It all started with an Instagram post.
Alli Koch was looking for a job after graduating from college when she posted a photo of a word painting she’d done and caught the eye of a friend. That friend wanted Alli to create one for her. And then that friend’s friend wanted one as well. Before she knew what was happening, Alli had so many orders she could no longer look for a job. And then she realized: She had a job!
She named her company Alli K Design and today has her own studio where she fills orders for custom wedding invitations, a how-to book, workshops in calligraphy and watercolor, and wall murals around Dallas.
“With a ton of hard work, networking, trial-and-error and putting myself out there, I have grown Alli K Design more than I ever could have imagined in two years,” Alli says.
You can hear a whole lot more about all that when you catch Alli in September at the Flea Style Summit, where she’s a panelist, along with Taylor Sterling of Glitter Guide and Jon Tutolo of One Kings Lane, among other fun, interesting people.
We recently visited with the 26-year-old artist, who grew up in a suburb of Dallas, in her studio and asked her a few questions to whet your appetite.
What sets Alli K Design apart from similar companies?
It’s true that there are a lot of ladies out there lettering and drawing, but I like to call myself a visual artist who just so happens to know calligraphy, which I started as a hobby while in college. I feel like I do a pretty good job of staying ahead of the trend. I’m always thinking about what I can do to stand out or looking for ideas I can put my own spin on. The goal is definitely to be seen as a visual artist instead of a wedding calligrapher. Even though the wedding industry is how I was able to get my name out and where I’ve seen a lot of my growth, I don't want to be limited to that. I also truly believe in teaching and sharing with others so that they too can make beautiful things. I also think that my “anticolor” stance sets me apart. I’m an artist, and I should love color. I’ll work with it, but it just doesn't inspire me as much as a minimal color scheme.
How did you learn to draw?
I’ve been drawing since I was able to hold a drawing utensil. Throughout my school years, I took some basic art classes but nothing advanced. I actually never thought I was good enough to go beyond basic classes.
What's your favorite design that you've done to date?
That’s like asking Who is your favorite child? It’s so hard! Each design has a story and special memory behind it. For example, the Rewardstyle heart wall will go down in my history book. It was a huge turning point in my art career. It was a lot of color, so it pushed me out of my comfort box, but I also had the best time painting it with my mom and making great friends with the Rewardstyle team.
Have you done a wedding suite for anyone we might know?
I’m working on one right now that is top secret, but a lot of people all over the world know her.
How did you end up publishing a book?
This might be a little bit of a shock to some, but it was not in my two-year business plan to write a book. It wasn't even on my radar. I also had the assumption that people who have been in business for a while write books. I just started drawing more flowers in my artwork, and the publisher of my book happened to stumble upon my Instagram account and asked if I would be interested.
Flowers are very forgiving. Nature isn’t perfect, so I have the ease of not stressing about if my flowers are perfect.
Name five people you'd like to give one of your books to.
1. The Shark Tank crew
3. Ellen Degeneres
4. The FedEx guy, so he knows why the book boxes are so heavy
5. Taylor Swift
If you were a flower, what flower would you be?
A black and white anemone.
What do you hope to share with people at our Summit?
I want people to know that it’s really not about the years you’ve been in business or the number of followers that you have. I have way fewer of both than some business owners, and yet I have accomplished so many things. Really, really hard work really does pay off. So does networking. If you don't network and surround yourself with the right people, you will not grow.
Anything you wish you could do over?
I wish I knew this kind of career path was an option when I went to school. I would have taken more art classes. But I’m really glad I have a business degree, because a lot of what I do is business. Still, I’m learning a ton along the way that school never prepared me for.
Best advice ever received?
“You can’t do it all.” When you are running your own business, you wear all the hats. I think most people forget that. But I know that I can’t be the CEO, CMO, CFO all the time every day. People are hiring me as an artist, and I need to focus on that and not stress over everything else involved in running a business. I’m still working on it, but it’s getting better — kinda.
Advice you'd like to offer young creative entrepreneurs?
If you want to do something, have a goal. Dream a dream, and put it out there. Network. Never stop meeting new people. Most of your work and career will be based off of someone you know or the circle of friends around you. Surround yourself with the right people. Don’t just meet people for their contact information (no one keeps your business card), make true connections or — even better — make friends.
What’s your typical workday look like?
I leave my house at 10 a.m. and pick up Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and head to my studio. I work on whatever needs to be done that day until I get bored or my computer dies and have to go home because I always forget my charger. I love days where I have a lunch date or can get away during the day.
Favorite places to shop for work supplies?
Amazon.com. They really do have everything.
On your playlist currently?
I’m the worst when it comes to music! I am not into it like some people are. I typically just play “Hipster Cocktail Party” on Pandora.
FLEA STYLE SPEED ROUND
Up with the chickens or burning the midnight oil?
Burning the midnight oil. If you see me up with the chickens, it’s because I never went to bed.
Dogs or cats?
Snapchat or Instagram Stories?
Sunrise or sunset?
Pom-poms or tassels?
Leather or lace?
Leather! Preferably painted by me!
Get all kinds of good insight and advice from Alli and a whole crew of creatives at our Summit in September. Tickets are on sale now!