Pippa Seichrist, co-founder of the Miami Ad School with her husband, Ron, embodies the art of style. Her life’s work has been to empower creatives and teach them to use their unique skills for a living. She always adds a fun, unique spin—we love her solution to the acoustic issue in one of her classrooms (hint: it involves denim.) We can’t think of anything more inspiring than that. Here she tells us a little bit about herself and her philosophy.
I grew up in Indialantic, Florida, a small, island town on the East Coast near where the rockets took off for the moon. My family lived a few hundred feet from the ocean. As a teenager I walked on the beach every single day, rain or shine. There was a different surprise every day: a zillion pink jellyfish, dolphins racing in the waves, black storms rolling on the horizon, a sea turtle laying eggs, weird seed pods that had floated across the ocean from Africa, huge waves with world-class surfers twirling across them…
2) Current Location
Now I’m based in Wynwood, the street-art district of Miami. Every building is covered with murals painted by amazing artists from all over the world. When you walk down the street your mind vibrates with possibilities. This area is the city’s innovation center with lots of start-ups and business accelerators. An area of openness and ideas. I also spend a lot of time visiting our other schools in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco.
3) What do we need to know about you?
I try to see every problem as an opportunity. For example: one of the classrooms at Miami Ad School is really beautiful with a high ceiling and curved white wall, but acoustically it was horrible. Instead of doing something ordinary like installing traditional sound-baffling panels, I wanted to do something more unexpected. I went to the local thrift store and bought 300 pairs of blue jeans for $2 a piece, treated them so they would be flame retardant and staple-gunned the pants to the back walls of the classroom. I overlapped the jeans in a kind of herring bone pattern. The room looks spectacular and is quiet. The students love the space and keep taking pictures. You can see the room on #MASLife.
4) What inspired you and your husband to start Miami Ad School?
When I met my husband, he was president of a school he had started in Atlanta called Portfolio Center. A couple of years later he sold the school and we started an advertising agency. The agency was doing well, but my husband was a different person. He didn’t have the same spark. I missed it. I said,“Ron, let’s start a school together. Let’s start the school that we wish we had gone to.” We sold everything we had and moved to Miami. Our first class had six students. Now there are 14 Miami Ad Schools in 10 countries and 8,000 graduates working in advertising agencies, design firms and brands all over the world. Ironically the owner of Portfolio Center wanted to retire and asked us to take over the school. Life came full circle!
5) What makes your life better?
Helping people discover who they are meant to be. People may have all sorts of creative interests but still think they have to do something traditional with their lives. When they get to Miami Ad School, meet all the other creative people, and see the career opportunities, they feel like they found where they belong. It’s a very practical school where students graduate with the skills, portfolio, and network of connections they need to get a job doing something they love.
6) What is your favorite way to be creative?
My job is very creative but I’m happiest when I’m also working on a personal project. I like to do all sorts of creative things (pottery, photography, making videos, writing) but making chairs is my favorite. I make my chairs out of irregularly shaped small trees or large branches. Then I carve and paint snakes or fish on them. Sometimes I carve birds and attach them to the top of the chair with a heavy wire. The motion of sitting on the chair makes it jiggle and the bird “flies”.
7) Who are your role models?
I don’t really have a role model but I am surrounded by people who inspire me. I get the most inspiration from my husband/business partner. Our collaboration is magical. We take each other’s ideas, add to them, and the new version of the idea is better than the original. It’s like 1 + 1 = 3.
Our students, instructors and staff are also very inspirational. They work hard and have such interesting ideas. In her spare time, one woman created a non-profit that raises money and builds schools in Ecuador. An alum came up with an idea that has increased bone marrow donors by 1,700%. These two are just normal people who had an extraordinary idea, and made their idea happen.