Do You F*cking Love Art? Startup Company Does!

Interview with CEO Charles Banewitz


Many common practices, occupations, and artistic forms have changed in the past century. Many of these changes can be directly attributed to the creation and popularity of the Internet. The arts have been impacted significantly in several ways. Graphic design and web design are now recognized as art forms and their popularity rivals that of painting, drawing, and other forms of art due to the ability to conduct these types of arts through a computer, which was impossible just a few decades ago.

What has not changed is the love of art. There is a new generation of art lovers, and although they’re not as ‘traditional’ as past generations of art lovers, they are passionate.

I am a passionate art lover, but my tastes are much different than that of my parents or the rest of the baby boomer generation. As part of my work with the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization I am privileged to help out with the National Conferences for Self Employment in the Arts (SEA). Year after year I witness the drastic changes in what young artists are interested in and what they are creating. This year there were several graphic designers who competed in the business plan competition, something you would not have seen even 5-10 years ago.

My favorite new art based startup is, which has already gained the attention of many young artists and art lovers through focusing on a specific type of canvas – metal. The company has a unique personality and is not afraid to shake things up a bit in the art world. The company’s motto is “We f*cking love art.”

I recently interviewed CEO Charles Banewitz, who is 30 years old and a co-founder of the company. We discussed how the company was started, his background in the arts, and what’s next for the startup.

General Business Information

Company Name:

Founders: Charles Banewitz, Jack Swigert, Eddie Rock

Date Founded: 1st May 2013

Funding to Date: Angel investment, amount not disclosed

General Business is a new art & design startup that allows artists, graphic designers and photographers to upload their artworks and offer them on thick metal plates called Displates.


Michael Luchies: How did you come up with the idea for and what went into launching the business?

Charles Banewitz: It was a marriage of ideas of the founders. Eddie has long since been an artist and an entrepreneur passionate about graphics, design, illustration and photography. He was the one who saw the potential in the metal plate as being the perfect canvas matching arts timeless form. He started his own manufacture and started offering graphics on metal plates, which received great reviews from his clients. Being the tech-heavy serial startup veteran that I am, I decided that it is a perfect idea to marry those two concepts and create a place which connects people who create art with those who would like to see it on this unique canvas. Jack is the connector, a true people’s person, he just knows a lot of people and how to approach them. I really couldn’t imagine a better matched team.

It took us 8 months to launch the business. We are following the lean startup methodology and wanted to present to public as soon as possible and then improve it based on our user feedback.

ML: The lean startup method has given a lot of startups a head start and a quick launch. What is your background in startups and in art?

CB: Our team has a very wide background of entrepreneurial ventures. Eddie owns a creative agency and a prints manufacture. Art runs in his blood as his family’s art roots run back to XIX century. Jack has his own restaurant. I have been involved in the startup scene for several years now. I oversee and personally code all of the websites I launch, front-end and back-end included. We each have a lot of business experience and two of us have a strong technology background and education. Art had a big impact on each of our lives. Eddie started pencil drawing when he was only several years old, Jack is probably the biggest fan of Salvadore Dali there is. I believe art is the most pure, simple and subtle way that gives meaning to our lives, of which I learned during the toughest moments of my life.

ML:’s motto is “We f*cking love Art. And we want that feeling to spread like wildfire.” How did you come up with your motto and how do you expect to help spread the love of art to others?

CB: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says art? Is it an old painting in a gallery? We think that ‘art’ lost its cool and we want to bring it back. The “We f*cking love Art” is intended to break the stereotype of boring and pompous old men discussing art over a cup of tea . That is also why we choose the metal plate. It’s fresh and modern. We didn’t want to do it on a canvas, because it reminds people of the old stereotypes. We also don’t want it to be sold on cups, t-shirts, or paper. It simply deserves more. We wanted it to be affordable, modern, great looking, and as easy to put on your wall as possible. So you just stick a magnet to your wall and put the Displate on it, it’s as simple as that, and takes 15 seconds. Making it as easy as possible to transfer great art to any surface is huge. If we can do that, and we believe we did, art will become more present and through that, the love for it will spread. But it’s not only about the art. Our surroundings are scientifically proven to have an enormous impact on our creativity, well-being and simply how we feel. We want to breathe life into those empty gray surroundings.

ML: Where does the strong and playful personality of the business come from?

CB: I remember watching Louis CK honoring George Carlin, two people who I personally value for their approach to life. The breaking point for Louis career was when he went on the stage and decided to drop all the unnecessary jargon and say “I can’t have sex with my wife, because we have a baby. And our baby is a f*cking asshole”. Peoples life’s need more color. We want the emotion, we want you to love us or hate us, but never be neutral.

