Kinda Kreative is a business that’s kinda hard to describe, but that’s largely because owner Kyira Hauer offers a wide range of services to her clients — the relatively young business is part therapy and counseling, part public speaking and consultation, part commissioned artwork, and part education.
Frankly, Hauer is also still figuring the whole business ownership thing out, which is actually another part of what she’s selling.
“I think the biggest thing that separates me from other businesses is my self-disclosure and openness with clients and audiences, which allows me to be on the same playing field as they are but with a bit more knowledge to still be seen as knowledgeable,” explains Hauer.
Self-disclosure is very important to Hauer. She just obtained her master’s degree in counseling psychology from UW–Madison this month and works as a therapist in a private practice where she specializes in working with people who have eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
“I specifically focus on this area as I am in recovery from what was an all-consuming eating disorder and still deal with anxiety and self-esteem issues on a regular basis,” Hauer says. “I value connecting with others through experiences and stories and am able to blend my personal and professional lenses in a way that has been impactful in all I do.
“This shines through in my art as … I find meaning in expression and diving deep into the abyss that too many of us spend years avoiding,” Hauer continues. “I endure that pain and discomfort with everyone around me. As a public speaker and coach, I bring that into the space in a way that always showcases the needs of the client but keeps me in a place where we maintain connection and a deeper understanding.”
Hauer created the concept for Kinda Kreative in January 2016 but has only officially been operating as a business for the past 10 months.
“The business really started out of necessity, as I was selling art at art shows and through commissions to friends and family and realized that I needed to be doing this through a business because I was starting to make a decent amount of money,” Hauer notes. “The business, initially, was just going to be focused on my art but quickly evolved to include all of the different facets it has today, including public speaking, coaching, leadership, and business consultation.”
Kyira Hauer at a public speaking engagement.
Hauer says she typically works with organizations with missions focused on community, including the Madison Public Library system, as well as other area libraries, and the American Family Insurance DreamBank.
“My goal is to provide all speaking events through sponsorships provided by businesses like these, schools and universities, etc. so the events can be free to the public. The goal is to build a sustainable business that is still accessible to the general public regardless of identity and/or circumstances. It’s a recognition of privilege and knowing that community change and culture shifts don’t happen unless we provide resources and opportunities to everyone, especially those typically without [resources and opportunities].”
An example of one of Kyira Hauer's art pieces for sale through her company, Kinda Kreative.
For the art side of the business, Hauer accepts commissions and direct buys of her artwork, typically from 20–40-year-olds with a more modern and contemporary style.
According to her website, Hauer notes some artists are great at recreating photos as paintings or digitally turning your dog into a noble knight, while others are adept at painting portraits of you or a loved one. “All of these can be amazing and have a very specific purpose they fulfill. I am NOT that artist. I will not paint you a realistic portrait of your children. I won’t create a watercolor painting of your dog. I know amazing artists who do this thing and they are great at it — I will happily get you connected!
“What I will do is go down a journey with you to uncover what is behind your ideas to layer your experience with feelings, memories, and sensations that will translate to a one-of-a-kind piece that captures your essence within the piece,” Hauer explains. “It is a truly therapeutic and engaging process as we will co-create an idea that I will put into a visual representation. It is about unlocking your vision and celebrating your unique perspective and view of the world. This is my favorite way to create and allows the piece to go much deeper than, in my opinion, another type of piece ever will.”
Spinning out of Kinda Kreative is another passion project for Hauer called #ReclaimBeauty.
The #ReclaimBeauty project actually started as an art proposal from Hauer and several other artists for a community gallery in town to start a conversation around standards of beauty. The proposal was rejected but Hauer decided to continue pursuing the idea by creating a few art pieces to show elsewhere.
“I really wanted to pursue the idea given my personal history with my eating disorder and seeing so many people struggling with their own issues,” says Hauer. “I wanted the pieces to be mixed media and started asking for photos and just one word from submitters so that I could use them in the art pieces. That quickly evolved to more photos, pages and pages of stories, and eventually the building of a team of people that expanded it to professional photos, in-depth interviews, community events, a community blog, and now the filming of a documentary.”
