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  • 25 November 2014
  • The UPS Store

#ViaStories: Small Business Owners Connect For Inspiration

As The UPS Store continues to connect inspirational small business stories through #ViaStories, we sat down with small business owner Richard Friend to learn about his whirlwind of a journey to where he is today.

Richard never imagined he would go from drawing album cover art for recording artists, to perfecting images of Batman and Wonder Woman. But after turning his passion – drawing – into a successful career, Richard switched gears once more and started his own business, allowing him to create original artwork for fans all over the world.

When you work for yourself, you’re able to take risks and change pace. The energy that comes with that is extremely exciting

Today, small business owners can do more than ever before.

Meet Richard Friend, Comic Book Artist

Tell me about your business.

Essentially, I am my own brand – Richard Friend.

I worked as a staff artist for Warner Bros. Entertainment for 15 years. Three years ago, I decided to begin freelancing original work. I’m most commonly known as a professional comic artist, although recently I’ve worked on a large series of private commissions, fine art gallery shows and album covers for heavy metal bands.

How did you get started?

Originally, I was a musician in a rock band; drawing was something I did on the side. I jumped at every opportunity to draw cover art for bands – it was a way for my two passions to combine.

At the time, comic books were a booming industry. I decided to focus my career on drawing, and sent samples of my work to various companies.

Before I knew it, my life changed. In a matter of six months, I was working alongside the best in the business as a staff artist for DC Comics™ in San Diego.

What inspired you to create your own business?

Shortly after joining DC Comics, the industry took a pretty big hit. Unfortunately, the office I worked in was closed and at that point, I felt that this amazing career I had recently broken into – against all odds – was over.

As it turns out, it was just beginning. I began freelancing again and creating my own original art on the side.

As a small business owner, I’m now able to work for whoever I want. I’m no longer working solely on pre-existing properties; I’m approaching different types of work with my own ideas.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Working alongside Jim Lee – a major icon in contemporary comics – was a huge influence in my career.

For over a decade, I was lucky enough to work for his company as a staff artist with a small, elite group of artists. Jim pushed us to find our own style of art, instead of mimicking his. I admired his work ethic, energy and the enthusiasm he brought to his work.

What is the most rewarding part of being a small business owner?

When you work for yourself, you’re able to take risks and change pace. The energy that comes with that is extremely exciting. You can be as successful as you want in a particular area without feeling stuck.

I always wanted to do fine art projects, but feared how fans would interpret it. When I began freelancing, I created a series of dark pieces. My fans loved them and wanted more. It turns out the one thing I was most terrified to pursue ended up being one of my greatest projects. That risk and reward keeps me going.

What makes you passionate about your business?

Reaching people. After working in comics for 13 years, it’s exhilarating to step back and realize how much of an impact I’ve made on people all over the world. There are millions of copies of books I’ve worked on out there for fans to enjoy. Being able to share my passion for drawing with the world pushes me to create more.

What lesson have you learned that would be most inspiring to others?

Sometimes, when you think the worst is going to happen, something even better lies ahead. To go from essentially losing my job, to working with one of the best comic artists in the business makes me never want to quit or give up. You never know what’s around the corner or what tomorrow can bring.

Tell me about your relationship with your local The UPS Store.

I’ve been using The UPS Store for over three years to print my art. As an artist, I often attend comic conventions like San Diego Comic Con. Everything hinges on the merchandise that I bring. I need a place to print affordable, flawless prints of my art and The UPS Store provides that.

Also, as a small business owner, the addition of 3D printing in-store is pretty exciting. For me, that opens a ton of new opportunities that go beyond drawing comics. Whether it’s a toy or something else, 3D printing is a technology I’m looking forward to trying.

How do you think sharing our personal #ViaStories can help small business owners connect with each other?

Seeing people from all different walks of life take their passions and turn them into a career is truly admirable.

Connecting with other small business owners, who made their dreams a reality, really offers the support needed to reach your own goals and dreams. By sharing success and being in sync with one another, we can learn so much about becoming successful small business owners. We can all move our careers forward as small business owners by simply connecting with each other.

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