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- Ready For Anything With Bimma Williams
For almost any creative, the dream is to be your own boss and turn your side-hustle into your career. It's shiny, there's freedom, more money if it's successful and so many other possible upsides. When Bimma Williams, sneaker professional turned expert conversationalist and host, left his stable career in the footwear industry to pursue his passion project Claima Stories full-time, these were the things he was after; and over time, he's been getting them, but not without some surprises along the way. Now with nearly fifteen years under his belt as an entrepreneur, five of which on Claima working with and interviewing some of the biggest names in the culture, Bimma has some stories of his own to tell and secrets to share with our community. Read the conversation below! Having left your 9-5 for a life as an entrepreneur and freelancer, what's something others thinking about doing the same should know? When most people consider freelance or starting a business, they often fail to realize what they are agreeing to take on. My creative expression is being a host, speaking, holding conversations, and now teaching as well. When I took that on, I'm not just taking that on. I'm also taking on, "how do I market and put myself out there?" Then you're in on finances. "How do I price myself?" Then you're taking on Operations because you need to figure out how to pay expenses and work on taxes and all of that stuff too. You're very involved in a lot of different things. You need to have the ability to harmonize all these different things. One thing to remember though is, yes, it is challenging but it's not impossible and there's also the opportunity for greater reward. You seem to be very humble with money and smart around spending on creativity. Are you thinking about that a lot? With any creative, when you get access to funds, the first thing you probably want to do is the biggest, shiniest thing possible. If you had all the resources in the world, you would leverage them but the interesting thing about that is, it's a mistake. We've seen it time and time again. When folks get too many resources, it actually diminishes their creativity. Some of the most creative projects and some of the best albums, did not have these glorious, gigantic budgets. They were just pure passion. When we did get that funding and that investment, we made some investments and some enhancements to production, but at the same time, we tried not to spend too much of that revenue. We would reach out to a brand and see if they would send us some microphones or some cameras or anything to keep the cost down. That money goes fast and you want to be super cognizant of how you can leverage it to get things to the next place over and over again. You've spoken about this concept of 'being ready' for opportunity. How does one do that? First of all, no one likes to hear this but you're never ready. It doesn't matter what the opportunity is because likely the opportunities are going to come from a place that you couldn't predict. Secondly, the opportunities are likely going to stretch you and so you have to make a decision on if you feel like you can rise to that occasion. One of the things that Will Smith spoke about in his book, that I love, is when you also are determining if you're ready or not, it also comes down to not being overly analytical and not overthinking the opportunity. When it's someone that you trust and they're bringing you an opportunity, to me, that opportunity is the one you need to say yes to and so sometimes being ready is purely just a mindset thing. You have to be ready in your heart. You need to be ready when it comes to how you want to put yourself in that situation. When you think about being ready, those are the things you need to think about. Once the opportunities and the audience come, it can feel tough to keep up with output demand. Have you every struggled with that feeling? All of these major media companies like Hypebeast or Complex, they all have huge content teams. This is why they can execute so much all of the time but as an individual, execute where you can execute. We've seen time and time again, so many different young creatives that may not have those systems, but they cut through with their thing. One of my favorites is Lynae Vanee. She puts out one video a week, and that thing cooks. She does her thing and she's not trying to compete with volume. She's competing with quality. I think when you have quality and you know your audience and you're hitting that sweet spot, people are always going to respond. They're always going to show up. When I came back, folks had missed me. It was clear. The response was there. So if I go away, it's not like I'm being forgotten in this sea of content or storytelling that's going out. So I think it's just important to remember that. Lastly, what do you think is the most important thing for any creative to understand, regardless of the industry? It's really important to develop a 'no bullshit mindset'. We can come up with a number of reasons why we won't do anything but I made an agreement with myself a long time ago was that there's nothing that's going to replace doing the work. That being said, I'm not going to feel 100% every day and it's okay if I decide, like, today I ain't got it. I'm going to take that break. If I can't put out something meaningful, what's the point? The world's not going to end and my audience isn't going to disappear because I needed to make sure I took care of myself. You can't do anything right if you haven't taken care of yourself first. Make sure to follow Bimma's Instagram for news on all of his upcoming projects and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations just like these!
