Do your research: Make sure to understand things like the basics of the blockchain, and how crypto wallets work, Ethereum, and if you’re overwhelmed by all the info don’t be afraid to consult others that have minted and sold NFTs successfully.
Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewingStephanie Menjivar.
Stephanie Menjivar is the founder and Art Business Mentor behind Menji Media, a creative marketing and business development consultancy pushing artists and creative professionals to reach their highest potential. Her art business mentorship platform has programs that help artists magnetically attract their loyal buyers and collectors. From coaching visual artists of all levels with online training programs, to hosting creative workshops, and interviewing game-changing artists about their journeys, Stephanie opens the doors of new opportunities for creatives. Her mission is to make the art world more accessible by teaching artists how to build profitable independent careers and sharing their stories with everyday people outside of the art world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
Thank you so much for having me! I was born and raised in Miami, FL and grew up in a multicultural household (my mom is from Dominican Republic and my dad was from El Salvador) where creativity and structure always co-existed. I like to believe that I got my analytical side from my mom who’s a nurse/healthcare leader and my artsy side from my dad who was a graphic designer and artist. Early on, my interest in design and art was ignited by my dad. Some of my earliest memories involve my dad bringing me scrap paper from work to draw on, visiting museums with both of my parents, and even designing my first birthday card on my dad’s Mac back in 1995!
Years later as a teenager, I was introduced to the world of Contemporary Art and my outlook of what art was changed forever. I was completely hooked by the conceptual ideas that art could represent, the political statements art could make, and the way the “art of today” set a precedent for our culture. My obsession for art led me to pursue an art degree in hopes of one day contributing to our culture.
After experimenting with a variety of mediums, I felt connected to digital media and design. This led to creating work inspired by fine art for myself and my clients. But creating work for others wasn’t enough… I realized that a large aspect of what I enjoy is solving problems while collaborating with creatives. That’s when I realized that marketing and fine art was the perfect fusion for me. So, one day I sat down and began writing my thoughts on what the art world is missing, what I can do to improve the lives of creatives, and how I can use my knowledge to empower artists to go further in their careers. Once it all clicked in my head, my purpose became clear.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Definitely! The one book that impacted and inspired me to learn more about myself and psychology was The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt by Russ Harris. Prior to reading this book I didn’t know how impactful or detrimental self-talk can be to one’s confidence. It made me realize that in order to succeed you have to be aware of your thoughts and believe in yourself before anyone can take a chance on you. Thanks to the lessons I learned in this book, conquering self-doubt and building confidence in your abilities is one of the core concepts I teach my clients.
The one podcast that gave me the courage to jump into entrepreneurship was NPR’s How I Built This hosted by Guy Raz. While driving home from my day job I would listen to the inspiring interviews from big name entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely, Kate Spade, the AirBnb Founders, and so many other amazing founders. I was always fascinated by the myriad of ups and downs they went through to build companies bigger than they ever thought possible. At the end of each interview I would feel so inspired and motivated to become an entrepreneur.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.
After working in the arts since 2006 everything came crashing down for me. The museum I worked at dismantled, then I was part of a gallery in Miami’s hot new arts district but it ended up closing down. I was back to square one and had no idea what to do next. After doing some freelance work and working for Apple for a year, I landed a job as the head of marketing for an artist-run textile company. That’s where my career took a turn into the world of marketing. Thanks to that career switch, I’m now able to combine my knowledge of art, marketing, psychology and technology by teaching artists about all the new business opportunities they can take advantage of like NFTs.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
One of my most interesting (and favorite) stories to tell is one about a client I had in Ohio. When we started working together he was focused on selling abstract paintings. But as he navigated through my program we realized that he could combine his other passions for music, mindfulness, and indian culture with his art. In the end he wrote and illustrated a children’s book inspired by one of his mentors and throughout the process he got acquainted with digital media to build, publish, and promote his book. Neither of us would have imagined that he was going to publish a book by the end of his journey. Perhaps he’ll even turn some of the book’s illustrations into an NFT.
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?
I have a private Facebook group called Artists Building Empires where I host live videos and quick workshops where artists can learn how to promote their art. At the time, Facebook had just switched their user interface so everything was in a different place. I consider myself a techy person so I quickly looked over the new features and just went live. As I was talking I noticed that no one was interacting with my video. I thought to myself “Maybe everyone is sleeping in since it’s Sunday…” and I just continued teaching.
