Lessons in creativity and entrepreneurship with Carbon Stories

Carbon Stories, the creative agency focused on storytelling through photo and video, has grown in size, audience, and content in only three years. As the company continues to shape its identity, learning at a young stage what it takes to be better, more innovative each day, there is one thing that is certain:

“There are times where I’ll sit here and just watch videos about cameras or about lighting or about process, but really, in order to grow, I have to be producing it,” creative director and founder Erik Lauchié says. “I could watch these videos all day, or sit in a class all day, but our field is what you’re creating, so I’ve got to create more.”

Carbon Stories’ monochromatic space sits on Bridge Street facing the road, where large windows pull in just the right amount of sunlight. A friendly husky named Bella strolls around the front room, waiting to be tended to. Only four of the 10 Carbon employees are physically in the building, not counting the reservoir of 17 creators called upon for projects. Lauchié says, “On an average day, there’s something going on in the studio, people in here working, and [there’s] always stuff outside, shoot-wise.”

Carbon creator Allayah Quinn says one of her favorite things about being at Carbon Stories is that someone is always there creating.

“You could come here at 6 a.m. and someone will probably be here until 2 a.m.,” Quinn says.

This approach to the workplace is one of many elements that makes Carbon Stories stand out. It allows freedom for each employee to develop their skills the best way they know how, fostering their creativity in whatever form it may come. Additionally, their can-do attitude forms a team of people comfortable with where they lie on the spectrum of creativity, and pushing forth the mantra of constantly evolving.

“Creatively, something I feel that you should always have as a mindset at Carbon is that you’ll never stop evolving,” says Quinn. She says she always tells her story, especially to the younger generation who wants to work in a similar field, that she “never touched a camera until she came here for college.”

In the beginning, the company pulled in clientele by personally going business-to-business, person-to-person, handing people their business cards and telling them what they do. Lately, most of their clients come from word of mouth, like a domino-effect: one well-executed project leads them to another handful of clients, and so on.

However, Lauchié says, one thing he has learned is that the process of establishing new clients and successfully completing projects never ends. It is a constant process, but has gotten easier as Carbon Stories has become an integral part of his life.

“I remember when it first started, I just didn’t think about it that way,” he says. “...but I’ve learned you’ve got to be ready to talk about it, you’ve got to be ready to answer questions about it, and think through things. All the time, even when I’m just talking in conversation with someone, they’ll ask me something that I may have a good surface answer to, and then I’ll go back to it and go, 'Well wait, how do I address that?' [I am] always needing to find more solutions and continuing to grow.”

Over just the past year, the company has opened more doors of opportunity to experiment with the true meaning behind what entrepreneurship and creativity mean in terms of Carbon Stories and the Grand Rapids community as a whole. They have been more avid of direct involvement with the community, hosting various workshops for content creation and the use of photo equipment and software, as well as using their name as a platform to provoke and inspire. In just the past couple of months, Lauchié participated in an influencer panel at Madcap Coffee Company, spoke at Start Garden, and almost every week as a team, they go to the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) to give students feedback and assistance on their video projects — Lauchié even went on to produce his own podcast called Create Daily, where he explores ideas of what art means to other creatives.

For each month of this year, the group has been able to travel out of state for client work –– something they were only able to do twice in 2017. Earlier in the year, they were donated a truck they named Mobile 1202, which they use as a mobile photo studio and hope to change the way they do business with clients, both inside and outside of Michigan. In addition, every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., they host a networking night through an organization they are part of called PLUG (People Learning, Understanding, and Growing), which they use as a tool to connect with other creatives in Grand Rapids. Eventually, the collective wants it to be a space where they have resources available to people to use, such as a photography studio or a sewing station for clothing.

“It’s still in its baby stages, but that still answers that question of how do we connect,” says Lauchié. “There’s a board of five people who run it and I knew it was bigger than Carbon because this is something that crosses industries.”

To learn more about Carbon Stories as the company continues to learn and grow, visit their website at http://carbonstories.us/.

Images courtesy of Carbon Stories.
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