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How a Self-Made Creative Entrepreneur Found Her Niche - And Kept It

Project Spaces

Being a successful, self-employed entrepreneur for over a decade is no easy feat. Doing so as an artist and landing clients like Google, Starbucks, and LinkedIn is even more difficult. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Elise Goodhoofd has managed to do just that.

While Elise’s accomplishments may sound like something out of a storybook on the surface, the reality of becoming a creative entrepreneur has been anything but smooth sailing. In fact, like many of us, Elise didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life when she was a young adult. 

The start of Elise’s professional career began right after she got a diploma in graphic design from Seneca College in 2006 and landed her first job at a Toronto marketing firm specializing in condo marketing. The work she was doing consisted of drawing hundreds of floor plans. It was tedious and unfulfilling.

As a creative who enjoys learning new things - she can sew, play guitar, shuffle dance, and video edit - staying in a job like that was not in the cards for Elise.

Her next graphic design position was at a different marketing firm in Ottawa. Things seemed to be going well until she won a contest to go to the Olympics in 2010 outside of work. Speaking about the contest, Elise explained, “A friend and I won a spot to be ‘mobile explorers’ for Samsung during the 2010 Olympics. We competed for three weeks against other Canadian teams to create content expressing the vibe. We had to produce videos for Samsung that showed people experiencing Vancouver and the Olympics as spectators. They gave us Samsung phones and computers and we had to make cool content. We ended up winning $10,000 from our work! ”

Elise found the creative experience at the Olympics to be rewarding, but was shocked when her boss fired her after returning. She recalled, “I don’t know if my boss was intimidated by the fact that we were doing something really cool, but us winning this contest wasn’t celebrated at the company. I think that was the turning point. I was not ok with someone telling me what I was doing wasn’t good when it was actually amazing. I thought there might be potential to do more cool things like this.”

Elise wasn’t wrong about the fact she’d get to do cool things again – and a lot of them!

Shortly after her second stint at a marketing agency, Elise happened to stumble upon her career-defining art style when she was planning to throw a party with her roommates and decided to do chalk art on their chalkboard. At that party, a couple of people asked Elise if she could create a chalkboard for them.

Today, if you Google “Toronto chalkboard artist” you’ll see Elise’s name pop up. After the fateful party she threw back in 2011, Elise slowly started getting work and building her portfolio. In the early days of her business, she was underpricing her work, but now her portfolio speaks for itself. She’s done projects large and small for dozens of reputable organizations and recently finished a two storey exterior mural at Woodbine and Queen, which is her favourite project to date. Elise stated that “I started planning this project with the Beach Village BIA in May of this year and it’s been a crazy process. There were a lot of roadblocks because I hadn’t done a project like this before. For instance, I forgot that a normal ladder can’t reach 30 ft - duh?! But the learning process was rewarding and I think that’s what pushed me."

"I love when a project comes in and I have to figure out how to do it. It’s like solving a creative puzzle." 

With Elise’s business still booming despite the current state of the world and her getting a second shout out from BlogTo for the BIA project, she decided to take the next step in her entrepreneurial journey and officially join Project Spaces. Having known Neil, the co-owner of Project Spaces, for the past five years, this is something she’s considered doing for a while.

She explained, “About two years ago I was working on a big project that didn’t fit into my condo so I rented out one of the empty rooms at PS. Neil was really awesome when it came to making things work for whatever my needs were. Since I don’t do projects like that consistently, he was flexible with how much it was going to cost to rent the room for however long I needed it. Now that I’m renting a desk, the same thing applies.”

Elise has come a long way over the past 12 years, and even though it took some time to find a suitable career path, she’s risen above every challenge and come out better on the other side! A word of advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs is, “Just get started."

"When you’re an entrepreneur there’s so much unknown and it can be scary, but there is also the potential for great reward, so trust your instincts. You’re going to be faced with a lot of uncomfortable situations, but that’s where growth happens.”

If you’d like to take a look at past projects Elise has worked on, head on over to her website or follow her on Instagram. To take advantage of flexible coworking space memberships that make it easy for you to do you, book a tour of Project Spaces today.

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What is Project Spaces?

Founder-friendly coworking in downtown Toronto for entrepreneurs and digital nomads. EST 2011. We create awesome spaces, fill them with passionate people, and watch the magic happen. Learn more

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