Art and business have long been intertwined. But now that technology has put so many tools into the hands of would-be entrepreneurs and the internet has opened up giant markets to artists who would before have struggled to find exposure, that relationship is more dynamic than ever.
Today sketch artists or painters find new ways to apply her skills to the business world, and fashion designers reach out to networks of customers through social media, opportunities abound.
Check next here is just a small sample of businesses all of which beginning as tiny enterprises with big dreams – that are showing just how money it is to be creative, hip and running a business. One deals in jewelry, one in rock and roll accessories, one in handbags made of reclaimed items like old umbrellas and another in quick-witted illustration for large companies.
Southern California’s Elana Joelle Hendler founded EJH BRAND to use her long-held creativity to express herself, and run her own business. Her company sells art prints, candles, pillows and stationary, all with a focus on animals.
Former bustier-designer, Jodi Head, turned her attention to making guitar straps about 15 years ago. In that time her wares have found their way onto the guitars of the likes of David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, Kid Rock and too many others to name. From her small New York City workshop she continues to pump out new lines of product every year, selling online and from major music retailers Guitar Center and Sam ash.
Chicago-based Threadless.com is not just a t-shirt company–it’s a collection of artists who put their creations on clothing. co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart bootstrapped the company with $1,000. The company collects numerous submitted designs and then allows its community to vote on which are made into t-shirts. The model has — if the word on the street is accurate — churned out 30% profit margins for Threadless.
Anne Cole, now approaching age 70, has been building violins and cellos for almost her entire life. From her shop in New Mexico she builds about five instruments a year priced between €15,000 and €30,000. What makes her work so unique is that each instrument is given a name and a unique interior painting done by Cole herself. Hers is a microbusiness that melds art with the steady hands of an experienced craftsman, err, craftswoman.
Madison Robinson was only a tweenager when she came up with the idea to turn her cartoon drawings into fashion apparel. With the all-important assistance of her father, Dan Robinson, she met face to face with retailers and customers at trade shows to sell her wares. Her company, Fish Flops, has broken $1 million in sales and she’s inked deals with both Macy’s and Nordstrom.
Peter Malinowski Art Guitars
Peter Malinoski does not make ordinary guitars. His choice of woods and construction techniques suggest he goes more than the extra mile beyond what brand names like Fender and Gibson produce. With over 25 years experience in the craft, this Maryland-based luthier can be trusted to go beyond the norm and his instruments show what can be achieved when art, skill and wood come together.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, ImageThink is the brainchild of entrepreneurial artists Heather Willems and Nora Herting. The company’s specialty is assisting clients like IBM, Ogilvy & Mather and LEGO add a creative element to presentations. With ImageThink, the two have found a unique way to use their artistic gifts for enterprise applications.
Catherine Edouard Charlot’s Brooklyn studio is the birthplace of some truly unusual handbags. In fact, almost all of her pieces are made from recycled material like coffee sacks, inner tubes and old umbrellas. You wouldn’t know it, though, as the artist/entrepreneur has given them new life in the world of fashion. The Haitian native came to New York in 1994 and took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, starting her business in, Himane, 2004. Her use of umbrella material stemmed from her need for a waterproof bag. How resourceful!
Renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly, turned his passion into a business, overseeing the construction of blown-glass installations for display in Claridge’s Hotel in London, The MGM Grand in Macau, Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington HQ; New York’s Rockefeller Center and the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Hotel in Singapore, among others. After an accident in 1979 left him unable to blow glass himself, Chihuly has overseen a team of artists who creat his pieces.
Origami Owl founder Bella Weems began her direct sales jewelry business with her mom in 2010 when she was only 14. Manning mall kiosks and trade shows paid off for the tiny Arizona company, which grew quickly on the back of its swelling army of independent designers. The company told FORBES it expects to see $250 million in revenue in 2013. Wow!