20 minutes later I ended the stream and realized I was talking about art marketing to a random group that wasn’t mine! It was really silly… Luckily I saved the recording and was able to share my 20 minute lesson with my group later that day. This funny mistake taught me to always double check everything before going live. Seems obvious but on that slow Sunday morning, this completely slipped my mind.
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?
I’m so grateful for my partner, Deniss. We’ve been together since high school and from the moment we met he always supported my crazy creative ideas. Deniss always pushes me to be better, is always ready to help me with anything, encourages me to learn topics that challenge me and he’s the best art show buddy. He is one of the biggest reasons why I jumped into entrepreneurship. Ever since I can remember, he encouraged me to start a business and one day I just decided to combine all my skills and go for it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I’m constantly improving my personalized online training programs and coaching frameworks. With each iteration I help artists and creative businesses build confidence in selling their art independently through deep introspection, digital marketing, and how to use their story as a competitive advantage. These concepts help creatives in so many ways because for years we’ve been taught to focus on creating beautiful work, but when it’s time to share and sell the work, self-doubt consumes us. One of the many ways that I do this is by educating creatives about how valuable their work is and how to connect with people who appreciate their vision.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?
An NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is a unique digital token that holds a place in the blockchain. This “token” can be traded but not replicated because it has a code in the blockchain that makes it unique. That code that makes your NFT unique let’s people know who is the creator of it and who has purchased it. Think of it like a digital certificate of authenticity.
NFTs are often compared to rare baseball cards (or even pokemon cards). These cards are made in limited quantities, they showcase someone/something that’s in demand, and they are usually purchased with money rather than being exchanged. The fact that NFTs are like limited cards that can only be traded in exchange for currency like Ethereum is what makes them “non-fungible.”
I think that the people who are spending a lot of money on NFTs are early adopters who see value in digital art (which has been underrepresented for many years), others want to support the future of a decentralized cryptocurrency economy and make it mainstream, and others might just be buying a lot of NFTs because of the recent hype around them.
Regardless of people’s reasons for buying NFTs, I believe this is the beginning of a new movement that may lead to something we can’t even fathom right now (kinda like the dot-com bubble).
The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Most of the things that excite me the most about NFTs revolve around the art world. The top 3 things I’m excited to see are:
- The future of how art will be sold. One of my favorite things about NFTs is that when an artist sells one of their digital works, they receive royalties from the secondary sales of the NFTs.
- I love how NFTs have encouraged artists to learn more about tech and the blockchain. I’m excited to see how artists that use traditional mediums will adapt their style to the digital world.
- New ways that we’ll experience art. Since NFTs will make digital and interactive art more popular, I can’t wait to see the type of digital art experiences that will be available in the future.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
The 3 things that concern me about the cryptocurrency/NFT industry are:
- The environmental aspects of mining: As people become more aware of the benefits of using blockchain technology, the more computers we’ll need to compute the complex blockchain transactions and the more energy these transactions will use. In the future I would like to see energy efficient ways that can improve how we mine and transact cryptocurrencies.
- Artists losing money: This concerns me because social media has made it enticing for anyone to jump on the NFT train. Many people are trying to release NFTs without considering the amount it costs to mint an NFT or doing their research. If you’re a creative who thinks it will be beneficial to release an NFT, I suggest talking to others who have sold NFTs successfully, know how much money you’re willing to spend to mint your NFT, and make sure you understand how it works before jumping in.
- Digital bootlegs: I’m not sure if anyone else has thought of this but I’m concerned about people who might want to copy someone’s NFT, alter it a bit, and mint it as if it’s something new. Since the digital world is so vast and anyone can alter digital works. It makes me wonder how NFT marketplaces can prevent this from happening.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?
One myth I would like to dispel for artists is the idea of making “fast” money when you release an NFT. Although many artists have released NFTs and sold them for thousands of dollars, that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. If you’re looking to drop an NFT, don’t look at it as a quick way to get rich. No matter how tempting people’s social media posts are, always do your research and consider your audience.
