When discussing entrepreneurship, artists and creatives are not typically a part of the conversation. But as more creatives begin to take their careers into their own hands, it becomes clear that character traits typically associated with entrepreneurs can be found in artists as well.
Life as an artist and entrepreneur can be synonymous, just meet Khrystal. From founding Khorage Magazine and acting as the editor-in-chief, to managing herself as an independent artist, rapper, actress, and mother Khrystal “with a KH” embodies exactly what it means to be an entrepreneur in the creative space.
Her ability to apply skills she obtained while running a tangible business to managing herself as a recording artist demonstrates that what it means to be an entrepreneur expands well beyond brick and mortar businesses.
Khrystal, who hails from Kansas City, Kansas (Wyandotte to be exact) first stepped into the business world when she launched Khorage Magazine. Reflecting on a 2012 training trip during her years as a teacher, Khrystal remembers the inspiration to start the magazine came from a conversation she and her friends had on a bus.
She states, “I think we were talking about shaving or something, and we were just like ‘yeah, they don’t tell you that Black girls have a different hair type.’” This then led to Khrystal and her friends discussing bad tips they received due to Euro-centric magazines and expressing how much a magazine that centered around Black beauty and experiences would have been helpful growing up.
True to entrepreneur form, Khorage Magazine came to be when Khrystal decided to fulfill a need that had yet to be met. She remembers being younger and having subscriptions to publications such as Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl and Seventeen, but hardly ever seeing Black women aside from the occasional Black pop star. “It’s specifically for little Black girls” she says, explaining the purpose behind Khorage Magazine, “to see ourselves in publications.”
Khrystal explains that as a child, she did not realize that a magazine catering to Eurocentric beauty standards could be dangerous to young Black women and their self-esteem, but as an adult she does. “So that was the idea,” she begins, “to create this publication that little Black girls could get and see a bunch of other Black girls with tips specifically tailored to them.”
Though the purpose and creative side are what appealed more to Khrystal concerning the magazine, her time as editor-in-chief taught her exactly what it meant to be an entrepreneur.
She states that often, creatives think about the art first and money later, but running the magazine taught her how to balance the two. “I was creatively the editor-in-chief,” she starts, “so my heart was in assigning cool stuff to talk about,” but learning the business side took a bit more time.
Khrystal recalls disliking the process of printing physical copies of the magazine and ensuring she even had the money available to print physical copies bi-monthly.
But she acknowledges that this taught her to have a certain kind of “grit” as she calls it. Khorage Magazine taught Khrystal how the financial side of business is just as important as the creative side stating, “money can come to you, but it ain’t just gon’ walk to you; you gotta do the work.”
Being responsible for the business side—the finances and logistics, and everything else that is necessary to keep a business afloat taught Khrystal to be disciplined.
These same traits assisted Khrystal with her seamless transition into being a recording artist. “I’m much different now as the artist Khrystal,” she states, explaining how she is now very on top of bookings and anything else business-related to her career.
Whereas in the past, she may have been timid and slow to inform customers what a subscription to the magazine would cost, she is no longer that. “I learned my worth,” she states. “Why would I be scared to offer this thing that is not in the world that their daughter needs?” she questions, referring to Khorage Magazine.
Speaking on the music industry she notes that often people will attempt to get creatives to do free work. She goes on to say that there is no room as an artist to be timid or self-conscious about knowing and asserting your self-worth. “You can’t be like that as an artist,” she begins, “you have to put yourself out there and tell people what your worth is.”
To be successful and to profit from their art, Khrystal stresses the importance of artists and entrepreneurs being confident in what they have to offer the world and asserting that what is being offered is worth something.
Whether the business is product or service-centered, or as a creative artist, marketing is an integral part of entrepreneurship.
When asked about which marketing strategies fit her and her brand best, Khrystal emphasized a sense of authenticity and the importance of in-person interactions. “As an artist, people getting to know the real-life version of you makes them either fall in love with you a whole lot or makes them hate you” she states, “but either way you (as an artist) need an answer.”
According to Khrystal, there’s no better way for potential fans to make that decision than to come to a show and interact afterward. Khrystal credits her growing fanbase to her practice of having an authentic presence.
“That works the best,” she says referring to being interactive with fans, “because then they feel a part of you and feel a part of what you have going on.” She recognizes that the more fans feel connected to her as an artist, the more they come to shows and bring friends to show, consequently expanding the family-like fanbase.
As an up-and-coming artist, Khrystal understands that having a loyal fanbase that feels involved is vital. While Khrystal places most of her energy in creating meaningful interactions, social media has become integral in the revolutionizing of entrepreneurship and marketing.
Khrystal sees both the pros and cons as an emerging artist and entrepreneur. On the one hand, social media allows her to continue to build upon the in-person interactions she has at shows.
On the other hand, she acknowledges that social media can do just as much harm to entrepreneurs and artists as it can do good. In the age where tagging people, asking for “shares,” “retweets” and “likes” are often the marketing choice of many, Khrystal avoids that approach.
She emphasizes the importance of not spamming potential fans and customers, and instead relying on the strength of the work.
While Khrystal utilizes interpersonal skills as a means to attract and build her fanbase, she also recognizes that quality merchandise can have the same effect.
Appreciating that people would be spending their hard, earned money on something that is not necessarily a “need,” Khrystal wanted to produce “thoughtful” pieces that were both representative of her brand and something fans would enjoy.
Ultimately, Khrystal decided to produce hoodies and t-shirts to accompany the rollout of her debut album The Awkward Muva. The “Awkward Muva” merch not only serves as a keepsake for fans but also attracts new ones as the tees and sweatshirts don the back-cover art of the album.
She calls the marketing strategy simple, but the thoughtfulness behind the designing of both the album art and merchandise has paid off.
Khrystal states that now when people compliment the merch and ask about its origins, she and fans alike can point out that the picture is actually from an album and direct them to her music. It seems Khrystal has mastered combining her business and creative skills fruitfully.
As an artist and businesswoman, Khrystal is both talented and wise and has an incredible understanding of where her strengths lie, but that is not to say everything has been easy.
When asked what she perceived her biggest challenge as an entrepreneur to be, Khrystal states “it’s the days that I don’t want to do anything.” Though she cites a go-getter mentality as an essential trait of being an entrepreneur, she acknowledges that some days are mentally challenging.
Those mentally challenging days can be filled with self-doubt and questioning if the hard work is worth it.
She warns that too many days like that have the potential to threaten your business and spirit as an entrepreneur, but fortunately, Khrystal can find both strength and inspiration in fellow Black women entrepreneurs.
“With Black women in business” she begins, “it’s like a community.” She likens the community to that of a bartering system stating that she has been able to trade products and information and advice with fellow Black women in business. Khrystal states that most of her encouragement has come from other black business women, and that is something she holds onto on her low days.
Social media has allowed many artists to be in control of their careers. With that, the field of entrepreneurship is steadily expanding into new enterprises and creatives are gaining a better understanding of the business world.
With her wisdom and experience in creating, running and distributing a magazine, as well as learning and navigating the music business on her behalf, Khrystal is truly creative entrepreneurship personified. If you’d like to get to know Khrystal better, find her on Instagram and Twitter @khrystalwithaKH. Her music, including her debut album The Awkward Muva, is available on all streaming services.