Find Your Passion: Turning Your Hobby Into a Career.
People ask me all the time how I switched from previous careers in early childhood education and politics to owning and running a busy art studio! Here's my personal story. I'm hoping it will help you find your passion, too! Every job I had since graduating from college was really stressful! I answered a 24-hour suicide hotline, ran a group home for adults with developmental disabilities, worked as in operations management in a busy university hospital, taught preschool and owned a child care business, and most recently, had a career working in politics! Every one of those jobs were stressful.. very stressful! To manage that stress, I found it helped to be creative, so I got "crafty". I made jewelry as gifts, painted t-shirts for little kids and decorated my home my own way. Then, I worked my way up to reupholstering an ottoman (yeah, I know... ooooh, ah!) and designed my own kitchen remodel! One day, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of herself with others at a paint and sip, and I had to do it! I planned my own 50th birthday party at a local studio! Needless to say, the party was a blast, and I was hooked! I started painting with acrylics regularly. My early paintings were horrible... no really.... they were horrible. (When I painted a city-scape, one of my kids asked why I painted a bunch of lipstick tubes on a dresser.) One of the studios I painted at for fun sent out an email saying they were selling their business. I thought about all the cool ways I could combine my interest in building community through fundraisers, with having an opportunity to paint more often. Miraculously, my husband had simultaneously just received some stock shares from his employer and was looking for a little investment. So... we invested in me! I knew nothing about business, nor painting, nor wine. Zero. Zip. Nada. Goose egg. When I first talked to our business broker, I had no idea what basic business terms meant. (Seriously.) I won't go into details because it would be very embarrassing. I knew nothing. Hiring the business broker to help us negotiate the sale was very important. The next important step was hiring a small business consultant/accountant. So many basic questions like, "What's the difference between and LLC and a sole proprietership?" later, she is still our go-to person every time we have a new idea, or have questions about tax code or insurance changes or business licenses, or whatever. We considered owning a franchise instead of buying the little mom and pop shop, but after doing an exhaustive amount of number-crunching (my husband has a PhD in a STEM field), we decided that was a really bad idea. We did not want to have to be married to, or indebted to, a big corporation. Plus, Colorado loves it's family-owned small businesses!
Owning a brick-and-mortar business is like giving birth to triplets. Hours are very long. You are on-call 24/7/365. There are days when every one calls in sick and you have to teach classes and tend the bar. There are days when you are extremely generous to customers and (one in a million) bites your head off over the phone. There are days when working weekends is the last thing you want to do because everyone you know is having fun in the sun with their families. At first, I felt a little guilty owning an art studio, as opposed to saving the world (I was not like answering a suicide hotline, or grassroots organizing for health care, or taking care of people's children). It wasn't long before we started hosting many community fundraisers at the studio. The deal is simple. They charge their guests $40. We pay our costs with $20, and they keep the rest for their non-profit. Our best fundraising year, we donated nearly $50,000 through fundraisers and gift certificate donations to schools! The list of non-profits and schools we've helped is a mile long, and the 3 ring binders I keep with thank you letters are stuffed! That is important, right?? Over time, our vision -- of building community in our corner of the world and inspiring others to challenge themselves and try something new, became bigger than my desire to paint. The love for our community -- and for my staff -- started to multiply. There are a hundred stories (other blog posts!) about how our customers grew personally through expressing themselves through art. Some of those stories would make you cry -- they made me cry! And with each one, I profoundly fell in love with the opportunity I have to make a difference in the world.. through art. Not only that, there are perks. It dawned on me one day that I could go to art classes and they are a write-off! Yay! I went to Florida for Bob Ross classes and received my certification, and I return every year for a week for continuing education. We also go to wine tastings because we sell wine! Ding, ding, ding! How awesome is that?
Yes, I work all the time. All the time! But as someone famous once said, "Do what you love and you will never have to work another day in your life". Business peaked 3 years in, but we've settled into a consistent little hum. Are we making a lot of money? Definitely no. A family could not live on what I make. That's why we have two incomes. But, are we making enough money to replace what I would probably have been doing anyway? Yes! And the best part... I love my job! More than that, I love my staff and my customers! We're not trying to sell anyone a franchise. I'm not trying to sell anything. My point is... find your passion. Take a chance. Work really, really hard. And do what you love!