Image above: Jess Keeli, Be.Bendigo Business Excellence Awards
Bendigo watercolour artist Jess Keeli has won the Emerging and Energised Award at the Bendigo Business Excellence Awards this week.
Jess received the award in front of a sell out crowd of 700 people at Red Energy Arena on Thursday night. The award, sponsored by Startup Central Victoria, recognises emerging businesses (between 12 months and three years) that are making a huge impact.
The win came as a surprise to the self-taught artist who shared the category with fellow finalists CosMedic Solutions and Tea Associates.
"I was up against such powerhouse female-lead businesses for the emerging and energised category so I was very much ready to hear either of them get read out, not Jess Keeli Creative," says Jess.
"I feel so honoured though to have been in good company for the award and to be recognised as the winner too. Getting such recognition and validation for the work that I do definitely helps fight off the imposter syndrome."
Jess hopes the awards prestige adds credibility and opens doors to collaboration with retailers.
"A goal I have for 2023 is to increase my connections to retailers so that I can start getting my products into more places, and I would particularly love to connect with some larger retailers too. Winning this award will definitely help add some credibility to me and my business when I do reach out to retailers."
Jess also plans to use her increased exposure to champion art as a tool for mindfulness, shedding light on its often underestimated potential in fostering positive mental health and wellbeing.
"I would like to take advantage of the increased exposure to really start sharing the importance that being creative, in any capacity, can have on our mental health and wellbeing.
"Being creative and moving our hands can be a great mindfulness tool, regardless of the results, but it is a tool that is often overlooked when talking about practising mindfulness."
The award sits alongside another 2023 business highlight for Jess - the launch of Jess Keeli Academy earlier this year. With over 30 students enrolled, her heart swells with pride as their newfound creative expressions come to life.
"What is really making my heart sing about this (Jess Keeli Academy) is the posts I am starting to see pop up in my student-only Facebook Group.
"Most of my students are people who have never considered themselves creative before, never painted with watercolours before and didn't know where or how to get started. But fast forward a few weeks after enrolling and I am seeing them proudly share their paintings with everyone in the facebook group, and they absolutely should be proud because their paintings look amazing.
"It is especially exciting to see that the spark has been lit for them now and they are excited to be exploring their creativity and what they are capable of outside of the course.
"It was really important to me when planning my course that I didn't just teach people how to paint a specific set of things, but instead equip them with all the skills and knowledge they needed to go out and paint anything that inspired them once they were done with my course. These posts popping up in the Facebook Group have been really affirming that I have achieved this, and it makes me so damn happy."
Having a small business, and becoming involved in the OAK community has also led to beautiful collaborative opportunities for Jess. From working with local Bendigo businesses like Ash Morales Creative and The Teacher Collection, Jess has enjoyed the process of combining her work with other creatives.
"Being able to bring your individual skills together to create something wonderful brings me so much joy and I will forever seek out collaborations for Jess Keeli Creative," says Jess.
"I have actually got a collaboration in the works at the moment with Krubi Creative who I had admired for some time so I am super excited to now have the opportunity to work with them and can't wait to share what's coming.
"Moving forward, I would absolutely love to do a collaboration with Shelby Sherrit who, if you are unfamiliar with her, is sunshine in human form.
"I would also love to do a collaboration with a homewares or linen brand which I can hopefully leverage this award to make those connections."
Read The art of science - Jess Keeli Creative as featured in OAK Magazine Issue 10