Companies should invest in mindset training for their employees to break through limiting beliefs and tap into their potential.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Volta Voloshin-Smith.
As the founder and artist behind Color Snack Creative Studio, Volta brings original concepts and brands to life through watercolor illustrations, animations and online workshops.
Volta’s vibrant designs enable brands to use color & connect with consumers in a meaningful and engaging way. And her virtual workshops provide a safe and nurturing way to experience calm and creative self-expression.
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 always felt pulled to art but didn’t always pursue it. My background in school and career is in digital marketing but after a few years of working in the corporate world, something was still missing. One day, coming back from a trip to California, I experienced a huge level of turbulence on my flight. I remember feeling so frightened (despite knowing that turbulence is normal) and the one thought that popped into my head was — “I haven’t tried making art my main direction”. That’s when I knew I would be starting my journey towards pursuing a path of creative entrepreneurship.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
One of the proudest moments since I started on my journey to be an artist was being invited to lead a brand activation watercolor workshop for the Dallas Mavericks. It was during Art & Basketball night and I was one of the participating artists, leading a workshop for their attendees. It was an exciting night that celebrated the local art scene along with basketball and I am so grateful I got to be a part of that.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I’ve done was signing up for a really expensive conference to exhibit my art with a booth. That was my absolutely first time doing something like — being a vendor at any event in general. It was over two days and the first day a lot of the feedback I got from people walking by was that they didn’t know I was actually selling any products (like art pieces or art prints). They thought I was paid to be there to entertain the participants. I learned to adjust quickly by listening to advice from other booth vendors. The next day I had completely re-arranged my setup which included my 10ft banner covering me as it was falling down. Thankfully I was able to adjust and had much better results on the second day. I learned so much about doing events by participating in something huge and scary like that.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I had so many hard times at the beginning. I’d keep making videos on YouTube, spending so much time on creating content only to get a few views. I’d sign up to be a vendor at different art fairs only to make the money that covered my participation fees. I’d take on projects that were not aligned with what I wanted to do and spend too much time to justify the revenue that I got for it. I heard many rejections or that my services weren’t a good fit.
I felt like giving a lot. Part of it was working constantly and having very little to show for it (financially). It was very discouraging seeing how much time I’d spend working but not see any results. The burn out got really hard and I’d find myself feeling depressed and numb. I started tracking down these burn out episodes to understand why the happen. It turns out we can’t just work all the time — we need to rest! Resting and working on my mindset have been game changers in my business and my wellbeing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It was during one of those burn out seasons when Lila Smith came into my life. She helped me get back to my core and really see that what I have to offer has value and can be monetized. She helped me break the stigma about starving artists and embrace all the natural abilities that I already have to level up my business. Hiring her as my mentor helped me learn a great deal about myself and I’m forever grateful for her guidance.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
― Jacob A. Riis
I love this quote so much because it helped me understand the important of perseverance. So often we want to put in the work and get immediate results. In some cases that simply isn’t possible. But by showing up consistently and methodically, eventually the results we want and which are meant for us will come.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
The pain point that Color Snack is helping address is two-fold: bland content and un-creative life. My company aims to create uplifting and memorable content through watercolor animations. It also aims to spread creativity and help people find accessible ways to live a more fulfilling life by engaging in a creative endeavor.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There’s a lot of artists and especially watercolor artists out there. But very few combine the practice of digital animation with analog art creation. I decided to pursue this niche because it allows me to combine two totally different media for a very unexpected result.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on creating a series of watercolor workshops for my community. These workshops are approacheable and will act as a way to help people discover their inner artist. Along with that, they will have a healing element and combine some simple breathing exercises along with art techniques. The result will be a soothing art experience that will allow someone to rest and escape for a moment the outside world.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
From my perspective there aren’t enough women nor diversity in Tech. I think the Tech industry needs to put an emphasis on supporting minority business leaders and also invest in education programs to introduce the idea and possibility of a career in Tech to younger generations.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
I think this is a challenge that is common in many industries — along with Tech — and that is equal pay for work done by women. One way to address this challenge is to invest in educational programs for large companies and about closing the wage gap. Thought leaders like Jacqueline Twillie are phenomenal with sharing resources and knowledge on this very topic.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
I would advise to reach out to target consumers and get to know them on a deeper level. Thinking outside the box and brainstorming ideas of how to best serve that audience could uncover new revenue streams.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
I think high performance of any kind, sales or otherwise, comes from the right mindset. Companies should invest in mindset training for their employees to break through limiting beliefs and tap into their potential.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Some of the most effective methods for me has been creating unique and engaging content that features a particular brand. For example, last year I created a watercolor animation of a taco for a popular local restaurant in Dallas. The company noticed me and ended up hiring me to do create 7 more watercolor animations.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Always listen first
Provide extra value, going the extra mile
Always seek to delight
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
In my line of business my projects are very much one time based. Most of the brands I work and collaborate with also work with other content creators.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
Invest in employee mindset development.
Be willing and open to pivoting
Place value on mental health and wellbeing
Align yourself with customer’s problem
Don’t be afraid to niche down
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A movement to instill a meditative art habit for everyone. It’s so powerful in helping us feel more at peace and express our feelings in a safe and colorful way.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Jim Fortin. He has been an incredible inspiration and influence in my journey to self-discovery and mindset building.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!