Interview by Kyle Bagenstose
If you believe in the Butterfly Effect (the theory that the minutest of occurrences can set off a chain of progressively larger events), then you’re going to love the story of Courtney Reed and her company, turquoise. Enrolled in college with the busiest of schedules, a chance class closure forced her to enroll in another, which ultimately led to the discovery of her passion for painting, which ultimately led to the creation of her company.
Of course, if you’re a believer in creating your own destiny, you’re going to like Reed’s story too. Because during each step of the process, the 25-year-old Reed forged ahead bravely into the entrepreneurial world, swiftly pursuing her dreams. Reed was kind enough to answer some questions for us from Wyomissing, Pa.
YPD: So let’s start by telling our readers what turquoise. is and what kind of products you sell.
Courtney Reed: turquoise. is the name of the company I started with my sisters that offers iPhone cases, iPad and MacBook skins with my original painting and photography designs.
YPD: So the first step to turquoise. was the discovery and development of your artistic talent, which ultimately led to you pursuing a graduate degree to nurture it. Can you talk a bit about the personal discovery of your passion for art and design, and the difficulty of making the decision to pursue a master’s degree in the field?
CR: I was in my junior year [at Villanova University], studying communications and elementary education and playing on the Division I varsity women’s tennis team, when I knew it was time to fulfill my one fine art requirement. I remember searching for a calligraphy class because many students I knew really enjoyed it. Because of the popularity, I was disappointed to find out they were all full. Scrolling through the list of fine arts courses offered, I noticed that there was one opening remaining for a watercolor course, so I signed myself up! Little did I know, it became the class I couldn’t wait to attend every Wednesday evening for three hours and the homework I couldn’t wait to work on after doing hours of reading, writing, etc. Each class I would see my skill-set and abilities growing, feeling proud and accomplished at what I was creating from a blank canvas.
It was an escape for me from my full academic course load and physically intensive tennis schedule. I was taking 6-7 courses every semester and traveling on weekdays and weekends for tennis matches and tournaments. Painting took me to a place I felt comfortable and gave me a new avenue of expression.
At the end of the course, I entered a painting contest my professor told our class about. A state senator presented the award as well as another prominent Philadelphia artist, who was in attendance. I ended up winning, receiving reward money, recognition in local newspapers and a dinner for my family. It was so special and gave me more confidence in my abilities as a young person figuring out who I was going to be and what I wanted to do.
When I completed the class, I continued to paint. It was difficult to find time the last two years of college, but I utilized my weekends and summer break to create new works of art. I wanted to experiment with other painting mediums, so I enrolled in an acrylic and an oil class at an institute for art education. I knew I wanted to study and learn more about the artistic process so I decided to go to graduate school for art, where I also had a graduate assistantship in social media for the university. It was during graduate school that I was exposed to a variety of artistic mediums, also discovering a strong proclivity towards photography and design.
YPD: Where did the idea for turquoise. come from? Did you know early on that you wanted to start a company to sell your work, or did you kind of come to that conclusion as things progressed?
CR: After graduating from graduate school, I was cleaning my studio and organizing my artwork, when one of the pieces really stood out to me. As I was looking at it, I remembered how much fun I had creating it, so I brought it to the kitchen for display so others could appreciate it rather than hiding it in my closet. I’m so glad I put it there, because it sparked a conversation that quickly led to the first plans and ideas about turquoise., which was not the name yet!
Being at a crossroads in my life where I had to decide what was next, this was my chance to try something I was passionate about. I did not know I would start a business or become an entrepreneur, but when you have a feeling that you have something to offer yourself and others, you do whatever it takes to make that a reality. I think it just happens to you if you choose to do something you are passionate about or follow an original idea.
YPD: Let’s talk about the challenges of starting a company for a moment. It looks like you handle the creative side, and that your sisters handle the business side. What were some of the hurdles that both sides faced in getting turquoise. up and running?
CR: Since it is just the three of us, we all have to play many different roles and branch into some areas we were unfamiliar with. However, all three of us have different talents and strengths that complement each other, which allows us to truly run a family business.