- Building Your Own Spaces With Monday Girl
The job market is a complex one to navigate but if one thing is certain, it's that results won't come without effort. For Rachel Wong & Istiana Bestari, when the market wasn't giving them what they needed to find their next big opportunity, they took matters into their own hands and developed the tools they needed to succeed. Quickly identified as a solution for a major gap in the market, Rachel & Istiana launched Monday Girl, a networking, events and digital platform to help women navigate the workforce and it's been a major success ever since. Now taking their 6-year side hustle full time, we got the chance to speak to the co-founders about their journey and expert tips, from networking to brand partnerships. Read below! Today, Monday Girl has become such an empowering place for women in the workforce. What was the motivation for starting the platform? Istiana: We built the platform that we wished we had, to solve a problem that we were struggling with. When we first met, we were both fresh to Toronto. We didn't know anyone and were trying to get our foot in the door. Rachel: All these rooms that I would walk into, I just felt, wow, I'm very much like the "only", whether it's the only woman, person of colour, or both. I was not getting any shortage of advice but it was a lot of advice that wasn't applicable for myself as a young woman of colour entering the workplace for the very first time. Istiana: For me, I remember attending so many networking events and just very quickly realizing how most networking events were not designed with women in mind. Typically, they were so exhausting. They were awkward. Also, I struggled with connecting with people on LinkedIn and I remember ranting to Rachel when we first met and she felt the same way. Rachel: In that same chat, we came up with the name of Monday Girl. We came up with the next action plans, and then we split up responsibilities. We were at it. You two seem like great business partners. How have you nurtured and grown your own relationship with each other over the years? Istiana: We really are each other's biggest cheerleaders. I don't think either of us could do this by ourselves and every day we're constantly hyping each other up. I think that's really important with having a co-founder is being each other's support systems celebrating our wins together. Rachel: I remember so many times where, for example, Istiana crushes it on a call or nails a presentation and I'm always just so proud of her and it goes both ways when I do things well. We really just hear each other out and hype each other up and that's helped us be such strong business partners. At least on the outside looking in, you seem very busy. Now that you're both in this full time, how do you keep it exciting and fun and not just feeling like a job? Rachel: Every so often, we get this really amazing message from one of our members about something that Monday Girl helped them with, whether that's overcoming a really tricky job situation where they had to deal with micro-aggressions at work or hearing that they used our resources to get a job or a mentor to get a referral. All these things keeps us going. Istiana: Another thing that's really important for us in keeping this excitement and momentum is that what we decide to do is always stuff that we're excited about. We're always planning things that we would love to attend, that we want to go to ourselves, all projects that we're excited about. It definitely is very hard work but it makes it a lot easier when we're building something that we're excited about. You’ve done a really good job working with some major global brands and organizations on events and content for your community. How do you approach getting partnerships like that? Rachel: The first thing I'd say is don't be afraid to get ghosted and constantly reach out. After a certain point, people will get back to you and you just have to be okay with being persistent. Cold emails still work. The second piece is show that you put some level of thought - and it doesn't have to be super comprehensive or a full proposal - into your outreach and articulate how it can help the partner achieve their KPIs. If there's a specific collection or campaign that they're putting out, and you think there's a really strong synergy, talk to that in that very first sentence. People don't have the attention span to read through a long email, so just make that your only point if you have a point. The the third piece of advice is just to keep maintaining and building and give back where you can. Even if it's not always a paid thing, support the brands when you can. I think brands really remember that and that's when they want to work long term with. That's great advice! Lastly, what's a key networking tip you have for anyone that is looking for a new job? Istiana: A lot of people think, when they're starting out, "how can I connect with the CEO of my dream company?" and you're always looking for the most senior person in the room. Later, you'll realize that the most valuable people to network with are your peers. Start with the network that you already have. Tap into the people that you already know because there's a lot of connections there, whether it's your alumni, like clubs, sports teams. Rachel: Those are the people that as you grow, they grow with you and they're going to be able and have much more bandwidth than a CEO to actually help you and connect you with those openings or those roles when they do come up. I'd also say, don't be afraid to do this in an industry agnostic way too. Sometimes we think, "I'm in fashion and I'm only going to network to people in fashion". The reality is they're probably not going to tell you something opens up because they're going to want to go for it. However, if you're networking with people in different industries, there's a little bit more of a gap, so finding open spaces like that can be helpful. Make sure to check out Monday Girl for news about their events and mentor opportunities and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations with small business founders.
