Oxygen Celebrates
21 NYC Creatives Aspiring
to Fulfill Big Dreams

presented by

When it comes to deciding who to trust with your personal finances in the digital age, flexibility is important. Especially for young creatives who are still learning the ropes and might not have conventional sources of income. Enter Oxygen: a digital-first financial platform that offers creatives and other kinds of freelancers an enticing alternative to traditional banks slow to cater to their needs. Designed for the 21st-century economy, Oxygen eliminates the need to visit a physical bank and lets you do everything on its intuitive and easy-to-use app — perfect for those always on the move who need a financial partner that understands how they live and work. That’s why we partnered with Oxygen to highlight 21 creatives in the NYC area who are using the platform to help achieve their personal and professional goals. From product designers and illustrators to ceramic artists and music producers, we get an intimate snapshot of how these creatives are accomplishing their goals and what financial freedom means to them. Whether that’s having a cash cushion for unexpected expenses, or saving towards that big project, piece of equipment, or well-earned vacation, it’s important to be financially savvy — especially at a young age. “It's hard to feel [financially] secure when you’re working in a creative field sometimes,” explains Devine Blacksher, an associate fashion editor at The Cut. “Especially because we don't always get paid what we deserve,” she added. Knowing young professionals like Blacksher practically live on their phones, Oxygen offers additional incentives that can quickly add up to big savings, like up to 6% cashback¹ on rideshares, meal deliveries, shipping, gas, and groceries. Complimentary travel and cell phone insurance are also included as standard benefits when using your Oxygen card to pay your bill. They also offer a flexible automatic savings option that transfers a portion of deposits from your checking account into your savings — a no-brainer way to kickstart a savings plan. Scroll down below to learn more about these emerging creatives in NYC and explore what Oxygen has to offer at oxygen.us.

Caroline Park

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m a third-culture kid so I grew up all over the place haha, I was born in Korea and lived in Japan and England before moving to the U.S. for high school. I think my constantly inconstant background deeply impacted the way that I grew up, and I loved picking up a lot of seemingly contradictory interests and hobbies and challenging peoples’ expectations of me. In college, I ended up studying applied math and eventually became an artificial intelligence consultant by day while making music by night. Since then, I’ve made a career pivot, and I now work as the Head of Growth at a Korean fashion and cannabis brand called Sundae School, where I get to do work that marries my creative and analytical sides a bit better.

What creative projects are you currently working on? I just wrapped up a few big projects so I’m back to focusing on making music again, which is obviously my favorite part haha so it’s been nice. I have a few singles I’m working on that I plan on releasing before the end of the year, and I’m thinking of maybe having one that has less of my vocals on it to highlight my production. Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. I recently released my first fully self-produced EP “Violent Delights”! This project was a reflection on loneliness and isolation in quarantine, as well as a love letter to my favorite, struggling but surviving city. I hope that all my work, even if the sounds I choose might change over time, helps people feel a little less lonely.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I try not to think too much about specific amounts or being too calculative, but I do try my best in my day-to-day to set aside as much as I can into my savings. This helps me feel less guilty when I make impulsive decisions for my music and not feel limited when I’m presented with exciting new opportunities. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? I used to place pressure on myself when I wouldn’t be able to afford the things I wanted to pursue, but over time I’ve learned that some of the best art comes from being scrappy and clever - having that perspective shift really helped me enjoy the process a lot more. I’ve also been thinking more about affirming my worth as an artist and learning how to better advocate for myself as I grow and collaborate with new people.

What does financial freedom mean to you? In some ways, I believe financial freedom is creative freedom. It definitely differs from person to person since everyone has their own artistic process, but for me personally, I’ve found that not attaching financial burden to my art has been incredibly liberating. By taking that pressure off, everything I decide to create feels like an active choice, and I feel more empowered because I’m not as monetarily limited when I’m inspired.

