Let’s Get to Work with Toni van Eeden

One of the most exciting things about the ARTPRENEUR conference is the opportunity for artists to make connections with their peers and to learn things they may not have expected. This year, we’re asking the speakers and MC’s for some insights and thoughts around being an ARTPRENEUR and any tips they may have for other artists. Be sure to register to reserve your place to hear more from them on November 4th, 2017!


Toni van Eeden is a local brand developer, digital strategist, writer, and vlogger who is looking forward to taking part in this year’s ARTPRENEUR Ottawa 2017 Conference.

Recently (since June 2017) she’s been working on a new endeavour with her husband Aaron van Eeden as the co-owner, brand manager, and digital marketer for Your Urban Carpenter, a custom carpentry shop for city dwellers and their small businesses. In 2015 Toni founded RedBrick Rooster Inc., a branding agency built solely for entrepreneurs who wanted to develop resilient brands and authentic social content. She is also on the advisory committee for CSArt Ottawa and on the Board of Directors for the Ottawa Arts Council.

Similar to the previous blog post with Brenda Dunn, we begin with the topic of challenges. Many individuals, whether they consider themselves to be an entrepreneur or not, will find that they have to come to face Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career. Because people get into business for themselves for many different reasons, Imposter Syndrome can come in many different forms.

“Sometimes it’s feeling like your skills are subpar or your business savvy is lacking, or simply that the world around you seems to be having a much easier time of it than you are.  Entrepreneurship is not synonymous with perfection or even ‘top of your game.’ It is a framework. Each system or framework has its own set of freedoms and constraints. The best thing you can do for yourself is to know yourself. I still have bouts of imposter syndrome but I’ve built a world wherein I have learned a great many exciting things, grown personally, failed safely, and nothing about that is fraudulent.”

Entrepreneurship can yield many rewards for people who face their challenges head-on. For van Eeden, one of the rewards, as well as one of her favourite aspects of entrepreneurship, is that the framework of the career itself gives her the opportunity and freedom to play with possibilities.

“My mom frequently tells me how when I was a kid the worst thing you could do to me was give me a toy and say ‘here, play with this’. She learned very quickly that I was happiest when I could spread all of my toys around me and from there, a world and its characters would develop organically. Some parents may have flipped out and seen only a mess and an undisciplined child. My mom saw that there was a logic in my mess and instead taught me how to hone it. Now, my strength is being able to see the big picture, or as I like to think of it – the various big-picture possibilities. The entrepreneurship framework gives me the freedom to envision and play around with big picture possibilities without worrying about the optics. I think a lot of people miss out on feeling that complete rush that comes with being “in the flow” because their work environment is overly concerned with the optics.” All that said, she does also suggest developing some constraints in order to make sure you keep getting things done.

A post shared by Toni van Eeden (@toni_town) on

Linking back to the topics of getting things done and knowing yourself, van Eeden has a productivity practice to share:

Rest, the most neglected of all the productivity practises, and tracking your biorhythms. About 2 years ago I started aggressively showing symptoms for what we’re only in the process of diagnosing as Fibromyalgia. In a nutshell, I’m tired A LOT. While two years ago I had no idea what was wrong with me, I still had chronic mental and physical fatigue. I was running a business so I needed to figure something out. So, I developed a toolkit for “Redefining Productivity” that prompts the user to reassess how they measure their productivity.”

Knowing yourself is a process that can clearly take time, and applies to all aspects of life, whether career or personal. “When you’re just starting out, especially, your lack of experience and ability to assess your own value means you’re going to undercharge or under quote people. It’s going to cause a lot of stress and maybe even some resentment if you’re not careful.”

Upon reflection, van Eeden wishes someone had told her that it’s okay to fire a client. “It’s okay to reach a point where you have to let some of these clients go. Mainly because once you’ve quoted them at a certain rate it becomes very difficult to double or even triple your price (yes sometimes we get it quite wrong in the beginning). You don’t have to burn the bridge. After all they were probably a part of what helped you gain credibility and traction. I opt for relative transparency in these situations but that only comes after many failures on my part to manage those transitions or ‘firings’. Either way, it’s going to happen and it’s okay.”

A post shared by Toni van Eeden (@toni_town) on

Ending with one of the themes of this year’s conference, we have some parting thoughts from van Eeden on the idea of using disruption as a positive force.

“First, we need to differentiate between the kind of disruption that gives consumers more freedom and the kind of disruption that gives people more freedom. We celebrated Uber for the consumer experience it allowed us but were quickly let down when we found out it was yet another clever trap for the same old crap. Sexism. Racism. Greed. We need to stop focusing on ways to “hack” an industry to make it more consumer-friendly or user-friendly. 

I want to see our innovators focus on “hacking” the human experience to be more inclusive and less destructive. Yes, consumerism is so tied up in self-expression and the human experience that at times it is hard to differentiate. Which is precisely why I believe that new businesses have an extraordinary opportunity to change real social inequalities. Some of my favourite examples are artists and arts organizations that are using the entrepreneurship model. By tapping us as consumers they can find real monetary reward and the security that comes with it but based on a set of values aimed at enhancing the human experience and increasing the visibility of fringe cultures. This type of disruption may not be as glamorous for the individual but the benefits are much more universally felt.”

Got some questions for Toni? Ask them at this year’s ARTPRENEUR Ottawa 2017 Conference! Click here to register and sign up to attend her breakout session – Session B: Building Relationships Through Content

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