InLiquid’s Art for the Cash Poor 15 celebrates Philadelphia as the City of Makers, June 13 – 15 at Crane Arts. This week, we’ll be featuring AFTCP15 participants who ‘sell it’ – who take a business or creative medium and turn them into loveable ownables.
New this year, we’ve invited some of the top Philadelphia Influencers to curate a group of promising artists and designers. We’ve asked a few of these Curators to share their advice on how to sell it: everything from running a business to marketing artwork to turning a job into a passion.
Eileen Tognini, Independent Curator
Why do you find it so important to incorporate a sense of humor in your work?
Quite simply, having a sense of humor makes things go swimmingly, and why not have fun doing what you love.
How has your work in the business world come to reflect on your path on the art world? What are your most important takeaways from your business degree?
The basic principles of business inhabit our daily existence and how we participate in the world- although we may not acknowledge that intuitive behavior. A business degree may or may not better prepare you for these matters- but awareness that business is a language- and learning a new language takes practice, practice, practice. I guess I am bi-lingual… Since I also have an art background, my Father was an artist, AND I spent many years in the corporate world, I can speak fluently to an Artist about their work and also within the context of business and marketing with a client. Generations of Artists have been raised to believe they are challenged by business topics- and that the job of the Artist is simply to make good art, and the rest hopefully will follow. Art making and envisioning the possibilities go hand –in- hand, to me that is Art and Business wrapped up in one.
What do you look for when curating a show?
When I approach an artist(s) to participate in a show, I look for their readiness to extend themselves beyond where they have ever gone in their work, studio practice, and business. When they are prepared to step outside of their comfort zone to learn what it takes to go the next step in their career- then I know it will be a meaningful show. I have a commitment to both Artist and Audience to deliver a memorable experience; each of course will have their own “memory” of that experience. We share the risk and the reward- it takes a village to make a great show.
Elenna Brennan, owner of BUS STOP Boutique
Do you find there are any differences selling to an American market versus a European market?
I think there’s a vast difference between selling to American customers vs. European customers. The trends in Europe are way ahead of the States, so when I’m attending trade shows shopping for BUS STOP shoes and discover new and fresh designers from the UK and Europe, I feel that sometimes the US customers aren’t as quick to embrace the new trends. That’s not to say that my customers feel that way. My customers trust and like the fact that I introduce new trends from Europe, fresh designers and styles to them. They have come to know that if they want something a bit different, to stand out in the crowd that they will find it at my shoe boutique.
On your website, you mention setting up your shoes like an art display. Do you find presentation is an important part of selling your product?
How you merchandise your products and display the shoes and accessories is so important. From the window, as you want to grab people’s attention as they’re walking by, to the curated shoe collection displayed in a gallery setting inside – white walls on white shelves – to make the shoes standout, they speak to you as you peruse the shoe selection. Jewelry is displayed on an antique patina and wrought iron window gate on top of an antique fireplace with our selection of Eau de Toilettes. The rear of the shop is where we have our “boyfriend lounge” with a settee, books and magazines so you can relax while your loved one shops. We also have acrylic shelves secured with handmade iron brackets sprinkled throughout the shop, so that customers can see the soles of shoes too – sometimes there’s quite a surprise when you see the soles of some of our shoes!
Our men’s wall has an industrial masculine feel to it. We started selling women’s shoes, however since we moved into a bigger space a little over two years’ ago, we now dedicate one side/a whole wall to the blokes in Philly! We need to share the love, it’s not just for the birds!
How do you know when it’s the right time to go into business for yourself?
My business background is advertising and marketing which I was very passionate for but after 25+ years, I was ready to move on to the next phase of my career. My son at the time was 18 years old when I decided to open BUS STOP, so I felt I could dedicate my time and energy into my “new baby”! You have to love what you’re about to embark on and feel passionate about your business, your model and the products in order to succeed.
Research is key, so make sure you do your homework before embarking on your own venture. Location is extremely important when looking to open a boutique – there needs to be high pedestrian & car traffic, easy parking, the street needs to be easily accessible and a good fit with the other businesses on the street. Fabric Row/4th Street is an interesting location as it’s historically known for its fabric shops, some being over 100 years old but the street has gone through gentrification the past 9 years and there’s a lot of new energy on the street. BUS STOP is 7 years old and over the past couple of years, even more trendy indie boutiques have opened. I saw that the street had potential even when I opened my doors seven years’ ago.
I knew I was ready as there was a demand for the kind of shoe shop I had dreamt about! When I moved to Phiily from London, I could never really find the kind of shoes that I was looking for but I would always come back after a holiday or trip to Europe, Australia, London, New York with lots of goodies and always receive compliments when I wore the shoes I bought from abroad!
I curate the shoe collections for each season from Europe (especially London and the UK being my hometown), Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, USA – a lot of the shoes are handmade in limited quantities, so they are so unique. So if you can’t travel afar to purchase your shoes, just come to BUS STOP in Fabric Row, Queen Village for a truly worldly experience! We bring an European and International flair to you, so you never have to leave the city on the hunt for unique, trendy & oh so comfy shoes. Apart from the collections, we offer excellent customer service – just ask our loyal customers and they will tell you that it’s a lovely experience shopping with us!
Alex Stadler, owner of stadler-Kahn
How did you transition from textile designer to shopkeeper?
I started stadler-Kahn in 2010 and quickly realized that I didn’t want to be much involved with wholesale sales-I wanted to sell my own work without relying on the imaginations or lack there of of professional buyers. Also, since I was a kid I’d wanted to have a store. The basement shop space at 1724 Sansom had always appealed to me-since I first visited it as Joseph Fox Books in 1993-so it was a confluence of things.
What was the biggest difficulty you faced as a new business owner?
Young women who shop at ZARA and say “omigodsocute!” over and over to no one in particular.
How do you go about making selections for the shop: do you base your choices more on what you love or what will sell?
Items only get out on to the floor if I would buy them for myself. I have to feel something for them. Then, if a product appeals to a lot of shoppers, I buy more of it (if available).
What’s the best advice you could give for anyone starting a business?
Play. You don’t have to storm the retail tower all at once. You can do pop-ups and fairs and events and online stuff as a way of finding out about your customer and your brand (and your own temperment-are you cut out to be in retail?) before putting down roots and establishing your brick and mortar space.
I love having a store-but depending on your project, it may not even necessarily be necessary.
Also-“Cheap and Cheerful” is always a good motto when you’re starting out.
Join us for Art for the Cash Poor 15, June 14 – 15, noon – 6 pm at Crane Arts. Or buy tickets to the preview party benefiting AIDS Fund, June 13, 5:30 – 9 pm.