Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
I started my business, in a way, to show myself that I believed in myself. I’ve been an artist my entire life, but 2019 was the year that I stopped being afraid to put myself out there. With the support and encouragement of my Partner (in both my soul’s journey & business), friends, and family I decided to “bet on me”. I opened my Etsy shop in September 2019 and entered several calls for artists throughout the United States expecting to get the dreaded, “Thanks for your interest but we’ve decided to take another path…” type of response. Much to my surprise I received a favorable response for most all of my entries and was invited to participate in a few gallery showings in Florida, California, and Texas. Most of the gallery shows and calls for artists that I participate in support causes I believe in, like the recent Works of Heart Gallery 300 show. That art show supported the Jewish Free Community Clinic and Ensuring Care for the Underserved. I was thrilled to participate in such a great cause, and in the “new normal” of COVID, it was nice that they transitioned to a virtual showing.
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
We sell original art (paintings, drawings, you name it) and corresponding prints. Soon my Partner and I will be expanding the shop to include photography prints, mixed media, and digital work. The process involves me, an easel that I’ve had since I was a teenager (one leg repeatedly falls off but I refuse to replace it), paintbrushes, a mason jar of water, whatever music or inspiration I’m using as my muse, and usually a piece of cardboard to hold my paint. I’m pretty low maintenance. For prints, I work with a local vendor who is very good about same day or next day orders and provides both tremendous qualities of product and service.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
The most challenging part of running my business so far is that I also work a typical “9-5” job as a Project Manager. I’m passionate about my work there as well, so finding a balance between my many worlds can be a challenge. I have found that meditation helps me tremendously. It keeps me focused and at ease, ready to take on whatever tasks need to be accomplished that day. (That, and making lists!)
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I take a lot of pride in being a small business owner, and in sharing my art with the world. It is incredibly humbling to see the response from Etsy shoppers and galleries. My greatest enjoyment comes from hearing that other connected with my work, in whatever way it was meaningful to them. The most wonderful thing about art is that it can mean so many things to so many different people – and even though the viewer’s interpretation may be completely different than mine when I painted it, the meaning found in art is never wrong.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
Test out your print shops! I cannot stress that enough lol. I had to go through three before I found “the one”. And have a backup plan ready just in case. That, and don’t trust the guaranteed times of the post office. They honestly do their best, and have a thankless job… they deserve much more credit than they are given… but don’t wait until the last minute to ship something because the guarantee said it would get there on time…
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
I’m often inspired by music and beauty found in my relationships and everyday life. There are times where I will challenge myself to grow by exploring a technique I’m not familiar with or painting an object that I’m not especially inspired by and sometimes I’m surprised by how that process can turn from mundane to magical with the stroke of a brush.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
Practice, practice, practice… I read a lot of books on “how to be good at business” but at the end of the day, a lot of it is trial and error. I take note of what shops and galleries I like to do well, and learn from my mistakes so I only make them once.
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
Excellent customer service is the #1 trick for marketing. Etsy also makes it very easy to market to their members.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Patience, it’s the long game, not the short game. Don’t give up because you don’t become famous in one night… or one year. Believe in yourself and your product.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
I define business success as a continued passion for what I’m producing and meeting the expectations of my customers.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
A typical day finds me working from home for my 9-5 job and painting before, after, and on weekends. Whenever inspiration strikes.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I believe that the business will grow with time through grass-roots style marketing (word of mouth, Etsy promotions, participation in gallery showings, etc.) I’m very fortunate in that since I have a day job, I am less concerned about profitability and more concerned with the quality of the product. Profitability is of course important, in that you should make a profit when owning a business… the biggest impact to that right now is being able to be a million places and do a million things at once.
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I really appreciate you including my shop in your featured stories! I love learning about other small business owners and creatively minded people.