Real Talk

Real Talk // Amy Kuretsky

All photos courtesy of Amy Kuretsky

All photos courtesy of Amy Kuretsky



Amy is one person I am SO grateful to have met. She is my acupuncturist, but she is also an entrepreneur and health coach who is focused on bringing balance to the crazy lives of creatives. Read on to see how she balances (and brings balance) to her own hustle. 

You just started a new venture of Heath Coaching, in addition to your acupuncture practice. How did this come about?

I was noticing a trend with a lot of my patients: those coming in with open minds, ready and willing to make long-lasting change in their thoughts, feelings, and actions, were ones that were seeing the greatest improvement in their health. Whereas the patients coming in wanting quick fixes were falling back into old habits and health issues time and time again.

In Chinese medicine, we be believe that our emotions can have as much of an impact on our health as what we eat or how we move. So I really wanted to start diving deeper with as many patients as possible and help discover the underlying thought patterns that were causing these physical manifestations of disease.

As for my current expertise of working specifically with creative entrepreneurs, that came about from my self-study on how to run a business. In three plus years of education learning to become an acupuncturist and health coach, I barely got any worthwhile business or marketing education. So I set out to teach myself through blogs, podcasts, and chats with other business owners. When I started immersing myself in that culture more, I noticed a huge trend of creatives prioritizing their hustle in lieu of their health - a total romanticization of the hustle.

Why does this matter in our industry?

Because you can't have one or the other! Choosing hustle or health? It doesn't work that way. You can't put all your time and energy into your business without having a significant negative impact on the health of your body and mind. And vice versa is true too! You can't spend all day trying to attain perfect health without your business falling apart.

The most successful people in our industry are the ones that understand this, and use it to bring both their health and their business to new levels on a regular basis.

Obviously, our health matters. What is the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs doing in regards to their health?

That's easy. Skipping meals. How often have you found yourself nose-to-the-computer screen for hours at a time, completely losing track of time, and forgetting to eat lunch.

One of the most common questions I get asked from entrepreneurs is "How do you pull yourself away from the computer to eat lunch when there's so much to do?"

And honestly, the answer to that question is simple: There will aways be more to do. When has your to-do list honestly ever ended? As soon as one thing gets crossed off, two, or three more ideas pop into your head or emails show up in your inbox with new tasks to add to the list. The list is never ending, so it's time to face that reality and treat ourselves like the number one employee we are.

We'd never want our employees to work through their lunch hour so why would we do it ourselves? That old adage our mothers taught us? Treat everyone like you'd want to be treated? The opposite is true too. Treat yourself like you'd want to treat others. (Meaning nicely!!)

Your tagline is: Our Heath Fuels our Hustle. How have you seen this impact most?

Well, this really came about because I was sick of hearing people say that they had to learn to balance their hustle with their health

Because in reality there isn't much balance. Some days i'm lucky if I get in an hour of exercise between walking to and from bus stops and chores around the house while other days I go for leisurely walks in the park, take a class at Solcana Crossfit, and even get some yoga/meditation time in at night before bed.

But everyday there is a blend of all the things: eating foods that nourish my body, being mindful of my thoughts and feelings, moving my body, and hustling out some work. And I know the more I'm able to incorporate the parts that make my body feel healthy, the more I'm able to be present with my patients/clients and produce content that I'm proud of. 

Have you seen a correlation with your clients who have created balance and their creativity?

Absolutely. Think about the last time you came up with a really big idea. I would bet that it didn't happen during your scheduled work hours, eyes glued to the screen. Your idea probably struck you while going for a walk, or taking a shower, or after a nice long nap. Our brains don't like to feel like caged animals - they are the most vibrant when we let them play!

My clients that have shifted their mindset from hustle all day to blending hustle and play are the ones that are making the greatest strides in their businesses as well.

How do you balance your own life between being a health practitioner and an entrepreneur?

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but the truth is all in my mindset. I truly believe that stepping aside from my computer to go for a walk during my lunch hour on a beautiful day is going to have greater benefits for me both personally and professionally, than taking that hour to catch up on my emails.

No two days are alike, but I'm totally ok with that. Like I said before - there's not much balance in my day, more of a blend.  My favorite thing to do when I'm feeling stuck creatively, is to go for a walk. That physical movement helps that stagnation release and I always come back with an overabundance of ideas.

As for the practical things I do on a regular basis? I try to get close to 8 hours of sleep nightly, spend 10 minutes a day being mindful (not necessarily through traditional meditation though), move my body daily (some days crossfit, some days walking), and eating foods my body likes. (I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2005 and learning what foods my body didn't like was life alerting!)