- Protecting Your Brand With Zak Kurtz of Sneaker Legal
Almost every creative entrepreneur starts their business out of passion but as time goes on and the business grows, the legal matters of the business become more important but also often fall to the wayside. Zak Kurtz, lawyer and founder of Sneaker & Streetwear Legal Services dba Sneaker Legal, has turned his passion for kicks and coveted streetwear into a business designed to help creative entrepreneurs with all of those legal matters so that they can focus on their passions, while he focuses on his. We got the chance to chat with Zak about how he found an opportunity in a niche legal space, his tips for new creative entrepreneurs and what some of the keys have been to his success. Read the conversation below! Hey Zak! Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a bit about you and your firm? Hey guys! So, my name is Zak Kurtz and I'm the founder of Sneaker & Streetwear Legal Services, also known as Sneaker Legal. Sneaker Legal works with clients in the sneakers, fashion, sports and entertainment space to help them protect their brand across a number of legal matters. You've built a very cool career in an admittedly niche space. What was the key to getting there? If you like something, go do it. I read a good book last week, and a line that I remember from it is, "let your joy be your GPS", meaning, whatever brings you passion, whatever brings you joy, do that in your life. Let that guide you. My grandfather was a judge, so I knew I wanted to be a lawyer but I wasn't sure about what in. I played soccer soccer in college overseas, so I thought I wanted to be a sports lawyer but in law school, while I was doing sports law, and I was president of all these things, and I was making a lot of money, I wasn't happy. I would sit on my computer and I would just look at trademarks like drawings of sneakers. Never did I know that one day I'd have a special law firm that's niche was in sneakers and streetwear. If you never giving up and follow your passions, that will definitely lead you to a good career and also a good life. We love that story and the self awareness about what makes you happy. At the end of the day, just be you. Staying true to yourself and what you love is the most important thing. If you're passionate about something, maybe it's sneakers and law or maybe it's something else, that will find a way to shine. If you want to build a brand and you're a good human being, people will come to you. We only live so long and I think it's important to be yourself and that really attracts people and brings good things into your life. You seem to have a great capability at getting clients. Any secrets there? A lot of the time, people don't reach out to legal because they're afraid of legal's answer always being "no". Due to this, most of the time when people come to lawyers, it's reactive. It's after you're getting a cease and desist or after you're getting a lawsuit. So, it's very important just to be upfront and work with your client so that that stuff doesn't happen. If you're releasing a shoe, come to us and we could say, "hey, this looks like an Adidas or a Nike. You might want to change this" or "this name is already trademarked by another company so you might want to change your name". We always take a very open approach because we believe it's important to be proactive with legal and I think that openness has helped create a welcome environment for new clients. Once you get a new client, what's often the first legal item that they might need help with? Starting is the hardest thing for your brand but once you start, you need to start thinking about all the stuff like establishing an LLC, registering trademarks, bringing on a lawyer or having someone around that you can ask those types of questions to. I can't tell you how many questions I get daily about little things like "should I have a contract for this?" or "do I need an NDA for that?". These are simple questions that a lawyer could answer for free or in a few minutes and I think it's good to start building that network and have that team environment. If I was to focus on one thing though, It would be the trademark. Anyone could actually do their own application or do some research but if you take it the next step and actually hire a lawyer, working on the trademark will really help protect your brand. That way you're boxing out the other people from using that name or that logo. Lastly, outside of the legal field, what's one piece of advice you'd give to a new entrepreneur or small business owner? You need to have a great team and be able to rely on other people because you can't do everything yourself. Then, once you find the right people, you need to trust them and let them do their job. I'm very cautious about every micromanaging them. I want my team to know that, as long they get the work done, they can be creative and flexible with their approach and I feel like that's been a key to the success of my team. Make sure to follow Sneaker Legal for all of your sneakers and streetwear legal info and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations with creative entrepreneurs and small business owners. Legal Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website authors, contributors, contributing law firms, or committee members and their respective employers. 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Ready For Anything With Bimma Williams of Claima Latest Guests Catch up with our latest conversations. Nov 8 Building Your Own Spaces With Monday Girl Oct 9 Protecting Your Brand With Zak Kurtz of Sneaker Legal Sep 14 Pier Five x PUMA: Community Court Day 2023 Sep 9 Embracing Your Community With Sarah Sukumaran of Lilith NYC Aug 25 A Strong Foundation With Carlo Aragon of Salomonology Aug 11 Embracing Impermanence With Sandro Petrillo of SSSOAPS Jul 28 Doing It His Way With Rae Mendoza of ICYT Jul 15 Slow & Steady with Josh Heares of Porter James Sports Jun 21 Putting In The Hours With Jess Sanchez of Santa Isla Mar 21 A New Chapter With Jason Faustino Of Saucony Mar 8 Chasing Your Curiosity With Carolyn Chen of Dandylion Feb 16 Keeping It Authentic With Katherine Johnsen Explore All Guests