ML: What reception have you received from graphic designers and artists?

CB: The reception was very positive though we are still aware that much more work needs to be done regarding our business model. Graphic designers, photographers and artists are our lifeblood and we want to live with them on great terms. We are receiving tons of feedback and are working each day to make it a better place for everyone.

ML: has received a lot of attention, what’s next?

CB: It has, but we now need to get the Displates in people’s hands. We really worked very hard to make every detail of product as great as possible and we are positive that people will love it.

We are just fresh after launch and we are unrolling new features as we speak. We intend to open the website to public on 1st of June because currently it is invitations only. From the start we wanted to be active online and offline that is why we are planning our first gallery show in Barcelona, Spain in June and a next one in Berlin. In the meantime we focus on current feedback and metric and introduce additional changes based on the feedback we receive.


It’s inspiring to see such a fresh approach to a classic passion for many and for a new generation to enjoy. I am attempting to come up with a few designs myself that are worthy of being placed on a Displate, but so far it looks like I need to stick to my writing and leave the artwork to those who are truly talented.


Cashing in on Night Life; Interview with Duncan Abdelnour of Branded Lights

Original article by Michael Luchies published here on Yahoo! Voices

Using one of your passions to start a business is nothing new, but using creativity and recognizing an opportunity through your passion can turn into a recipe for success. If you are passionate about food – buying the rights to build several franchise locations may seem like a safe bet and a way to make a solid living. Although this is a great option for many, it doesn’t necessarily allow an entrepreneur to expand upon their creativity and use their passion to create a dominant advantage over what is currently offered in the marketplace.

Young entrepreneur Duncan Abdelnour is no stranger to the night life and enjoys a good time. As a young entrepreneur, he has a mindset where he is always looking for the next big thing. As he explains in the interview, a night at an electronic music concert turned into the idea for his now growing business.

Duncan was a recent competitor in the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference (SEEC) Elevator Pitch Competition at the University of Tampa. The event is a regional conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), which hosts the National Elevator Pitch Competition each fall.

Duncan may not have won the competition, but it is clear that he is headed on the right track as a young entrepreneur. The following is an interview with him about his past as an entrepreneur, his business Branded Lights, and what is next for him and the business.


General Business Information
 Branded Lights
Founders: Duncan Abdelnour, Aaron Musicaro, Matthew Castriotta
Founded: October 2012
Funding to Date: $1000 – Personal Seed Money, Bootstrapped everything else
Description of business: A Leading Night Life Promotional Products Supplier, importer of items from LED Foam Sticks, to giant LED Inflatables with a Company’s, DJ’s, Night Club‘s, Sponsor’s logo.


Michael Luchies: What was your first experience in entrepreneurship?

Duncan Abdelnour: Founded Paint and Air Sports, when I was 14. Started by buying and selling paintball guns online, obtained wholesale and distributor accounts and started a online store.

ML: How did you get the idea for Branded Lights?

DA: I was at an electronic music concert, and noticed everyone fighting over these really cool LED Foam Light sticks, and wondered why no one was branding them with the venues, sponsors, or DJ’s logos.

ML: What struggles with the business have you had to overcome?

DA: Working with overseas suppliers, and their various mishaps such as faulty products, not getting orders shipped on time, and of course Chinese New Year, which is putting all of our production on hold for the next 3 weeks.

ML: How do you balance being an entrepreneur and a student at the same time?

DA: I schedule my classes so that I have plenty of time during the day to make calls, do emails, deal with clients etc. I started learning how to do this in high school when I would sneak off to the library to hop on the computer and do research all day on whatever venture I had at the time.

ML: What has been your best experience as an entrepreneur?

DA: Anytime you see your efforts effecting and benefiting thousands of people in a better way. When I was 18, I put on a sold out concert with the artist Sammy Adams, 850 screaming kids, and I was able to DJ for him on stage. After the show there were girls lining up to take pictures with me, which was pretty cool. Aside from the experience, we made about $16,000 that night, which was nice to.

ML: How many failures did you experience before Branded Lights? Did you ever want to give up on being an entrepreneur?

DA: One time I lost $30,000 on a concert deal gone wrong, and I definitely learned the hard way that the most important part of business is the people you do business with. There have been a few times I’ve definitely wanted to give up and just be a regular kid, but then I think about spending the rest of my life working in a cubicle and immediately change my mind.

ML: What advice do you have for young aspiring or current entrepreneurs?

