August 7, 2019
Now back to the podcast-
It started with a sweet little drawing on a simple greeting card. Then Strawberry Shortcake exploded, becoming the star of everything from toys to clothing to bedding to lunchboxes. Based on the franchise's success, you would expect the artist behind Strawberry Shortcake to be living large. But Tulsa resident Muriel Fahrion actually hasn't made a dime off the character. Listen as Muriel (who also created the Care Bears) talks about the hard lessons she learned early in her career, and how those lessons led her on a path of entrepreneurship.
Muriel: And I want to see who I am without this big corporation and do I have this chutzpah to do my own business.
Lauren: This week on The F Word.
Muriel: And I thought, what am I going to do now?
Lauren: The creator of Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears, Muriel Fahrion.
Muriel: So, a lot of stuff you do for like, that was a lark, ends up being your next business.
Lauren: If you've walked down a toy aisle at any point in the past 30 years, chances are you've seen products inspired by the work of today's guest. Muriel Fahrion is the creator of the wildly popular character, Strawberry Shortcake and her gang of friends including Blueberry Muffin and Lemon Merengue and Orange Blossom. She also created Care Bears and the Get Along Gang. And while her work has led to multiple billion dollar franchises, surprisingly to many, she's not spending her days rolling around in big piles of money. As a matter of fact, Muriel hasn't made a single dime off the Strawberry Shortcake or Care Bear franchises. Today, we're going to talk about why that is and how Muriel learned about the business world and how that led her down the path of entrepreneurship. Muriel, thanks for being here today.
Muriel: You’re welcome.
Lauren: Your story as an artist started at a very young age. I read in a Tulsa World article that your passion for art started when you were just four years old and your parents really encouraged it well. How did your childhood set the trajectory for the rest of your career?
Muriel: Well, it did. I mean, it was absolutely dead set, that trajectory. I was a kid that sat in the corner. I was not real active, but give me a pencil or a crayon or a stapler or old magazine or any of that I started creating at a very young age. I was one of seven and so we lived in a house, which is, I looked it up recently. It still exists. It was 924 square feet. So, that's was-
Lauren: With nine of you.
Muriel: Yes. And so my little place was underneath the table and with all my crayons and... I had the scissors, I had all this stuff. My mother would just like, "Okay, here's a pan, put the snipples in the pan. And as long as I wasn't under feet, it was good.
Lauren: Wow. And they saw your potential then and really wanted you to pursue that?
Muriel: Well, it was a case of where she... My grandmother and my mother, I was told this later, sat and discussed me and said, “What is ever going to become of Muriel? What are we going to do with her?” So, they just let the art happen and flow and it was just letting it happen, rather than like, "Oh, let's see if we can lead her some way or..." None of that. It was just really, that's what she's doing. It's fine.
Lauren: Yeah. That's so good. So, you went to art school after high school, you went to art school and then straight out of art school you took a job designing greeting cards?
Muriel: I did.
Lauren: For American Greeting. Right?
Lauren: Then in 1977, you were asked to create a line of girly cards and that's when you first drew Strawberry Shortcake. That's when it all began.
Muriel: So, the direction was the following. They looked at, to see what sold best in greeting cards. So, the idea was like, you know what's selling is little girls and then ragdolls and pink and with daisies and with strawberries. And that was my direction. That was my only direction from my art director, do that, and so really was one character to start with. It was Strawberry Shortcake, but I gave her a cat automatically, she had to have a cat. So, Custard came along and then they wanted some Valentine cards. And so well, there's got to be a boy. So, Huckleberry Pie came in there next, but it was only greeting cards to start with in ‘77.
Lauren: What inspired the characters, as you sat down to draw with not a ton of direction. Where did that inspiration come from for you?
Muriel: Well, everything... I have a visual memory that I thought everybody had, but they don't. And I thought, "Well, what if I was a ragdoll?" That was my thinking. “How would I sit? How would I move? What would I look like? What would I wear?” Really, that's how I think. I don't know where it comes from. I mean, probably my childhood, if I ever took that position or whatever or something I saw, but I didn't put reference in front of me.
Lauren: It just came from your soul, it sounds like.
Muriel: I always tell artists that if it comes from your heart, it's going to be good.
Lauren: So, two years later after you're creating this line of greeting cards and the characters are evolving, Bernie Loomis comes along. And for those who don't know, he's the one who first saw potential in the Star Wars franchise and attained all the licensing rights for that, which we know how that turned out, pretty good for him. But then Mr. Loomis wanted a girl's franchise to walk in parallel with Star Wars.
