Friday, May 8, 2015

One Thing:
I submitted this post a year ago on another blog, but I wanted to repost it as Matt Kohr has released a new starter kit that looks really great.  

One thing I love about is Matt Kohr. Matt may be the most likeable person I have never met in person. Check out some of his free videos and see what I mean.

I discovered about a year ago or so, (two years ago or so now) and I am excited to share this great resource with you.
While the site is focused on digital art using Photoshop, the same principals and many of the techniques that are shown can be used with other software programs or with traditional art methods.

I took an entrepreneurship course last summer, and one of our assignments was to interview an entrepreneur that we respected. My thoughts immediately went to Matt Kohr of Matt provides a ton of resources for both aspiring and working artists on his site. He has an extensive library of mostly free digital art tutorials ranging from composition to rendering. I was so impressed with his videos that I was moved to purchase some from the premium series. These videos are ten bucks each, and they are a really great value at that price. Matt also maintains a blog on his website full of useful and insightful information not generally covered in his videos.

There are lots of resources to be found on the web when it comes to digital art. Youtube is great resource for finding a solution to a design or art problem. If you want to take your craft further than quick fixes and slapping textures all over everything, then Ctrl+Paint is a great place to do it.

The quality of the videos is outstanding. Each video is a lesson with a clear objective. The lessons feel "backwards planned" from the objective, and leave you feeling both informed and capable.

The voice over work and audio quality is great too. Matt is a talented speaker and teaching seems to come naturally to him. Moreover he is just sounds like a really great guy. I have only corresponded with Matt via email a couple of times, but after spending so much time with his videos, he feels like an old friend.

As I mentioned earlier, I approached Matt via email about providing an interview about his business for my entrepreneurship class. The questions themselves were provided to me as part of the course assignment.If you are an entrepreneur yourself, or aspire to be (that should just about cover all of us), then I feel you will find Matt's responses insightful and informative.

BDGR: What is your business? What good, service or idea do you provide?
Matt Kohr from article
Matt: My business is called, and it's a website that teaches digital painting techniques to beginners. It's a large collection of free, streaming, videos supported by a small selection of $10 downloadable videos.  

BDGR: How long have you been in business?
Matt: This is Ctrl+Paint's third year.

BDGR: Is this the first business you have started? If no, what were the previous businesses?
Matt: Yes, though I have done contract illustration work which means I have been self employed before.  

BDGR: How many hours do you work in a typical week?
Matt: It's hard to quantify since I'm playing all of the different roles.  If I'm making new premium content, it's extremely time consuming.  Other weeks, though, I might only be managing the community, answering emails, and creating blog posts -- leading to a less intense schedule.   

BDGR: Discuss two of your greatest challenges. How did you overcome them?
Matt: The first major challenge was to figuring out the general visual style of the site.  This took a few months of design work and research.  The most important aspect of this challenge was to convey the right atmosphere with the colors and layout.  Many revisions later, with help and review from my peers, and it the visual style was complete.  

The second large challenge was figuring out the proper structure for the website.  Over the first two years I had three different major revisions, each transforming the flow of the videos.  Much of this iteration was possible due to a tight communication loop with my viewers.  Based on community feedback, version 3.0 manages to deliver a much more clear path through the learning content.  

BDGR: What factors have made you successful? Do you have a competitive advantage?
Matt: It's hard to know for sure, but I think being clear and concise has been my most successful advantage.  All of my competitors seem to deliver learning in long-form videos (multiple hours) or are low quality instruction (youtube).  Since my videos are short and information rich, they are much more inviting to watch.  Also, they're mostly free.  "Free" has been a great selling point for my content, and viewers seem to recommend it to their friends.  

BDGR: How much research did you do before you opened your business?
Matt: Just personal research.  I needed to know the competition, and to separate myself from them.  Since it's a pretty small niche, there wasn't all that much research that needed to be done. The technical part (building the site, hosting the videos) was a different matter, but that was not too challenging either.  

BDGR: Did you ever apply for a business loan? 
Matt: No.

BDGR: Do you have a mission statement? Are your employees aware of it?

Matt: I don't have a specific statement (and have no employees), but I have a general creed: Clear, concise, and (mostly) free.

BDGR: What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started?

Matt: That planning ahead would have been a good idea.  Much of my revision process on the website layout could have been avoided if I did a bit more planning before launch.  In my case the free videos are a lot like school curriculum, yet I made them in an arbitrary order.  A year later, this became a jumbled mess and I spent months re-working a problem which could have been easily avoided.  

BDGR: In your opinion what are at least two advantages to having your own business?

Matt: Insulation.  My customers are the ones that pay me, so there is no opportunity to be fired or downsized without warning.  Running the site gives me a very different outlook on financial stability, since I have an international audience the risk is distributed quite well.  Short term fluctuations happen, but it's reassuring to know the audience is so broad.

Secondly, I like the geographic freedom that an internet company affords me.  I just moved across the country, and many of my customers will never know the difference.  This is an extremely valuable asset, and often overlooked.  

BDGR: What is your form of ownership – sole proprietor, partnership, corporation or LLC?
Matt: Sole proprietor.  

BDGR:  If you had to do it over again, would you have started your own business?

Matt: Yes.  It's certainly scary sometimes, but it's rewarding every day.  There's nothing quite like being able to make every decision your business faces - and not having a boss to report to!

Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer these questions, and for allowing me to use the interview on the blog.

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