Dear Team Flyer,
We have Elissa Surabian today. She loves supporting small businesses and spreading positive vibes all around. Here is her story on how she became who she is and how she is adding more creative kindness in the world.
She’s also our guest on today’s podcast! We talked about her backstory, how she got to where she is and what her upcoming projects are. She is pure love and light.
The specific series of events that brought me to take the leap and start this career:
I have loved making art since I was able to pick up a crayon. My mother was a preschool teacher and my father owned his own business as an interior house painter/contractor. This is to say that money wasn’t easy for them, and as such, I started working at a very young age. I remember going to the city hall to apply to work at 15. As I grew up, I adopted the belief that pursuing a career in art would lead to a life of starvation and scrappiness.
So when it came time to apply to college, I chose to go to a state school (UMass Lowell) and study liberal arts. After my first year, I realized that I was repressing a big part of myself because of social expectations. My school offered two degrees in art, one in Graphic Design and the other in Fine Art. With the stigma still strong in my mind, I chose to be a graphic design major, figuring that computer graphics was the way of the future, and I could potentially make money doing this. All the while I maintained a seasonal position at Whole Foods. Coming back for holidays and summer vacation to ring up groceries.
After graduating from UML I went back to work. Whole Foods was having a job fair that was specifically for “Store-Artists,” my co-workers encouraged me to apply, and the rest was history. This was a dream job for many many years. I was allowed a lot of creative freedom within their brand standards. I got the opportunity to develop and improve my skills for hand-lettering, layout design, menu formatting and much more.
As Whole Foods prepared to transition the company into a buyable position for Amazon, they started removing some jobs. Foreseeing my future unemployment, I started building a website and getting myself ready for whatever the next step was. I offered to do a chalkboard for Union Square Donuts in exchange for some donuts, merch and a social media call-out. This is frowned upon by many people but worked in my favor. I also was contacted by The Foodery, a Boston based meal provider, to do a very large board for the Boston Public Market.
From there, I was contacted by The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center because one of their employees saw the guys from The Foodery at BPM, and that was the boost I needed to start bringing in new clients. I also spent days venturing into different cities and towns handing out my card and introducing myself. I watched my money carefully and got a part-time job. After two years (in January 2019), I was able to completely go solo.
My current passion project, Random Acts of Signage:
When I launched my career, my goal was to make money, enough of it to stay afloat. I figured that in becoming an artist for a living I could inspire others to follow their dreams or passions as well. Now that I’ve built my business up, I am able to make as much money as I need to survive and thrive.
With this weight lifted, I was able to step back and consider what I could do in small ways to spread positivity and kindness. If you know anything about me, it’s that I love a good farmers market, and Union Square in Somerville is one of my favorites. One day while I was waiting for my Black Magic Coffee, a man in line started to tell me about this pop-up bakery that was in a restaurant called Field and Vine. He was raving about it!
My curiosity was peaked and I grabbed my coffee and made my way over. I saw three signs that Rae (the baker) had made herself to call attention to her pop-up Plumdelicous Bakery. After a couple of weeks of visiting her, I had the urge to gift her a sign, she deserved it! She does every aspect of her business, and if you could see how many fresh pastries she prepares, you’d be floored.
She told me that she’ll come in at 2 am to start baking, she prepares and displays everything so beautifully, and then when the market opens she’s having sweet and meaningful conversations with all of her patrons while serving them. I couldn’t believe how much she was doing on her own (literally every single thing). I went home and found a similar size sign and wrote her info on it with a little illustration. The next market I knocked on the door before she opened up for the day and surprised her with the sign.
Her response was so touching and genuinely elated, that I caught the bug! I spent the rest of that day making a list of other businesses I wanted to support. I would like to note that I originally wanted to do this as a secret surprise and completely avoid sharing on social media, but realized that there is so much to gain by letting the world in! By sharing it, I get to tell everyone why I think this person or business is so awesome.
Since these are micro or small businesses, I might help others discover them. Just the other day a girl from Peru (who is also a chalkboard artist) messaged me on Instagram and said that she is inspired to do a Random Act of Signage too. I love the idea that this could build into a movement or inspire other creative kindnesses.
Random Acts of Signage is such a beautiful and uplifting movement. We fell in love with her immediately after seeing her first art piece and then hearing the story behind it just made everything she does even more magical. Be sure to check her out on our podcast where she explains so much more! Also on Spotify, iTunes and Google Play.
We love her work, passion and most of all, her big heart. Go follow her in the links down below. Is there a business you know in the Boston area that deserves A Random Act of Signage?
The Always Believer
For more on Elissa:
Instagram- Chalking about Boston