We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Li and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Growth takes effort and a lot of it. It takes you far out of your comfort zone and many people are uncomfortable with that. It’s easy to start something — but to finish it? Just look at how crowded gyms are at the beginning of January versus late February. So it’s just as easy to give up as it is to begin – or is it? I think the level of ‘skin in the game’ dramatically changes the equation to a more complex version. Anytime I’m in the consideration phase I have to ask myself – is the impetus for quitting meant to build a better future or is it to escape the present moment? I’ve been on both sides of that argument and only recently has it been the former. Most of my career I’ve at times all the time toyed with the notion of giving up. Entrepreneurship is hard. Especially when applied to Jewelry, an ”expendable” creative field that is intimately affected by market crashes, unstable economic trends, government regulations, natural disasters and yes, now I can add pandemics to the list. Finding the resolve to carry on when there are so many external factors moving against me and my goals has always been difficult. But – and this one is a big one, I learned to be mentally tough through it all. I’ve found that side effects of seeking this mental toughness include more patience, a thirst for knowledge, more faith in my own capabilities to overcome challenges, an evolved business sense, adaptability skills, and so much more. These are the rewards for embracing the suck. Their importance outweighs the easy times with the caveat that I still need the occasional win to fuel my steadfastness. All this being said, I believe when anyone fully commits to growth and learning, new opportunities will naturally arise. They have for me at least. Will I make a full pivot in the future to pursue these? I’m not sure but it feels good to consider something that has a positive spin on shifting gears that are not tied to hardship. As for giving up as a whole? Nah, I like growth way too much at this point. This is how I know to keep going.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It all began with a real desire to create jewelry so unique that you never would have seen anything like it before. Not in a challenging way, but much like how a beautiful object would capture a mesmerizing stare from behind the glass in a museum. Originality has always been the driving force behind my art. In the past, I’ve been very intentional in pushing the boundaries away from pedestrian design into a more editorial realm where my pieces feel more at home. Because my art is wearable it was a natural fit in the world of fashion. It was a perfect marriage and resulted in countless fashion shoots, editorial features, runway collaborations, and finally to the eventual solo runway collections. My involvement with the burgeoning fashion community here in Denver has been invaluable in getting my brand out there. Furthermore, the relationships I gained in the process are the true treasures reaped from these experiences. While the glitz and glamour are a fun ride to be on there’s always two sides of every coin. What started as an experimental maker project now had the pressures of monetization. Any artist who began their career out of a passion for what they create will tell you how difficult it is to shift into a business mindset. I was horribly unequipped to make this adaptation, especially without any business background. I was full of fear of the unknown. That fear led to trusting the wrong people to do the work for me. This inherently caused a series of poorly thought out decisions based on very bad recommendations that drove my business to the brink of failure. But the flame of passion is a hard one to extinguish. Despite the seemingly endless malaise of depression and self-doubt, a sense of clarity emerged. If I want to continue doing what I set out to do I would have to roll up my sleeves and get to work myself. I would have to tackle steep learning curves, get way outside my comfort zone, and put in the hours….lots of hours. So, in 2016 I simultaneously fired up my online store and began learning bench jeweling skills. Both technology and the technical proficiency of becoming a bench jeweler were way outside my wheelhouse at the time. But I was determined to change the course of my business and evolve. After that, I fully emersed myself in digital marketing. This pursuit led to working with the Pinterest development and creator teams for a new product of the platform called story pins. Along with an invite to their HQ to participate in their Creators Conference and be a presenter at their annual internal 2-day event called KnitCon. Since then my expertise in digital marketing with an emphasis on Pinterest marketing has afforded me the opportunity to coach hundreds of students in their own online marketing efforts. Additionally, I do production design for a private label with my bench jeweling proficiency. My greatest strengths were revealed only after being forged by the fire. By taking risks and not only embracing the challenges but craving that feeling of conquering my fear was I able to emerge from the shadows completely renewed. The most important takeaways I think is the ability to believe in yourself even when the outcome can’t be proved and the odds are stacked against you. You have to be persistently brave to persevere through the unknown and embrace the suck. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, especially from yourself! Get out of your own way and well….just do it. (hey it’s the Nike slogan for a good reason) I continue to juggle my own brand creating one-of-a-kind collections that stay true to my roots of creating truly unique work, coaching students to help them with their online businesses, doing production design for the private label jewelry company, and being a forever student in pursuit of more knowledge.