Lauren: And so he went on a hunt and your drawings ended up in front of him. How did that happen and play out that scene for us seeing your art.
Muriel: So, Shortcake was created to fit between holidays. They didn't want to lose territory in the greeting card market. So, they would have what they'd call promotional and to see how well they did. So, she was one of a number of them. Everybody that was... Everyone loves doing promotional because you didn't have a verse to work from, you just came out of your creative thinking. So, she was one of many that Tom Wilson, who is the creator of Ziggy by the way. He was the creative vice president of American Greetings. And he took his portfolio to Bernie because Bernie called and said like, "What do you have?" And I'm sure, my guess is he would've contacted Hallmark and some of the big companies. And he went in, in his portfolio and he pulled out Ziggy first and he says, "No, that's not a girl's property." And then he said, he told us that Shortcake was the fifth one he pulled out, the last. And he pulled it out and Bernie went crazy. He just says, "That going to be dolls and clothes and it's going to be a movie and it's going to be amusement park." Well, it was never amusement park, but it was everything-
Lauren: Everything else.
Muriel: Everything else, yes.
Lauren: How did you feel in that moment when you had been singled out by such a influential man?
Muriel: Well I was still in the greeting card division and I was told that, that was happening and I felt like, “Well, what's happening next?” I was like, "What is this going to do? How is this going to impact me really?" I was thinking that and they broke off from the corporation. They didn't break off, but they formed a new division called, Those Characters from Cleveland. And Shortcake was one of them. But I wasn't over there because the greeting card division said, "No, we want to keep her." And so there was a little bit of a struggle that went on.
Lauren: So, they took your character and ran without you.
Muriel: Well, they didn't take it. They didn't take it. They worked to get me over there and so they did. So, we were given a very small budget, $1000 to start with, we had to do the artwork, come up with more characters, had to be writing. And there was a gifted writer that worked with us and then they needed a doll. Someone to make a doll and they said, "Anybody make a doll here?” Well, we're all like illustrators. And I said, "Oh, my sister can do that." And my sister had six kids at the time. Yeah, she had plenty of time to do this but-
Lauren: Sure, sure.
Muriel: Sure, so she made the first Strawberry Shortcake doll and that's the story. And I finally ended up over at Those Characters from Cleveland, yeah.
Lauren: So, did you become this rock star at the office?
Muriel: Oh, no. No not at all, not at all. I was like, okay so I had to do the characters and some of the toy elements, look at the licensing, do the packaging, do my own photocopying, and then work with the licensing. So, there was no rock star anything part of it and it came to me, I went to New York City to meet one of the licensers who did suspenders and belts. That was his whole gig. And the people that designed for him, it took the character, put surface design. They had people to do their photocopying.
Lauren: You're like, what the heck?
Muriel: And the owner of the company came over to me, got down on his knees and kissed my hand and said, "You saved my company."
Lauren: Oh my gosh.
Muriel: Now that was kind of eye opening for me.
Lauren: Did other people regard you in a similar way?
Muriel: No, that was kind of a thing... but people treated me nicely. I mean, I was not mistreated. I did eventually because it became so big, I mean, I did 32 characters in that line. They brought in other artists to work on Strawberry Shortcake after that, which was great.
Lauren: As everyone knows, in the years that followed, Strawberry Shortcake exploded. Like you said, you created all these characters. You could find her sweet little face on fabric and lunchboxes and coloring books and clothing and video games. But I think what's real interesting about your story is you never made a dime off any of those things because you didn't have the royalties-
Muriel: No, I did not.
Lauren: ... you were working for hire. Did you at any point try to negotiate some of the royalties?
Muriel: No I did not.
Lauren: Why not?
Muriel: Well, I was working on a job and I was making a good wage and my thing was like, “Am I making a good enough wage? Do we have what we need?” I never looked at it that way. And since it was a writer involved, there was an art director involved, there was marketing involved, they'd all want a piece of the pie, there would be like this whole kind of thing. And my whole thinking was like, you know what? As long as I'm connected with this property, I'm happy enough with this.
Lauren: That's a real humility.
Muriel: I don't know. It's like, I don't know.
Lauren: Looking back, do you think you would do it differently if you could and fight for those royalties or fight to be part of the business side rather than just the artist they turn to for the ideas.
