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As a ten year-old girl, Susan Kennedy dreamed of being a beacon of hope to the world through her art and words. Years later, author Henry Miller appeared in a dream and renamed her “SARK.” She dismissed the name, until Henry returned in another dream and said that her name would be Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. When Susan went to court to legally change her name to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, she realized the first letters of each word spelled SARK. Now a best-selling author and artist known as SARK, her sixteen books have sold over two million copies and her first poster, How to Be an Artist, sold 1.5 million copies.
Susan was twenty six when she consciously opted out of the money system, after meeting unhappy millionaires, thinking that money made people unhappy. As a result, she bartered, traded and studied the energy of money for the next decade. Eventually, she realized that it wasn’t money that caused unhappiness, but the individuals themselves.
In 1989, Susan was living meagerly but happily in San Francisco when she put her first poster, How to Be an Artist, in a local metaphysical store’s catalog. Unexpectedly, within a week she had 1000 orders. While the orders were welcome, there were a few challenges that came with this sudden demand for her art. First, each poster had to be produced by hand, which was extremely time-consuming. Second, Susan lived in a 180 square-foot magic cottage where work space was minimal. Fortunately, she devised a handmade system that enabled her to produce 11,000 posters. Resourceful, she overcame the space issue by working in a garage that wasn’t hers where she’d sneak in, create the posters, then throw a tarp over everything and run out when she heard the owners coming.
At the time, Susan didn’t fully realize she was launching a brand. In true artist fashion, she just thought she was following her creative vision. In 1989, a publisher saw the How to Be an Artist poster and contacted her, which led to her first of sixteen published books, A Creative Companion.
Realizing that she needed to form a company, Susan established Camp SARK, LLC in 1993. Eventually, she assembled a brainstorming team and hired a business mentor. For a year, she studied business basics and in 1996 her product licensing division was born. From 1996 – 1999, her team of five created 200 products that included stationery & accessories, note pads, greeting cards, posters/art prints inspiration cards, calendars, audio tapes, journals, address books, watches, tote bags, throws, t-shirts, picture frames, and mugs, ultimately selling over 1.5 million units.
Although Camp SARK was hugely successful sales-wise, the return on investment wasn’t there. Susan was shocked to learn the company’s cash flow was negative. The quality of the products was so high that the business wasn’t making a profit, partially because the team was busy selling and not earning. Recognizing that she had no established plan for growth, combined with the business’s financial reality, Susan restructured the company by disassembling the team and starting over.
Susan streamlined and reshaped the direction of the company by following her core values of freedom and joy, as well as focusing on publishing. She a hired a virtual team of consultants to help create and monetize her new website. In 2003, she re-launched her company as Planet SARK. Initially, Planet SARK consisted of three core business areas: publishing, events and ecommerce. Not surprisingly, Susan’s intuition to focus on publishing was right – that division grew nearly 60% in each of its first five years.
Today, Planet SARK offers many eproducts and programs, including a full catalog of creative ePrograms, books, audio, video, art, writing lessons and motivating assignments. The most recent additions are her ePrograms “SARK’s Transformation Exper!ence”, “Juicy Journaling,” and coaching service “Couching with SARK.” SARK travels across the United States for her “Ecstatic Events” where she speaks to groups and facilitates her inspiring in-person workshops. Her newest book is Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It.
SARK’s books are frequently chosen as One Spirit selections, and are translated into a number of foreign languages. Her work is widely used by colleges and universities as required reading and course material and she has been featured in Family Circle, Seventeen, Cosmo!Girl, USA Today, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and many online publications.
SARK is also one of the featured trailblazers in the critically acclaimed PBS Series, “Women of Wisdom and Power”.
What we learned from SARK: “One of the biggest missing pieces in business is not having a plan for growth. I didn’t. Between 1996 – 1999 I had 200 products and sold 1.5 million units. When my sales exploded, I didn’t understand that the money coming in wasn’t to be spent, but needed to be measured. Ultimately, due to financial losses, I had to disassemble my team and restructure. I needed to make significant changes to the business model.”
Just Say No
“After I restructured and reshaped the direction of my company, I got better at looking at things from a business perspective. I hired a virtual consultative team, including a business advisor. Unlike before, I began to say ‘no’ more than I said ‘yes’ to opportunities. For instance, I had a chance to do a big deal with QVC, but the margins and terms weren’t right, so I turned it down.”
“I wrote my first book when I was 10, but wasn’t published until I was 35 years old. When the time came, I was able to write A Creative Companion in two weeks. This was an unusual book – crooked, handwritten and rather odd looking. It was what delighted me most, so it delighted other people. That book and all my others are in multiple printings, and I created a recognizable style for the next 15 books to follow.”
Brand, Love and Energy
“My ‘ah-ha moment’ was about my brand. I didn’t know I was launching one, I thought I was just following my creative vision. If you start a brand, you ARE the brand, so take care of yourself. Learn to really love yourself, get lined up with your energy and have a great life. Then you AND your brand will flourish, and the world will really benefit from your creative offerings”
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