What has been the best thing about your freelance journey?

Getting comfortable in my own skin. In the beginning, as a business owner, I was afraid to specialize too much. I was coming from a mindset of lack. Fear that there wouldn't be enough clients and that I had to be everything to everyone.

But as I've grown and learned, I've realized that my unique experiences, perspectives, and ideas are what my clients love about me. The more I've started to specialize, the more people are coming out of the woodwork wanting to work with me.

Now that I'm at this point where I can easily stand here and say " I work with creative entrepreneurs who need help dealing with digestive and emotional diseases." That's crazy specific! But it's also totally true. those are the people I love working with, so why would I lie and say anything else?

What has been the hardest thing about your freelance journey?

Prioritizing. There that book, Essentialism, that talks about how the word priority was never meant to be pluralized. The whole idea of a priority is that you're choosing that one thing over all the others. How can you choose multiple things at once? I've though a lot about the concept and although I mentally understand it, emotionally I can't agree with it. I suppose that goes with my rebel tendencies of wanting to push back and create my own rules.

How do you actively stay inspired?

By hanging out with likeminded people! No, really. Forging connections with entrepreneurs has been my creative lifeline. I've cultivated a creative pack and they help keep me inspired daily.

I wish I knew this when I first started...

Just be you. Don't try to fit into someone else's mold. It won't work and you'll look pretty fake along the way. If you let your freak flag high in the sky, you'll naturally attract your dreamiest client ever - without having to look for them.

Real Talk // with Martha McQuade

The gorgeous MAD studio in NE Minneapolis.

The gorgeous MAD studio in NE Minneapolis.




Martha McQuade is one half of the design house MAD. Along with her creative partner, Dan Clark, these two create everything from architectural spaces to textiles and clothing. Martha is also an Architecture Professor at the U of M.


You are an artist + business woman who has a lot of different projects going on. Why does this work for you?

The way I think about everything I do is related - from the projects I am working on at MAD, to the classes I teach at the U of M and to raising my kids. There isn't a lot of separation in terms of the process. 

I encourage both my students, my children and myself to explore our ideas and be flexible in our expectations and embrace what happens in a curious and open way. This approach leads to happiness and surprise, rather than disappointment.  Learning to look for the surprises and then explore these unexpected findings in a rigorous way can lead to new directions in our work. 

At MAD, I move back and forth between design projects without worrying what 'category' they fall into. Having multiple projects across many different disciplines going on at the same time is beneficial as they all inform each other. 


You are a woman who seems to be 'doing it all'. How do you manage your time? 

I have a lot of help! I have an incredibly supportive husband and a great work partner, Dan Clark, and our interns at MAD. 


I wish I had this advice when I first started: 

To trust my intuition more. I am not a naturally confident person, so I would often seek out advice from others and then assume they knew best - even if I felt their advice wasn't the best for me. Especially when it came to things like marketing and business, which I knew nothing about. 


What has been a game changer for you?

Moving into a studio space outside of my house. Having a beautiful, light filled environment to work in every day. It is big enough to have all the work visible, which has been really motivating!


How do you actively seek inspiration?

I am so inspired all the time by my surroundings. The things I see as I drive through the city, instagram and online magazines, art shows, podcasts, my kids and my students! It can all be a bit overwhelming at times, so I don't think I ever actively seek inspiration, but I often seek the opposite of it. 

The photographer Andrew Zuckerman gave a talk for 99u titled "On Curiosity, Rigor and Learning as you Go." In it, he talks about inspiration overload and how too much can actually shut you down. 

Sometimes when I feel like I'm not sure which direction my work is going in, I will look back through my process work. I have two hashtags, #MWMProcess & #MADProcess and I find looking back at these incredibly inspiring. It is quite motivating to see all of the previous work - it pushes me to work harder and make better work. 


The best part about being a freelancer is:

The ability and freedom to do what I think is best in every situation and not try and guess what my boss would want. 


The most annoying part about being a freelancer is:

Nothing is 'annoying'. It IS scary not having a regular paycheck to rely on though. 

Lets talk about social media. Do you love it or hate it? More so, what value do you think it beings to the world these days?

There is so much discussion around social media currently. Is it good or bad? Are we using it too much? I think it is different for everyone and you have to use it in a way that works for you, your business and life in general. 

