Grants, cheap rent let Young Monster artists' collective gain financial traction

Grants, cheap rent let Young Monster artists' collective gain financial traction

July 23rd, 2009 by Brittney McKenna in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson Young Monster makes posters for bands and events like the ones hanging on their studio wall.

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson Young Monster makes posters...

A year ago, Chattanooga artist and designer Nick DuPey had an idea. With hard work and help from Chattanooga's small business resources, that idea became reality and Young Monster was born.

Young Monster is a collective of local artists specializing in screen-printed posters, clothing and extensive design and marketing work.

Mr. DuPey, 30, formed Young Monster last year after applying for a MakeWork grant from Chattanooga's CreateHere.

"We got steady checks every month for the rent," Mr. DuPey said of their time with MakeWork. "We also did Springboard, which was helpful."

CreateHere's MakeWork grant awards selected artists with funds to help cover startup expenses. Springboard, also of CreateHere, offers small businesses and nonprofits inexpensive business courses.

Mr. DuPey and fellow primary players Alison Burke, 27; Scott Campbell, 31; and Zach Hobbs, 30; agreed that Chattanooga's music scene, through local bands and venues like JJ's Bohemia, also played an integral role in launching Young Monster.

Thanks to that boost from local business and artistic communities, Young Monster could focus on what really matters: its work.

That focus means the designers haven't gotten much sleep this past year, though - Mr. DuPey, Ms. Burke and Mr. Hobbs still have day jobs that keep them working into the night.

"It's definitely a passion," Mr. DuPey said. "Our work is what keeps us going at night."

The designers burn the midnight oil at their studio in Chattanooga/Hamilton County's Business Development Center, which offers tenants low rent and shared resources for the first three years of operation.

"There is a lot of synergy here startup businesses can utilize," said Kathryn Foster, director of small business and entrepreneurship at BDC. "We've graduated 430 businesses with an 87 percent success rate in the last two decades."

Mr. DuPey said tenants "scratch each other's backs," and that kind of artistic camaraderie is important to Young Monster.

"We want to be instrumental in bringing people together," Ms. Burke, clothing designer and in-house writer, said. "I'd like to see a 'craft mafia,' for lack of a better term, occur in Chattanooga."

Thanks to that collaborative mindset, Young Monster had momentum when the grant ran out in April.

Recent projects include design for local business Main Street Market and high-profile rock band Sonic Youth as well as starting a clothing line and selling products at River Street's Leo Handmade Gallery and on craft Web site Etsy. The business also held a benefit weekend that included a show at JJ's Bohemia and a booth at the Chattanooga Market.

Their next goal, though, is attracting a wider variety of clients.

"We want to be a design house with a print component," said Mr. Campbell, who joined Young Monster in April. "Where we really show our strength is in design work."

"We'd like to take our style and help other businesses have a stronger design presence in the community," Mr. DuPey added.

As for starting a business during the recession, the artists are optimistic.

"You're getting a handcrafted item from us," Mr. DuPey said. "In today's economy, I think that means something to spend money on something people locally touched, instead of something mass produced.

"Young Monster didn't exist before the recession, so we have nowhere to go but up."