O Berlin – An exhibition venue for photography and other media projects
WHAT’S NEXT ON THE ITINERARY?
I’m fairly content right now but if I can get to the place where I’m able to work on my lifestyle blog full time it would be a dream. Especially because I have other creative talents (like singing and songwriting) that I want to tastefully incorporate but don't have the time.
Other than that my partner and I are planning to move to a little coastal town to create a more idyllic setting for us – and that's about it!
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