The other myth is for people considering buying NFTs and that is that “NFTs are definitely a good or bad investment”. Since this topic is so new it’s difficult to determine whether buying NFTs will be a good or bad investment in the future. Whatever the case is, don’t take investment advice from anyone who isn’t qualified and make sure to do your research.
Personally, if I was considering buying NFTs I would take the art collector approach. I would buy the digital art piece (or whatever the NFT is) because I love it, believe in the artist, and want to support them and not because I’m looking to make quick cash in the future.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?
Some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen people make when entering the NFT industry are:
- Not understanding their audience — I’ve seen many creators release NFTs without thinking about who their audience is. For example, if the majority of people who support your work are part of an older demographic that doesn’t understand the blockchain, you probably won’t have much luck selling your NFT. So, to avoid the hardship of not having any bids on your NFT make sure to gage your audience’s interest.
- Not understanding the blockchain — Many people are excited to release their NFTs but they have no idea where to start, so they get overwhelmed and just follow what everyone else is doing blindly. Before jumping into any new venture take time to learn a bit about the technology, how it works, and how much it will cost to mint your digital work. This will allow you to see whether it’s worth your time or not.
- Not promoting their NFT — If you have a large audience that’s always engaged with what you share online it’s likely that you can release an NFT and instantly get feedback (and sales). For example, this is the case for the popular Instagram account @visualizevalue that has 230K followers. On the other hand, if you have a much smaller audience you’ll have to put more time into promoting your NFT as much as possible to encourage people to support it.
How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?
I think NFT’s have the potential to contribute to society in many ways. I believe that the new NFT craze is introducing people to new forms of art that they can appreciate and many creators will be able to support themselves with this new way of selling their art. This is great because for a long time the art world has been controlled by a small percentage of elite people, but with NFTs creators will have more autonomy and more people will be able support the arts.
NFTs have also made the concept of the blockchain a bit more mainstream. As a result, many people are excited to learn about this technology which can lead to new inventions. In the future I also think that NFTs will give rise to new companies that will result in more jobs for people.
Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Do your research: Make sure to understand things like the basics of the blockchain, and how crypto wallets work, Ethereum, and if you’re overwhelmed by all the info don’t be afraid to consult others that have minted and sold NFTs successfully.
- Know your audience: Analyze your audience/social media following and see if they are interested in NFTs. If your audience loves your work but isn’t tech savvy or is part of an older demographic they might not understand the value of your NFT. You can gage your audience’s interest on social media by asking them what they think about NFTs. You can even start hinting what you want to release so that they don’t take your NFT drop as a surprise.
- Look at the NFTs that sold: See what kind of NFTs have sold and what aspects can be adapted to your work. Some of the most popular NFTs have 3D elements, are animated, or are looping gifs. Think about what would look best with your style and create something one of a kind for the digital world.
- Find a marketplace with like minded creators: Mint your NFT in a marketplace that aligns with your work and audience. Some of the most popular NFT marketplaces are Nifty Gateway, Super Rare, Foundation and Makersplace. Each of these marketplaces has different requirements for joining and they attract specific types of buyers and creators. Look at the type of work that people are bidding on and decide which marketplace would fit your situation the best.
- Spread the word: Once you’ve been accepted to one of the NFT marketplaces make sure to engage people on your social media platforms. It’s important that your future “NFT drop” is cohesive with what you’re sharing/talking about. Once you are ready to announce your NFT make sure to promote it as much as possible. The goal is to bring awareness to your new digital creation so that someone will invest in your NFT.
Bonus Tip: Start by releasing just one NFT and see how people react. If it sells and people are interested in seeing more, that’s when you’ll know your audience is interested in seeing more NFTs from you.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
Many people believe that they need to know how to draw or paint to be creative, but I encourage everyone to practice any creative activity like cooking, dancing, or even building as a way of expressing themselves and getting in-tune with their thoughts. When people are in-tune with their own creativity they discover a whole new world within themselves that can inspire, attract, and connect others in a way that they don’t even realize. If I can get just one person to experience this feeling, I would feel like I achieved my purpose and that’s why I want to turn the giving of this creative connectedness into a worldwide movement.
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 like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Artist and activist, Shepard Fairey — I’ve always been a fan of his work, business savviness, and how open he is about the causes he believes in. He makes art that impacts so many people’s lives, inspires people to speak up, and I love how his art evolves with what’s happening in the world.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!