My first social media experience was on Flickr, which is image based. It was a way of communicating with people online through how I saw the world. It also quickly became a way to record the process of what I was making and designing. I also connected with a lot of designers, photographers and artists. I am an introvert and it was a great way to meet people and break the ice with artists and brands I am interested in. 

I currently use instagram a lot, because that was an easy transition for me onto this platform that I could use similarly to Flickr. 

I think the number one value social media brings is that it allows us to show our process and work to allow the public to engage with that process. It lets art be accessible to everyone. when people engage and follow along in the creation through social media, you build a relationship with them  and the work you make has more meaning. 

This engagement is valuable to us as artists, both on the creative and financial ends, as it allows us to be visible and in turn, be able to make a living. I really like that social media is interactive, unlike traditional marketing of the past which was costly and not really appropriate for individuals or small business. 

You are also an educator at the U of M. What do you think prepares students most for being a full time artist?

Working for someone else. I encourage all of my students to go out and get experience working with and for others. Even if the work isn't exactly what you would do, if you are working with good people, you are going to learn so many valuable things. You will also make connections with people that might lead to opportunities in the future. 


What makes you happy with your work?

When I am surprised by something that happens that I haven't intended. 


What does success mean to you?

Seeing people enjoy the things and spaces we have made. 


To stay in touch with Martha and Dan, follow all of their work @MAD__Work and @mwmmpls 


Real Talk // with Ashley Mary Art + Design



Ashley is an artist that I have always admired. I have had the pleasure of working with her and her collaborative and positive spirit is contagious. Last fall Ashley launched her first line with Target, introducing her designs to a line of cosmetic bags. 


Ashley Mary Art + Design






You have been inspiring those around you with your paintings, collage, and mixed media art. Last fall you launched a line of cosmetic bags with Target! How long did you work to actually become a freelance artist?

Once I switched careers in 2012, I would say the process to doing freelance overall wasn't super long. I eased into it within one year. I am a freelancer at KNOCK inc where I spend on average about 25 - 30 hours of my week. The means all of my other freelance work happens outside of this. I designate time in the mornings, nights, and weekends to my art. Many-a-hats I do wear. 


You have had a formal design education. Do you think that prepared you for being a full time artist?

I don't know if I ever feel super prepared! I was a religion major coming out of my undergrad where I studied a variety of theologies, so going into making / selling art was a slow and snow-balled process. Later in life I did go back to MCAD for a post-bachelor certificate in graphic design. 

School expanded my understanding and access to the world of design and gave me language and tools around the things I already enjoyed doing. It opened a lot of doors and the freelance work has been a learn-as-you-go experience. 

I ask a lot of questions and try to connect with folks who can answer them. I am still learning and enjoying the process. 

I wish I knew this advice when I first started:

There are so many things! I have learned a lot through trying and screwing up. Here are a few chicken nuggets I have learned:

1// How to say no. To the things I don't like doing, but also the things I am not good at doing. It won't be the best work for either the client or myself. I understand that sometimes you need to pay the bills and suck it up. However, I have found that the older I get, the more I sign up for things that will allow creativity to come from a good place inside of me. The outcome is better overall. 

How to say no (kindly) to someone's creative direction, when you know it's going to turn out less-than-ideal, is also a valuable skill. When you are confident enough, then sell what WILL work and show how it can be done right. 

2// Don't show work that you don't want to be considered as an option. (This kind of goes back to my first answer). If you don't like the work and aren't proud of it, make sure no one else sees it - hide that shit! You can control what the client sees.

I've made so many logos that I didn't actually like in the beginning and I was eager to show the client a lot of options - too many options. I ultimately made something in the end that I was not personally happy with. Sometimes too many options can tell the client that you don't know what looks good. You know what looks good. 

3// Track those miles. 


How do you actively seek inspiration?

This is a hard question for me, because I'm not the best at thinking proactively about seeking inspiration. I can't say I'm delegating specific space to it, but rather it works itself into my daily habits naturally. There are the usual digital suspects like Instagram, blogs and Pinterest. I tent to focus on looking at other painters, illustrators, stylists and interior designers, because that is where my work revolves around and where I tend to drool the most. 

It is important to drool when being inspired. 

I started listening to more podcasts this year. I wanted to have space to actively learn while I am sitting in front of a computer screen for most of the day. I can usually find some juicy take-aways. I also shop a lot at vintage and resale shops where I always find lots of goodies that I draw inspiration from. 

Visual inspiration is at my fingertips with the internet, so I try and pay attention. 


Lets talk about social media. Do you love it or hate it? What value do you think it brings to our world-of-art these days?