Cherry Kim

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m a Freelance Product Designer and Illustrator. Korean - Kiwi, living in NY! What creative projects are you currently working on? I’m currently working on developing new styles for Comme Si, as well as custom orders and collaborations under my brand Rhee Studio, including a series of prints for an upcoming AMIRI drop. I’m also in the process of developing my fourth RHEE collection.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. I recently made custom illustrated garments for the cast and director of Minari and designed a merch tee and sticker sheet for A24. It was an extremely fulfilling opportunity - being able to have a small part in the marketing strategy for the film which touches on themes specific to the Asian-American culture and pursuits as immigrants. The team I collaborated with really gave me free rein and I’m super grateful that they backed such a small and young brand as RHEE, which essentially blossomed from cabin fever-induced anxiety over the lockdown. The goal of my work is to hone in on narratives and themes that are personal to my upbringing and life. I think for the longest time, throughout college and my earlier years in the industry, I struggled with pulling inspiration that was authentic and was caught up in ‘emulating.’ I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m most driven by my personal narrative. My last RHEE collection was inspired by my childhood - my mother was a hoarder of sorts and living amongst a weird array of trinkets and recycled items was chaotic and overwhelming, but pulling from these memories I now cherish, while applying a similar sensibility towards ‘up-cycling’ and material consumption like my mother feels like a strange full-circle moment. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I’m a little reckless when it comes to spending money on my creative projects. I see everything as an investment and sometimes there’s a lack of budgeting or planning. These days I’m trying to be more aware of ROI, if the purchase has to be paid upfront or if I can get it on a payment plan or on my credit card, sometimes I’ll plan ahead and take additional freelance gigs or custom orders. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? Tracking expenses! Seems so straightforward, but it’s a habit that I had to learn over many years. When I was starting out as a freelancer, I didn’t even know that you could do tax write-offs so this has been a huge game-changer. Little things help in the long run, I put a percentage of my income aside for taxes. If a brand I’m working with can’t meet my rate, but it’s a job I feel passionate about, I will negotiate a styling or materials budget, transport, etc. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom, as a freelance creative, is the opportunity to make sound and stable investments in my creative pursuits.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. I recently made custom illustrated garments for the cast and director of Minari and designed a merch tee and sticker sheet for A24. It was an extremely fulfilling opportunity - being able to have a small part in the marketing strategy for the film which touches on themes specific to the Asian-American culture and pursuits as immigrants. The team I collaborated with really gave me free rein and I’m super grateful that they backed such a small and young brand as RHEE, which essentially blossomed from cabin fever-induced anxiety over the lockdown. The goal of my work is to hone in on narratives and themes that are personal to my upbringing and life. I think for the longest time, throughout college and my earlier years in the industry, I struggled with pulling inspiration that was authentic and was caught up in ‘emulating.’ I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m most driven by my personal narrative. My last RHEE collection was inspired by my childhood - my mother was a hoarder of sorts and living amongst a weird array of trinkets and recycled items was chaotic and overwhelming, but pulling from these memories I now cherish, while applying a similar sensibility towards ‘up-cycling’ and material consumption like my mother feels like a strange full-circle moment.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I’m a little reckless when it comes to spending money on my creative projects. I see everything as an investment and sometimes there’s a lack of budgeting or planning. These days I’m trying to be more aware of ROI, if the purchase has to be paid upfront or if I can get it on a payment plan or on my credit card, sometimes I’ll plan ahead and take additional freelance gigs or custom orders. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? Tracking expenses! Seems so straightforward, but it’s a habit that I had to learn over many years. When I was starting out as a freelancer, I didn’t even know that you could do tax write-offs so this has been a huge game-changer. Little things help in the long run, I put a percentage of my income aside for taxes. If a brand I’m working with can’t meet my rate, but it’s a job I feel passionate about, I will negotiate a styling or materials budget, transport, etc. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom, as a freelance creative, is the opportunity to make sound and stable investments in my creative pursuits.

Dana Reeves

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’ve always been into art, music, just getting my hands in anything I could that was creative growing up. I received my B.F.A. at Columbus College of Art and Design for film and since then I’ve been in New York working on all sides of video and music production. I started in the editorial fashion space and now my work has led me to create with people past filming. Now I’m able to dive into helping brands with design, strategy, and overall direction. What creative projects are you currently working on? Right now I’m working on building out my production company, Gridsbaby, and diving back into filming personal work again, revisiting storytelling through an updated lens of collaboration with my peers. Most of my work is digital, so I’ve been focusing on tactile projects like making my own hoodie pattern for myself. What I’m most excited about is the music. I’ve been lucky enough to have placements for commercial work, plus my friends have been dropping heat lately, they’ve been inspiring me to do more.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Taking the time to learn something new again and investing in collaborating, seeing where I can help my friends, where they can help me, and what we can make together. Making the transformation from just an artist to one who can make money is a big step and understanding the business, the possibilities, different outlets, and opportunities that are out there for you can really help. Lately, my friends and I have been trying to figure out how to use our knowledge in this space to help kids who have similar goals as us when we were younger figure out what they want to do and how they can do it. I want to tell kids that look like me that you can make it in the art space.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? For personal projects, it’s really important for me to budget and include cushions for any surprises I might run into. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? I would tell my younger self to take advantage of any financial cushion I found myself upon. I’ve had to work a few jobs that I’ve hated, but having money saved equals freedom to decide future next steps and work other opportunities regardless of pay.

