Friday, October 7, 2022

In Conversations With: Sravya, a 26-year-old Art-ivist, Founder of Hello Colour

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As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sravya Attaluri.

During the pandemic, Sravya, a 26-year-old Art-ivist, founded Hello Colour – a design studio built by people of color using creativity as a tool to drive social impact. Sravya and Hello Colour have since worked with brands like Facebook, ULTA Beauty, Adobe, Sanofi, Pinterest, and startups like Self Care is for Everyone, and Inkbox exclusively on social impact projects. Sravya was also recently awarded the UK Innovator Visa to expand Hello Colour in London and further increase Asian representation in the West. 

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started as a classically trained fine art student graduating from the University of Southern California with a concentration in painting and graphic design. I gravitated towards painting to express my mental health struggles and personal passions while my interest in graphic design was a more strategic move to work in the advertising industry and contribute to social impact campaigns. 

While working as a senior graphic designer at one of the top digital marketing agencies in the world, my mental health began to suffer and the projects I was assigned to work on didn’t feel particularly motivating or important anymore.  I also started sharing personal illustrations depicting my mental health challenges on Instagram which grew into a global community of 34 thousand people coping with their mental illness through artistic expression.  

Soon my Instagram account started attracting brand collaborations and client requests for original artwork and eventually, I decided to quit my corporate job to pursue independent illustration and creative entrepreneurship. That same year I launched the design lab Hello Colour and artist collective, Draw for Mental Health, both advocating for mental wellbeing and providing visibility and growth opportunities for artists who highlight mental health in their work. 

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

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Since launching in 2020, Hello Colour has directed creative campaigns for the likes of Instagram, Our Streets Now, Sesh Groups, Plan International UK, Clear Channel, and more. A real professional milestone for me was working on a recent campaign with Facebook (Meta). 

To mark Pregnancy & Baby Loss Awareness Month in October 2021, Facebook and The Woman’s Company teamed up with Hello Colour to bring The Compassionate Pad to life; the world’s first sanitary pad designed for women experiencing the very real physical and emotional pain women experience during pregnancy loss. The product package includes a dynamic QR code that links to the “Tender Bot”: a virtual support system with fact-checked information, access to a panel of experts (gynecologists, counselors, doulas, fitness and nutrition professionals), community voices – as well as content for anyone wanting to support.

Sravya Attaluri

Leading the art direction for The Compassionate Pad, Hello Colour created the illustrated animation for the Facebook “Tender Bot” using a  range of concepts for branded campaign graphics, testimonials, and comic strips that were embedded into the chat bot and used across packaging and marketing. We incorporated a hand-drawn style with watercolor textures for the illustrations, so the user-experience and chatbot felt more personalized. Special attention was also paid to the skin tones and portraits to ensure the artwork was relatable and impactful. 

What do you specialize in and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field?

Hello Colour – a design studio built by people of color using brand strategy, storytelling and design to drive social impact – specializes in social impact and mental health awareness illustration. Demonstrating inclusivity and diversity is no longer an option but a requirement in the marketing world. Hello Colour is committed to working with organizations with ESG initiatives that otherwise would not have access to design studio services due to lack of knowledge, societal stigma, prejudice, and culture misrepresentations in the media.

Hello Colour has also implemented processes to work with these small businesses and charities while still turning a profit such as developing a sliding pay scale and building out multiple revenue streams. As the founder, I was also recently awarded the UK Innovator Visa to expand Hello Colour in London and further increase Asian representation in the West. 

Representation in the art world is still few and far between. Hello Colour is helping to bridge the gap by working with social impact organizations and causes that align with their mission to increase the representation of women and brown people. Art-ivists (or artist who are activists) is a newer concept that Hello Colour is working to bring into the mainstream so important social issues are communicated through the art medium for maximum impact.

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My personal illustrations as a mental health artist and activist, focus on intersectional feminism and representation, mental health awareness, and self-love while also highlighting South Asian women and other marginalized communities. 

What are the three things that mostly helped your online business succeed?

Building a community:

As I consistently posted mental health illustrations on Instagram, my following grew to an engaged community of 34 thousand. Initially, I was simply looking to connect with like-minded individuals with mental health challenges on the platform, but having a niche community has also served me in business because many of them have either referred business to us or purchased self-care products from the Hello Colour Shop. Beyond that, I enjoy showing up consistently and having an open dialogue with my audience which is how you create a truly supportive community rather than just “followers”. 

My Team:

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No one can do it alone. My team has been instrumental in Hello Colour’s success because we all bring something unique to the table for our clients. For every project, our company brings together the right team members who are a cultural fit with unique insights to ensure that the project is skillfully executed while bringing a fresh perspective that truly pushes creative boundaries and challenges accepted norms.