Muriel: Interesting. I had a fight back then. It was for a different reason. There was another artist involved doing finished art and the art came in with her name on it and I said, “If her name goes on it, my name goes on it.” The art director says, "Well, if your name goes on it, my art name goes." I said, "Fine, I don't really care," but this is not just one person in this thing. She didn't come up with the concept, snatched from her drawings. I think she's fabulous, but we can't do it this way. So my fighter was there. Yeah.
Lauren: Why did you fight for that if it wasn't about money?
Muriel: Pride, I guess. It's like I know what I know and I didn't want other people to also deal with that down the line.
Lauren: You are an extremely positive person. And talking to you even before this interview, like you just have so much life and you focus on what's good. And I know you don't see this as a failure of not getting the royalties and making it big over this. But surely this was a learning opportunity in many ways.
Lauren: Looking back, what did you take away from that season of your art becoming a pop culture sensation?
Muriel: Well, when at a certain point the TCFC got moved into the corporation again when the whole toy industry started to lose some ground. They just took certain people and they didn't take me. And so I was officially let go. And at that point I thought, "Well, this isn’t fair." So I did believe that this wasn’t fair. And they said, "Well, you should take the job at American Greetings no matter what pay they're going to give you in the greeting card division." I go, "No way, no way. I'm not going to do that. I'm worth more than that." So, I took another job in Chicago where I moved into management and I made more money.
Lauren: I know before that all happened, you actually took a brief stint.
Muriel: I did.
Lauren: And you went off to do your own thing. You started your own business to do freelance artwork. Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur? To be a business owner instead of... Like you were saying, you were being paid well, you were being respected, you had developed this whole franchise. Why walk away from that?
Muriel: Well, they started bringing me to the courtroom because there were, people be ripping off Strawberry Shortcake or Care Bears. And corporations lose a lot of times, not because they should lose, but because they look like a corporation and that other person looks like a little person, so they thought, “Well, let's put our little person on the stand.” And I'm a very good witness. I do a really good job at it. But then I thought, that bothered me. It's like I do all this stuff and I'll create all this stuff and now I have to go when they tell me and go and be in the courtroom and do this, that's not the fun part of my job. I don't want to do it. And I want to see who I am without this big corporation and do I have this chutzpah to do my own business.
Lauren: So, how'd that go initially, leaving... That's a big risk to walk away from a decent paycheck and say, "I'm going to figure it out." How'd it go at the beginning?
Muriel: See when I left they said, "We don't understand. You make enough money." And money seems to be like for a lot of people why you do things and it's not why I did things. And I said, "I just..." I explained, I wanted to see what I was without the corporation. People, when they heard I was leaving, these were people in marketing, people... Word spread through the licensing like, "Oh my gosh, she's leaving. We can use her as a freelancer." And so that's how it worked. I was freelancing for Fisher-Price. I was freelancing for Disney. I was freelancing, I was at Snoopy. Worked with the different toy companies. It was a lot of fun. One incident, because it was funny, some people from American Greetings were going to New York City and I was going to New York City at the same time and we get up and we're in the same airport. And they said, "Oh, you want to share a cab into New York City?" And I said, "No, I have a limo picking me up, ha ha!"
Lauren: Wow. So, you had clientele lined up already before you even walked out the door.
Muriel: Oh no.
Lauren: So you had to tap into those relationships afterward.
Muriel: They tapped into me.
Lauren: They saw talent.
Muriel: They know what I can do.
Lauren: So, you didn't have that guarantee when you walked out that people would pursue you.
Muriel: No, no.
Lauren: Was that worrisome?
Lauren: You just knew it would work out.
Muriel: I just, I'll make it work, you know.
Lauren: Yeah. It wasn't worth it to be a pawn in this corporate world.
Muriel: I thought I have to see who I am now.
Lauren: That's good. So, you had your five year stint freelancing, but then you decided to go back to corporate world.
Muriel: I did.
Lauren: What made you then want to go back?
Muriel: Because the artwork, it was getting less and less and I saw our children getting older. I had two children. I saw them getting older and I thought, you know what, we can't handle the health insurance. It's getting too high and these kids will eventually go on to college. And I need to have one of us. My husband was freelance at that time.
Lauren: Also an artist.