What does financial freedom mean to you? If you were to ask me years ago I would say that financial freedom means waking up and not having to do anything. Honestly, the same basic concept of what I thought then is still what I think now. In my mind, financial freedom should give me the opportunity to take more risks and live in the present moment. Having the stability of being financially free gives me the chance to do other things with less stress.

Devine Marie Blacksher

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I am a host, producer, stylist, and writer. I'm currently the associate fashion editor at New York Magazine's The Cut, but outside of my main job, I love to host events for my friends and community. What creative projects are you currently working on? I'm working on a lot of creative projects right now. I'm planning my second stoop sale of the year and I'm working on a fun summer 2021 video project. None of these are associated with my job at The Cut because I can't really dive into those projects.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Earlier this year, I wrapped hosting my first video series called Next Level. The project was everything I've been wanting to do, so it felt amazing to finally be there and working with other women of color throughout the whole series to share stories about imposter syndrome and navigating to that next level in your career. It was so empowering for me and I received such great feedback, that I'm ready for the next season.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? When I'm working on self-funded projects, I try to be as frugal as possible. So that might mean calling on friends for favors or using what I already have in my house to create a moment. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? Invest. Invest. Invest. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom is being able to save money on top of paying my bills and living the lifestyle I deserve to live. It's hard to feel secure when you are working in a creative field sometimes, especially because we don't always get paid what we deserve. So, when I can look at my bank account and see that I have enough money in my saving and checking for the next couple of months, I can feel free financially.

Ian Privett

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I was born and raised in New York City. Growing up I’ve always had a love of drawing and making with my hands. In 2019 I re-discovered clay and it quickly became my creative focus. I work as a studio assistant for a ceramic artist as well. What creative projects are you currently working on? As of late, I’ve been interested in making both functional and sculptural pieces. I like to reimagine ordinary objects, from simple forms like bowls to more complex things like lamps and teapots.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. I recently launched a project called CntrPc, the idea being to explore editions and small runs of handmade objects. Ceramics play a large part in that, but the intention is to span across multiple mediums. I love experimenting with new combinations and approaches to materials, which I hope can inspire curiosity and play. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? Everything is driven by ideas first. I’ll research new materials as much as possible before buying them, especially since certain materials can be expensive. Knowing what I’ll be working with before diving in is invaluable.

What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? I’m still learning how to financially manage to work creatively. If I could rewind a few years and impart one thing, it’s that it’s OK to start where you are. To keep trying things and let the process of making guide you to the next opportunity. Not everything will offer immediate returns, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom would mean the ability to execute ideas at a larger scale, both physically and socially. I’d like to find ways to bring people in and open the experience of making to those who don’t have the same opportunities to do so. The goal is to teach and continue to learn along the way.

Ishmael Dozier

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn in a household emboldened by activism. New York culture and street culture at large continue to trailblaze my design ethos today. I’m currently the creative director of luxury streetwear fashion house Wolves By Circumstance. I’m also the founder of bespoke brand development company WBC Studios that provides branding and marketing services. What creative projects are you currently working on? Currently, I am working on the inaugural fall capsule collection for Wolves By Circumstance that will debut in Agenda Las Vegas in August. I am also diligently working on a wbc studios housed visual talk show “Death To A Slave” that looks to deconstruct issues that plague the black and brown community.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. The invitation to the Agenda Las Vegas Trade show was huge. The primary goal of my work is actually to attain financial freedom interestingly enough. What does financial freedom mean to you? On a micro level, the desires stem from a personal need to break the generational cycle of poverty within my own family. Furthermore, I would like to build a legacy of generational wealth. On a macro level, my goal is to become financially free in order to have an impact on my community. As a Black or brown kid coming from Brooklyn, that was blessed enough to access some educational resources, it’s my responsibility to help individuals that come from a similar socioeconomic background. And I don’t take that lightly. Ultimately my goal is to establish institutions, infrastructures, and incubators that have scalable economic and social impact.

Jonathan Lee

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living? I'm a Korean-American designer/creative from La Crescenta, California, who focuses on uplifting Asian American voices through all scopes of my work which includes bartending, designing, teaching, and consulting. What creative projects are you currently working on? I am currently working on designing shirts for the bar I manage, Reception Bar (A Korean American cocktail bar), to raise funds for various AAPI organizations. I’m also currently working on some commissions for tabi Air Force 1s and Jordan 1s at the moment.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Erykah Badu buying my tabi Timbs. What does financial freedom mean to you? Being able to pay my student loan debt without worry and being able to support and uplift my friend's brands and their creative endeavors.