A photo display of some #ReclaimBeauty project “warriors.”
Hauer says a lot of volunteers have helped with the #ReclaimBeauty project but of those Ashley Rostad, a photographer and owner of Blackwater Studios, stands out above the rest for her help legitimizing the project and providing a platform for it to take off the way that it has. “She volunteers her time for all Madison area photo shoots and gives her photos to the project free of charge, which for a very low operating budget business has been astronomical. The photos have been one key way we have connected with our community and built such an impact and support.”
The purpose of the #ReclaimBeauty project is to uncover, celebrate, and nurture the beauty that is inherent within each and every person regardless of their identities, explains Hauer. In line with the overall mission of Kinda Kreative, her driving force is to create safe spaces for people to reflect, get curious about, and do the work they want to be the people they want to be.
“A main way of doing that is to create safe spaces not only to have these discussions but to create a ripple effect that changes the way people talk about beauty and self-worth all around us,” Hauer says. “We are creating change through sharing our stories and for being warriors that stand up and say, ‘I am worthy. I am beautiful. I am ENOUGH.’”
Turning beauty as an abstract concept into a business is no easy task, Hauer acknowledges.
“The biggest thing I have learned is how to formulate the problem and make it a problem that impacts people or causes pain to those I’m talking to. In this case, it is the way we talk to ourselves. The feelings of being less than, of crash dieting, or feeling like we will never be good enough. I have to tell a story that people can relate to and allows us to connect on a much more intimate level. From there I am able to get them on board with the ‘why’ of the business and then explaining the ‘how’ and ‘what’ becomes a lot easier.”
One of the most tangible ways Hauer has been able to do that so far is by sharing a #ReclaimBeauty documentary that showcases the personal stories of eight individuals and is geared toward middle and high school students. The goal is to engage in a dialogue that allows for individual and overall cultural change in how people think and talk about beauty and self-worth, she says. To that end, Hauer is currently developing a training module and guide for schools and community centers to accompany the documentary.
As a young and inexperienced business owner, Hauer turned to the business professionals and mentors at the Madison-area chapter of SCORE for guidance and advice.
“I first started linking up with SCORE because I felt like I was really good at the ideas and connection but I did not have the knowledge of starting and running a business,” Hauer admits.
At her first meeting with a SCORE mentor Hauer learned about licensing and branding and “all of the legal things I had to do to become a business. They broke it down into small steps and had lots of tools to help me with it. The subsequent meetings have all continued to build upon that with finances, expanding on my business plan, and thinking about how to focus energy in ways that will allow me to grow my revenue stream to allow for me to keep growing all of the other areas.”
Learning how to monetize her services was one of the primary lessons for Hauer.
Kyira Hauer (left) accepts her SCORE award at the 2017 American Small Business Championship.
“They helped me realize that I have a value that I shouldn’t short change in the work I do,” she says. “They also helped me understand that sustainability and stability are not synonymous with greed or profit-based. My SCORE mentor gave me feedback that he thinks what sets me a part is that there is never a gimmick or hidden agenda in what I do, and that I value transparency and community over everything else — in some cases to a fault as I will always prioritize getting people access over getting paid.”
So far her efforts are paying off. Hauer was one of 102 entrepreneurs nationwide who recently received a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expenses paid trip to a training and networking event in Dallas, and SCORE mentoring and publicity throughout the year at the 2017 American Small Business Championship hosted by SCORE.
As one of the small business champions, Hauer’s application will also be considered for one of three additional $25,000 grand prizes by being named Grand Champion.
“I feel like this honor has helped me in so many ways realize that what I am doing is impacting people more than I even realize, and how I now need to be open to stepping into the spotlight,” Hauer says. “Just because I choose to stand in the light does not mean I cast a shadow on anyone else. I value so much the ability to inspire, empower, and lift others up. Humbleness and humility are part of who I am but it had gotten to the point where I stopped myself from reaching my own greatness — something I am still struggling with. I think this is a reminder that I deserve the opportunity to aim high and that, in many ways, it is my duty to all of those who have been impacted and have the potential to be impacted by my work and the #ReclaimBeauty project to keep pushing past fear and smashing my barriers.”
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