DA: Find an Idea that can actually make money. I see it all the time – people pitching great ideas but they have no idea how to actually monetize them. You need to have a crystal clear picture of who your customers will be, how much are they going to pay you for your product or service, and how much its going to cost you to produce it.

Also, don’t spend all your time looking for funding. Get creative and build a business with your own capital, the only thing worse then loosing your own money, is loosing someone else’s.

ML: What is next for Branded Lights?

DA: We will be spending the majority of our Spring and Summer on the road vending at music festivals across the country such as Ultra in Miami, Electric Daisy Carnival, and a few others. We are also expanding our product line every week, offering more and more products to reach a broader customer base.

It is clear that Duncan and his partners are succeeding because of a great idea coupled with their passion for the industry that they are involved in. Thanks to Branded Lights and Duncan for the interview and good luck in the future.

Other Articles From This Author
It’s Time for DinnDinn; Interview with Foodie Favorite App Founder
What If High Schools Focused on Entrepreneurship? Part 1
What If High Schools Focused on Entrepreneurship? Part 2
Design with a Bang! Interview with Chic Shooter Founder Brandi Lynn Thomas, Student Entrepreneur
How to Create a Brand for Your Writing; Branding Tips and Advice for Freelance Journalists

Car Wash Delivery? Interview with City Sleekers’ Founder

City Sleekers Logo


Original Article Published Here by Michael Luchies


It was just another elevator pitch competition, or so I thought. The 2013 Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference (SEEC) had already been much better than I had expected, so why should I have been surprised at the quality of young entrepreneurs pitching their ideas and businesses in the elevator pitch competition?

The conference and competition were held at the University of Tampa. Students came from different parts of the country including Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia, Mississippi, and of course, Florida.

All of the pitches were fascinating, but one of the few that stuck out the most was that of City Sleekers. Maybe it was their cool bike branded in their logo and colors, or the car tire they brought with them, or maybe it was the team that all came wearing their businesses t-shirts and looked ready to compete, or possibly the fact that their business is a great idea that is sure to become a success.

Founder Nick Price and the City Sleekers team finished 3rd out of 26 competitors. After the competition I followed up with him for a short interview about the business and his entrepreneurial background.

Founders: Nick Price (22), Evan Brady (22)
Current Owners: Nick Price, Trey Summers (16)
Founded: September, 2012
Employees: 3
General Business Description: City Sleekers is a waterless, Eco-friendly, car cleaning company that comes to you. They transform every parking space into your clean car waiting to happen by coming to the customer whether you’re working, shopping or even just stopping for a sandwich.

Michael Luchies: When did you first show interest in being an entrepreneur?

Nick Price: I always have wanted to work for myself and it really kicked into gear after I took Nathan Schwagler’s Creativity in Entrepreneurship class at USFSP (University of South Florida St. Petersburg).

ML: I also got really excited about entrepreneurship from a class I took. How was your experience at the SEEC Conference?

NP: It was awesome! I had an amazing time listening to all the great speakers. UT put on a great conference, that campus is really awesome and everyone there welcomed us with open arms. SEEC was a great experience and I can’t wait for next year.

ML: How about your experience competing in SEEC’s Elevator Pitch Competition?

NP: It was nerve wracking!! I went second to last out of 26 other students, so when I finally gave my pitch in the semi finals I was so relieved! I was so impressed with all the other pitch ideas some of the other students came up with.

ML: How did you get the idea for City Sleekers?

NP: Evan thought of it for a school project and threw the idea by me, I loved it.

ML: A lot of young entrepreneurs have trouble coming up with the perfect name for their businesses, how did you come up with City Sleekers?

NP: We figured we liked our cars to look sleek and we were primarily targeting cities for traveling by bicycle. So we put the two together like PB n J.

ML: Did you have any ventures before CS? If so, have you experienced any failures and how did you learn and recover?

NP: I started a computer repair company with a friend of mine in 2009 while I was attending FGCU. It didn’t really take off around the college campus atmosphere. I have learned from failure – it was difficult to recover but trial and error is a part of starting your own business. I learned to target my audience more accurately.

ML: What is next for City Sleekers?

NP: GROW, GROW, GROW. We’re going to keep working on getting more locations, build our reputation, and help preserve our beautiful planet.

ML: What advice would you have for young entrepreneurs?

NP: Never ever give up. Keep working, don’t over think, and try and try and try again.

That is very good advice. It is important to learn from mistakes and try again. Thank you to Nick Price and City Sleekers for the interview and good luck in the future.