Justin Boone

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m a very intentional person, who loves anything that involves creativity, athletics, and Jesus. I grew up in a home where creativity was not only encouraged but influenced, so I learned the importance of creating an environment where I could work for myself. I am a creative entrepreneur within the world of fashion and art. I own a clothing brand, David x Goliath, I am an Assistant Costume Designer for Film and Television, and I am an assistant buyer and merchandiser at T.A. New York (owned by my fiancée, Telsha Anderson).

What creative projects are you currently working on? I’m currently working on the next collection for David x Goliath, set to launch this fall. I am also currently working on a Netflix feature film titled, Hustle. My goal is to always take whatever I am working on to its farthest extent while still glorifying my relationship with Christ. Everything I have and do comes from Him, and I like to make that known at any opportunity while remaining true to the work that I do. My biggest accomplishment thus far has been launching David x Goliath and being considered for an Emmy for Best Contemporary Costume Design for the television series, Yellowstone. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? Learning how to properly budget for new projects has been a journey and will always be a learning curve. I like to approach every project with the same foundation, and that comes down to how much I’m likely to spend, what my return on investment is, and how much I’d like to save. In most cases, I like to use a system where I put a percentage of my income in savings and use the rest for whatever is coming next.

What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? When beginning on this journey, I wish I had a mentor that could guide me into making wiser financial decisions for my business to prepare for exponential growth. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom is not attached to any numerical value, rather peace through the ability to freely create, travel, provide for my family and grow within experiences. For me, that peace is created through what God chooses to provide for me within every season of my life. Financial freedom is an accumulation of assets rather than liabilities. Financial freedom is a journey of wisdom and understanding.

Miri Han

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living? I've worked in retail management for 10 years and I recently shifted my career into recruiting under a fashion recruiting agency! What creative projects are you currently working on? Currently, with @daisy_chingoo, I am working on several commission projects. I believe I have about 5-10 orders per week. As of now, I am working on a small order for my friend's e-shop!

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. My favorite project for @daisy_chingoo was a part of Sesame Projects outdoor Market----- which highlighted several Asian-American small merchants and there was a raffle where the proceeds went to the W.O.W Project! The community came out and supported and showed love. I love being part of projects like that! Ultimately, I want my work to be seen and just bring happiness into people's lives. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I make my financial decisions on my creative projects depending on priority, client needs, and timeline. If I feel a project is more important, yet the money isn't quite there... I might end up using money from my own pocket to start their project if it's something I truly feel passionate about. I always make sure to save some money from my daily jobs, to make sure that there is always a fund I can access to do what I truly want; whether that be collaborating with other designers/artists, pursuing my own fun side projects, or being able to lend a hand to people pursuing their own passions.

What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? To always be able to budget correctly. Before I came to New York, I had a great paying job that paid under the table. I was very young at the time (straight out of high school) making that much money, so I never thought to budget things out. I wish someone could have told me how to allocate money properly so I wouldn't have wasted time and effort later on. As a creative, expenses can come out of nowhere. Whether it be for travel, last-minute alterations, material costs, etc. Things always come up, and having money allocated to pay for those unexpected expenses is vital. What does financial freedom mean to you? Having financial freedom would mean safety and security.

Rahmell Green

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I'm from Maryland, I moved to New York to seek creative opportunities and now I work as a freelance motion graphics designer while also making music and designing video games. What creative projects are you currently working on? I'm currently working on a brand video for one of my close friends during the day. At night I'm working on my own game and its soundtrack, "Project: Maki." I've been working on this game for about a year so it's finally shaping up to what I envisioned it to be.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. I've just recently submitted my game's demo for a digital expo coming up next month. Very random but I also learned how to front flip recently in my Parkour class lol (It'll make sense). I've always had a goal of creating and filming action sequences and exactly how I imagined and with my recent purchases of a few different action cams I've been able to express that vision. You'll see when this video comes out, I got to mount a 360 action camera on a Suzuki for one of the sickest shots I've ever recorded! How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? When it comes to creative projects, most of my spending is very impulsive so it's a must to have a rainy day fund. It's more of an impulse fund, but I say that because one minute I'm watching a YouTube video of new equipment that will inspire an idea or project, and then I make the purchase so I can jump on that idea with said equipment as soon as it's delivered or picked up! It's also important to have that fund for when I need to pay one of my fellow creatives for their services. I hate asking for free favors so I try not to approach without being able to cover or provide for who I'm reaching out to.