As first time business owners and without guidance on how to start a business, there has been a lot of unpredictability and we continue learning something new each day. For example, when my sister was setting up the website we had challenges figuring out the online store; how our customers were going to pay, shipping rates, taxes, sale codes, etc. A day after we opened, the online store wasn’t working. Although my sister did not know what went wrong, she had to stay calm, do research and seek advice from the web service provider, who wasn’t even sure what to do. There is no one person to call when you have business difficulties; it’s a matter of doing your own research and calling someone who may lead you to someone else.
It is a roller coaster of emotions because some days you figure things out that push you in the right direction and other days you run into something you can’t get a straight answer to. Sometimes you doubt yourself and think “I can’t do this,” or “Will others be receptive and want to buy my product?” But I believe that there is a reason you have this desire to pursue your passions and if you pour your heart and soul into your work, I feel others will be able to see that. It takes patience and perseverance to not give up, especially when you aren’t sure how to do something or some aspect seems so daunting. You have to keep searching, keep asking and connecting with the right people who may be able to help.
YPD: What are the different roles that you and your sisters play?
CR: It may sound black and white that I am the creative and my sisters are the business side, but it’s a lot more ambiguous than that. The business turquoise. is its own artistic entity that continues to evolve and change as we develop new ideas and make improvements. We always find ourselves going directly to the site to change things as new ideas or designs happen.
We work on what we can on our own but come together for things we need to do as a team. I had to research vendors to find one that is reliable, reputable and able to provide quality cases and skins with good color and print. Another primary concern was obtaining copyright to my art prior to sending it to be printed by an outside vendor. My sisters handle shipping and packaging materials when orders come in, financial recording and planning, marketing ideas, emails, business relationships and website design and maintenance. We came together to determine the price of our products to be competitive with the current market. My sisters are creative in their own ways too when it comes to packaging the products in a unique way, web design, and offering honest advice on whether or not a design I create could be altered or should be offered or not.
The most valuable part of the three of us working together is having someone else to share your ideas with that you can trust and get honest answers from. My sisters provide a sounding board for my artwork that is invaluable to my creative process. We really all bring something different to the team. We have always been close and have spent a lot of time together, so we are grateful to have this opportunity to combine our unique array of talents towards a common goal.
YPD: What about the start-up costs? Obviously having adequate funding or taking financial risk is often a big part of starting a business. Was this true for turquoise. or did you find a way to avoid considerable initial investment?
CR: As with any new business, we have taken a bit of inherent financial risk with website costs, art supplies (camera equipment, computer design software, painting materials), printing numerous case and skin samples, and pursuing this full-time – so there is minimal income from other jobs. Considering I do the social media marketing for turquoise., my sister handles the website, we do not seek outside consultation regarding business decisions, and we do not pay for a store location yet, we have avoided many other costs.
YPD: There’s often a debate that goes on in the mind of an entrepreneur: Do I hold a day job and try to grow my passion on the side, or do I jump in feet first and put all my time into it? What have your experiences taught you about this?
CR: Since I have experience in social media, I work for a few other businesses, which provides some extra income and is another creative outlet for me. It’s very convenient because I can do the job anywhere and anytime of the day, which is definitely aligned with the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. For turquoise., I work unconventional hours and often find myself working very late into the night. However, I do make sure to take breaks when I need them!
Working in different art mediums (painting and photography) and having several roles in the business shapes my time management. I feel I get the most out of my days, because I have a full, yet balanced schedule. For example, when I feel that I am ready to move on from making advertisements for social media marketing, I may then go to my studio, turn on music and paint, followed by taking photos. It varies every day and every week but I like being able to choose, for the most part, what I think I should work on.
YPD: Let’s close talking about what the whole experience has meant to you so far. Why are you choosing to make turquoise. a part of your life?
CR: The color turquoise has been an inspiration in my life for a long time and the reason for naming the business. When I see the color I feel inspired to create art and share it with others. This feeling carries over to my attitude about life and my creative vision. The color turquoise is the spark that leads me to valuing the myriad of colors in our world. I want people to wonder why I named the business after this color and hope it can lead them to envision a deeper meaning in art and life. To me, turquoise represents a wide array of feelings and moments in time, from American retro to contemporary times. It is fun, sleek, refreshing and enlightening. If you read the “Why turquoise.?” tab on the website, it explains in more detail how the color pushes me to believe, create, love and dream. I want to live what I love and share it with others!
YPD: Where can our readers view and buy turquoise.?