Xtra.art provided support for emerging artists, in addition they collaborated with businesses enhancing their corporate social responsibility and raised awareness of modern social issues through services and activities.
Who are you outside of being the co-founder of Xtra.art?
I am a mathematician. I am very much methodical and logical, but I am also creative. I dance and sing. I would say that I get my creativity from my parents, my Dad is an artist.
How and why did Xtra.art come about?
My co-founder, Yinan and I began Xtra. art. After seeing a classmate’s artwork go viral, and later go on to be commissioned, we decided to begin with an exhibition in Hoxton and ask our classmates to exhibit their work. We had the exhibition for 2 weeks and a footflow of 200 people. This was the beginning of Xtra.art.
A few months later we decided to apply to the Arts Council England for a £15,000 grant. We were so young that we couldn’t even sign off on the grant ourselves. Over 4 years, we reached a national audience of 18,000 people, worked with 160 artists and hosted over 220 days of exhibition throughout the United Kingdom. We became known as The Young Leaders – most people in the industry were old, white and middle age men and we were the opposite.
People would judge us, but often we turned that on its head and made it into a marketing opportunity.
What happened with Xtra.art?
Through Kickstart London Accelerator (a cross-university accelerator programme), we employed eight new team members, which taught me a lot about leadership. During this process, we recognised the need to commercialise XTRA.art.
We pivoted, changing to a subscription model which offered artwork to the corporate world. However, we quickly realised that we were no longer passionate about the new model, it no longer supported our ethos, it didn’t feel right.
How did you know it was the right time to move on?
When your values are being compromised and you are no longer passionate, then you know it is the right time. Also it can be difficult when your cofounders are so far, we were split between London, Durham and Oxford. The practicality of the new model meant all the activity was focused in London, the entire business fell on my shoulders.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
My mentor once said:
“Never settle for anything less in life.”
Always strive for more and better, continue grinding and hustling. If you have a goal, don’t settle for anything less. You can do it.
“Don’t work hard, work smart.”
Use your limited resources in the best way possible. What sets you apart as an entrepreneur is always being cheeky, it is simple: if don’t ask, you don’t get.
What is next for you?
I’m an artist besides being a mathematician. Since the age of 12 I have designed outfits for video shoots, lead, dancers and liked the idea of being a fully fledged tailor.
In the near future I want to work on a line that tackles cultural appropriation. So many people are afraid of appropriating culture that it actually becomes a barrier to appreciating culture.
I want us to get away from the stigma of cultural appropriation and strive for cultural appreciation.