What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? When it comes to money, you make more when you invest into your craft. Better equipment brings bigger budgets and clients and so on and so forth. You want to be wise with your money but the vision always needs to be vertical if you want to continue to grow and support yourself. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial Freedom to me means having the ability to create without worrying about funds. Money would no longer be a day-to-day issue and your money becomes your ticket to the world. They say money doesn't buy happiness but give me a million dollars and some free time, I'll have more access to the world and the ability to execute my ideas without needed to cut corners.

Khiana Lowe

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker (shoutout Long Island), marketing strategist, model, and co-founder of DEI agency Incorp[HER]ated. Incorp[HER]ated bridges the gap between communities and brands to distribute opportunities and resources in sneakers, fashion, music, and sports. We help brands figure out how they can effectively show up for underrepresented groups and support individuals as they find their creative path and voice. What creative projects are you currently working on? Incorp[HER]ated has some really cool partnerships coming up to create mentorship and networking opportunities to bring new faces and talent into the mix. Outside of Inc. I'm working with my mentor's creative agency, &Them, to do everything from partnerships, to production, to strategy - basically anything needed to get the job done. Modeling has always mainly been a creative outlet for me so right now my focus is working with my friends on passion projects to get back to why we love what we do.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. In February, Incorp[HER]ated released our first sneaker. We do an annual workshop for high-school students around NYC called Straight to Feet to show them the behind-the-scenes world of the sneaker industry and inspire them to try something new. For our 2019 workshop, we partnered with Foot Locker's Project Greenhouse and Garrixon to release a special Diadora Duratech Elite named LIMITLESS designed by an incredible group of students from the workshop. Everything from the colorway to the logo, to the name, was developed by them with the message that what you can achieve isn't limited by your age, gender, or race. It's incredible to see the thoughtfulness that these kids put into every aspect of the shoe. When my co-founder, Brittany, and I started Straight to Feet in 2017, the idea of making and distributing a shoe designed by kids in the workshop felt like a 10-15 year goal, so the fact that we made it happen in less than five is unreal. It's a tangible manifestation of our ultimate goal to amplify the voices of the groups really driving the trends and culture and a physical reminder that it's just the start of what's to come.

What does financial freedom mean to you? That the scope is determined by me, not the budget. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? On a personal level, I try to have a safety net of at least four months of savings for necessary expenses. Once that’s secured I rotate in contributing to my long-term savings, investing into my own ventures, and just money that’s “just for fun.” Prioritizing financial security gives me the room and freedom to focus on my work and other projects. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? How essential organized record keeping is and the importance of understanding tax deductibles and how best to take advantage of them.

Christine Espinal

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I'm from the Bronx. Studied Interior Design and Exhibition Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I've recently started working at Lichen as a spatial designer. What creative projects are you currently working on? Currently working on developing renderings for several projects. Also working on new furniture and object designs. Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Working at Lichen is a huge personal accomplishment. It's a team I've always admired and I'm very grateful to be a part of. The goal of my work is to design environments that people can relate to and feel welcome.

What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom to me means living life and creating without worrying about my next paycheck. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I don’t really yet. I’m still learning to navigate [money]. I mostly just create with my own resources right now. Working at Lichen has also provided me with some workspace and additional resources to actualize my designs.

What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? I wish I understood the true value of myself and my work sooner, and how to secure the bag I deserve a bit quicker. Understanding that all of the experiences and work that I’ve put in over the course of my whole life, even as a child, have made me valuable. My essence and being are literally priceless. And the things I create are priceless, too.