Muriel: Also an artist. So, he started with the studio business and we're both freelance. And I said, "One of us has to go back for the insurance alone. We have to go back." And as I tell people, he never got off the couch. So, it was up to me and I went back and I said, "Uh, can I have my job back?" And they go, "Yes...but it's been, it wasn't six months. It's been five years." I go, "I know."
Lauren: But they needed the gem that they had in you.
Muriel: Well, they called me the magic hands.
Lauren: I love that. So, you went back to American Greetings, they went through the downsizing, you got laid off, went to Chicago. And what's interesting is before this recording, I asked you, "What do you think is one of the biggest mistakes you've ever made in your entrepreneurial journey?" And you said going to Chicago.
Lauren: Will you explain that?
Muriel: Yes, because I sat across from the person who was going to be my boss and I had misgivings about it. I just had this feeling that wasn't great. I thought I... And I didn't listen to it. So, I get this boss who ends up to be abusive in many directions and I thought, I'm worth more than this. So, I stuck it out for two and a half years. I should've walked away right away, but I brought the whole family with me. So, it was pretty hard. And I thought, "You know what, I'm going to find another job and I don't care if..." So, I always have a plan A, B, and C. Headhunters came out and had two jobs, one in Oklahoma and one in Arkansas, and then my C was a trailer on some property I owned. But that was better than where I was.
Lauren: Oh my goodness. That's a really bad boss then.
Muriel: It's a really bad boss.
Lauren: What did you learn working for that boss that then shaped the way you managed people in the future? Because you became a boss later.
Muriel: Oh my gosh. It was very important.
Lauren: What did you learn about managing people and cultivating culture.
Muriel: It's like, know that, that person sitting across from you is a whole universe. It's not simple. There are a whole universe, and get to know that universe and how you can help them, how you can see them grow because that's not what that boss was about. She was seeing how she could diminish you.
Lauren: So, you came to Oklahoma, to Norman first, worked for a design company for a long time. Got to the point that you were managing dozens of people.
Lauren: Can you think of an instance that you took that lesson that you learned in Chicago and applied it to how you helped a specific individual?
Muriel: Oh, sure. So, there was one sculptor that worked for me, Larry Miller, and my boss, the CEO, said “Larry is not to do Santas.” He wanted this other artist to do Santas and Larry really wanted to do a Santa. And I said, "Larry, if you want to do a Santa, you can do it at home. If you believe in it and you can bring it in and I promise you I will fight for, if it's good, I will fight for your Santa. And he did this Santa in a canoe with all the stuff in the package of kind of a, I don't know what, a northern Santa with feathers in his hat. It was fabulous. And I fought for that and it got in the line.
Lauren: That's so fine. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who might be... because you are so crazy busy managing so many people and a growing company, but you took that time to invest in him. How would you advise other entrepreneurs to slow down and see the needs of their people.
Muriel: I don't know if I... I think it's just in me. I always thought, well, am I really a good manager... Became a vice president, am I really meant for management because I get very fragmented by this. But if you get to know your people, man, they'll do anything for you. Honestly. One of my wonderfully talented people, Terry, she said... we had to do a monkey. We did sculpting and a monkey had to be done. They don't sell very well, and the sculptors didn't really want to do things that didn't sell very well. And I said, "Terry, I need you to do this monkey." And you know, she did it, she was fabulous. And she says, "We know that you manipulate us, but you do it in such a nice way."
Lauren: You're like, "I'll take it."
Muriel: So my boss, he was a CEO at the time, said to me, "I've known a lot of people that can manipulate down, but you can manipulate up."
Lauren: And you think that just comes naturally to you.
Muriel: It does. Yeah. Survival.
Lauren: That's good. So, then after working the corporate world for a while, you went back up the ladder again, really successful, and then you decided to jump ship again and go back to this entrepreneurial journey, starting your own business. You had some good freelance going, doing design work and then like what happens with a lot of entrepreneurs, life happened.
Muriel: It does.
Lauren: And I think this is something a lot of business owners don't talk about as much because it doesn't feel as stiff or serious or they're afraid they won't come across as professional. But your life, what happened with your husband really impacted your business?
Muriel: It did for sure.
Lauren: Can you talk about what happened?
