BIG News! MHS Licensing + Consulting is Now My Agent

Butterfly Window Display at Anthropologie in Bellevue, WA
Butterfly Window Display at Anthropologie in Bellevue, WA

I have BIG NEWS to share with you today! I recently signed with MHS Licensing + Consulting agency!

I'm very excited about my decision to work with an agent, and am really enjoying working with MHS. They have a great reputation in the industry and I'm thrilled to see what both of our strengths combined, can build together.

They will be handling the logistical side of my licensing business, to free me up to create more art!

We'll both be having booths at Surtex and the Licensing Expo this year, so if you're there, be sure to swing by and say hi! (Surtex: MHS=#522, Josephine=#540, Licensing Expo: MHS=E-33, Josephine=#E-18...more on that later)

Today I wanted to share the journey of my discovery that I was ready for a licensing agent and how I went about finding one, in hopes that it may help another artist out there who may be at a similar cross in the road.

Signing with an agent is one of the big questions almost all artists end up asking themselves and some point in their career. When I left the corporate world in 2011, I had decided that I wanted to learn the ropes of the licensing industry myself and navigate the waters on my own. I had already been approached by 2 agencies at that point and have been wrestling with this decision throughout the years.

With 12 years of corporate experience, including managing, giving trend presentations to high-level positions, and being responsible for streamlining and developing processes for print design throughout a company, I knew I was both a right and left brained artist and found joy in both the business and creative sides of the industry. So, being the fierce independent that I am, I wanted to give it a try on my own.

Since I started my business in 2011, I am very humbled by and blessed that it has kept growing and growing. As I reflected at the beginning of this year on 2013 I knew I needed to make some tough decisions about my business, as it was getting too much for me to handle on my own. As I mentioned in my Word for 2014 blog post, I didn't take a vacation at all last year. Things were bottle-necking. Simple things started to fall off my radar, and being the over-responsible person that I am, that really freaked me out. I just couldn't do it all successfully, and something needed to give. I'd rather make the decision on what that was than to have things fall apart and be out of my hands.

A series of things converged at the beginning of this year that led me to my decision to search for an agent.

1) With my business growing, I was getting less and less time to create original artwork. Most of my time was being spent answering e-mails, reviewing contracts with my lawyer, business planning, and a lot of the back and forth that happens when running a business and trying to navigate the licensing waters and land deals. I wasn't approaching companies I wanted to work with anymore. I was just managing the inquiries that were coming in. Which again, huge blessing! But it's a double edged sword - in order to keep your business growing, you need to not only secure licensing deals, but you also need to create new artwork to keep your Licensee's happy and secure more business. And I LOVE creating and just wasn't getting enough time to do it.

2) I read the book The E-Myth Revisited which completely explained my business and where it was heading if I didn't take control and get more hands on deck. A direction that I surely didn't want to go. Everything this book talked about made sense to me, as I had seen it when I worked corporately - why some divisions succeeded, and some didn't, and there was no way I was going to let those things stand in my way. I spent countless hours on business coaching, etc. with E-myth, which was awesome, but again, filling my plate with more and more non-creative work. And to be honest, there's tons of information out there for newbie artists and not a lot of information out there for those of us who are at the mid-level of our business building, so E-myth was great.

3) For those of you who know me, I'm a huge supporter of personality-type tests. I am a big advocate of the Strengthsfinder, and this year they came out with the Entrepreneurial Strengthsfinder test, so I took it. And although my main strength out of the 10, is "Independance" (which they say means that people who have this talent can single-handedly start & operate a business successfully-yay!), it also showed me that the area I am least strong in, is being a "Promoter" and that because of my soft approach, I should team-up with people who can champion my business. That information alone really woke me up and helped me pinpoint what type of help my business could use for it's next stage.

4) I had spoken to my lawyer about, and reviewed information on hiring employee's, interns, independent contractors, etc. After a series of conversations with my lawyer and hoop jumping, I realized that this option just wasn't the right fit for me and my business right now. Yes, I actually would like to hire employee's in the future, but the timing is just not quite right. I also knew that the things that I wanted to hire employees for, right now, would help me maintain what I have going, but not grow me to where I want to be.

After all this research, soul searching and exploring different avenue's I knew it was time for me to get an agent. When I came to this conclusion and asked my husband his thoughts, he said "Yes, of course! You've been thinking about it forever and you need help, so why not?". Hmmm...maybe I should have started with asking him! ha ha! But I knew that I needed to really come to that conclusion myself. His answer did seal the deal for me though.

So I started researching licensing agencies, asking Licensee's who they like working with and who they would recommend for me, asking artists who have agents what they think of working with them, re-approaching agents who had approached me in the past, etc. I knew I needed to work with an agency who I felt I could trust, who had streamlined processes in place (because yes, I admit, I AM a type A artist), who could articulate what they could do for me and specify what signing with them would take off my plate, and to be honest, who were awesome at selling themselves. Because if they could sell themselves to me, then I figured that that would show me their strength and they could help sell my work. I also wanted to make sure that they didn't have an artist already who's artwork was similar to mine...and also who had artist's whom I'd heard of, since that's the type of business I'm trying to grow.

After further research (can you tell that research is one of my strengths?...take the Strengthsfinder test!!), and narrowing down my list of agencies to 3, MHS seriously met all my criteria. I'm very excited to work with them and to get some things off my plate so I can do what I love to do most, which is create more and more art!

So, this was my crazy process in discovering what next steps my business needed as well as in finding an agent. If you're an artist in this same boat, I hope this helps you discover what you need for your next steps, whatever they may be!