If you’ve arrived at the stage in your company where you’ve officially moved into your own space, then you know that with the excitement (and ahem, bills) comes the stress of figuring out your brand aesthetic. Will you have an open-office floor plan or cubicles? A fun kitchen or bigger bathrooms? Conference rooms or corner offices?
And what about the artwork?
Imagine if you didn’t have to invest in expensive artwork but could still give your employees a glimpse into the world of some of the most influential artists in history. Thanks to Dot Bustelo, the founder and CEO of Loupe, you can. What’s Loupe? A technology and sales company that allows its customers to stream artwork from around the globe. You can also guest-curate your own gallery via your Apple TV or by webstreaming. Love a piece so much that you want to own a print - or the original? You can do that, too.
With the online art market valued at $2.64 billion in 2016, Bustelo has definitely tapped into something - and people are paying attention. Since its inception, Loupe has reached the coveted top position for ‘Lifestyle App’ on Apple TV in 35 countries, and is in the top ten in 75 countries.
Here, Bustelo talks about her background, what’s next and what she wish she knew before becoming an entrepreneur:
What’s your background? Have the arts always been part of your life?
I worked at Apple for many years on the Worldwide Product Marketing Team. My role was to travel around the country introducing Apple’s professional music software, Logic Pro, and music production techniques to world touring bands, DJs and producers.
Dot Bustelo Courtesy of Affixmusic
I am also a long-time electronic music producer myself and started my career in music equipment sales, which all led to this role at Apple. The vision of Loupe was born while working in the music industry, spending long hours in recording studios, and constantly looking for visual inspiration to support the creative energy in the room.
So cool. Have you always found art to be relaxing?
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve sought out environments where I could quiet the mind, be in a zone to relax, be comfortable, and most of all, be inspired. Dim the lights, enjoy some candles, add one blue light and pour the right beverage, and it'll create the zone and ambience in my studio to work on music.
I’d often turn on old 1940s movies without the sound – movies that starred Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Lana Turner or my other favorite directors of visuals sci-fi. For around an entire year, I left ANIMATRIX running with no sound. It always amazed me how well these great images fit with whatever music was playing, and how much people who visited enjoyed the atmosphere.
I began thinking about the over 120 million people streaming music at home, and what they were doing with their TVs. And I thought about the technology of streaming music, which has become the accepted norm. Why not apply this technology to visual art?
What was the moment when you knew you had to be an entrepreneur?
I honestly never had that moment. I had only a vision of something I saw clearly that I wanted to exist, and that was contagious. A team of creative and talented people emerged around that idea and myself.
What was the moment you knew you were onto something?
A young friend who worked for one of the major upscale hotel chains as a concierge looked me in the eye when I shared my idea and said he wanted to be the one to bring Loupe to his hotel’s global branding team. Funnily enough, he is now marketing director in New York at one of their properties and we are working on that as we speak. Moral of that story? Never judge anyone’s value by their current position or resume – only by your intuition.
What is your goal for Loupe Art?
My goal is to hear about people walking into a faraway hotel, cocktail lounge, airport terminal or other memorable space and see extraordinary art streaming on ultra-thin LED displays and other ubiquitous surfaces. They'll smile, retelling the moment they first caught a glimpse of Loupe, the music that was playing, the company they were with, and the experience of Loupe.
They return home and continue to enjoy Loupe with their friends and family, building infinitely-customizable playlists of visual art.
We are applying streaming technology to visual art so people can be as immersed in art as we are with music. I hope to expand the physical experience of great art – like that first visit to the Louvre – to infinite physical locations, times of day, and moods.
What's next for your company?
By launching on Apple TV, we were able to enter global markets at launch. Apple populates all Apple TV App Stores around the world with our service.
With Loupe’s managing partner Karrie Bran now based in Europe (owner of The Kagency, a New York-based events company representing 400 venues and a client list of luxury brands), we plan to expand our sponsored art channels, installations, events and marketplace sales into Europe and other global markets.
Loupe launched the paid guest-curated channel program in 2017, allowing museums, galleries, art festivals and other art-centric businesses to have a channel on our platform. It is a stunning channel launched in January by New York Art Gallery/Art Installation Services company ARTI.NYC. Talks are underway with many other exciting art-centric brands and partners who see the opportunity to be part of a new global art platform.
What advice would you give female entrepreneurs?
The same advice I would give to male entrepreneurs. Stay true to your original vision. Live the passion fully and authentically, and you will draw in extraordinary people to move it forward. They will open doors while others may do the opposite, but no one ever holds you back except yourself.
What's surprised you the most about being a female entrepreneur?
I don’t focus on my gender or surprises about starting a company as gender-specific. The less I do, the less I feel it being part of the dialogue with others or their perception of me. It’s very difficult to start your own business and I don’t think the challenges of going from “zero to one” of building a business are easier with either gender. I suppose this may come from having worked in such a male-dominated industry for so long. I could either find the gender part of my work or table it.
This month, Loupe was honored as a Finalist for a Global Impact Award in the Category of Innovation by the City of Atlanta for contributing to the city’s exponential growth into global markets in technology and business. I happened to be the only one of the 12 finalists that was female when we were all brought to the podium. A few people in the audience pointed that out to me afterwards and thanked me for being there.
I took note, and kept moving. Back to work.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.