Making time to do the things we love can be a challenge for anyone. But when we do, we’re able to clear our minds and be more productive and efficient at work — allowing us to have more free time to do the things we love. It’s a virtuous cycle.
That’s why Liza Nurik, Eleanor Mooney, and Carrie Brightman launched ThinkingVine — a company that gives employees a fun outlet to clear their minds with enjoyable activities like painting, embossing, wiring, and mosaics.
“So many people move to places like New York City because of all of the opportunities — events, culture, art, music, food, yoga classes, and meeting people,” Nurik says. “But most people end up with only a few hours each week to enjoy the city because of all the pressures of work.”
In just three months since launching their company in New York, ThinkingVine has already put on events for companies like Google, Etsy, GrubHub, Foursquare, Seamless, and WeWork.
“There’s a really big demand for it,” Nurik says.
To learn more about ThinkingVine and why it’s blowing up in the New York tech and startup scene, keep scrolling.
Nurik, who has a background in art education, was teaching art classes to about 40 students of all ages at her studio in Brooklyn while working part-time at a school last winter.
She hosted activities like 'paint and wine night' and some of her students, who were in the workforce, said, 'I wish we did this at work!'
A student who worked at Google said: 'This is awesome. You should do team building.'
Nurik was motivated to bring art to the workplace so she went to a New York Entrepreneurs & Startup Network event that was advertised on meetup.com to start looking for partners. Not only did she find the whole event 'incredibly exciting and energizing,' but she also found her two business partners.
'That was my first networking event and it kind of hit the nail on the head because I met these girls,' she says.
Mooney and Brightman, who come from an operations background in hospitality and retail, were initially hired to help with marketing but were so organised and hardworking that Nurik offered them partnerships, which they gladly accepted.
When they launched in November, ThinkingVine had zero clients so Nurik decided to reach out to GrubHub just to feel out how big the demand was for creative outlets at work.
She sent out a cold email to the general email address that she found on the GrubHub website to ask about piloting an event with them. She said all they would need is 'a group of brave volunteers to get together in a room and make art with us.' GrubHub readily accepted the proposal.
'It was just a stab in the dark, but they were so gung-ho about it,' she says.
After their first event with GrubHub, the three founders created a pitch deck -- a brief presentation that provides an overview of the organisation -- which they used to reach out to Etsy.
Etsy, like GrubHub, also readily accepted, and that's when things got real.
'The thing that's most surprised me about this is that it's working and how quickly it's caught on,' Nurik says. 'There's a really big demand for it.'
She says they have had about a 40% response rate just from cold calls. Even if a company doesn't have the funds for a ThinkingVine event for their current quarter, they will often tell them that they would like to set something up for the future.
'I think part of this is just always staying curious and always trying to find new ways and not be shy about asking people and just going for it,' Nurik explains.
ThinkingVine events include embossing, painting, wiring, and mosaics and take place at company offices. They can last for anywhere from two hours to a full work day -- and each participant gets their own set of tools.
Brightman says ThinkingVine takes special care with the presentation of these events. They want to make the crafts area look 'beautiful, colourful, and eye-catching' so that when employees show up, they automatically transition out of work mode and into a more fun, creative mindset. 'It's about bringing out another part of them,' she says.
While Nurik shows each group how to properly use the tools and gives them design suggestions, she says the events are for all levels and some of the best pieces of art she sees are created by people who choose to make something that 'wasn't on the menu' -- like this Kanye West portrait from a Foursquare event.
Nurik compares these events to mid-afternoon yoga session that many tech startups in Silicon Valley provide for their employees.
'We think of it as being great for your mind in the same way that yoga is great for your body,' she says.
When workers are able to clear their minds, they often return to work feeling refreshed and energised.
'You can definitely see the change in people once they start the creative process and start working with their hands,' Brightman says. 'And we know they're 100% more productive when they go back to their desk because they cleansed their brain of whatever they were stressed about or thinking about beforehand.'
Mooney says one WeWork participant, who is a project manager for a small construction company, was having a difficult day at work. He had gone out for lunch and took a coffee break to try to ease his stress, but neither helped, so he decided to accept the ThinkingVine email invitation.
He was thrilled he did, Mooney says. He interacted with everyone and was intensely focused on his project. 'He was trying to find other ways to separate himself from work that day and this was the thing that did it for him,' she says.
The three founders say these events let coworkers interact in a casual and fun atmosphere that isn't a bar (although they do offer wine and margaritas, if requested).
'It's an environment where you're almost indirectly forced to not talk about work life so you get to know each other on a different level,' Nurik says.
For example, Brightman recalls three Foursquare employees exchanging Instagram names and making after-work plans at the end of their event -- while Mooney remembers watching an employee help a manager with a project, which created a different relationship than would normally happen at work.
After getting to know your colleagues on this more intimate level, Nurik says coworkers often feel more confidant speaking to one another in person, which is important at work.
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