In partnership with Reel
I’m sure we’re all tired of the term “new normal.” But we’re also tired of craving the way things were. But what is normalcy other than comfort in routine? It’s been six months since our lives changed from the pandemic. A lot of us have used this time to mourn what life was like. But for a lot of creatives, sitting stagnant is not ideal, it’s earthside purgatory. We’ve all felt a huge shift in motivation and creative flow, but we also believe this is a time to embrace the uncomfortable in the unknown and to go full force into new pursuits.
It seems that we’re all just waiting, but we aren’t sure what for. Are we waiting for quarantine to end and normalcy to return? Are we waiting for the office to reopen or for inspiration to strike? It’s the waiting that encourages stagnancy. Instead, we believe that COVID is a time to show the world that even in the darkest of times, we can create important art. We can shape a new normal, tear down the broken systems, start over. It’s time to look at the bright side.
These artists and entrepreneurs all believe that quarantine is a time to embody the times in their art and within their industries. They are using their constant internal dialogue to delve deeper into new hobbies and projects. Some are using this as a time to reconnect with loved ones, others to reconnect with themselves. But all of them are finding comfort in the uncomfortable and agree that there is no point waiting around for normal to return, this is normal, this is now. It is time for change and to embrace a new way of life.
I got Covid early in the game, having been diagnosed positive on March 16. I managed fairly well with being “under the weather” for about three weeks. After sickness slowly subsided, I had no desire to create, but content to be home nesting and gardening. Once I finally needed to go out past the grocery store, I desired a comfortable mask beyond the options which I was presented with. I decided to try making some originally thinking I’d respond to the city’s outreach for PPE by providing them for friends. Inspired by the previous months of landscaping and gardening, I created a capsule of masks with flowers, prints, and most importantly soft adjustable elastic. Later I decided to support The Food Bank of Harlem with a donation of some masks. I moved forward with launching my capsule on June 1, while deliberating if I could afford to keep my studio which I was negotiating the previous 3 months’ unpaid rent.
June 4th I awoke to inclusion in a piece by the Huffington Post of 5 black-owned businesses to buy face masks. The next 24 hours generated more traffic on my website than the previous two years. Game On! This thrust into bulk orders was a complete pivot for my slow online sales. I was forced to create a streamlined strategy two manage this unprecedented traffic as expeditiously as possible. Now I have an entirely new audience that’s coming back for more masks and a good amount of clothing. Additionally, the requirements of so many grant applications have pushed me to get my paperwork organized like never before. I know this is making me a better businessman while also clearing space to maximize the impact this momentum has the potential to propel my brand.
COVID has been hard on everyone. As a startup founder, I had to not only make changes in my personal life but also restructure the company so everyone felt supported and we could keep the company culture even by transitioning to be a remote team. I had to sit down and dedicate time to creating a system in which my team would keep the open communication and creativity flowing even when we are not sitting next to each other. Setting those parameters since the get-go was extremely helpful.
We obviously didn’t anticipate in March that we would not be back in the office for so long, however the structure that we set up has naturally evolved over time. As a business, we also had to evolve, in a world where businesses are closing down continuously we needed to get creative fast and start offering different products to target a broader set of customers. COVID has definitely pushed me to move fast and stay creative, it’s crazy how much has changed in only a couple of months, but resilience and positiveness keep pushing me forward.
On March 13 I played a show in San Diego in celebration of the release of my second album. This was to be the first night of a three-month tour. Needless to say, I have not played a “real” show since. Fast forward three weeks. I played my first virtual show and though it did not compare to the real deal, the appreciation from my fans served as both encouragement and a reality slap: nothing has actually changed: It’s still them and me. Ideas were flowing on how to stay connected. I started conducting virtual daily hour-long interviews with creatives in my community because gushing about them is one of my favorite past times and constantly posting about myself was getting depressing.
I also launched a merch store via Bandcamp. This is something I wanted to do for years but was daunted by the weekly trips to the post office and turned off by the accounting. was this wave of productivity that made me ask myself: “What else are you holding yourself back from doing because of x, y, and z?” Long story short, I realized I needed to let go of my management in 2019 but prolonged the departure due to needing their assistance when things got busy, and things were busy. There was no better occasion than the universe forcing me to sit still and evaluate everything. I started self-managing in April of this year.I made art. Taught myself how to record on my own, score music to video, purchased a seamless, did an underwater photoshoot after learning a new camera, launched a Patreon, shot a music video, started another band and wrote/recorded five songs, recorded a nine-song Elliott Smith tribute album, landed a role in a short film… you get it.
I would’ve accomplished some of these things sans pandemic but there would have been a light haze around my doing. Today, I wish this gift was granted on better circumstances but I am still so thankful for the opportunity to take a break from the busy fun to reconnect and better serve my artist self and everyone around me.”
We’re usually pretty good at solving problems but when COVID-19 hit, we knew it was way bigger than anything we had dealt with before. Luckily, we’ve got a solid team that has adapted well to working remotely and we’ve all managed to stay safe thus far. We saw a slight delay in shipping customer’s orders but everyone was really understanding and things are now back on a normal schedule. As tough as this situation is, the silver lining for us has been having more quality time to spend with family. I’m not sure what else 2020 has in store for us but we’re hoping it’s aliens!
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story / Sam Berlin