Love + hate! I love the inspiration it connects with others. I know SO many more artists and designers because of social media that I would never have discovered otherwise. I have also been able to raise awareness of my own brand to people who would never have seen it or gotten to know me. The flip side is that sharing your work requires vulnerability and that can feel scary or have negative side effects, such as your work being copied or whatnot. 

Anytime you are showing your work a lot, there is a higher risk of insecurity to rear its ugly head and to juxtapose that with the fact that it is a necessary business tool. I have stopped trying to figure out why people don't like one thing and like another, so I am just going to keep trying to make work that I am proud of. Ultimately social media makes art, design and creatives more accessible to the world. I think that is a win!


What makes you happy with your work? 

Trying new things and learning new techniques. I will often paint over my paintings as my style changes. Some of my favorite pieces are the third draft of an original painting. 

I love being open to change and saying yes to the new. 

My favorite days of work are when I am super busy, running around and using my best set of skills. It all feels exhausting in an energized way. 

What has been a game changer for you? 

I've been a painter since 2008 but it wasn't until 2014 that I started to imagine my work outside of a flat surface. Once I started to play with my artwork as a surface pattern, it brought so many more opportunities to share my art with a larger audience. It was an ah-ha moment that turned into fun projects, like my cosmetic bag line for Target. But that world is fucking hard, too. It's very saturated. 

I've also had a few folks reach out to work with me on jobs that I may be newer at or have less experience with. These always end up being marking moments for me. I work hard to show what I can bring to the table and I think that contributes to someone trusting my eye. When anyone is willing to see your potential, without you necessarily having 10 years of experience or a giant portfolio, that can become a turning point in your career. I feel like I've had a few of those opportunities in my life. 

Probably most creatives have, right? Where you say "yes" and then work your ass off and make it happen! 


The best part about being a freelancer is:

Doing a lot of different jobs and owning my own time + schedule. No one job could satisfy me as much as the variety I get to do being a freelancer. The mix of people, places and projects is really fulfilling and keeps me on my toes. 


The most annoying part about being a freelancer is: 

Keeping track of expenses :\

Not having clear boundaries with work. You can technically work every waking minute if you want Even if you don't have client work, you are asking yourself, "What could I do to expand my work? Start a new project? Update my portfolio?" The list literally. never. ends. 


What does success mean to you? 

It depends on a few factors. today, in this moment, success is when I have a full day of doing what I am best at and what fills me up. (Preferably laughing while tackling the above). I think a lot about feeling "whole" in what I do and I think that is success for me.  


Check out more work at and follow Ashley @ashleymaryart

Real Talk // with Raoul Benavides

Yes, Raoul and I like to share a few glasses of champagne while working. Thats how the best work gets done, right?

Yes, Raoul and I like to share a few glasses of champagne while working. Thats how the best work gets done, right?

YEARS as a BUSINESS Owner: 23

Raoul is a linchpin of our photo industry and his company Flashlight Photo Rental supports us for many of our shoots throughout the year. More than that, Raoul is an entrepreneur, always chasing new ideas. He's about to open his next venture - a record shop called Flashlight Vinyl. 


You've been around the photo industry for a long time. What's the most common mistake you see freelancers making? 

The beauty of being a freelancer is that you can use your resources (money) now to set up the business life that you want to have in five years. 

If you have a vision of what you want your life to be, you can invest in it and lower your tax bill at the same time. The mistake is in the shortsightedness that comes with youth. 


How long did you work before you became a business owner? 

I did not actually work to become a freelancer. I did my first photo internship when I was fourteen and learned quickly that I did not want to be a staffer. 


I wish I knew this advice when I first started:

Invest in yourself and use every financial loophole that you legally can as a freelancer / entrepreneur. 


You're about to open a record shop, which is a complete departure from running Flashlight Photo Rental. What is the importance of this new venture for you and why you chose to do it?

I love music and I have been trying to find a new business that was ultra tactile and stress reducing. Photography, Food and Music are my passion centers. I use to DJ as a teenager and a  record shop is the perfect fit for my life right now. 


What makes you happy with your Work?

My work now is a product of my creative needs and a personal vision. I wake up to work in an environment that I created or better yet - that I want to create. It's very satisfying. 


How do you view your competition?

I wish my competition thought more nationally. It seems like a lot of photo companies are use to thinking small and not investing into their businesses emotionally or completely. 


After all of this time, what is your definition of success?

My thoughts on what is successful has changed a lot over the years. I thought we all wanted the same thing. I think that success is a way of life that is authentic to your creativity and your heart.