When the world went remote during COVID, I was able to invest a lot of my savings that were originally for an office space into upskilling myself and hiring a team to support me and it was the best decision I could have made. It’s also important to recognize when to hire more people, delegate and set boundaries to avoid burnout. One reason I decided to leave the corporate world was the freedom to make time for my health and family while doing what I love. Drowning myself in work goes against that vision.

Staying Curious:

My path to becoming a small business owner started with a passion that grew into a side hustle and eventually a full-time job. It’s important to mention that “social impact illustrator” as a professional title didn’t exist before I gave myself permission to create it. I recommend finding what you’re passionate about and work on developing your craft to a professional level.  Do your research, experiment, and figure out what motivates and inspires you and the business aspect will follow. Chasing what makes you curious will serve you in the long run.  Ultimately, if you trust your instincts and follow your own path, you will create the opportunity for yourself and doors will start to open.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Around the same time I launched Hello Colour, I also founded artists collective, Draw for Mental Health as a way to foster community among artists who have a focus on mental health and mental illness. Draw for Mental Health focuses on providing growth and visibility opportunities through various initiatives ranging from art shows to community-led trainings. Our community-led events allow our artists to collaborate with each other as well as other advocates and support groups to, ultimately, invite the public into an open and healthy conversation around mental health. 

Beyond artworks, the Draw For Mental Health initiative has a growing list of partners that provide affordable and accessible mental health resources around the world for creatives and non creatives. We are also building a directory so clients in the mental health industry can discover artists with wellbeing specializations more easily. 

What were your most important challenges? & How did you overcome those challenges?

Mental health is often considered a taboo topic in South Asian culture so opening up about it at a time when there was so much stigma in my own community was definitely a source of hesitation. The fear of what other people think has really held me back from sharing my art and my personal journey so I started sharing slowly with the hope that my story may help someone else.

It was also a big professional risk to revolve my entire career around the subject. When I started Hello Colour, I was worried that specializing in mental health may make it more challenging to find enough clients to sustain myself. However, the more I spoke up and worked on projects that fueled my passion, the more I started to attract like-minded organizations and businesses that wanted to collaborate. 

What’s your business model? How does your online business make money?

Hello Colour is a multidisciplinary design lab with multiple revenue streams. Currently, we have several components to our business model including our done-for-you digital marketing and creative studio, a paid subscription model for training, coaching and mentoring in the art industry on our community platform, Draw for Mental Health, design self-care and mental-wellbeing products for e-commerce, license in-house artwork, and regularly collaborate with leading brands on social media for other forms of company revenue.

Hello Colour has also implemented processes to both be more accessible toward small businesses and charities while still turning a profit. We’re so dedicated to supporting pro-bono and charity initiatives that we’ve developed a sliding pay scale that allows organizations and smaller startups to access the agency’s creative services at an affordable rate while still compensating the creatives fairly. We also scale based on income and initiate longer term client retainers to create more room to work on the projects that align with our values of social activism. We also never hire or determine employee rates before the signed contract.

What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?

Quitting my corporate job was one of the most challenging but, ultimately, best decisions I’ve ever made, and both my professional and personal life have benefited from it. Before becoming self-employed, It took a lot of time and research to figure out how I would sustain myself independently. I knew figuring out my finances was crucial to being able to leave my job so I took a look at my monthly expenses to determine if I could afford to be selective with the art projects I took on. Personally, I was comfortable investing half of my total savings into my new business and with this calculation, I figured I could last twelve months on my savings even if I made no money. However, it’s important to consider your specific financial situation when determining to take the leap.

Pursuing entrepreneurship can also be terrifying if you don’t mentally prepare for all the changes so I recommend preparing earlier than you think you should while you still have a safety net at your current job. Start evaluating what you like and don’t like about your current position which will help you get really clear about why you want to leave and how to define your new job role and responsibilities. Once I was my own boss, I also had to set strict routines and deadlines to operate as a creative entrepreneur having been immersed in the 9 to 5 world for several years.

What do you think could be the future of NFT? How useful can they be for everyone?

I believe that NFTs will have a heavy impact on the Art world. NFT’s have the power to put artists in the driver’s seat of their success as well as evening the playing field for people of color. You essentially get to create the art that you want for your specific audience and have them flock to you digitally while setting your own prices and taking ownership of your work. NFTs help people of marginalized communities bypass gatekeepers and allow fans to directly support them and even gain stock in their artwork. The opportunities for NFTs are limitless and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this exciting new frontier. 

Lastly, what do you think this world needs the most? 

As a society, we need to streamline how we’re providing support to those communities that are unable to access mental health care due to the lack of knowledge, stigma, prejudice, and cultural misrepresentations in the media. Mental Health struggles affect everyone and addressing the stigma, shifting our work-life culture, and empowering community members can enact a powerful change in the world.

I’m also a big advocate for free online art therapy and required art therapy as part of education systems. Understanding how to express your emotions through art is so powerful and can help so many people cope with their struggles. I believe that art is a universal communication tool that can be used to unite us and address social issues.

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