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Diana Willard Art & Design

My business is... an online shop for my artwork

It sells... my original acrylic paintings and drawings, high-quality giclee art prints of my work, and unique commissioned pieces.

To... mostly women (18-35) who are looking for bright, fun, and affordable art to decorate their spaces.

I do this because... I love to create art and nothing is more fulfilling to me than making someone truly happy with a piece of my art.

It benefits others by... beautifying their living spaces, inspiring them to be creative, and even allowing them to "create" their dream piece of art through a commission.

The best companies that SELL SIMILAR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES, and what they're doing that is so special:

RACHEL CASTLE - sells original art and home furnishings featuring her art; I especially love her Instagram feed which showcases her work accompanied by hilarious stream-of-conciousness discussions about her work and day. She's also had a number of big features or partnerships, such as with Design*Sponge and The Design Files.

JULIA KOSTREVA - she sells fine art paintings, but it is really her stationary and iPhone cases that are incredibly popular. She is pretty ubiquitous on social media -- not only does she have a well-designed blog and instagram account, but her work has become somewhat iconic and is frequently shared by other people on social media (status symbol?)

EMILY JEFFORDS - very successful at selling her abstract landscapes, and she seems to leverage her Instagram account particularly well -- hosting giveaways and sales that involve followers sharing her work on their feeds. Unlike the previous two artists, she sticks purely with fine art as a product, and also seems to generate most of her buzz herself (ex: her blog, her Facebook page).

Common themes:

  • Skillful usage of social media to showcase both the art and the artist's personality
  • Partnerships with brands or blogs with similar aesthetics
  • Development of a strong community with other creatives and with their fan base
  • Branching out from fine arts into product-based lines (stationary, home goods, etc.)
  • Keeping a very strong aesthetic brand running through all of their work and communications

The best companies that SOLVE A SIMILAR BUSINESS PROBLEM, and what they're doing that is so special:

HACKWITH DESIGN HOUSE - extremely successful at selling handmade and fairly expensive short-runs of handmade clothing. Her sales strategy is to create a buzz about a piece or a line and then have only 10-12 of each piece ever available -- creating a real time constraint for buyers, as well as a lot of bragging if people do manage to get a piece. She also leverages her personal connections really well, by getting well-known area photographers and bloggers and stylists to document, model, and share her work.

RIFLE PAPER COMPANY - very successful stationary company that features that art of Anna Bond that creates a lot of seasonal, local, or initial-based products. She also has a lot of really big partnerships, such as with Garance Dore, and sells at a lot of big-name stores (Anthropologie and Papersource). 

Regardless of industry, the companies that HAVE THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE, and what they're doing that is so special:

  • PERRODIN SUPPLY CO. - sell simple but beautiful packaging materials online. Are incredibly responsive to questions and really happy to create custom orders. Also, their deliveries are always beautifully packaged!
  • RED ROCK COFFEE - a local cafe that has super friendly baristas (very responsive and chatty with the customers, but also clearly having a lot of fun at work), good drinks in real ceramic cups, and lots of community-based events (meet-up groups, music nights, reading time for kids) that create a really welcoming environment.
  • MUJI - a Japanese store that sells home goods. The store is just a lovely environment that beautifully showcases their simple and well-made products. I feel super relaxed whenever I visit their store, and can never resist buying something.

The best companies that REACH MY TARGET AUDIENCE are... probably mostly lifestyle bloggers who have a focus on interior decorating or design:

  • A BEAUTIFUL MESS - promote and live the tailored-to-you lifestyle -- they really encourage people (and seem to do themselves) to create a living space that showcase your identity, a career and worklife that really works for you, and an emphasis on family and friends that is really endearing.
  • DESIGN LOVE FEST - inspires with great finds (art, design, travel, products), really well-thought-out DIY projects, and a very bubbly attitude.
  • DESIGN*SPONGE -  huge treasure trove of all types of design -- fine arts, interior decorating, home improvement, etc. 

