I started my art business fresh out of college at the age of 22. I had no clue what I was doing, no business plan or true goals at the time. The opportunity came to be in an art show and I jumped right in. 5 years later, I have shown my work not only in the Metro Atlanta area, but in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Chicago, Miami, and Houston. I’ve sold original art, prints, and t-shirts around the country. I've curated my own solo show and just last night I received an order from the United Kingdom (I'm still squealing about this.) I’ve accomplished more than I could ever imagine to and I’m so grateful to be able to show my art and tell my story my way.
Today is #smallbusinesssaturday and I wanted to reflect on the biggest lessons I have learned running my small business. They are:
•Take risks •Study & experiment •Be flexible with your time
I started my art business on a whim, with no plan, no intentions. The opportunity came to
participate in an art show and my response was sure. I had never been in an art show, I was totally unaware of the Atlanta art scene. I didn’t have a website, business cards, nothing. Despite not having these things, I said “yes” anyhow. I took on the challenge and that's the beauty of entrepreneurship.
At first, starting a business feels intimidating. The spark hits you and you can’t shake the feeling. You have to answer the call and you take the first step, the first risk of putting yourself out there. You take the risk because in actuality that’s where the magic happens: when you have to dig deep and stand in your truth. Bet on you.
Study and experiment
Running a small business forces you to be resourceful. You have to stay in the know of your industry, trends, key figures, who are your peers and what they’re doing. You have to practice and sharpen your business skills. At some point you are your everything. Creative director, marketing team, advertising, PR rep, manager, and now most likely social media manager and web content creator. I've downloaded more eBooks than I can stand (and have read most of them). I have signed up for seminars and online courses all to better myself. I practice my art making and find ways to challenge myself. I am constantly learning and experimenting.
The reason for this process is for growth. You cannot expect to find success doing things the same way. When you are running a small business, you are always looking for ways to go bigger, to strengthen your brand, to secure better opportunities, to connect to more people.
And what that looks like for you can’t be determined until you do a little studying and experimenting. Trial and error.
Be flexible with your time
Running a small business demands that you are flexible with time. Understand the industry you’re in, what are peak months to do business in. Have short (daily/weekly/monthly) and long term (quarterly/annually) goals to guide your decision making. And even then be open to changing paces. If its a slow season, work on strategically planning ahead so you’ll be prepared to handle a big rush. If it’s a busy season, focus on the immediate needs and come back to everything else.
We all move on our own time table. For some it takes 2 years to find success. For others it takes 10 years. There's no need to compare or to feel like you’re missing out because you aren't moving as fast as someone else. If you do the work and focus on what's makes your business unique, the opportunities will come and you’ll be ready to handle them.
✨An added point to these lessons, none of it happens if you don‘t show up for yourself. If you take the risk but you’re scared/second guessing the whole time, it doesn't work. If you keep learning, but you’re not applying what you learn, it wont work. If you’re fighting against your time table, rushing things that shouldn’t be or hesitating/procrastinating, it wont work. Running a small business demands that you show up for yourself.
For anyone that has a dream to start their own business, take that risky first step, study and experiment with your process, and be flexible with your time.