- Pier Five x PUMA: Community Court Day 2023
Pier Five x PUMA: Community Court Day 2023 Earlier this month, Pier Five proudly hosted its first ‘Community Court Day’ event in Toronto in partnership with PUMA. The event was designed to give entrepreneurs and creatives a new way to connect outside of the office in a space that was conducive to conversation and relationship building. As big proponents of 'breaking up the work week', Pier Five brought out 25 of Toronto's cultural change-makers, including business owners, artists, content creators and brand leads to spend a day on the court, a place that fostered so many relationships for us growing up. The day got started with guests arriving to a care package with some of PUMA's newest basketball gear; of course we had to hook them up in the best. From the beginning, strangers instantly started becoming friends and learning about each other. There's something about trying on new sneakers with others that get spirits high. After some introductions, basketball coach/trainer and founder of Core Basketball, Ali Nizam, started the day with warmups and partner drills designed to get people out of their comfort zone. Regardless of experience, every single person was sweating by the end of it. Spirits were definitely high, and safe to say we were all on an equal playing field after that. The warm ups were followed up refreshments from our friends at Neutria and Barbet who kept us hydrated throughout the day and a good 'ol fashioned 'name game' - of course we had to bring some summer camp memories back - to help everyone learn a bit more about who was in the room. After that, guests were put into teams to put their skills to the test. Every single person was playing hard and throwing it down! Lastly, we wrapped the day with a roundtable-style discussion focused on getting out of your comfort zone , something that is key for entrepreneurs and that every guest of the day demonstrated so well that day. The #1 goal of the day was give creatives and entrepreneurs a unique space to get to know each other and we couldn't be more proud of how much that was accomplished. In an age of social media connections and a non-stop grind to the top, finding time to meet likeminded individuals in-person, even those in our own backyard, can be very difficult but when you find a way to do it, break down all of the walls, and just let people jam, the results are incredible. A major thank you to every single person who came out with an open mind and willingness to learn. We can't wait to see how these conversations turn into incredible things outside of the gym doors. As well, thank you to Neutria and Barbet for the incredible drinks and of course, thank you so much to PUMA for supporting our vision of creating unique spaces for inspiring people to connect and grow. We can't wait until the next one!
- A Day In Montreal With LeBicar
A Day In Montreal With LeBicar Earlier this summer, Pier Five had the pleasure of meeting up with Montreal based artist David Bicari, aka LeBicar, for a jam packed day of art, music, food and great conversations. After a wonderful visit to David’s studio in the Mile End neighbourhood and a skate sesh out back, David was kind enough to show us his lay of the land and what started as a plan for a quick meet up turned into a full day experiencing some of the best spots and events in the city. From salmon tartare avocado toast to one of Montreal’s coolest new galleries, multiple Aperol Spritz stops and VIP at the Mural Festival BBQ and concert, there was no shortage of good times and we can’t thank David enough for his hospitality. A little bit about LeBicar… David has been at the forefront of the Montreal art scene for quite some time. With a unique style, David’s black and white continuous line drawings can be seen all over the city, from gallery displays to storefront walls, murals, home goods and on the bottom of skate decks being ridden down the streets. David is a big advocate for getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things and while his style is consistent and recognizable, he isn’t afraid to take on new challenges and this has led to a flourishing career and many incredible relationships along the way. Hey David! It’s great to be in your studio. Tell us about the space. Great to have you guys. I just recently moved into this space and am loving it. I share it with some awesome creatives and brands which helps us all create better work. There’s a ton of space in here too to work on all of my different mediums; canvas, decks, paper, etc. I like doing different mediums every day to keep things interesting and keep me out of my comfort zone. So much great art here and it’s really cool to see the behind the scenes space. You’ve talked about being inspired by contrast and duality, which can be seen through the stark black & white palette of your work. Can you talk about this inspiration a little bit more? I like to think about the spectrum of people in the world and how stark the differences in lifestyles can be. The black and white in my work is my representation of both ends of that spectrum. The contrast, while simple, is very meaningful to me. This idea of black and white also stems from my early days as an artist in which I started with simple pen on paper drawings. It’s all like a bit of a dance on the paper for me. A lot of artists with simplistic styles sometimes get criticized for a “lack of creativity” (which we do not agree with). How would you respond to this statement? There’s something beautiful about mastering simple design. