Demi Lashawn, Founder of Pet Elephant
Very excited to introduce you to Demi Lashawn. His multifarious skills put the wheels in motion to create Pet Elephant – a Baltimore based creative agency. While not being able to find a job, he took a chance and created his own company. His message is simple “to make dope shit and try to change the world in the process.” Learn about Demi’s leap into entrepreneurship below!
Location: Baltimore, MD
Year Founded: 2014
Education/Background: B.A. in architecture and environmental design from Morgan state University & currently working on a masters in Social Design from MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). 6 years of experience at independent record label ‘Revelashunz’, internship with Mari Gardner working on the American Visionary arts museum exterior glass mosaic and internships with jewelry maker David Conroy and Photographer Samuel Hamilton.
Favorite quote (if any): “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ― Paulo Coelho (from ‘the Alchemist’)
I would say to be successful for me there needs to be talent, organization and probably an open mind. Talent is a given, you can’t even get through most doors without it, whether as an athlete or an artist. – Demi Lashawn
Can you give a brief introduction about Pet Elephant? What were you doing before you launched your company? What prompted you to take the leap and create Pet Elephant?
Pet Elephant pretty much came about because I couldn’t find a job. I had an unusual set of skills… Like Liam Neeson… and it was hard to find a place in a company. I had experience with multiple mediums in music, architecture, film, etc., and I decided why don’t I just start my own studio that encompassed all of these fields. I was going into my last year of undergrad and I just conceived the RELAX bench design that summer. I had a couple other projects that I was developing, so I decided to release all of the projects under my own studio, and that’s how it all pretty much started.
Would you be willing to share how you started your company (IE: funding, branding, and advertising)? What surprised you about this process? Was there anything that was more difficult or easier than you expected?
Well as a designer I was able to do my own branding & advertising through posters and social media. As far as funding, The RELAX Bench was funded through Kickstarter, or 4 of the benches were. I didn’t have any overhead cost because I had access to work shops and computer labs and programs. My main goal was to start with projects I could manage financially myself, then use the money that those projects generated as funding for new projects. What surprised me the most was how little support I received financially for the Kickstarter. People love your work until they have to pay for it. I think coming up with new ideas have been easier, just trying to find the time to execute them has been the key.
Where does your creative inspirations come from and how do you keep your creative juices flowing?
I would say a lot of my creative inspirations come from loneliness. I was a lonely child and I had to keep myself busy. I made comic books, invented games, built tree houses, drew a lot, made talk shows, read and more; all of this made me a better creator. Nowadays ideas come pretty easy, and being in an architecture program we were taught how to think creatively and productively in a short time span. I don’t really do anything special for creative juices, I just stay curious and whatever comes my way comes.
With your background what would you say are the three main ingredients to a successful business?
I would say to be successful for me there needs to be talent, organization and probably an open mind. Talent is a given, you can’t even get through most doors without it, whether as an athlete or an artist. Organization will keep you from screwing up, whether showing up to an appointment late, forgetting a great idea, forgetting key things to do like filing taxes, paying bills, etc., and having an open mind will always keep you fresh and open to new ideas and changes because things will change, all the time. I’ll add one more… ok two more and that’s discipline and determination; discipline and determination is what has kept me going, even when I’ve faced being homeless, hungry and at the bottom I just stayed focused and kept moving.
Random Fun Fact: What’s been a defining moment in your career so far?
The defining moment was finishing school. I was tempted to put the RELAX Bench getting funded here, but graduating Undergrad was huge for me. Growing up how I did and then making poor decisions that could have completely derailed me, like dead or in jail, and at times they almost did, I was really excited and proud about graduating. It took a lot of hard work and gave me a lot of confidence to go on and continue to chase my dreams.
What productivity tools do you use to get work done? (This can be an app, software, book, etc.)
I mainly use a pen and paper or the notes app on my iPhone. I have to take notes and make plans either for the day, week, or year. I don’t like to plan everything, but when it comes to work it makes everything run much smoother. A few books I always keep handy are “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, “The auto-bio of Malcolm X” and “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson.
Self-doubt sometimes stops people from trying new ventures. Did you have any doubts or challenges along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Absolutely I had doubts, all the time. I almost dropped out of school multiple times. I wanted to drop everything and move away to California; lost my car, job and apartment within a couple weeks span; had bills hounding me, no food, no money, and no prospects of any kind. All of these things made me think that I wasn’t on the right path and I just needed to move on, but right when I thought things were dire I’d get someone who would offer me a ride or I’d find a job, or gain enough strength to finish a paper or project, or scrounge enough change to buy a meal. I was always given enough help from the universe that would help me to keep going. A good support system also. I had a few good friends and family who were fairly helpful.
Be sure to check out Pet Elephant and follow their social media channels.