Muriel: Sure. In 2010, we moved in 2002 and I kept creating and doing freelance and all that sort of thing. And then 2010, my husband was diagnosed with four-stage lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Which meant he went to a clinical study and I felt, well, he can go in and get chemo by himself. And then after a while, I said, "No, I must be there all the time." Okay we've been married for decades. I have to be with him all the time and that's 120 hours worth of chemo. And I was with him. So you're not going to necessarily be able to do your artwork. I did artwork. This is strange. I never stopped drawing and I would draw for the nurses on staff and I would give him a drawing after he'd been there. They loved us because we kept our spirits up and that sort of thing. So that ate a chunk out of the time. Eventually moved to Tulsa because he went into remission and had a couple of good years. And then he started failing again. We moved to Tulsa to be closer to doctors. And so he passed in October this last year, yeah.
Lauren: How did that time impact how you saw because art is your business, but it also was a cathartic release it sounds like. So how do you manage the overlap between business and passion?
Muriel: Oh, boy. So when I moved to the rural Medicine Park, and I was officially retired, I decided I had to learn some new art. So I thought, well, you don't paint very much Muriel, learn to paint, get good with this. And then I thought, no, I don't want to do that. So, I learned how to do 3D animation.
Lauren: Oh, cool.
Muriel: And I taught myself how to do 3D animation. And I love that.
Lauren: So, you did that for business or pleasure?
Muriel: I did for pleasure. But then I sold the stuff. So, a lot of stuff you do for, like that was a lark or whatever ends up being your next business itself.
Lauren: So, the business is born out of the passion.
Muriel: Right, and there was a gallery that carried my work and my husband did oil paintings after he retired and carried his work and we sold out of the gallery in Medicine Park.
Lauren: That's wonderful. I think a lot of people tried to build the business and then figure out how the passion fits in. But it sounds like you cultivate your passion and then let it turn into business.
Muriel: Yes, exactly. You got it.
Lauren: So, since your husband's passing, you, out of necessity, needed to start your own business. Right?
Muriel: I did. So, illness and cancer puts a lot of people in the poor house. It does. We weren’t in the poor house but we had no extra cash. Zero extra cash. There was none. And so there was that book, “I've Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.” Exactly. It looks like up to me. I'm going to have to go back in, make a business out of it and do it. And so I restarted the business, I'm going to say in February and I gave it a new name. It was no longer going to be Fahrion Studios Freelance. My son said, "Mom, you should call it Muriel Fahrion Studios. And I said, I said, "Collin, it sounds like a chemical spill. I'm not going with that." So, I thought a lot on it and I had a brainstorm with my daughter and we came up with a lot of funny ideas sometimes. In brainstorms is good to be completely goofy because little seeds of ideas come up. So, along came Out of Thin Air and that is where I get my ideas. So, it fits me perfectly.
Lauren: I love that. And that was February of this year. February 2019.
Muriel: Yes. Right.
Lauren: And already you've been in magazines and on podcasts and you're gaining this popularity again. Which is so fun. And I think it's so cool to see something beautiful coming out of this season of lost and need.
Muriel: So my first character I did after my husband died was character called Giggle the Guardian Angel of Laughter, which seems to be the opposite of what I was going through, but life is gravity and levity, right? So, I needed a lot of levity to balance out the gravity I just went through. And what makes people love things are round things. So I thought, what could I make out of a circle, out of balls and a circle. And so along came Giggle, the Guardian Angel of Laughter who is actually a clown angel.
Lauren: And he's real puffy, kind of looks squishy.
Muriel: He's very puffy. Squishy, then I can write, so I wrote, “You tickle my fancy,” and things that fit into the character itself. And so we have a store in town that carries them now. And I'm also on Redbubble. Do you know what Redbubble is?
Lauren: Mm-mm (negative).
Muriel: You upload your art and they put it on all kind... You decide what kind of items you want your art on and they put the stuff on the art and they sell it from there and you get a commission off of what they sell. So, you don't have to do the work, right? I mean, you'd get a smaller bit of it, but it's a lot of stuff that you don't have to do.
Lauren: Sure, you can focus on what you love and what you're good at.
Muriel: They're good.
Muriel: Another thing I got involved in pretty quickly was a thing... And this is from my son, gave me this idea, it's called Patreon. So, people know the old idea of back in the medieval days or back in the renaissance really when you had patrons that supported the artist. So, today you have Patreon and you have people out there that say, "Gee, I will just give a dollar a month just to hear silly things from her or just to see her art or just get her ideas and be able to talk to her."
Lauren: So, it's crowdfunding your salary.
