Alumni Spotlight: Corey Warren ’04
Corey Warren ’04 has seen multiple sides of SVSEF; he skied on the freestyle team, and returned a few years later as a coach. He now spends his time as a photographer, videographer and visual designer based out of Seattle. Learn more about what Corey has learned from building a business and pursuing an artistic career, and what lessons he’s taken with him from the Wood River Valley.
What has your journey since living in the Wood River Valley looked like? How was the transition, from growing up here to attending college and to moving to a city? Did you feel prepared for those changes? How did you get started in art and design?
Since graduating from Community School in 2004, I have lived in Portland, OR, Moscow, ID, Bellingham, WA, Ketchum briefly, and now Seattle, WA. I went to four different colleges and managed to still graduate in four years, which was an entire journey on its own. Immediately after graduating from Western Washington University in Bellingham in 2008, my best friend let me in on a business idea and we started as partners in a skate/snow/gallery/print shop. I wore many hats and co-created INNATE, whose brand mantra was “a natural philosophy,” and encouraged the discovery and implementation of the innate talents of each and every individual for the greater good. We had a five-year run and disbanded in 2013. I had a short stint in Idaho coaching ski team for a season before moving back to Seattle to settle into my new life as a freelance creative. Now I’ve spent almost four years in Seattle and I’m finally finding my rhythm, uncovering the potential of the city and learning every step of the way. The transition from Idaho to Oregon to Washington was pretty natural and I did feel prepared, especially coming from Community School. This probably isn’t the time or place for it but one thing no one seems to be prepared enough about is the reality of finances and credit, which is an immediate and hard-hitting reality for many when they leave for school and become increasingly more independent from their parents. We need to implement more realistic curriculum in addition to the existing stuff.
Did you have a sense for a while that you wanted to start your own business, or is that something that developed over time or with certain experiences?
My whole family is pretty creative and have run their own businesses my whole life, so I think a lot of my creativity comes from being around it all the time and having cultivated it slowly over my entire childhood. I was always starting new businesses and coming up with new products and logos, so it evolved naturally into college when I needed to have a focus. The internet has been an incredible resource for me to get inspiration, post my own work and get feedback, and discover what’s happening in every little facet of art, design, film, etc. I’m a super visual and tactile person, really aesthetically incentivized with an A-type personality, so design and art are really natural outlets for me to make sense of the world.
You’ve got this company, Idahome, which resonates with a lot of locals. You’ve been in Seattle for a number of years – what parts of Idaho did you take with you, in addition to the inspiration for that brand? What are the goals and values of the company?
In regards to Idahome, I try to keep the glory, the grit, and the grandeur alive with the content I post and the products we sell, which are limited. The topography design, the county lines design, and the classic are all mountain/geography inspired and resonate with locals. Idaho is raw and genuine, it’s fresh and clean and represents the center of the universe to me— everything revolves around Idaho in my world; I’ll always gravitate back there, in my mind or physically. I’d like to grow Idahome to the point that it’s self sustaining and I can focus on design and marketing. I’m always trying to find the best products with the smallest ecological and humanitarian footprint, and the content of the work will always remain positive, uplifting and showcase the natural beauty of Idaho. I’d really like to lock in some long term ecological partners to form alliances with people on the ground doing work and speaking up for the environment.
On the most challenging aspect of building a company:
Building a company is an expression of one’s own passions with the caveat of having to make a profit. It’s firstly a challenge to balance the idea of making money on your passions with keeping them separate and pure. Secondly, you can’t be risk-averse and need to be willing to dive head-on into uncomfortable situations and put more on the line than you’re used to, because it’s greater than yourself and affects more people than one. Lastly, momentum and consistency are key, and that takes dedication and persistence. It goes without saying all these qualities are not readily accessible in everyone and running a business separates one type of person from another. Idahome is still in its infancy and should be seeing some growth over the next couple years! Stay tuned.
How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired as an artist?
On motivation and inspiration… it’s a fickle thing! I can’t always conjure it but I’m finding that one has to at least be in touch with their own schedule and what times of day are best for which types of work. I am a night owl and produce a ton of my best conceptual work at night. Newly born creations are best for mornings, and finishing ongoing projects for the evening. I like to use the days to play and exercise/ get errands done so the evening I can lock into my flow and be productive. Schedule is paramount to creativity but so is spontaneity, so again, a balance…. such is life, eh?
Aside from your own businesses, you work for Matador Network; what do you do for them, and what do you enjoy most about working there?
I’m a freelance content producer for Matador Network, which means I travel to destinations around North America for various clients of theirs, and create video and photo content for their brands. Sometimes I cover events, sometimes I create an entire experience for the viewer with a montage of all the activities one can do in a particular area. Sometimes I do more commercial work but the majority is destination marketing content. I love the travel and schedule, and the opportunity it’s afforded me to learn the art of run and gun film making (essentially making short, loosely-scripted documentary films out of your backpack).
How do you describe the value of a program like SVSEF? What aspects of the program have you carried over or applied to your current jobs, or any steps or experiences that have come in between? To life in general?
The SVSEF was an incredible family for me as a child. I can’t think of a better structure for a kid to engage with, or a better organization to grow within. The discipline, autonomy, and self confidence are the biggest things I took away from the program. Knowing I was capable of accomplishing my goals, small or large, is a huge part of my identity and growth into who I am now. We are incredibly fortunate to have a ski culture so accessible to us in the WRV, because it’s such an unrealistic and rare lifestyle to be able to live.
You coached for SVSEF for a bit; what was that like, to return to the program from a different standpoint?
Coaching that one season was an incredible, surreal experience for me. Seeing that program from the coach’s perspective was a trip, with the reversal of roles catching me off guard at first. Coaching ski team is the most fun job ever, and I was just reminded of how incredible both Sun Valley and the SVSEF program are. The role the the SVSEF has in children’s’ lives is paramount to their success in life and I mean that wholeheartedly. The structure, experience and character building that happens there is invaluable, and to be packaged in such an encouraging lifestyle is what makes it so unique and special.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I can’t be sure that this is the best advice I’ve ever gotten, but here are a few things:
- Never do two illegal things at the same time.
- Be true to yourself and surround yourself with people that make you the best person you can be.
- Enjoy the process and practice gratitude… life slips by quickly and it’s important to remain in a state of awe and amazement at the experience we get to have, uncomfortable or not. Gratitude is the attitude!
- It’s not about staying out of the rain, it’s about learning to dance in the storm!
How have you come to define success?
Defining success takes experience, plain and simple. One has to live life and learn what they resonate with, what makes them tick, what incentivizes them and what challenges them. When our moral framework is developed, we are able to build on a foundation of understanding about the world that informs our choices and how we can stretch ourselves to achieve our goals. Success can be so many things to so many people…to me, success is having true friends, having a healthy mind and body, and continuing to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder about the world until the very end. Success is having a positive and long-lasting effect on people and the world around you.