Art has always been a constant in Indya Wright’s life—what she calls her “catharsis.” Yet, it took a leap of faith for her to turn it into a career.

“I’d draw when I wasn’t feeling well or sing to self-soothe if I had a bad day,” Wright says. “But art was never something I was encouraged to pursue professionally. My family didn’t see it as a viable career and never realized it was, or could be, profitable.”

So, Wright instead started working in what those in her Washington, D.C. neighborhood called “good government jobs.” She served as a commercial banker before becoming a deputy clerk at the D.C. Superior Court, where she oversaw the daily operations of the Landlord and Tenant Branch. It was there she had an epiphany. She realized she was miserable.

“I was watching people fight to keep a roof over their head every day,” Wright says. “As the youngest person in the office, I saw some colleagues who had been there 20 or 30 years numb to tears. They weren’t phased by seeing people cry. It broke my heart.”

Taking the Leap into Entrepreneurship

Wright put in her two weeks’ notice without having a backup plan or any money saved. Although risky, she followed the advice she had heard comedian Steve Harvey share in a video she stumbled upon online: “You gotta jump.” She wrote about Harvey’s words and her “proverbial jump” in an article for the HuffPost, which caught the attention of producers from “The Steve Harvey Show,” who were looking for people who had either successfully transitioned careers or wanted to transition but were scared.

Indya Wright
Indya Wright

“I was that person in the middle who had jumped but didn’t have a plan, and so they invited me to be a guest on his show,” Wright says. “He gave me $1,000, and his only stipulation was that I couldn’t use it for necessities. He said, ‘You have to put this toward whatever the dream is, whether it’s your website, equipment that you need, whatever.’”

At the time, Wright had been helping some former classmates from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts land opportunities to perform around D.C., including the chance to sing at the Capital One Arena. The success encouraged her to pursue her passions professionally. She used the money from Harvey to create the website for her public relations and production firm, Artiste House.

“I recognized this was something I was doing in my free time for friends while still using skills people are willing to invest in, like building relationships, networking, being a strong writer, and seeing opportunities for them to expand and amplify their brand,” Wright says.

Over the past four years, she’s grown Artiste House into a full-service creative firm, offering services from public relations and TV and film production to brand identity, web design, copywriting, and social media strategy. Like most small businesses, though, Wright needed to pivot in 2020 at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Leveraging HBS Online to Pivot Her Business and Others’

As COVID-19 cases surged globally, Wright experienced another tragedy: the loss of her mother.

“One of the last things I told her I wanted to do was take an HBS Online course,” Wright says. “I used the education and experience to stay busy when everything happened.”

Wright enrolled in Entrepreneurship Essentials to learn to speak the language of entrepreneurship, including how to communicate with investors to raise capital. Yet, once in the course, what resonated most was learning how to pivot your business model and react to a changing marketplace.

“This was not only incredible for me, but it was incredible for my clients,” Wright says. “The course inspired me to help my clients pivot into digital spaces.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, several of Wright’s clients couldn’t afford her anymore because they needed to temporarily shut down their businesses, including award-winning celebrity barber Eric “Kleankut” Dixon, whom she had recently gotten into Forbes. After taking Entrepreneurship Essentials, Wright urged Dixon to create his own digital course, teaching others his technique while sharing best practices, product suggestions, and expert tips and tricks. Artiste House shot and produced the 30-minute course, which Dixon now sells for $24.99. Within a week of launching, he made $2,000—creating a steady income for himself until he could reopen his barbershop.

“The course opened my eyes to that pivot piece,” Wright says. “And it was not just how can I keep money coming in for me, but how else can I continue to serve my clients?”

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Looking to What’s Ahead

Since finishing Entrepreneurship Essentials, Wright has become the Chapter Organizer for the HBS Online Community’s Washington D.C. Chapter. Earlier this year, she held her first virtual event to meet, network, and exchange resources with fellow business professionals from her area.

“I love collaboration and meeting other people who think differently, move differently, and come from different backgrounds,” Wright says. “That’s the best way to grow.”

Wright is now focused on helping Washington D.C.’s thriving urban culture grow and amplify the creativity coming out of the nation’s capital.

“On a national level, D.C.’s urban culture isn’t recognized the same way that New York’s or California’s is,” Wright says. “When you look at the representation on screen, they always highlight politics, so I’m creating video content that talks to some of the other great things happening inside the city.”

When she’s not working on that project, Wright is likely learning a new skill. A self-described “perpetual learner,” Wright remarks that she’s “always taking a course about something.” Her most recent endeavor? Earning her boat captain’s license so that she can enjoy a summer on the water with her family and friends.

When asked what advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs, she re-emphasizes education.

“Educate yourself,” Wright says. “And if that means using some of your savings, do that. You need to find ways to equip yourself with the skills necessary to sustain your business. You’re investing in your own success.”

Are you interested in learning more about how to start your own business? Explore our four-week Entrepreneurship Essentials course and other programs on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Lauren Landry

About the Author

Lauren Landry is the associate director of marketing and communications for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at Northeastern University and BostInno, where she wrote nearly 3,500 articles covering early-stage tech and education—including the very launch of HBS Online. When she's not at HBS Online, you might find her teaching a course on digital media at Emerson College, chugging coffee, or telling anyone who's willing to listen terribly corny jokes.