HUMANS WE HEART: WALKER NOBLE, FOUNDER OF WALKER NOBLE STUDIOS
Walker Noble believes everyone should have access to great art in their homes—he even left his corporate job and started his own design studio to make it happen. Get to know his story, including all the advice he’s ready to pass on to future small business owners, in our chat below.
Hi Walker! Mind if we go through a few getting-to-know-you Qs?Coffee order: The 1950 blend by Verve with light cream and sugar. When I travel to South Africa, there’s a café in Cape Town named Truth Coffee. They make a drink called the “Potion Coffee” that I love!Ideal outfit: A vintage pair of military pants, soft tee, a nice chore coat and a pair of low-top Air Jordan 1’s.Books on your nightstand: I’m currently reading “The Man Who Lived Underground,” by Richard Wright. It’s finally been released after years of being unpublished.Podcasts/albums/playlists in your earbuds: The Daily of course. A lot of Fela Kuti albums. I’m also oddly addicted to the Yacht Rock Radio playlist [laughs].
Let’s go back to the beginning—have you always been an artist?
Ever since I was a child, drawing and painting were the first loves-slash-talents I had. It was the one thing I knew I could do better than the other kids around me. I’d draw comic books and share them with my pals. My father and grandfather were great artists as well, so I guess it’s hereditary? I’ve seen the artistic gene in my little niece and nephew, too.
How did you end up turning your creativity into a career and starting a business?
By drawing and creating pieces on the side even though I had a job in corporate America for many years. It was always a desire of mine to be able to cut my tie in half and pursue my art full-time. To make a long story short, I essentially took a leap of faith and put my work out there. I use the famous line from Field of Dreams as my mantra: “If you build it, they will come.” My lovely wife Didi was kind enough to build our website and handled everything on the back end to set us up for success. Through a lot of self-promotion, connecting the dots and, to be honest, luck, I was able to build my business to where it is today.
What’s your process like for creating your pieces?
Due to the pandemic, as of late, my process begins with going through phases of wanderlust. It’s allowed me to reminisce on old pictures and old memories, and recreate places I’ve traveled to. The abstract pieces are mostly inspired from the tons of jazz that I listen to on a daily basis.
We can definitely see the wanderlust influence. And what lessons have you learned about running a business? Anything aspiring small business owners should know from the get-go?
One of the key lessons I’ve learned is that having your infrastructure set up is extremely important. Because of the pandemic, a lot of large retailers and companies have begun to use their resources to discover smaller makers and artists—which is great! But here’s the catch: when these big companies come knocking on your door, it’s not a light knock. It’s a battering ram [laughs]. For example, let’s say on average you’re used to selling a few pieces per client. Please be prepared for these large companies to place an order with you for thousands, if not tens of thousands of items. You’ve got to be able to scale your business quickly. And even if it seems you can’t meet their demands, just say yes and figure it out! Trust me. Go through your mental Rolodex, ask friends, family, acquaintances. I assure you there’s someone out there in your network that can lead you in the right direction. Build out your site, sign up with the best POS system out there (I recommend Shopify) and have your shipping system ready to go. Identify an accounting expert. Be ready. And lastly…have fun! Enjoy your business. Enjoy the long hours because there will be long hours. Enjoy the grind. Just know that it’ll all be worth it in the end
That’s all excellent advice! Okay and finally, since this is our Humans We Heart series, is there someone you admire that you’d like to shout out here?
I admire tons of people. However, for the sake of brevity, please allow me to name a few. First and foremost, my wife Didi. She’s truly the boss and brains of our studio. I’m just the artist. Shout-out to my dear friends and powerhouse women who have helped my studio flourish: Ebby (owner ofSunbeam Vintage), Maggie Mattuchio Flynn, Maiara Walsh, Michelle Monaghan, Jeni Britton Bauer, Ivirlei Brooks, Krista MacDonald, A Bizzle, Sarah Griffith, Mallory Konell, Tiffany Dorin, Claire Ellis, Diane D, Aimi M, Brooke Robinson, and last but not least, Aurora James of the 15 Percent Pledge for forging a movement that has helped so many small businesses, including mine. A true hero indeed.
Thank you so much, Walker! Check out his art right here.