We had the good fortune of connecting with Stefanie Templeton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Stefanie, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes “risk,” as, “to expose to hazard or danger.” When I think about risk, I usually do not think about it in terms of physical hazard or danger as most of the risks I have taken have seemingly been existential in their implementation. I have consistently been someone who weighs my risks and plans accordingly. This doesn’t include the time I went sky diving in New Zealand over Mt. Cook during that lone backpacking trip I took after my father passed away in 2002. When planning for a career as an artist, I chose not to go to an art school as I preferred to immerse myself into a community of people on various career paths. That’s what I told myself. Frankly, I had been a bit afraid of the competition in an art school setting and unsure of my own ability to compete within the parameters of those friendships that I would make. I was afraid of that risk therefore I didn’t take it. I went on to graduate from a 4 year university with an illustration degree that I was sure would grant me the opportunity for consistent work. After all, in the art world, an illustrator was considered more of a tradesman than an artist. I had weighed the risk and moved myself forward in that direction. My move to California in 1996 appeared to most of my friends and family as risky. My only visit to California up until that point had been a weeklong trip in the 80’s with my parents to visit Universal Studios and the surrounding area. I had no job lined up and just enough money saved to get me to Santa Barbara and find a place to live. I did have restaurant experience and I knew in my heart that I could get a job waitressing while I bide my time finding my career. I did get that waitressing job and 3 other part-time jobs that I held at the same time, It was much more expensive to live in California than I had initially planned. I had to re-think my ultimate goal and the pathway to get there. I went to graduate school to further mitigate the risks of finding a good job as an art teacher. This paid off, and I was hired by a prestigious private school immediately following graduation. This school was the perfect place to train to become an excellent teacher. I had the budget and curricular freedom to become the best teacher I could be and I did. I became comfortable knowing what to expect from this environment. I was comfortable with the steady paycheck. However, through the years, as I gained competency as a teacher, I also, gained knowledge into the politics of this school and other independent schools like it and I became unhappy and unfulfilled in my career. I had dreams of creating my own small art school but was afraid to risk my steady life for the unknown success or failure I would achieve if I left this school. After my daughter was born in 2012, I accepted the opportunity to build a high school art program at a charter school closer to home. A new charter school was risky, but it felt good to be able to have a new goal, build a new curriculum, and be closer to my daughter. I took the risk. After less than a year, it became apparent that this school was not going to get off the ground for long. I too, was burning out and it was clear that I need to cut my losses and leave at the end of the school year. I quickly began to regret leaving my comfortable teaching position. At this point, I needed to make some big changes with my career and take the even bigger risk of starting my own company It felt like it was now or never to begin the next chapter, I weighed the options, did the math, validated the amount of time that I could spend with my new daughter superseding the amount of time I now spent with other people’s children. This time, I had my husband validating these risks with me and it was then that I was able to focus on this new path. Now, as a business owner, risk looks a bit different. In the beginning, my company, Little Yellow House Art, was just me as the owner and teacher. However, the only way to grow and bring in more income, was to hire more teachers. This created more risk. I now had to depend on others to help grow and maintain my brand. I carefully selected my teachers and trained them. It worked. We grew to just under 10 independent schools in the LA area with 12 different ceramics and woodworking classes within a few years. Then we added summer camps and winter camps. The risk had paid off. Then, coronavirus hit. As teachers, we had always put ourselves at risk of getting sick from our students but it had always been a risk worth taking. Sneezes and spittles in your face were just some of the hazards of the job when working with children. It took me years for my immune system to become used to all of the germs. This was something most teachers could attest to and the positives always seemed to outweigh the negatives. Coronavirus was a bit different. We didn’t know what was in store for us. The schools closed and all our after school classes were cancelled. Some families asked us to offer in-person classes. However, at that time, there was too much unknown about the virus and the risks were too many to re-open in person classes. We took the PPP loans offered by the government, with the idea that it was worth the risk to maintain the health of my business and employees. With the help of talented friends and family, we created online content to maintain the business.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The first 16 years of my career was spent at one school learning how to master teaching art. Being at the same institution for that long, gave me time to not only build on my curriculum but also to become involved in everything from cross-curricular integration to fundraising. I’ve seen Heads of School, Development Directors, Department Heads, and teachers come and go and have maintained many of those relationships, while still creating new relationships with my students and their families. The world of independent education is small and intertwined. It is important to maintain good relationships within the community for not just the purpose of moving to another opportunity at another school, or becoming a vendor to the schools, but also as a potential parent and member of the school community. I left my steady classroom career to begin my business as a vendor. It was my knowledge of how independent schools work and the relationships with many of my colleagues that I maintained which helped me to create new relationships within new school communities. I am not just a working member of the independent school community, I am also a parent in that community. This combination of experiences helps me to see and understand the many pieces of the big picture.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We are so lucky to live in LA. One of the best aspects of Los Angeles is how it is just a huge city made up of little neighborhoods, each with their own personality and the mild weather gives us the opportunity to check them all out. One of the best things about living here, is the ability to experience each neighborhood’s personality, usually through eating and shopping sprinkled with some outdoor entertainment. I’d begin on Monday by going up towards Malibu with a morning hike in Temescal, Cyn. and then lunch, a cocktail and a dip in the ocean at Paradise Cove. After spending a few hours there, you can head back down to Abbot Kinney for a stroll and an early dinner at Felix. If you get there early enough, you can get dinner at the bar without a reservation. Since it’s usually quiet on Monday, it’s a good time to play some pool after dinner at Hinano’s before calling it a night. Tuesdays are often free admission days to LACMA, so I’d recommend checking that out. If not, the Broad is the perfect place to spend your day. You can grab lunch next door at Otium and then head to Olivera Street for some strong margaritas and an early dinner. Wednesday, a hike in Griffith Park up to the Observatory is a great way to spend the day. You can either pack a lunch or grab a bite at the Observatory cafe. Do catch a show at the Observatory. It’s worth it! Down the hill you can grab a bite at Gingergrass in Silverlake for some yummy Vietnamese food or if your feeling bratwurst and beer, the Red Lion Tavern has the best patio around there. Thursday night is usually a good night for live music. Hopefully the Troubador has something good going on. Before that though, dinner at Dan Tana’s is a must! Friday is a great day to just spend at the beach. Things start to pick up around town for the weekend, so lounging on the beach in Marina del Rey is a good spot to go. You can grab a burger and beer back at Hinano’s and scoot over to Play Provisions for dinner on the patio. Saturday is a good day to hangout at a hotel pool. I like the VIceroy pool. They have day passes and you can order lunch. Saturday night is the perfect time to go to Korea town for dinner and Karaoke. If it is the 3rd Sunday of the month, it’s the day to go the the Long Beach Flea Market. Admission is only $8.00 and there is a variety of antiques and vintage clothing. It’s much more walkable and less hot than the Rose Bowl Flea in the summers.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Without the support from my husband, Colin, I’m not so sure I could have built this business so effectively in so short a time and my brother, Mike, put the bug in my ear for years about how I need to run my own business, control my own destiny, and that I was absolutely built for it. For that, I say, thanks guys.

Website: www.LittleYellowHouseArt.com
Instagram: @LittleYellowHouseArt
Facebook: Little Yellow House Art

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