Malcolm McNeil

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living? I was born and raised in New York, by way of New Jersey. As a child, the culture charmed me through film, basketball, and nostalgia. I grew up in a household where priming yourself with the history that preceded you was a necessary perspective and quickly noted that visual imagery is what helped me get best acquainted with that. I have vivid memories of my father repeatedly telling me about his experience practically growing up in the movie theater or my mother spending ample time to show me family albums and home videos taken by my grandfather, all to demonstrate the significance of our shared visual language. These key memories turned into interests. These days my main creative endeavor is photography while expanding into screenwriting. Currently, I help lead the Brand Marketing team at Flight Club. What creative projects are you currently working on? I’ve been working on the next iteration of my photo series titled ‘Write of Passage’, which will be an offering of prints in large format. The first installment of prints will highlight key scenes in my precious time spent in Ghana a few years ago. Those images were previously available via my photobook release of the same name in 2018, and this follow-up to the project will allow me to share some of those same compositions, alongside new ones, in the form that I always intended to share them in. I think images are in their purest form when in their physical element. I’m also working to exhibit these pieces in a gallery setting soon. Although I have no other professional photographers in my family, I’ve always taken pride in the photos my family has taken over the years and I want to make this print series in that same spirit. Separately, I’m working on my craft as a screenwriter to expand the messaging of my work and overall evolution.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work? For one, completing this project with Oxygen & Highsnob. Having an opportunity to meet and speak with 20 creatives across disciplines and hearing their unique perspectives. The positive dialogue that came with each session was a testament to the perpetual motion of New York, seeing creatives in a post-pandemic society moving forward in their respective pursuit, and in some cases expanding the medium through which they work. Another cool thing that happened recently was being featured on CNBC’s Suddenly Obsessed segment for my take on the Air Jordan legacy. It’s always fun to be able to share my perspective and commentary on topics that mean so much to me. Lastly, I’m happy to be closer to the finish line on a spec script that I’ve been working on for some time. It’s a project that has brought me great joy and I plan to see through until the end. The goal of my work is like that of a modern-day griot, to acknowledge the precursory experiences that have been shared with me thus far and furthering the inquiries of my own day-to-day experience.

What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom is unlocking the ability to work how you want to work. Working hard and smart—albeit a cliché— are required ingredients to get you to that point. But being able to work how you want to work inherently empowers you to be selective in all facets of your process. Eventually, that freedom increases the threshold considerably to the point where you, as a creative, can work when you want to work. For me, that also translates into having the option to see through succession. Ultimately, that is the goal, being able to create the best possible conditions for others’ success—that is something the other side of the spectrum does not allow. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I make my financial decisions based on my intentions and advantage assessment, asking myself how this will get me closer to the desired outcome. In my head, the minutiae of each decision have an influence on the overarching goals and further tailors my expectation on returns, whether quantitative or qualitative. Preparing intelligently requires self-reflection and accountability because in some cases $1,000 and $10 can be equally catalytic. It’s about how you use the tools, what you want out of them, and the willingness to learn. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? One thing I learned is that the results come in different forms. Be a “who”, not a “what—meaning, don’t box yourself in. Fail early and fail quickly to cross things off your list. You can be more than one thing but commit to that handful of things with conviction. Most importantly, give yourself to the craft and find your tribe to yield results. Financial success will follow. If you can carve out your value, you won’t have to be a one-man team. Your network will help cover the difference, create opportunities, and improve your process. In turn, the interactions will be worth the most in the end.

Noah Roberts

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I am a freelance creative from Canarsie, Brooklyn. I’m grateful I’m able to claim a few different job titles; producer, creative consultant, marketer, and wherever my brain takes me at the moment. What creative projects are you currently working on? I’m working on growing my brand “Youcantknockit” -a hub of ideas that resonates in my mind. YCKI, for short, is an umbrella for everything that I want to do creatively. I’m also in the process of creating a youth basketball team, it’s been a goal of mine for a while now and the progress amazes me. I have a few other personal and collaborative creative projects that will be releasing soon. Stay tuned!

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. After my inaugural “Youcantknockit” drop, I donated 10% of the profits to my elementary school. This was a full-circle moment for me. I’m one step closer towards my bigger goal- developing community outreach programs in my neighborhood, and eventually reaching beyond my community.

What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom means a fair shot at any opportunity and control of my time that isn’t always granted. Free access to opportunities allows the impossible to become a reality. Control also eliminates the stress and worry that financial restriction can bring. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I usually try to be aware and realistic of the financial goals I set. Being mindful of different budgeting factors such as needs, wants, savings, and other goals I’m pursuing, also helps me stay as organized and consistent as I can be. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? The importance of understanding self-investment and how your time is spent will always benefit the growth of overall financial literacy.

Derrick Cheung

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m a first-generation Chinese-American musician, DJ, sound designer, event producer, and curator. I’m currently based in NYC. I write and produce music under the moniker Yellowtechnica, and am half of Good Faith, a DJ duo and sound system. I’m another freelance multihyphenate/jack of all trades New Yorker I haven’t had a salaried job in about seven years, so I always try to keep as many revenue streams open and flowing at one time as possible. For me, that mostly consists of DJing, producing music for ads and commercials, event producing IRL, and (more recently) livestream events. What creative projects are you currently working on? There are way too many projects to list but the two biggest ones I’m working on right now is my music as Yellowtechnica. I’m looking forward to more releases, more collaborations, and soon some live performances. The second project is revealing to the world the Good Faith Sound System: a big ass four-way sound system my DJ partner and I are hand building. We’ll be popping up in NYC this summer!

