Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My husband, Valeriu Kurtu, and I, Julia Kurtu were born artists in the USSR and learned our craft there. I attended the Faculty of Glass and Ceramics in the famous Muchin Academy in St. Petersburg and Valeriu in the Art School in Moldova as well as in the Gerassimov Institute for Cinematography (WGIK) in Moscow. We are an artist family, live in the middle of Berlin, and make all of our works of art at home. Together with me and my husband, we make ceramics, paintings, and caricatures ourselves. My main activity is to produce ceramic figurines by hand. In addition, my husband Valeriu Kurtu creates numerous cartoons that humorously depict many current everyday situations, while my husband and I also produce numerous paintings with acrylic paints on canvas. As you have already noticed, we are broadly positioned in art. In order to be able to work together as a company, KurtuKunst therefore founded.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
My husband and I create art and devote ourselves entirely to the creative, artistic part of the work. Our son runs our marketing of our artworks as well as our online shop. Unlike in the art market, there are many more new challenges and responsibilities in online sales, such as logistics or product management.
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?
Our best-selling products are mainly ceramics and our paintings. The ideas of the work are born in the head and then carried out in the material. Our ceramics are handcrafted from clay. All of the ceramics are individually and unique. Unevenness is deliberate and does not represent a reduction in quality, but underline the individuality of the individual piece. This is followed by the drying and burn process at approx. 1200 ° C. After burning, the individual works are painted and glazed and burned again to consolidate the glaze. After this burning, the works are finished, hardened, and ready for sale. The same applies to our paintings, which we paint with acrylic paint on stretched canvas. I am inspired by the image of women and nature, my husband by different landscapes. In addition, we also produce numerous portrait pictures and especially my husband’s various caricatures and graphics.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
What we like most about entrepreneurship is bringing work to life and meeting customers. In general, this is a way for us to make money. In difficult times we are simply looking for new ways and means to keep our works alive and to be able to share them with the world.
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?
We market and sell our works directly to customers through exhibitions, art markets, trade fairs, workshops as well as advertising and sales on the Internet. Product advertising is carried out here through advertising and personal communication with the customer. Especially in the current time, social media platforms play an essential role. With Facebook and Instagram, we try to find new customers and to awaken interest in our art. There is a great potential for expansion in this area, which we will expand in the near future.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
The most successful formula is to create a unique work of art. The higher and better the level of the artwork, the greater the sales opportunities. That is our formula.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The biggest challenge currently is the coronavirus, which we have not yet overcome. This is currently the biggest problem not only for us but for all of humanity and the economy. Unfortunately, we can no longer sell our art on markets or trade fairs. However, online access to our customers gave us new hopes and saved us in this difficult phase.
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?
I get inspiration and ideas from the beauty of people, nature, and life. Methods and tools are the constant improvements in our works and the search for more perfect and interesting materials to make our works shine in aesthetics and bring them to life. We draw all the starting points to create new works from life and nature.
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?
We are just beginning to work internationally online and have only just started to gain experience in this direction. We generally do not use free worldwide shipping. But we have changed this since we have been at Etsy to make our prices transparent and achieve greater international success. Our art and designer skills help us to pack our products efficiently and safely.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
We believe that the key elements for starting and running a successful online business are the customer’s desire to buy our product and keep in touch. That is why we work on the beauty, individualization, quality, and aesthetics of our works, which also correspond to very affordable prices. We also work on advertising and all types of promotions and discounts, especially for regular customers.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Our greatest advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to do their work with honesty, conscientiousness, decency, and love, while not losing hope but always looking for new opportunities.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Success in business is of course primarily money, because without it there is no business development, no food, no freedom. And then, of course, the freedom of self-expression, the creative search for new things, and the time for a thoughtfully calm development of new works.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
To manage time productively, you must always plan your affairs and actions clearly. Our biggest advantage is that we work from home and don’t waste time commuting to work.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
In our business development plans, we attach great importance to the diversity of our products. We have everyday vases, sculptures, cups, and dishes, as well as exhibition and museum pieces. Our profitability is most affected by the combination of impeccable style and quality of our products at affordable prices. Our plans for the future are our constant creative growth and our improvement.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
We are still brand new on Etsy and can therefore speak little of experience. However, what we find very positive is definitely the opportunity to exchange ideas with artists and to sell the art directly internationally with a very clean and modern shop front.