Common themes:

  • They portray themselves as who their audience wants to be -- they are living the life they promote
  • The position themselves as a resource for all aspects of their viewers lives
  • They exude joy and passion for what they do

  1. USE SOCIAL MEDIA! Leverage pretty much all social media avenues (especially the highly-visual ones) to increase brand recognition.
  2. ESTABLISH PARTNERSHIPS or collaborations with other creatives, bloggers, and brands to increase visibility.
  3. BUILD COMMUNITY of other creatives and customers -- to stay inspired, continue to learn, and have a support network.
  4. MAINTAIN A STRONG VISUAL IDENTITY that carries not just through my artwork or products, but also to my website and all avenues of social media.
  5. EXUDE JOY about my work and the community -- make people feel GREAT and inspired after interacting with me. 

BONUS: Consider branching out into products that use my art (ex: stationary, home goods, fabrics, etc.).

My business's product/service is outstanding because of... 

  • The care and time I put into each painting to make it beautiful and unique
  • The quality art and packaging materials that I use to ensure the art is long-lasting
  • My excitement about working with my customers to create a work of art that they love

My product/service is something they need because... it will make them feel wonderful about their living space. However, they likely don't know they have this need, so I will have to communicate this to them.

I am deeply in love with my customers. To show them my undying love I...

  • always listen to them about their needs and work with them to MAKE IT HAPPEN (whatever "it" is for them)
  • share my story and artistic process with them so they feel involved in my work
  • serve as a resource for information about art and the art process, as well as referring them to other creatives who may be better suited to a particular project

The special sauce that makes my business unique is:

  1. My unique design aesthetic and purely original art.
  2. My excitement to try new things -- any medium, subject, or size work -- to allow me to accomodate a huge range of customer's needs

BONUS: I have the scarcity factor on my side when it comes to original paintings, so I would like to leverage that more. Many artists do limited runs of prints, which I could explore as well.

In addition, I really like how Hackwith Design House creates a huge buzz about individual items of clothing (both in scarcity and in time pressure to buy) -- it just makes each piece seem so precious! I'd definitely like to think about how to incorporate that type of model into my business.

The system I have in place to ensure consistency is:

  • Use really great photos and scans of my artwork on my website, so people know exactly what the piece will look like in person
  • Use the same process and materials for packaging and fulfilling orders each time
  • Stay in good contact with the client so they know exactly what to expect and when

My unexpected joy is...

  • Beautiful packaging, so that opening the art feels like Christmas morning
  • A self-designed "Thank You" card included in the package, which can be re-used by the customer

I test my business model before spending a lot of money. Specifically, I'm testing by speaking to:

  • Family and friends, who I polled in a short survey about my first set of paintings
  • People in my network who are involved in the arts (ex: a friend of a friend who runs a gallery)
  • Etsy and local art-related meet-up groups

ACTION ITEMS: Most of the people I've met through these venues know very little about the art business (besides speaking as a potential customer) or are in a similar stage of their progress as I am. The top of my priority list is to find a mentor or mentors who can give me advice. Places I could find a mentor:

  • Contact my alma mater's art department to speak with the faculty
  • Join a local arts professional network 
  • Reach out specifically to some of the successful local artists who I admire
  • Get more involved in the established arts community locally by participating in gallery walks, open studios, shared workspaces, etc.

I'm testing this through actions such as:

  • Selling art both on my online Etsy and Society6 shops
  • Running low budget ads campaigning on Google, Facebook, and Etsy to test out the market and see which types of ads work the best for my business
  • Building up my social media experience and network by sharing my process and finished pieces on my art blog, my Instagram account, my Facebook page, and my Pinterest account.

ACTION ITEMS:

  1. I need to keep good track of the results of all these discussions and actions so I can synthesize them into future plans.
  2. I want to look into potentially creating a line of stationary -- I think this could lead to a lot more customers (since how often does one person need to buy a piece of art vs. a card). I haven't looked into this at all yet, so I definitely need to do a lot of research here.

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