Interview 001: Founder & Designer, Ciara Perrone
Design your life, we'll design the rest.
Welcome to our first interview series where we will be getting to know creative professionals and entrepreneurs from different fields. They all have one thing in common, using BRINN to work smarter, not harder.
Interviewer: Let’s start at the beginning, when did you find your passion for photography?
Ciara: I became interested in photography when I was little. My mom used to shoot a lot as a hobby and because of that there were always film cameras lying around the house and I just liked picking them up and taking pictures with her cameras. She used to give me her automatic ones to play with. Art has always been in my family. My mom used to paint a lot, my Aunt used to study art and my sister has always been an artist. So that was my form of art, I still use the cameras that my baby photos were taken on.
And where did you go to school?
I went to Parsons the New School for Design. Freshman year I did foundation year just to get a good feel for everything but it was kind of just to make my mom happy. I knew photography was what I wanted to study and I started majoring in that my Sophomore year.
Do you think it helped going to school for photography?
100%. Yes, you can be self taught and I don’t think college is for everyone. For me personally, it shaped me into the person and the artist that I now am. I don’t know if I would know some of the photographers that I’m really interested in, the films I’m really interested in. I’m not sure I would have been exposed to so much that inspires me if I didn’t go to college for photography. Also, just having access to everything is amazing. Being able to be in the dark room for hours on end, make my own prints and scan my own negatives. I just personally love the structure. I thrive in that type of atmosphere.
When did you graduate from Parsons?
2013 with my BFA in Photography.
How was your transition out of college and into the real world?
It was really hard. When I graduated I realized I was never really taught about the business end of things. I just wasn’t sure how to apply what I had learned and monetize on it quite yet. I knew I didn’t want to go down the route of photo assisting. I knew I wanted to just be able to shoot as much as possible and I felt by going into a position like that or working in a studio that I would in turn not be producing as much work as I wanted to. So, I moved home to New Jersey and got a job at a restaurant and did the side hustle thing while I figured out my next move.
And how long did that last for?
And did you come up with BRINN while you were at the restaurant still?
Yeah, so I was working at the restaurant and freelancing and the idea for Brinn happened on my way to a shoot in the city. I was sitting on the train and I had this really giant messenger bag. It was so uncomfortable and far from stylish. It was while I was on the train that I started thinking, why is it that the product that I want is non existent? There were alternatives but they still just weren’t what I was looking for. So, that night I went home and started sketching. I just remember being at my bartending job after that and this idea was all I could think about. I just needed to make this happen.
Did you end up leaving your bartending job for photography or Brinn or both?
Both. I was doing all three and I just felt really overwhelmed and run down. Every time I was bartending, I just felt like there were so many other things that I could be and should be spending my time doing but that was where I was making my money and that’s where I was essentially funding Brinn at the beginning as well. It was a really hard decision to leave. I didn’t know how I was going to do photography and Brinn without the bartending money.
Was there a specific moment that made you jump or did it kind of just fall into place?
I kind of just had a breaking point while at work where I realized I was spending so much negative energy getting angry over the most simple things while bartending. It was taking away from everything else and in a sense, making the other work less enjoyable because I didn’t have time for anything else besides work. And I wasn’t really sure if it was the right choice but I also felt like I wasn’t giving myself the chance to fully succeed as a photographer and with Brinn by not letting go of bartending.
When you ended up leaving, was it an easy transition into the self-employed lifestyle?
When I left, Brinn was still pretty preliminary so it wasn’t as demanding as it is now as we get ready to launch or by the time this interview comes out, it will have launched. At the time I was having samples made, so I was constantly working and thinking about Brinn but it just wasn’t what it is today. The transition itself wasn’t that bad for that reason. Everything with photography kind of just fell into place. I already had clients before I left. think I was busier than I gave myself credit for. The whole time I was bartending I thought I needed to bartend because there was no way I could make the money that I was there just by doing photography but it was really quite the opposite and I was making just as much if not more that first summer that I left.
Was it hard to focus and really stay on top of getting jobs?
I think I was so scared about quitting that I went into overdrive. Right after putting in my two weeks, I was making a bunch of different pitch decks for different type of photography gigs. I think I was really scared and that fear fueled me to get a lot of jobs that summer and make sure I didn’t fall behind.
And how about now? Is there anything you do to stay productive day by day or are you still fueled by that fire?