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. My siblings and I bought a condo for my parents and I think that might be the biggest accomplishment of my life so far. One of the biggest goals of my work lies right there: being able to support myself and make money my way while still be able to help out my parents like this — it’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I was young. Another huge goal of my work is to be an example for young Chinese and Asian-Americans to be proud of who they are and to not dilute their culture and identity for fear of not fitting in. I want to show them that being themselves and learning more about their family history and wearing it on their sleeve pays off 100x more than trying to omit parts of yourself in order to fit in.

What does financial freedom mean to you? Being able to give back and help others while still having the means to support yourself and your family without sacrificing your lifestyle. How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? When it comes to creative projects, I’m a “spend now, ask questions later” kind of guy. Ten times out of 10 I prioritize money for new projects and equipment over savings or a rainy day fund. Money comes and goes, sometimes it’s high sometimes it’s low, but to me, it's best spent creating with it. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? You do not need to own expensive gear to be great. Some young creatives see money as a blocker to create — “Oh I need a Mac, I need new microphones, I need a studio — to me, these are excuses to prevent you from getting started. Work with your friends, work at school, utilize free resources (there are way more out there now than when I was growing up), find an internship that will put you in positions to use your dream equipment. All of these are valid ways to develop your skills and get your ideas off the ground.

Bryan Luna

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and went to college for business management but ended up making a profession for myself as a photographer within the commercial and editorial space. Along the way, I have picked up other creative mediums and incorporated those into my brand I started called BLÜHILL. I’ve also started making tapestries and rugs earlier this year which has been a great experience. What creative projects are you currently working on? Currently, I’m working on my next collection of tapestries/rugs. All of them will be of the animated Black Dynamite series. I’m also in the process of creating merch for my brand along with rollout content to accompany it.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Most recently I dropped an Astro Boy Tapestry/Rug Collection which was really fun to make. I want to showcase the creative projects that I’ve worked on my own and with my friends. I enjoy the process of creating something from start to finish while doing it to the best of my ability and then putting it out to the world. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom to me means that I would have the luxury of time. I would be free to not only concentrate and refine my skill set and add even more to that but also have more time for myself and others.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Most recently I dropped an Astro Boy Tapestry/Rug Collection which was really fun to make. I want to showcase the creative projects that I’ve worked on my own and with my friends. I enjoy the process of creating something from start to finish while doing it to the best of my ability and then putting it out to the world. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom to me means that I would have the luxury of time. I would be free to not only concentrate and refine my skill set and add even more to that but also have more time for myself and others.

Jillian Tuttle

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I've been in hospitality since I was 15. As the Food & Beverage Director at the Jane Hotel, I oversee the Ballroom, rooftop bar, and soon-to-be restaurant (once we bring it back!). Prior to that, I was managing a cocktail lounge after I left Public Arts at the PUBLIC hotel. What creative projects are you currently working on? I'm sourcing and selling for Cute Sips. I had some larger ideas in mind for the brand, but that had to take a pause when I took a full-time job. Once things settle down (if they ever do), I'm hoping I'll be able to get the ball rolling on some of those ideas. For now, I still enjoy sharing these cuties with others!

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Working in hospitality for the majority of my professional career, it was really difficult for me to explore any creative ventures. Once the pandemic hit and I had free time, I started sourcing glassware with the intention of selling it. Just starting the page alone was an accomplishment. Something that was finally my own, and not tied to a venue that I worked for. The goal with my glassware page has been, and will always be to share my love of glassware with others. To be able to personally choose a piece or a set, that I feel an attachment to, and then pass it along to someone else who will love it as much I do, will always bring me the most gratification. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom to me is being able to eat and drink as much as I want, without worrying what the bill will look like and the end of the meal. Just trying to pick up the tab for champagne and caviar!

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? Budgeting has never been my strong suit! I've always been the type of person where if I have the money, I spend it. With that being said, I did try to be more strategic when starting Cute Sips, as the financial gain was unpredictable. I was slow to purchase items in the beginning, so I could see what would sell before I would buy similar pieces. I also made sure to invest in items that would benefit my brand. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? Tracking your finances is especially important when pursuing a creative endeavor. I'm a visual person so I created a spreadsheet to see what I was spending vs. what I was making. This made me more conscious of my spending habits and allowed me to adjust where necessary

Makayla Wray

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m from Pittsburgh and have lived in New York City for the last five years. I worked as a seamstress for 15 years. From self-taught and sewing tags on for a screen printing company to making pieces for Paris runaways. I have a degree in fashion design, but I learned most of what I do in the shadows of manufacturing for companies. What creative projects are you currently working on? During the summer I was really focused on my [mobile tailoring] pushcart. It’s a very personal project with the community and I never really know what I’m going to get on a daily basis.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Between the response of the cart, and the feedback I got for being a resourceful designer I’m proud of myself for speaking up for the environment, and the many seamstresses behind these big fashion brands that get overlooked. Sewing is a skill set built over time, anyone who can do it and do it well has done it for a long time and consistently. I want to give the many people in the background of these fashion houses just as much credit.

