New Park Creative Marketing Director and Founder Carrianne Polo spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her entrepreneurial journey, the importance of mentorship, and why she’s proud to be part of the Hartford community.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background. When and why did you decide to start your own business?
CARRIANNE POLO: I started out doing graphics and animation for broadcast journalism and eventually went on to freelance. Back when I was looking for a full-time job, I was getting leads and realizing it was paying more than working for someone else. So, I was earning a decent amount and doing more creative work, which I liked. I had creative control. I was working from home. I thought: Why wouldn’t I put my energy into this instead? I could get my own clients and work with them directly.
NAN: It just clicked.
CARRIANNE: Right. The path was leading this way. Once I started focusing my efforts on freelancing, it was an easy segue into starting a business. I had experience from working for a variety of companies, including some Fortune 500 brands, where I was producing creative work—the visual, the product, the content. I was doing a lot of that legwork, so as far as putting a proposal together or working directly with a client, I thought: I can do that.
Little did I know, so much more goes into a business. You end up getting even farther away from what you love doing because you need to do all the other stuff too.
NAN: How did you learn all those other business elements—accounting, hiring, marketing yourself?
CARRIANNE: The nice thing about working in design and marketing is that you can do it for yourself. So right off the bat, you can make yourself look presentable and professional as a business.
When I was freelancing, I did work for many in-house communications department, agencies, or producers. I jumped at any opportunity to be in a meeting with the client or ask questions about how the proposal was being put together or see how the business was running and how they were using communications.
I’ve seen amazing organizations with great culture and great internal processes to model a business after—and I’ve seen some of the worst-run organizations, too! Through those experiences, I saw what I wanted for my own company and, more importantly, what I didn’t want.
That’s where a lot of my experience came from. The rest has been trial and error. Going through struggles. Having major wins.
NAN: When did you launch your business?
CARRIANNE: I became an LLC in 2013 and, for two to three years prior, I was a sole proprietor DBA Studio 73 Multimedia. This April, we rebranded as New Park Creative.
NAN: Tell us a little about your business evolution.
CARRIANNE: Part of my updated mission statement is to use my experience to work with and mentor young women in business and entrepreneurship.
Starting and growing a company has been a wild ride of ups and downs. I want to help young women gain the confidence and skills to pursue their passions and be successful in business. I think about all the ways I could have benefited from mentorship—things I wish I knew early on, times I wish someone would’ve told me “You’re doing exactly what you need to do” or “Have you thought about doing it this way?” I want to be that source of support for someone else.
Plus, I love connecting with people, and giving back and mentoring young women is a rewarding way to do so! I’m working on collaborating with a few local organizations and excited to see what good we can do together.
NAN: In what other ways have you plugged into the local small business ecosystem?
CARRIANNE: Most recently, while I was working on the rebrand, I connected with Joe Waxman and Miki Ray at Greater Hartford SCORE. I’ve also taken advantage of resources through the Connecticut Small Business Development Council, speaking with advisors and meeting with them at WORK_SPACE in Manchester. Through Connecticut Innovations I became a CTNext service provider and, through their grant program, conducted a market research study for one of my clients.
NAN: Can you share your biggest challenge or learning experience?
CARRIANNE: It’s hard for me to look back on the past couple of years and not think: Why didn’t I do this rebrand years ago? Or feel disappointed that maybe I’m not as far along as I wanted to be.
Truthfully, I have been very successful these last few years, both at growing a business and growing a family. I’ve had two children in the past four years and continued to run this business. There’s no guidebook for how to run a company while also taking maternity leave. You just do the very best you can to push forward. I’ve had to redefine success to include personal goals, too. And I should be very proud of the work I’ve done personally and professionally.
NAN: Let’s talk location. Why Hartford?
CARRIANNE: I’ve been working in and around Hartford for more than 10 years. I’ve met so many wonderful clients, vendors, and friends in Hartford, whether through the arts community or through doing business with them. I feel very connected to Hartford because of that.
We are tied to Hartford. I’m proud of the fact that our office is in Hartford and we are part of this community. We’re doing our small part to be part of something bigger and make it even better.