Artists are flocking to Denise Troy, and for good reason!
When we first caught wind of Wunderkid, we were kinda embarrassed that we hadn't heard of the platform sooner. You see, the business is pretty much the ultimate connector for artists. On the surface it's a familiar concept, an e-commerce retailer selling art prints. Quickly you learn that founder Denise Troy is at the helm of a revolutionary social enterprise. As a choreographer, she understood the artist's struggle all too well and was fed up with stories of young creatives who were unable to pursue their passion because of financial restraints. Not only does Wunderkid provide visibility for emerging artists, proceeds from each sale goes into a tuition fund for that artist. Like a savings account and big time gallery promoting your work rolled into one. We chatted with her to see how a big idea has turned into an even bigger company.
Who Is Denise Troy?
I’ve always had the creative itch. Whether it be choreographing a music video or illustrating a children’s book, I find all creative outlets to be incredibly cathartic and food for my soul. Most people who know me refer to me as the girl with four pots on the stove because I’m always doing a million things at once. I’ve always operated this way and I find myself more productive when I’m doing many things rather than being singularly focused.
Top 3 Takeaways
1. Take your time! Don't force anything if it doesn't feel good.
2. Don't sit on a good idea, do your homework and then GET to work.
3. Passion comes first then comes the money. Start a business because you believe in it not because you think it will make you a millionaire.
When did you decide to pursue your current career path?
The idea of Wunderkid came to me a little over a year ago. I’d been working as a choreographer in Los Angeles for years and I felt a need to start giving back in a more impactful way. I experienced first hand the difficulty of pursuing an artistic career amidst our current higher education system. The cost of education is so debilitating that many young people find themselves working multiple jobs while in school just to make ends meet. Wunderkid seemed like a meaningful answer to this problem. Our mission is to empower exceptionally talented young artists locally and internationally by providing a digital platform that allows them to sell their art. With each sale, Wunderkid contributes to the artist’s college tuition fund.
How did you go from idea to execution?
I’m somewhat unique in the sense that I don’t spend a great deal of time just dreaming about things. As soon as I cling onto an idea that I love, I usually start moving on it. I think my first step was buying the domain. Within a week or so, I built a mockup site on one of those sitebuilders, just to see how it felt. At the end of the week, I went to a local art show and recruited my first artists. I realized quickly that when I’m passionate about an idea, even if it’s still only in the incubation phase, people generally want to help, get involved, etc. Before I knew it, I had branding specialists, photographers, artists and interior designers all working to help manifest Wunderkid into something tangible. I think the beautiful thing about Wunderkid is everyone identifies with that moment in high school or college when you’re trying to figure out who you want to be and what you want to do. I think everyone wishes that there was something like Wunderkid when they were young telling them to do the thing they love. After launching last August, I’m thrilled to say that we’ve already been published in magazines, our greeting cards (designed by students) are sold in boutiques and we’ve sold prints to individuals around the world. As amazing as all of this is, I know it’s is just the beginning.
Do you have a mentor?
My daughter. 2015 was a big year for me. I not only launched Wunderkid, but I also gave birth to my little girl, Stella Jameson. Without a doubt, I have learned more from her than I could imagine. My biggest struggle is learning to quiet my mind. My brain is usually going 100 miles a minute, but somehow, this little being made the world stop for me. She forced me to stop and be present, to relish the little things and to really prioritize taking care of myself. Even though she is only 5 months old, she has been my greatest teacher.
Having a business and baby is quite possibly one of the most difficult challenges I’ve encountered. You’re endlessly trying to balance the two and often feeling inadequate at both. But looking back at the last few months, I find myself more efficient than ever. My time has become increasingly precious, so I don’t say yes to things that don’t feel right. It’s also amazing how much I want to show Stella a woman’s strength. I want her to be free of normal gender roles and archaic ideologies and I hope she feels empowered to forge whatever path she desires.
How does the city you live in influence your creativity?
There is an ease about Huntington Beach that I relish. After living in Dallas, New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles, this is the first place I’ve found that makes me feel a desire to quiet my mind with more regularity (which is not one of my fortes). I still choreograph music videos often in Los Angeles and every time I drive back to HB after a long shoot day, I’m so appreciative of the peace I feel as I enter this city.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process?
I’ve been auditioning for musical theatre, dance programs and choreography jobs for the majority of my life, so rejection is an innate reality of my career field. I think that experiencing the possibility of rejection from such a young age really strengthened my resolve and my sense of self in those situations. In the past few years, I’ve really stepped into my stride and all feelings of rejection are merely fleeting thoughts. I trust in the bigger picture and recognize that I can’t always see it, but everything is always working behind the scenes to help me on my path. That knowing really squashes any self doubt during my creative process.
Name 3 lessons you’ve learned from building your business:
I’ve learned so much thus far from building this business. The amount of technical and practical knowledge I’ve gathered is immense, but I think my most meaningful growth has stemmed from the personal development this journey has inspired.
It’s ok to take my time. When you run a business, you’re the one self-imposing deadlines and if I’m rundown and struggling to keep afloat, I move my deadline rather than forcing something that won’t benefit me and my wellness.
Meditation. With a baby, a business and a husband with crazy work hours, I set aside 10-15 minutes a day where I meditate. It’s my time to breathe, connect with myself and clear my head from all of the debris flying around in there.
Perfection is overrated. I probably could have spent 3 years in a pre-launch stage if I wanted everything to be perfect prior to launch. I decided against this and opted to go against my natural instinct. I launched after 6 months of development and I’m so glad I did. After launching, we continued to perfect our image based on customer feedback, analytics and research. We needed to launch in order to access this information.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue the same career as you?
I think the most important thing is to start a business for the right reason…passion. Don’t start a business because you want to make money. That can be a wonderful outcome, but it shouldn’t be the impetus. You have to find something that you would want to do whether or not you made a single dollar. In a nutshell, take money out of the equation entirely. We’ve become a society driven by it and I think for many of us, we’ve lost our way. I believe if we return to listening to our gut and following our inner knowing, we will find ourselves on a more meaningful path.
Top resources for creatives:
As far as inspirational resources, I love Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit.” I often turn to it when I find myself in a creative rut and it has real-world exercises that help pull me out of any funk.
Finish this sentence:
I want people to remember me as: someone that empowered them to pursue their passion.
If I only had 24 more hours to live, I would: snuggle with my little one and surround myself with all of my closest family and friends (there might be a dance party involved as well).
If I had to choose a theme song to represent me it would be: Gosh, this is a hard one. Music is such an integral part of my life that to pick one song that embodies me feels impossible, but if I must, I’d say Radiohead’s Lotus Flower. There’s something about this song that moves me and I love that Thom Yorke dances in the most unencumbered way in the video…it embodies the creative spirit and a willingness to be vulnerable and seen. Everything I love about the human experience.
For more on Wunderkid, visit them here: wunderkid.co
Photos courtesy of Tristen Seagondollar