We had the good fortune of connecting with Kai Ellis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kai, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was raised by a King & a Queen (RIP MOM) tbat always stressed/placed focus on “doing for self” & having control of your life.
I’ve always had had that independent creative hustle spirit. I’ve always wanted to create/pave my own lane, be my own boss, & pass the fruits of my labor, prayers, & dreams on to my 3 Suns (Jay, Myles, & Maison).
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Growing up, my dad was an avid reader/comic book collector. He also created/drew a lot of characters. I would copy his drawings, & pair them with the stories in the comics to create my own charcters & stories. I started doing this at a very young age (maybe around 2nd/3rd grade). Friends, family members & teachers would see my lil’ drawings and tell me how dope they were, & push me to keep going. By the time I reached Jr. HS, I’d won quite a few awards & prizes for my art throughout school & my community (East St. louis,Il).
In my 20s, I created a record label/production company (music being another way I’ve stayed in my creative bag) & needed artwork for my groups album covers, flyers, posters, tees, promo, etc.
This was pre-internet, and the few graphic design companies that existed were out of state (Pen & Pixel Grfx being the dopest/my biggest influence – they were responsible for No Limit, Cash Money, & the whole bling sfx era)
Long story short, I got tired of paying big money for basic artwork. My imagination was always bigger than my budget…lol.
My parents/grandparents always said, “If you want something right, you do it yourself!” One day my pops gave me one of his old computers, & the software for Paintshop Pro & Photoshop. I learned the tools, & taught myself both programs within a few weeks (by messing up till I could’nt mess up anymore).
Word (& my group’s visuals) got out, & within a few months, I was the “goto” artist/designer for local rappers, & businesses East St. Louis/St. Louis area.
Since then, I created for the likes of Domino, Syleena Johnson, The Mayor/City of East St. Louis, various businesses/political campaigns, & I’ve had the honor of having my artwork presented/displayed @ local museums & galleries. #Blessed
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My best friend calls me a “popular introvert”…lol.
With that being said, I have a few spots I frequent, so I’d take them there.
Eat: I don’t eat crazy, & my folks know I COOKS…lol, so I’d offer to cook. I love a good steak & if we had to step out, we’d end up @ Hop House, Texas Roadhouse, or 54th St. Grill & Bar in Shiloh.
Drinks: I support my folms, so we’d hit Denese’s, & Culture Cafe (Shout out 2 Dino).
I’m super tight with the bartenders/staff @ HotShots, so we’d be turning up there, for sure. lol
Also: I’m a big cigar head, so I’d introduce he/she to the culture (as I’ve done many others) by grabbing. some sticks (some from my brother #BowtieCigars), & taking them to Stanley’s, Local Legends, & The Cigar Inn (Shout out 2 my brother Chuck!)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I believe whole-heartly that we are all born “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
I know for sure MY everything (knowledge, wisdom, energy, creativity, & overstanding is the rest of being blessed with 2 strong, loving, & encouraging parents (Clarence Jr. & Montwella Ellis – Rest in Paradise Mom). I’m also inspired by my 3 Suns Jay, Myles, & Mais!
Linkedin: @artuvkai & Kai Ellis
Other: For business/info … firstname.lastname@example.org