Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I’d always loved drawing, it’s a hobby I never had much confidence in but pursued in my free time. When my husband and I first got married, living in a small basement apartment in Salt Lake City, both of us doing full-time school and full-time work, I didn’t have much time to pursue my passions. After a few years of doing this, we both graduated and were expecting a baby boy. Fortunately, my husband landed a good job and I was able to, for the first time, leave my full-time job to focus on raising our son Beau. Although being a mom is full-time work on its own, I haven’t tied down to the 9-5 grind anymore. My husband was my first supporter, always encouraging me to share my art with the world, and eventually, he helped me overcome my fear of rejection. I ultimately took the step to establish The Beau Studio (yes named after my little guy) because I wanted a better world for my son. There’s so much hate circulating around social media and I thought I could do my part by sharing some positivity with the world. I was overwhelmed by the response. I was met with so much support and love from strangers all over the world and soon The Beau Studio went from my hobby to a business. One that I could center around love, feminism, and inclusivity. I should probably call it The Beau AND Devan Studio since my husband Devan has been the main motivation behind me, but The Beau Studio just has a cuter ring to it.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
For me, the main challenge I face is creating relevant content. It wouldn’t be enough to list a few nice illustrations and to then wait around for success. I find that I’ve gotten the most online sales, partnerships, collaborations, and custom orders when I am promoting new content surrounding current events in our society. This challenge is a blessing in disguise though. I find myself happiest when I can post and list art that addresses current issues such as racial equality and feminism, in an uplifting way.
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?
Currently I make the majority of my income through custom orders. Whether that’s helping a company rebrand, design a new logo, create patterns for their products or help with their social media content. However, Etsy has become a great source of income since my products are all instant downloadable graphics. I have zero costs, I don’t need to ship anything and since customers are shown exactly what they are paying for, there has only been positive feedback. I have a very specific look to my art that follows a specific aesthetic. I utilize a limited color palette and I have similar patterns throughout my work so it’s easily recognizable. I think what sets my shop apart from others is how all of my art compliments each other. So if someone is designing a gallery wall, they can buy multiple designs from my shop and they will all look cohesive together.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I think what I enjoy the most about being an entrepreneur is my freedom of time. I can choose my schedule and make time for my family when I need it. On the flip side, that is the most difficult part. I always need to be vigilant about not letting my work stack up on me and overwhelm me. The hardest part about not having a boss give me deadlines is that I need to set them myself and stick to them. I have learned so much about self-discipline in such a short amount of time and I hope I continue to develop this skill.
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?
Currently my demographic is about 97% women, most of which between the ages of 24-40. I appeal to this audience because of the feminist tones to my work and because I primarily market myself on Instagram. Instagram is by far my best marketing tool. I utilize hashtags in order to position myself in front of my audience and I use ads when necessary. Instagram gives great analytics to business accounts and it’s really helped me carve out a presence. I am very happy with the results of my marketing efforts and I’d encourage every business owner to use Instagram if possible.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
I don’t think there is any formula for success but I think the smartest thing to do is ask advice from people who are currently thriving in the industry you’re interested in. I asked so many questions, read so many blogs, and sent so many dm’s in order to learn how to promote my work and the advice I received was so valuable to me. If I have any advice it would be to take the advice of others!
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
Due to the political nature of my designs I have run into many people who are hostile towards me and my messages. One of the hardest things for me that I wasn’t quite expecting was the hate messages and comments on my social media. When people sent me hateful messages with crude language I found it best to delete the message and move on. But it would keep me up at night, I’d feel so much rage and sadness that I couldn’t get my mind off of it. Ultimately I knew I needed to detach myself from those situations in order to maintain my mental health.
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?
A lot of my art is inspired by current events, which is lucky for me because there’s so much I can address. Translating that into a piece of art can be the tricky part. For me, I find it easiest to be creative when I put on a Disney Classic, crawl into bed with Beau, and just draw by trial and error until I create a concept I like. From there I’ll start a new project using the concept I discovered and draw and erase until I make something that speaks to me. It’s not a quick process but it’s effective and therapeutic.
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?
Fortunately for me, I don’t have to deal with any of this! The beauty of selling a digital product is that it can be delivered instantly and free to anywhere in the world by the click of a button. Sometimes when I’m working with a client on a custom order I’ll have to work around their time zone but it hasn’t been a problem yet.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
1. Utilize the tools available to you. Study and analyze the data social media and other marketing tools can provide you. When something shows that it’s working, follow that trend and adapt as you go.
2. Create a sustainable work schedule. For me, I post about every other day and I upload a new batch of Etsy listings once every 2 weeks. For me, I could keep this up indefinitely. Be careful not to burn yourself out. That can lead to resentment towards your business.
3. Establish a brand. Make yourself recognizable online. Use consistent colors, fonts, images, and products. You want someone to recognize your business with a passing glance. Never underestimate the power of a consistent brand!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Don’t rely on your network of friends and family to be your audience and customers. When you first start out, of course, grandma will buy whatever you’re selling in order to support you but that won’t keep up forever. Invest in marketing so that you can position yourself in front of an audience that doesn’t feel like they owe you anything. That’s when you know you’re on the right path!
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
To be honest I didn’t expect a lot of money when I started my business. I did it to feel fulfillment. To wake up with purpose and to go to bed excited for the next day. Income was a great result of my hours of work. As I mentioned, most of my income is through custom work but those clients found me because of the efforts I put into social media. My main drive is still to feel that sense of accomplishment that only doing what you love can provide you. I felt that fulfillment once my job became a pen in my hand instead of a headset at a desk.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
When I wake up, it’s all about Beau. I feed him, bathe him, tickle him (all the essential stuff). Once he is down for his first nap of the day I respond to emails, work on customs, and manage Instagram. When he wakes up it’s the Beau Show again until his second nap of the day. At that point, I respond to more emails and draw for my Etsy shop. When my husband gets home he takes over Beau’s duties and I finish what little work I have left and then we spend time as a family. That’s pretty much become a consistent schedule for us!
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Partnerships and collaborations are my main focus right now. I’d love to align myself with companies that have similar core values who also have a large enough online presence to help me gain exposure. One day I hope I can have the freedom to work on fun projects for myself such as illustrating children’s books. Right now I’m taking each day at a time!
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Etsy has really amazing marketing tools that I wish I utilized sooner. When I started out I was pinching pennies so that I wouldn’t lose any money, but risks have to be taken in order to grow. Using Etsy marketing tools has been very profitable for me and I’d encourage any other Etsy vendor to look at their options!