Muriel: It's crowdfunding, right. And it's monthly. So, I had people, some said $5 a month, some said $10 a month. All of a sudden, I had somebody put over $50 a month and I thought, “What?” And what I was using the money for is buy art supplies because really social security doesn't cover art supplies. And I said, "Why?" And she says, "Because Strawberry Shortcake saved my child."
Lauren: Tell me more about that. I bet you've heard a lot of that over the years.
Muriel: So I'm a Generation Boomer. Okay. But I am another generation. I'm also a Generation X. And the reason is that is the group that my character's found homes with Generation X, I love Generation X because they are really... They have to mash together careers. They're tough. It's a tough thing. For Generation X... You know, when they say, "Oh, I love you." I say, "You don't know me, but I love you." They love the character, then they tell me their story. I love the stories because a lot of stories is like they've lost themselves in the Shortcake World, the Care Bear World, Get Along Gang World, when life wasn't perfect as children and they could find solace in those characters. And I really, I appreciate the stories and who they are.
Lauren: How does that make you feel?
Muriel: Well, I did a character for them. She's kind of an alternative character. Her name is Rain Berry and she sits under a cloud. The cloud became her hat and umbrella became her skirt and was always wet and her hair was always wet and water falls from her cloud. And she has a tattoo because I wanted her to speak to Generation X, really. So it was-
Lauren: Very alternative, yes.
Muriel: So, it's really, wanted her to be part of that. And she has a collie named Melancholy and a duck named Marsh Mallard. And she's just really starting and I have three drawings of her and people are like, "Okay, so do another alternative character." And I said, "It takes a long time.” This one... Some of them are very quick." Okay. So, Giggle is not as time-intensive, but Rain Berry man, she just takes me a lot of time, but I love her. I love what she does.
Lauren: Do you do many like marketing efforts to get your new products out or how does the word spread about these new characters?
Muriel: Well, I do use Instagram and Facebook to do that. And then once somebody wants me to show up for something, I do. So, if it's glitterata and all techno music, or it's, what was the other one? Jim Bowie land. Jim Bowie, no, Rain Bowie celebrating Jim Bowie. And it was this party, Galactica, I dressed in Galactica clothes and I went, but you meet people and when people invite you to do things, this was something my father taught me, was don't say, “No,” just kind of look through that door and see if it's something you might want to try. And that has really helped me so much here in Tulsa. And even the stuff that you'd say, I know this is The F Word, it's a failure. It's not a failure. It's not a failure because when I was doing that, I met somebody else who then led me to somebody else. And I want to say, so let's look at something... And I went to OSU and I did the Red Dirt Film Festival. I have no idea. I'm not film. But he wanted me there and people wanted to see me. Well it was running up against the film they did want to see, okay. So really it was okay. And I had a slide program all ready except we didn't have the right gear to hook it up to their system and I thought, "What am I going to do now?" Well, I had my kitchen dancing.
Lauren: I love the kitchen dancing.
Muriel: So, I did a kitchen dancing to the Strawberry Shortcake song and it was on Instagram and I played that for my audience.
Lauren: For those who don't know, you need to go look up Muriel's Instagram and watch her kitchen dancing. It's so fun. So lively. How did that start?
Muriel: Oh, well, so when my husband was failing and he really couldn't walk and his eyesight was going and things were not good, I would do anything to make him happy. And I thought, "I'm going to dance. I'll dance for him because he enjoys that.” That's how it all started. And then after he was gone, it helped me get my emotions out, just dancing, a lot of it was mean. I did a lot of mean angry dancing to get that out of me and then I put it up and I don't remember why I put it up on Facebook, but I put it up and people liked it. They liked it. I look at it, it's not just straight dancing, it is interpretive dancing. So, just like I'm an illustrator, I illustrate by dancing and I pick my clothes and I am very fussy about the songs that I pick.
Lauren: And it didn't brings so much joy to people now, which I love. It was for you and now it's serving other people.
Muriel: It is. When I had somebody stop by, I think it was Facebook, and she said, "My kids saw you dancing on Facebook and they said, ‘Mom, who's that cool person? Can we dance with her?’” And I thought, "Okay, I'll keep dancing because that's really what I need. That's really what I want to see." And I want to see people in the Baby Boomer Generation and my Generation X up there moving and dancing and just being free.
Lauren: You said that your mantra taught to you by your dad is don't say, “No,” always say, “Yes.” Have there been moments in your business journey where that conflicted with some internal fear? Because it's not always easy to just say, “Yes,” to anything.
