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Can art change the world? Denik CEO and founder Tyler Tolson believes so. Denik integrates art and charity into its business model with artists from all around the world contributing pieces as cover art for the journals and notebooks Denik sells.
After selling his share in a previous entrepreneurial venture Tolson created Denik while studying communications at Utah State University in 2011. “I really wanted to start a company that was more in line with my passion,” Tolson said. Being an artist himself, Tolson wanted to focus on using art and supporting artists. Despite people discouraging a career in art, Tolson found a way to make it work.
Tolson brought on friends that were also studying at USU to help him manage parts of the business in the development stages. Having a startup company in college has its challenges. “It was difficult, it really caused me to focus on time management. Even just walking from class to class I was on the phone or sending emails, any downtime I was focusing on building and growing the company,” Tolson said.
He also took advantage of the resources USU had to offer. A faculty advisor created an internship for him that focused on building Denik. He took classes that required students to work on a business plan, which he needed to do anyway. Tolson received school credit for building his business and had advisors to help through the process.
The business model Denik uses includes working with charities to build schools around the globe. With every book sold $1 goes to building a school and 5 percent goes to the artist that contributed the art. Some artists don’t accept the 5 percent and others donate their 5 percent back in to building schools.
Tolson said Instagram was the biggest help in networking with artists, viewing the images artists post and inviting them to contribute to Denik.
Long-term goals for the company are to build 100 schools all over the world in the next 10 years. This year Denik has partnered with Mali Rising to build a middle school in Mali, Africa. Next year the plan is Nepal and Honduras. Tolson said they plan to work on building or renovating a school in the United States as well.
Denik journals and notebooks have recently been picked up by retail outlets such as Blonde Grizzly and Wellers Book Works, and the company has a kiosk at Provo Towne Center.