In 2007 we did our very first interview with the Daily Oklahoman. I'm certain to this day I cursed myself because in it I said, "It's not about the money." Bryson Panas (a co-founder of T&L) was in the college of business at OU at the time the article was published. In one of his business classes, his professor took the newspaper article and projected it in front of the class. He highlighted my quote and said, "This is bullshit."
Maybe he was right. Running a for-profit business without a regard for profit is absolutely ludicrous. For 10 years (only 7 of which we paid ourselves), I've had a salary that bounces between fast food management and first-year teacher. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. There are benefits of my job that no other occupation can offer. I'm just stating that the comment I made almost 10 years ago was made without much forethought. It was cultivated by the passion of a 20-year-old's arrogant ideas of social justice and moral corporate reform. It's a statement I can now look at and chuckle as I see how ambitious we were when we first kickstarted this business. It's a statement that both humbles and encourages me today.
Most creatives will tell you that they are their own worst critic. In this scenario that is most certainly true. My demons constantly remind me how a life lived otherwise would've been much more lucrative, how the events we've hosted were only temporary, how art is only profitable for a group I will never be apart. However, reason has always overcome these demons, and that statement rings true even 10 years later. Maybe, just maybe, I was right... Maybe it isn't about the money.
As we approach Tree & Leaf's 10 year anniversary, I am starting to become quite nostalgic. I've had many conversations about a decade of business and the significance is starting to hit me. I've had discussions about the sacrifices, the struggles, the future, and the financials. At the end of these conversations I have a tendency to reflect and ask myself, "Has it been worth it?"
I started digging around to find throwback photos I could post to Instagram in preparation for our anniversary party. While sifting through 10 years of files, videos, and photos, I am very much reminded that it has definitely been worth it.
I've posted many of these photos before, but I want to share with you a few that I think embody the mission of Tree & Leaf. I want to give a little context with each one, shout out a few folks, and share a few stories. Before I hop in the way-back-machine, I have to be completely sincere in offering my appreciation to YOU. Artists, musicians, print clients, blog-readers, store customers, neighboring small businesses, employees, interns, event sponsors, family, and friends: I will never be able to say it enough - THANK YOU!
Around that same time we started hosting an event called School of Thought. At the time it was just to try to get likeminded kids together. Anyone involved in art, breakdancing, and music was invited. This event basically spawned what is now Drink & Draw and the School of Thought emcee battles hosted by Ronnie Harris. The above video is from the very first School of Thought. My camera and editing skills were of equal quality.
The store is now fuller than ever and has a vibe that continues to support the core values we've always had; music, art, and community. At the end of the day, the products we sell are just products. I personally print all of our shirts and posters, but they are only little trinkets that represent a greater mission of cultivating creativity and community.
I'm super thankful for the staff I have now; store manager, Steven Silva, and the chump squad, Jacob Danley and Matt Hildebrand.
We'll all be ready to party on Sunday, October 9th to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Please come hang out with us for a T&L reunion and rally for continued community growth. Please come by so I can personally thank you for your support.
Here's to 10 years and whatever the future may hold.