Muriel: Oh, gosh, it’s very scary. It's very scary.
Lauren: How do you navigate that conflict inside of you?
Muriel: So, the first time I was invited to Inkslingers, which is a wonderful group in Tulsa and they meet and show their art at a bar. And they hanging it up on the wall and they get to keep the profit and it's a wonderful idea, but it's Inkslingers and there's... I can look at a group and say, "Gee, there isn't anybody over 40 but me right now." And I walk into this strange bar, invited by people I've never met and get swooped away. And yeah, it was a little scary going into it. And then it was like, “I love these people, they are my people.” I have this thing where like... failure word, but mine is what my expectations... I don't have expectations. I'm devoid of expectations. I go into any new situations like I don't know what's going to happen. And here's the thing, if you go in that way, you're not going to be disappointed necessarily because you didn't have anything in mind anyhow. And mostly I find something to be a little bit delighted about and whatever experience it's been.
Lauren: Has saying yes to things ever got you in trouble.
Muriel: You know those things that go down blind alleys that don't lead you anywhere. Like interviewing the Fancy Chicken Breeders Club. I still have not put that into anything that works for me right now.
Lauren: It reminds me a lot, have you read the Shonda Rhimes book, “Year of Yes.”?
Lauren: You should read it.
Muriel: I should read it.
Lauren: So, Shonda Rhimes, she created Grey's Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder and she does a lot of big TV shows and she wrote this whole book on... She wanted to have a year of saying yes to things and confidently putting herself out there cause she believed a lot of fear was controlling her.
Muriel: I'm actually doing that.
Lauren: Yeah, you're living it.
Muriel: I did read a book called Living Without Goals and it was written by a woman and I finally found a book like, “Okay, this is how I do things.” I don't have goals. And I think of it often when I lived on a mountain in Medicine Park, like did I ever plan to live in a mountain in Medicine Park in Southern Oklahoma. Did I ever plan to have a six foot daughter? No, not in my dreams. I'm five foot by the way or just a little bit under, but my daughter's adopted. I like how things happen, I do.
Lauren: And that's so counter-cultural because I feel like entrepreneurs, they're all about goals and setting milestones and reaching for them. So, you're really going against the grain with that.
Muriel: But there are people that... I have a lot of people that help me. My son for one, he's in San Francisco, but he does it remotely. He has ideas that he sends my way. Redbubble was one of his like, "Mom, you should do this." And I've really studied and Redbubble's the best way to go. And I go, "Okay, we're going to go with it." I have a friend I would call Special K and he challenged me because I had 80 people on Instagram. And he had 140 or 130 he said, "I'm challenging. You need to get people on Instagram. I'm telling you this where you ought to be to show your art." I said, "Okay, okay."
Lauren: So, you surround yourself with the right people?
Muriel: I do.
Lauren: And then you ride the wave.
Muriel: I love these people. I listen to them to a certain point, to a certain point because I... Gosh, that's something about me. I have my ideas and I kind of do it my way.
Lauren: So, the question we always end with is for any business owners or entrepreneurs or dreamers or artists working really hard right now to make their ideas a reality and to build great businesses, for the ones who are maybe in a tough season of not seeing results or they made a big mistake, I know you wouldn't define it as a failure because failure is not the end of the story. But if they make a big mistake, what would you say to encourage people who are going through a season like that?
Muriel: I say, “Find help, find help.” It was a couple of people in Inkslingers and we've met... I didn't know them. We met for coffee, so they have to buy me coffee. We bring our sketchbooks, I look at their drawings and I see things that will work for them. And I encourage, it's encouragement. So, other people reach out, reach out through your social media, through your friends. Listen, I think that's going to help you a lot if you do that. And specifically for artists. I have to say this might surprise people, but all through my career I took side classes of life drawing. I took pottery. I do portrait. I still do that. You need to keep your skills up and you need to improve where you are and what you're doing.
Lauren: That's great advice. Muriel, thank you so much for coming in to share your story and we're so excited to see the new creations that come with your new studio.
Muriel: Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.
Lauren: Next week on The F Word.
Mike: And I remember there was a day that we had something like $250,000 in overdue accounts receivable, but only $5 in the bank.
Lauren: Mike Noshay, the founder of Verinovum, talks about barely avoiding bankruptcy on his way to becoming one of Oklahoma's top healthcare tech startups.
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