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy or bad. You wouldn’t tell Jack Johnson to play heavy metal. When he is only playing a ukulele and singing his songs are still incredible [laughs]. I am a big fan of the “less is more” ideology and I know not everyone likes that but it doesn’t mean that less equals less creative. Great answer! Do you ever miss colours? I feel like I have something to say with black and whit but my door isn’t closed to colours. I’ll often save the colours for my client work when I have to work with their brand colours. Ultimately for me though, storytelling is the most important thing. If the story needs colours, I’ll use it. My series “Imparfaitement Special” (Imperfectly Special in English) was inspired by fruit at the grocery store that was marked on sale for its imperfections using an orange sticker. I still saw the beauty in the fruit and the imperfections and brought that into my work so there was colour there. Again, it always just has to be about the story. Speaking of clients, you’ve also done a number of collaborations, from shoes and apparel to skateboards and drink brands. How do you choose which brands to work with and which to say no to? I’ve been lucky enough to reach a place recently where the phone has been ringing which is a great thing. I love collaborating as I feel it makes me a better artist and most brands that reach out to me have done their research and know me so luckily I don’t have to say no to many people. If I don’t feel that there is a natural connection I might say no, or I’ll work to educate them about my work to try and make something work out. I also have gotten hit up in the past for free jobs or ones that pay in “visibility” which I don’t like. Exposure or visibility is nice but I can’t pay my rent with visibility. I’ve worked hard to understand my value and I know I can bring exposure to other people as well. I don’t need to be making tons but mutual value creation is important. That’s a great mentality to have. What would you say to a new artist that is looking to determine their “value” or what they should maybe be charging for work? One thing to remember is that value doesn’t always equal money. That doesn’t mean work for free but there are other ways to gain value for sharing your work. It could be trading time, services, ideas, etc. I can’t really say how much time or what services you should get in return. That’s up to you but just remember money isn’t everything. That being said, I do think it’s important to charge when you can, even if only a little, to build your negotiating skills. Lastly, above all else, I always say that the first person you need to sell your work to is yourself. Be confident in your work and that will take you everywhere. All great points but that last tip is definitely key! Let’s talk about skateboarding! How long have you been skating for and how does it influence your day to day style? Skateboarding is a huge part of my life. It is responsible for opening my eyes to so many different things within music and art. I used to always go into skate shops and just admire the skate decks on the wall. I was so enamoured by the art aspect without even knowing it. Now when I’m creating work, a lot of the stories are inspired by the skate scene. The best part about skateboarding though to me is that it allows me to connect with more people. I have my crew of guys that I go skate with at night and when I’m out there, my mind is completely cleared of stress and I just focus on the skating. It’s like a form of meditation and the people that I’m with create such a positive vibe. It’s also taught me to persevere. Some of these tricks take months to learn but you keep trying until you get it. Art is that way too. What’s a trick you’ve been working on for a while? I was just out in Vancouver with some friends and had a small line of a nose slide and then into a backside 50/50. Nothing crazy but felt good. Besides skate culture, flowers or floral elements often seem to make their way into your creations. Why the flower and do you think it is important for artists to have a symbol or shape that is a recurring theme in their art? I think whether it’s a symbol, shape, colour palette or line style, having something consistent throughout your work is important for recognizability. It allows you to take the people that love your work with you as you grow and progress through your journey. That doesn’t necessarily mean never changing, but having something, even if it’s small, be consistent will do a lot for your long term growth. That makes a lot of sense. Lastly, what are 5 tips you’d give to aspiring artists looking to “make it” as an artist? Don’t keep ideas in your head. Put things on paper so to speak and don’t overthink it. Even if it’s not perfect, that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to share your work with others and collect feedback. It’s ok to feel vulnerable but if you open your work up to people, for the most part they will be excited and try to understand what you’re doing. It’s ok if others have their own interpretation of your work at first but have conversations with them and fill them in on your vision. Let them know the story of your pieces instead of just putting out a design and letting it sit. Think about what you want to accomplish with your art. Do you want to just make your own art? Do you want to design for others? Having this understanding will guide you in the right direction. Have fun. Art doesn’t always have to be that serious, even if it’s your full time job. Just enjoy it and your best work will come out. Make sure to follow LeBicar on Instagram to get updates on all of his new work and releases and don’t forget to keep it locked to Pier Five for more interviews and stories with the coolest entrepreneurs, designers, artists, activists and more.