Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My name is Gayle Anderson. I am a self-taught watercolor illustrator. Born in Oklahoma, raised in the high desert of New Mexico, and schooled in Northern California. I studied wildlife. Got my bachelor of science degree in wildlife management in 1990. But it wasn’t until I started working as a biologist in 1998 that I fell in love w birds. Painting birds in watercolor is what I do best. Started painting in March of 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis started. Needed a hobby. So I sent away for a “Let’s Make Art” kit. Did a few of their paintings before I painted my first bird. It was a Magnolia Warbler. I looked at the illustration on the cover of a Sibley’s Bird Book and tried to paint what I saw. Since that day, I’ve tried to paint one bird per day during the first few months. I get photos from Pinterest and always try to give the photographer credit for my inspiration. After a while, I branched out into painting landscapes, and even pets. I even dabbled in acrylic paints for a time.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
I donate 10% of all profit to the Audubon Society of Florida. With my shop, Abirdsgallery, every time someone favorites a painting, I try to make it available as a print. My originals can be quite expensive, but prints are affordable. I have only had 4 purchases on the Etsy site, but I give direct and individual attention to each one. I ship my product within 1 to 3 days of purchase. I use USPS to ship and I always include a personal note. In terms of organization on Etsy, I could stand to improve. For example, all the prints together, birds altogether, and landscapes altogether. My main responsibility is to my customers. I go above and beyond to ensure they are getting the highest quality product. My second responsibility is to the Audubon Society. In today’s political climate, fish and wildlife issues suffer, so I donate to help. Before I joined Etsy, I had my own Wix website. All told, I have made about $2000 selling my art.
What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
My best sellers are the bird paintings. I use watercolor paint on cardstock. What makes my birds stand out is that I try to paint as realistically as I can.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I enjoy creating art the most. It’s fun, challenging, and gives me a sense of purpose. The hardest part is making that sale. When nothing is selling, I branch out; painting landscapes, animals, etc. I try to think of what is popular for the season. For example, it is becoming fall. So I have painted a couple of pictures w fall colors.
Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?
My marketing strategy is lacking. Right now I use Etsy to market my work. Although I’ve sold to Australia, the UK, and the United States, I know I could improve here.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
I’m sure there must be. But I haven’t found mine yet.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
My biggest challenges include trying to do all this myself. Because I’m an artist, I fall short on the business side of things. I don’t really have a solid business plan. Also, I’d like to branch out in making online prints. Currently, if someone wants a print of an original, I make an 8″ x 10″ print. Every print is the same size. And the prints are not of great quality. I’d like to be able to offer customers the option of multiple sizes in prints of my originals, but I really don’t know how to get started.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
Real-life inspires me. I love nature, so whenever a bird is nearby, that usually becomes my next painting. I use Pinterest sometimes, also, to get inspiration for a painting.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
I ship internationally. I use the Etsy tools to layout shipping costs, but again this is an area that needs better organization. I use free shipping in the US because I typically only ship the original or print which is cardstock and inexpensive to ship. I wrap each piece individually in a bird print tissue paper, package carefully with a rigid piece of cardboard, and always attach a thank you card.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
I have chosen something I’m passionate about. I studied birds in college and worked for 16 plus years as a wildlife biologist. Our natural resources are in peril and by painting and donating proceeds to the Audubon Society – in some small way – I think I am making a difference. I know I will be painting until I can no longer move because it’s FUN! As for running a successful business, I need help. I am not the ideal businesswoman, but I am an intelligent woman and am open to new ideas on how to be successful.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Do what you love, seek help, and stay positive and open to new possibilities. Find something you are passionate about. That way, creating it will be second nature. Seek help, if you know there are ways you can improve, swallow your pride, and simply ask someone who knows. Staying positive is the best way I’ve found in getting through the dry periods when no one seems interested in what you do. Keep an open mind to new possibilities; it is the only way we learn and grow!
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
My view of success is being creative whether it makes money or not. I have this talent of being able to look at a photograph or real-life scene, interpreting what I see, and transferring to the canvas or cardstock. It is so much fun to mix color for the desired result. The really neat idea here is that my viewers get to see my mind’s eye. What finally becomes the painting is my brain’s interpretation of the photograph into color, shape, perspective, and form. Every now and then what I paint is LOVED by someone, and my goal is reached whether they buy it or not. I’ve brightened someone’s day; touched someone w color! That’s my definition of success.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I am happily married for 26 years and have no children. I currently make a living as a caregiver. So, after work, I come home, get chores done, care for our one cat and one dog, work out, and then look for something to paint. I don’t paint every night, but I do turn out a new painting every few days. When I do, I post it on Facebook; then put it up for sale on Etsy. I currently work on the weekends as a caregiver as well. Someday, I hope to just be painting illustrating full time.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Here is an area where I need lots of help. I plan to grow by expanding the subject matter of my paintings. In other words, I want to reach as wide an audience as possible. Also, I have already expanded the media. For example, I have done a few acrylics which are more challenging because it is harder to paint details in Acrylic. The largest impact on my profitability is marketing. But I would like to someday, leave the caregiver profession entirely.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
One thing I did was respond to Thomas’ message and answer this questionnaire. One plan I have is to get better at organizing my work (the paintings themselves).
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
I am not the best person to use as a shining example of success, but I am willing to learn.