How Hope Delivered Began
As a child, I didn't like to read. My mom, who was talented in the art of painting, introduced me to comic books to encourage reading in a non-traditional way, and I quickly fell in love with them. Unlike most kids, I never grew out of the "comic book phase." My love for comic art inspired me to become an artist and pursue a career in Graphic Design, but at the end of 2011, God helped me to realize that this fascination for comics had grown into quite the obsession. I was using the comic book stories as an escape and had even placed them ahead of God in my life's priorities. That was it—I quit collecting, cold turkey and gave most of my collection away. However, this choice left a sudden void in my life causing me to begin searching for a healthy, new creative release.
Around that same time, I had become interested in the uptrend of minimalist poster designs circulating the Internet. The idea of taking something as complex as a character or a movie and stripping it down to simple, recognizable graphical elements was exciting to me and I began brainstorming the personal pieces I would create. In January of 2012 I asked God, "What story should I tell with my art?" With the simple answer, "Mine," God reminded me that the Bible contains the most powerful and spectacular stories ever written and that those were the ones I should tell with my art. After spending about a year illustrating Bible stories as personal work, I had received lots of positive feedback and even had a few requests for specific stories.
During the time I was entertaining the idea of selling my art as some sort of business, I was also reading three books that ended up being the perfect recipe for motivation and inspiration that I needed: one part passion, one part know-how and one part kick in the pants.
- PASSION: God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew is about Brother Andrew's journey of smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain during the 50s, 60s and 70s to persecuted Christians. His bold faith was challenging to me and I was also made aware of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in other parts of the world, historically and also today. Brother Andrew went on to start the non-profit, Open Doors.
- KNOW-HOW: I knew that if I was going to start a company, it needed to be about more than just art. A for-profit business model that gives back is what I was going for but I had no idea where to start. I turned to one of my generation's greats in that area—Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, who coined the "One for One" concept and launched a very successful brand that makes a true global impact. I read his book Start Something That Matters which gave me the business insight and encouragement I needed to tie to the passion I had for persecuted believers.
- KICK IN THE PANTS: Passion and know-how weren't enough... It was time to dive in and execute this idea, but I was lacking motivation on my own. If I'm honest, that lack of motivation was rooted in fear. The fear of failure, maybe? What if I don't have what it takes? The fear of success? What if this actually takes off and begins growing beyond my vision? The fear of showing my ideas to the public? What if no one likes my art? The book Start by Jon Acuff was exactly what I needed. "Punch fear in the face, escape average and do work that matters" is the theme of the book—perfect! I even ended up joining one of Jon Acuff's "30 Days of Hustle" groups to keep me accountable to adding structure to this idea and making it a reality.
After all of this reading and tons of prayer, my wife Amber and a few of our friends helped me dream up a larger concept for my art, and eventually, "Hope Delivered" took shape. We officially launched Hope Delivered in November 2014 at a local art gallery in Wake Forest, North Carolina with 22 available framed pieces and the celebration of our live website with 75+ pieces ready for purchase. The pieces were printed on thick, high-end material, and for every piece purchased, a Bible was donated to a persecuted Christian through Open Doors USA. Between gallery sales, online sales and a campaign to raise money for trademarking, we praised God for the 226 Bibles we were able to donate. It was a success by our standards! After a large surge during the holiday season, we saw a drastic decline in sales and overall momentum. Despite the marketing push on our own power, by mid-March, Hope Delivered had come to a standstill.
Feeling pretty defeated, Amber and I went off to our annual marriage retreat in hopes of discovering what God had in store for us next. While we were there, God spoke to me about taking a risk and trying something new with Hope Delivered. I didn't quite understand it at first, but I ended up having a conversation with a trusted mentor who told me that I should offer paintings. A couple others echoed this idea to me in unrelated conversations soon after that. I began to realize that "painting" was the risk that God was talking about, but I hadn't painted in over 12 years and I was very fearful about stepping out into this new endeavor. Eventually, I grew enough confidence to go out and buy some painting supplies in order to start experimenting. Through these experimentations, I felt closer to God than ever before and he helped me find my "artistic voice." (You can read more about how I began painting in the next post.)
We are now thrilled to re-launch this new & improved, December 2016 version of the Hope Delivered® store. The process to become officially trademarked was a lengthy one—although successful!—and we worked hard to come up with ways to make the art even more affordable with additional size options. Perhaps the most exciting development is the option to purchase paintings! Whether you're interested in displaying an art print of a Bible story or series that is particularly important to you, displaying a one-of-a-kind painting that represents your faith journey, or having a custom painting created for your specific story of what God has spoken over your life, 20% of EVERY piece will be donated to persecuted Christians in need around the world (through Open Doors USA).