Today we’d like to introduce you to Kyle Bebeau.
Kyle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always gravitated towards creative understanding with an endless sense of wonder. I’ve been able to ever so preciously retain and develop that trait despite the countless attempts to tame and/or take that from me. I colored and sketched a lot growing up, and deconstructed almost every device/gadget I could get my hands on.
I took traditional art classes, but it wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to electives like photography, videography, and graphic design. After that, I gravitated my focus, almost exclusively, to them. My other grades suffered from my creative explorations, and when graduation came around, I barely walked with a GPA far below an acceptable average. I wasn’t accepted to any college except for Winthrop University, and only on a mandatory restriction that I take 2-hour study halls 2 days a week. Yeah, fuck that.
A friend of mine introduced me to Full Sail University, and within a month, I was enrolled in their Digital Arts and Design Bachelor program, approved for a lifetime’s worth of debt, and flying down for the day to find an apartment. Our program started off with over 200 students, and through the course of the 2-year program, only about 28 of us, including myself, made it through to graduation.
I created my first company, a streetwear brand called Realeyez Apparel, about a year into Full Sail. It started as a passion project with the idea to establish a sustainable brand to use as a reference on my resume for finding a job when I got out. I accepted as much pro-bono design work as I could leading up towards graduation. I knew I needed as much experience I could get outside of school to diversify my portfolio and stand out.
I landed my first job with a custom software development firm, INSite Business Solutions, back in South Carolina through a freelance project. I jumped on the opportunity. The interactive position introduced me to the importance and power of data and web. I was mesmerized by its potential. I shifted focus once again and started to teach myself everything I could about coding and development. After about a year, the pressures of my loan started to pinch me. I was paying $1,200 a month in interest alone and realized I was actually getting paid jack shit for what I was doing. I had just turned 21 and put a marketing funnel in place for a drop-ship program that brought in over $1,000,000 revenue for the company. I was ready for a raise that never came. Finally, I was told I wasn’t allowed to go on a once in a lifetime family vacation, so I went and never came back.
In no time, I was at a creative agency in Charlotte, NC called The Idea People. The company was the opposite of organized, but the creativity and ownership were through the roof. However, I worked well in that environment because I was given the freedom to take ownership, problem solve, and execute. Conflict emerged when I refused to blindly throw a design mock together for a client while addressing the fact that that was the reason a previous project had failed. It was stated that we wouldn’t let that happen again, so I took action to prevent that. At that point, we had slipped into reactively subsiding problems, and not effectively solving them. It was time to move on.
I packed up what little I had and hit the road. I was on the way to Los Angeles with an old high school friend, his wife, and 2 months rent. We move straight into the heart of Hollywood. I was on the hunt for a job, landed a big freelance client, and never looked back. I freelanced full-time for about three years before establishing my own agency, The INiT Group; We’re in it for it or not in it at all. I struggled to scale the business while experimenting with different structured service offerings but always managed to make enough to pay the bills. Even though, that sometimes meant pushing myself to my mental, physical, and creative limits. It was exhausting.
I was burnt out in my pursuits, so I decided to move down to San Diego in search of a better quality of life. We signed the lease on a place right off of first street. I was days away from moving down when I got a call out of the blue asking for me to come in for an interview. I initially told them that I had just got a place in San Diego and wasn’t interested because they weren’t willing to work remotely, but my curiosity got the best of me when they persisted. At a glance, the place was like a mini fantasy factory, and the employees appeared to be cut from the same cloth. I took the challenge of building out their interactive division from scratch. I was stoked. Come to find out, it was all a facade. The owner was a micromanaging con-artist exploiting creativity down to the bone. It was toxic. We parted ways after a few short months.
I was discouraged but quickly revitalized after finding out that I got accepted to go travel the world for a year through Remote Year. It’s a program where you travel to a different city every month for an entire year while working remotely. My goal is to generate enough automated revenue to counter my expenses attain creative freedom for myself. I’m in the pursuit of bringing two software products to market called Giv and Heard, in talks with landing our first major application build through The INiT Group, prepping for the launch of a food blog called The Toasted Post, and relaunching Realeyez Apparel with an entirely new product line.
Websites I’ve designed/developed include:
Has it been a smooth road?
No. There’s a facade of support for the “American Dream”. The system is horribly flawed, and not in the favor of a young entrepreneur. Taking the right measures to properly fix it aren’t seriously considered as an option. I was $110,000 in debt coming out of school. I was paying $1,200/month in interest alone. I had to live at my parent’s house for 2 years to pay down my debt. My entire month’s paycheck would go to my loan. I still owe $16,000.