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.
Assuming that the timing of this visit is after COVID is no longer an issue and during the summer months, I would become a complete tourist in my own city. Cheesy I know, but when you live in a city that you call home, it’s easy to take for granted all that it has to offer. Let’s first address the pink green elephant in the room and get this visitation party started with a Cannabis Tour. This activity is way more interesting than just heading to my local store around the corner. A visit to Denver is not complete without an Arts & Culture day. The DAM who is renowned for bringing world-class exhibitions seems to be a good place to start. Since the Golden Triangle is home to some of the biggest art museums in Denver it’s easy to do a day tour to also visit the Clifford Still and the Kirkland Museum. Between museum-hopping, we can grab a delicious bite for lunch at one of my favorite local haunts Levan Deli. The MCA is certainly worth mentioning to wrap up the tour for cocktail hour on the rooftop which has provided a gorgeous backdrop to one of my fashion shoots. You can’t ignore participating in ‘America’s favorite past time’ and it doesn’t hurt that Coors Field is one of the nicest ballparks in the nation. Catching a game with rock pile tickets is usually the way to go. If we’re craving outstanding pizza Napoletana style Marcos Coal Fired Pizza delivers perfectly every time and is located a couple of blocks from the stadium. I used to work there as their marketing director and it’s still one of my favorite pizzas. Finish this day with a visit to the Denver Botanical Gardens for one of their concert series. We would just need to be sure to bring a blanket, charcuterie board, and wine. The best place to find fancy cheeses, cured meats, and wine is Marczyk who has a curated selection that is mostly sourced locally. I can speak to this with authority because I used to live a block away and frequented this establishment often. Once my visitor has acclimated to the elevation (altitude sickness is real) taking a day trip to head to the hills is a must. I’ve been wanting to do a day hike around Mount Evans and this would be a perfect opportunity to discover something new in my own backyard. If my guest prefers to forgo the exercise than a drive to the Mount Evans scenic byway is equally as stunning minus the exertion. Absolutely no trip is complete without experiencing the breathtaking views of Red Rock Amphitheater while seeing a favorite band or for a viewing of a fan-favorite release from their movie night summer series. Most of my most memorable music shows have taken place here. The first-row center for Daft Punk on the a clear night with a full moon is one of the more notable ones to mention. To make it a full day trip there’s plenty of trails to explore among the stunning scenery. If my guest was a foodie and craft beer/spirits aficionado than partaking in a downtown craft brewery and food tour is sure to tantalize the taste buds. As long as we were centrally located we could swing in for a round of mini-golf at Urban Putt and grab lunch at Milk Market. The courses at Urban Putt are modeled after Denver landmarks and are the most ingenious indoor courses I’ve ever played. Milk market has different vendors to cater to just about any taste. Pro-tip I recommend that you indulge in the lobster roll from Albina by the Sea. I promise you won’t regret it. To properly cap off the day I think happy hour at Cooper lounge in the upstairs of Union Station would do more than suffice. I would slide in a request to their bartender to make a craft libation off-menu. Giving someone the breath to explore their creativity in their craft has always benefited the end-user – me and of course, my guest.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mother Barbara, my husband Kris, my favorite collector of my work and friend Janet, the Denver fashion community, my wonderfully supportive group of friends, and the ever-growing number of mentors inside the digital marketing industry.
Photographer – Nicole Perez Makeup – Mel Akana McIntosh Models – Madison Spialek, Jasmine Hicks, Savana Ray, Jessica Naz, Antoinette Rose, Lauren Vaughn, and Steffy Sickgirl