Starting Uprise Art
At the end of 2010, I started working on creating a new kind of online art gallery. Art is truly the final frontier of e-commerce and at the time a particularly exciting space to work in as galleries, auction houses and art fairs grow their online presence and increase their number online transactions.
Web-based art companies like 20x200 and ArtSpace had already been expanding the market for affordable art by offering quality prints in large editions. I wanted to create an online art gallery that would make original one-of-a-kind artwork similarly accessible, and focus on supporting artists whose work may not fit the print model. Instead of changing the way an artist creates work, I started Uprise Art to change the way collectors gain access to original art.
The art world is hard to navigate for seasoned collectors, and even more so for the novice art-buyer. I started Uprise Art to connect New Yorkers who are interested in art with exceptional artists from around the country, and to streamline the entire art buying process from beginning to end. Uprise collectors select artwork from our curated online gallery and the pieces are then expertly framed, delivered, and installed in their homes. They invest $50 per piece per month towards owning the art, so they live with work, while investing over time.
Year One and Beyond
I worked fast and furiously the first half of 2011 and launched the beta website for Uprise in June 2011. The full site went live in September of 2011. The first year was truly about learning by doing and trial by error.
I was the only employee for the entire first year, which meant long workdays and little sleep, but during that time I considered Uprise a team since I work so closely with the twenty-five artists, four guest curators, art handlers and delivery team, and our incredibly capable "army of interns" (who totaled eleven in year one).
Bootstrapping and taking on as much as possible in the first year of Uprise, enabled me to now grow the company to where we are now. We recently brought on a full-time gallery director here in NYC and a part-time gallery director in Boston and we're continuing to grow in the beginning of 2013 as we expand our "invest-to-own" services nationwide.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
The best advice I can give entrepreneurs is simply to keep asking for advice. Before I launched, I asked for introductions, met with everyone I could who was an entrepreneur or working in the online and offline art space, and solicited advice from everyone. I had to forgo my worries of being burdensome or a bother. I learned that if you are excited about your idea, likely others are too. I was surprise by the amount of support from not only friends and family but also new contacts I made through those first degree introductions. I found our amazing logo designer Candice Ralph through a friend's recommendation. I learned about the ins and outs of art fairs from veteran fair directors and seasoned exhibitors. Every coffee date I had resulted in new ideas for Uprise and steps towards realizing those ideas.
Beyond business advice and brainstorming, I considered everyone a potential client and carefully listened to their comments, criticisms and needs regarding art. I similarly asked countless artists about their priorities and the obstacles they faced in their careers. Learning about what wasn't working motivated me to grow Uprise Art and find a solution that did work.
DailyCandy, the original trusted source for handpicked discoveries of fashion, food, and fun has acted as a launching pad for new small businesses since 2000; Uprise Art is a 2012 winner of the DailyCandy Start Small, Go Big program. For more small business tips and stories, visit www.startsmallgobig.com