Definitely still fueled by the fire, but not the fear anymore. To me, there is no such thing as going back, the only choice is moving forward so it’s just kind of not even an option. I think when you first start working from home or working for yourself it is definitely challenging because you just don’t know where to start. Since then I have definitely gained some time management skills to help me. I’m super organized with my planning. I always plan my day the night before so that when I wake up the next day, I know what I’m expecting of myself.
So do you have any productivity hacks or tips for other people starting their own business that could help them get on the right track?
Make a list. Have a planner. Try to keep it with you all the time. When you own your own business, you’re constantly moving into way too many different directions to not write things down and keep track. I would forget everything if I didn’t write it down. So my tip is, stay organized and have a plan! Even if that plan changes down the road.
So now that you’re a dual business owner, is there a pull or tug between the two businesses you have?
I am for sure feeling the pull now. There’s a really big balance when you’re starting your own business, especially like Brinn. Starting my own photography business and starting Brinn are two totally different worlds. There wasn’t too much overhead for me for photography. I had all of my own equipment already and you can really just start getting gigs right away. Brinn was all overhead. The biggest thing is that when you’re starting a business like Brinn or many others, you aren’t really making money for awhile because all of the money you make is going right back into the business. I think an essential thing to realize is that sometimes your time is worth more than money. You really have to be strategic about picking and choosing wisely between where your time is spent. But at the end of the day, you still need to pay your bills and there’s no shame in hustling when you need to!
Do you have any challenges or advice for them that you think others should know about when it comes to running their own business?
There are plenty of challenges. Be prepared to hear no, a lot. Like, all of the time for awhile, but you need to be able to push past that.
I’m not sure if you can prepare for how much work it is or how many different hats you have to wear but I would say you just need to be calm, and that’s definitely advice of mine that I need to take. Whatever gets thrown at you, know it’s going to be OK, it’s not the end of the world and you’ll figure it out.
One of the biggest hurdles is definitely funding. Up until now, most of the company has been bootstrapped. I’ve been extremely blessed and I’m so grateful I was able to raise as much as I did through two rounds of crowdfunding. I don’t know if it would be possible for me to be at the point I’m at without that. It’s definitely tough though. There are so many resources for small businesses but it’s a whole other realm when you are trying to get funding from the bank for it. No matter what, you need to keep going and not let that stop you. If you do that, you will get there one day. It just takes time and patience.
So you’re just about to launch Brinn in a week, what are you most excited about?
I am most excited about getting the bags into the hands of all of the wonderful people who pre-ordered and haven’t gotten theirs yet and I feel like even though I’ve been doing this for over 2 years now, this is really just the beginning. This is where Brinn really starts to grow and it’s going to be a pretty crazy time just to see it turn into something new.
Is there any insight you can give into the future of Brinn?
This first line was originally crafted to solve an issue for photographers and travelers but I’ve since then seen the demand for it in other creative fields like hair, makeup and more and how there really is a need for a product that represents the user like Brinn does. So we definitely want to continue to solve the problems and meet the demands of every creative profession going forward. We are going to have a lot of new products coming out in the future and I’m not sure if people are expecting some of them. We are super excited.
As a photographer and designer, how do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired by a little bit of everything Two things for me that have always been huge inspirations are movies, like cinema in general, and color. For example, the Honey Pie bag was inspired by Twin Peaks, which is one of my favorite TV shows, so I’m really pulling inspiration from everywhere. I think that’s always been my style. Even when it comes down to my clothing, I’ve always had to be somewhat extravagant and the strangest thing can build an idea for me. With photography, it always starts with color then grows from there. I really like colorful but desaturated tones. It can make the most mundane scenarios come to life for me.
What does designing your own life mean to you?
Designing my life means I get to determine what success means to me and when. I don’t need to follow a solid path and things might take me a little longer but at the end of the day, I know that I’m getting to where I need to be. It means not going with what everyone else expects me to go with but instead doing what will at the end of the day make me feel the most fulfilled and happy.
A lot of people have told me I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing right now, but here I am.
Ciara B Perrone is the founder and designer behind BRINN. She began as an editorial photographer when she realized the need for a cutting edge product for creative professionals like herself. Hear a bit about Ciara’s beginnings and the process of growing BRINN from the ground up (although, we are just getting started!)