The biggest struggle I’ve faced through my pursuits is dealing with the perspective of money, and not letting it compromise my creative integrity. It took me hundreds if not thousands of client projects to realize every project should have a win-win dynamic. If I can’t create with a client in pursuit of a win-win, I’d rather not get involved. Sometimes, it’s a hard struggle to pass on a paycheck, but it’s more than worth it. I don’t get trapped in projects I’m not passionate about anymore, and it has made me exponentially more productive.
Creativity is a rare and sought after commodity in today’s entitled market. With the reactive ways of the world, I’ve been forced to become a hybrid of creative and logical problem solving. It only makes sense to wear multiple hats, but it’s a struggle sometimes to differentiate comprehension to determine the best possible solution.
Staying inspired is a challenge when I’m getting hit with demands from clients who don’t know any better and don’t care to know any better. I practice a lot of internal structure and routine to revolve around staying inspired and constantly creating. I found that keeping an educational intent, and desire to learn is vital.
Of course, the struggle of figuring all this shit out in the first place without a mentor or guidance is overwhelming. Patience is a virtue, and perseverance is priceless.
Sometimes, it’s hard to communicate and take feedback on a creative matter. I’ve noticed that it’s easy to build up a fear of critique trying to interpret what someone else might think. It can be a self-induced struggle, which, in reality, is a waste of time. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
When you look back, can you point to a period when you wanted to quit or a period that was really frustrating?
Early on when I was drowning in debt, I contemplated joining the military. I was also looking into a program that would pay $125,000 a year to go and help clean up the oil spill in the gulf. I realized that the pressure of paying my loans were indirectly forcing me to quit pursuing my creativity and added a heavy dependency for me to make money. Unknowingly, I found myself trapped at the bottom of the American rat race. That made me feel like I wanted to quit before I even started.
I never considered giving up on my creativity, though. It’s one of those things I hold vital to life itself. I don’t think I have the option to quit. However, I have made executive decisions to stop pursuing certain projects, and even pivoting career focuses.
Every industry job that I’ve had, I’ve ended up quitting because of the belief that I could problem solve better than how I was being told to problem solve. I always strove for the opportunity to introduce perspective, but I came to find that people aren’t always looking for that. When I addressed these issues, I somehow became a liability through the eyes of my superiors. As a result, we’d part ways.
No other experience made me want to quit like the experience I had working at the last creative agency I was at, Times 10. It was the slimiest, scummiest, con artistry management I have ever experienced. The blatant creative disregard and web spun of client lies and mismanaged expectations was horribly disheartening. In my opinion, their business model was the epitome of a pimped out ponzi scheme. I tried to introduce a new perspective, but I wasn’t considered the time. Beware, they operate as creative parasites.
I always have personal side projects that I’m pursuing to allow for free form creativity. I experiment with new and different creative mediums. I cling to the gratification of that eureka moment of figuring out how to solve a creative problem. I believe that it’s our obligation as creatives to express and truthfully communicate real evoking thought through our work. We’re responsible for creating the hieroglyphics of our generation.
What advice do you wish to give to those thinking about pursuing a path similar to yours?
Always keep creating.
Never stop learning.
Try not to let a paycheck be the incentive to your creative drive.
Strive for situations that pay you to learn.
Try to create with the intent and discipline of having every project be your best piece.
Don’t let any client dictate creative execution of a project. That’s what they’re paying you for.
Stay forward thinking, especially when developing. Work smarter, not harder.
Don’t take critique personally.
Maintain creative integrity, clear communication, and expectation management.
What are you most excited about these days?
There’s a lot to be excited about!
I’m probably most excited for the opportunity to experience Remote Year. It’s a program that I was recently accepted to that links you up with 75 like-minded creatives to travel the world. We travel to a new city every month for an entire year while maintaining a remote workflow. I leave next September.
In the meantime:
I’m revamping and relaunching a clothing brand that was a passion project of mine years back. It’s called Realeyez Apparel, @realeyezapparel.
I have two software products that I’m in pursuit of bringing to market. The first is a giveaways platform called Giv that is geared towards generating leads for small businesses. The other is a music community called Heard, @beheardla, where the idea is to essentially open-source a record label. We’re going to partner with trade schools to prospect talent and create a suite of software tools to help musical talent be heard.
I’m also teaming up with a really good friend of mine, Tiki Friedman, to launch The Toasted Post, @thetoastedpost, an educational food brand. Our goal is to feed the people through informing them on health, how to cook, what to eat, and the detachment that is taking place within the industry.
With all of these projects, I’m back on my own developing what I believe to be a true creative agency The INiT Group, @theinitgroup. We’re in it for it or not in it at all.
- Identity Design packages start at $3,000
- Websites/Application solutions start at $10,000
- Website: http://theinitgroup.com
- Phone: 8039840144
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/theinitgroup
- Facebook: https://facebook.com/theinitgroup
- Other: https://dribbble.com/kylebebeau
My personal photo was taken by Tiki Friedman.