I first thought of becoming an entrepreneur at age 12. I had always been passionate about fulfilling my creative desires through painting, but you can only sell a painting for an x amount of money and reach only a small number of people. I saw the bigger picture. I would make a business out of my art and help a lot of people through it. When my paintings get deconstructed onto my sneakers, I can sell them at much larger quantities and scale up production. In reality, art and business go hand-in-hand. An entrepreneur wants to constantly innovate on their style. An artist must promote their art and run a business. I am 17 and have already founded a successful sneakers brand.

My roadmap to becoming an entrepreneur was fairly simple. I convinced my parents to buy me a few canvases, and saved up some birthday money to buy my equipment. After I painted the canvases, people started paying attention, and I sold a bunch to a local restaurant in my native Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The small sales I got from there, I leveraged them to grow my distribution and email list, and create larger-scale paintings. In late spring 2017, I announced to my parents my plan to create a sneaker line marrying onto shoes the creative forces of phenomenally incompatible personalities. Visualize sneakers pairing together Jean-Michel Basquiat and Albert Einstein; that’s what I do. I named the brand RBLB, which stands for Right-Brain-Left-Brain.

I identified a gap in the market of wearable art and people responded. Other companies are selling wearable stuff, but their products lack a story. Unless people feel that a T-shirt tells a story, a story that actually resonates with them, they won’t be inclined to buy it.  Through the concept of wearable art I promote, every piece tells a story. It doesn’t matter if it's a hoodie with shoes, or a pair of pants, or shorts, or sneakers; the item has to  resonate with the user.

Within 30 days, I will be launching RBLB's Collection 1 or the 2050 Collection, which uses deconstructed elements from five paintings I did to reimagine certain landscapes in the year 2050. I also just wrapped up the COVART Challenge, an initiative through which I raised enough money to provide over 200,000 meals to Kenyan children affected by COVID-19; this will become an annual fundraising thing. When they keep asking me what the secret of my success is, my answers remain simple.

You need to have a keen narrative. You need to start from a position of passion. A lot of entrepreneurs just go after what’s popular and get lost in the noise. Having a strong story that resonates with people will set you apart. Then, you have to tune out the naysayers. Listening to them is an act of selfishness, because you're essentially depriving the world of your talents when you listen to them. Networking is crucial. Some of the people I’ve met, for example, Harley Finkelstein, chief operating officer of Shopify, with whom I have partnered, I met them at a conference where we had both been invited to speak. It was an organic interaction.  People who want to make an impact on the world are somewhat naturally attracted. But you also need to intentionally reach out to others who are willing to support your ideas, from customers to collaborators or workers or suppliers of services that you can hire to help in areas that are important to your organization. Maybe you contact 50 people and only one replies. That’s one response to get you started. You know what I mean?

In the future, I want to grow RBLB as much as possible and make it sustainable--all the materials we use are made from recycled plastic water bottles. I definitely want to incorporate the brand with a lot of charity initiatives as well and keep on making strides at the intersection of creativity and technical design, right where the left and the right brain meet. The stories we can tell.

Evan Sharma is a renowned artist who has branched out into the fashion world by deconstructing paintings he produces onto the sneakers he sells.

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