What does financial freedom mean to you? The cart completely revolves around financial freedom! I’ve always wanted to have my own studio and tailor shop, but that dream is unfortunately not an easy goal for a POC girl from the lower class. Materials that are being wasted and thrown out can be my fine silks and spaces like the street are free for me to take over. I started rebuilding my clothing because I couldn’t afford what I wanted. I put a cart in the middle of Soho, to prove that I can compete with large companies. Financial freedom is amazing, but it’s not only money that can give you that.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? The cart is a project full of the unexpected. I continuously have to keep supplies and materials in stock and rent for the cart storage. Being such a new business I’ve been saving and cycling every penny back into the business. It rained all week a few weeks ago and that kept me from being able to work. Luckily because of my savings, it wasn’t too bad. I have to save — the unexpected is always possible in my field. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? Pricing and bill of materials (BOM). A lot of young designers try to compete with the prices of big companies that make us lower our worth (labor).

Mark Yves Luxama

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I was born and raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn and, I’m currently one of the owners of Cafe Erzulie in Bushwick. What creative projects are you currently working on? Cafe Erzulie is definitely my main creative project. It’s continually evolving and requires a significant amount of attention. I spend most of my days filling up our calendar with a wide range of events, ranging from parties to poetry readings to weddings.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. One of the biggest accomplishments recently was finding a way to keep the business alive during Covid. I think when I look back I’ll be proud of the fact that the Cafe was able to survive one of the hardest periods for venues/restaurants in recent history. Shoutout to all of my partners and friends for all of the love and support. What does financial freedom mean to you? Being able to afford my cost of living, and have the independence to support myself, my family, and my friends. It’s the ability to do what I want when I want and not have to worry about the cost. It means being responsible, and not frivolous, and saving to build for a better future.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? I often begin by creating a budget. I then do my best to stay within it. My goal is to put out the best product possible without having to drive up costs. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? I’ve learned that the best thing to do with your money is to save it and invest it.

Mel Renee

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I’m a freelance fashion stylist with a background in brand consulting and visual storytelling. I came to New York nine years ago to pursue my dreams of being a stylist and have been working towards it ever since. What creative projects are you currently working on? I’m working with the wonderful ladies at “See Me” creative agency on an ongoing editorial series for Nike Journal.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. In recent months I’ve been lucky to accomplish a few of my styling goals after such an unsure year in the pandemic. I was recently able to style Keke Palmer for the VMA’s and it was a moment I was really proud of. My main goal is to remain free and versatile within my career. Working in as many different sectors of fashion that make me happy. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom to me is the ability to have choices. It’s choosing what jobs I take, where I live, and where I can travel while feeling confident in my finances.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? For creative projects, I have a separate account where I keep funds that are strictly for work. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? I’ve learned to save money for a rainy day. That’s one of the most important lessons all freelance creatives can learn.

Daniel Li

Tell us a little about your background and what you do for a living. I grew up in China in a Tibetan autonomous region within Sichuan province. I moved to New York when I was 19 to finish my degree at FIT. After some years of working in the fashion industry, I started a leather goods brand called RATIO ET MOTUS with my business partner Angela Wang in 2018. What creative projects are you currently working on? I’m currently working on our SS22 collection which will show in September. I’m also working on a collaboration project with a carpenter artisan friend. We are working on some small objects that bring wood and leather seamlessly together.

Talk to us about any recent accomplishments and the goal of your work. Working through the pandemics has been really hard and I am happy that my brand has survived so far and now the goal is to make sure that we can have a beautiful collection to show in September and capture the market we have lost during the pandemics. What does financial freedom mean to you? Financial freedom to me comes from being super organized with your own personal finance. No matter how much money you make, being organized with your own spending will also bring a sense of freedom and relief to you.

How do you make financial decisions when it comes to your creative projects? Before starting on a new project, I would budget everything out and see what the financial goal is. If I can not afford it right now, I would start saving particularly for those projects. What have you learned about money/finance that you wish you knew earlier as a creative? Basic accounting knowledge and always keep your books done correctly and updated. Budgeting and cash flow are always important and I wish I knew more about them when I first started.

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