Often the best business ideas are born of a significant need. My husband Lonny and I have run our own marketing business for more than 30 years. Lonny is also a gifted artist. When the pandemic caused the cancellation of art festivals and similar events around the country, our hearts went out to the artists who had counted on those shows to make a living. We knew we had to help. Even better, we already had a proven concept.
A few years ago, we developed PostandPaint.com, a website that enables consumers to commission original fine artwork for a fraction of what it might cost elsewhere. The idea is simple. For a $10 fee, someone uploads a photo of something that has meaning to them. It could be grandchildren, a pet, a special location, etc. They stipulate the medium (for example oils, pastels, charcoal), size and price they are willing to pay. Artists then create and upload a photo of the finished painting. The person who posted the photo has the option to buy the artwork. If they decline, the artist can sell it to someone else.
These aren’t digital reproductions or enhancements. They are the work of talented artists using canvas, brushes and other time-honored tools of their trade.
After we originally launched PostandPaint.com, it was getting a good amount of traction. Artists were happy. Buyers were happy. But at the time, our marketing business needed more of our attention. So, we made the tough decision to set the idea aside, knowing we wanted to resurrect it in the future.
Then came the coronavirus. And when the pandemic went global, we made the easy decision to add yet another layer to our PostandPaint.com concept. We would donate our portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit organization hit hard by COVID-19.
We didn’t have to look far. I serve on the board of Hands of Freedom, a faith-based organization that helps the poor in India. When India’s government shut down the country to slow the virus, millions of day laborers became homeless overnight. Food became scarce. Hands of Freedom is keeping people alive by providing food baskets. That $10 fee to upload a photo on PostandPaint.com? Two of those will just about pay for enough food to keep a family of four alive for two weeks.
We actively relaunched the revised PostandPaint.com while we sheltered at home, much to the delight of artists who had used the site previously to sell their works. It’s already growing in popularity, which is a win for the artists, a win for the nonprofit and a win for the buyers who have custom artwork to hang in their homes that has specific meaning to them.
Our advice to those searching for, and launching, new home business ideas
1. Do what you love. This sounds cliche but there’s a reason why this advice is repeated so often. Lonny has a life-long attachment to the fine art world. His original paintings of things that have deep meaning to us are displayed in our home. My passion is giving back. To be able to make a difference in the lives of artists and to help save lives half the world away are what drive me to make PostandPaint.com the best it can be.
2. Nurture your connections. Build your network by supporting other business owners. Provide them advice when you can, and send business their way whenever you see an opportunity. I’ve found that most business owners are genuinely to reciprocate.
3. Stay visible. Don’t assume that one email or a couple of social media posts will be enough to give your business the momentum you need. Take the time to create a marketing plan. Who are your audiences? In our case, we have the artist community; art lovers and those seeking to support the nonprofit. Where do they spend their time? Reach out to them using traditional and digital publicity. Send emails. Contact top bloggers in the industry you’re targeting. Create social media accounts and post meaningful content frequently. Having a nice website won’t be enough, if people don’t know to look for it.
In my lifetime, I have seen many entrepreneurs start small and become quite successful because they found unique ways to satisfy needs. If you have a passion, but aren’t sure how to channel that into a business, spend time with other like-minded people. Look for common issues for which no one has yet found a suitable solution. Consider how someone with your unique strengths and experience might be the one to provide the answer. Then, make it happen.
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