Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Faith Evans-Sills, Founder of Faith Evans-Sills Studio LLC, located in Mount Pleasant, SC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am an author, teacher, retreat leader, and painter. As an artist, I have found that it is incredibly helpful for my business to have a variety of different offerings in order to reach a wider audience, giving many ways in which people can engage with my work. I create and sell my own paintings, I also teach a variety of online painting classes, and I offer international retreats for women in Costa Rica and Morocco. Women of all skill levels join my classes and retreats, from beginner painters to more advanced established artists, all benefit from the time dedicated to gathering inspiration, painting together, adventuring, and connecting with other creative women. My co-authored book Painting the Sacred Within has become a beloved resource of inspiration for women worldwide as they explore their creative and art-making dreams.
Tell us about yourself
I've got over 25 years of personal painting experience, which I draw from as I create my popular online classes and retreats. I love inspiring women to explore their creative dreams through making art. I have always been creative and especially loved painting. I graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in painting and went on to get my MFA in painting at Parsons in New York City, where I lived for 15 years. I showed and sold my work in New York and Brooklyn, where I had my studio in our home when I had my first two children. I started a blog about my art, inspiration, and motherhood in 2008, which connected me to a large worldwide community of creative women. Many of those early online connections are ones that I still have today, and so many opportunities have come to me through the online community! My husband and I moved our family to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2011 in order to live a lifestyle closer to nature, and I feel deeply inspired by the coastal beauty of this part of the world. I had my third child after we moved to Charleston.
After that, I also attended a few art retreats where I connected in person with some of the creative women who I had met online. Understanding the power of gathering in person for a special creative pocket of time on a retreat led me to lead my first art retreat in 2014 and, shortly after that, to create my first online class in 2015. Also, in 2015 I began working with my current co-host for my retreats and many of my online classes, Mati McDonough. We have been offering our retreats and classes ever since, and we co-wrote our book Painting the Sacred Within, published in 2017. We have gone on to create retreats in Costa Rica, Morocco, Mexico, Charleston, and at the Omega Institute in New York State. Our online painting classes are enjoyed by women all over the world. I create and sell my own paintings in my home studio. I'm passionate about helping women connect with themselves through travel and creating art. I see so much power in stepping away from our busy lives for a moment to reconnect to ourselves and our most heartfelt ideas.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This would have to be when our retreats began to sell out in just a few days. Our retreats are a significant investment of people's time and money, so seeing that people trust our product enough to jump at the chance to join us has been deeply affirming! This validated a deep hope that I held for the business: that the offerings we have created resonate with our audience just as we intended them to. Each of my retreats and classes has been created from a foundation of looking within myself, along with my retreat co-host, and working to understand on a deep level what we ourselves want to get out of the experience. Then custom making the experience of the retreat or class to serve the purpose with which it was intended, be that gathering inspiration through adventure, teaching new painting techniques, or experiencing deep soul-filling beauty. Seeing these offerings being received by our community in this affirming way feels like the biggest accomplishment.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There is no road map, everything is being created by you, and no one is telling you what to do next or what's the best right move to make! This is both the biggest blessing and the hardest thing about working for yourself. You are your own boss, yay! But, you have no one else to tell you what would be the best next direction to take your business. As my business has grown, this feels less scary, but with every new offering we have created, like a new online class or a retreat in a new place, there is always this hesitation before putting it out into the world. I believe it's really healthy to always be in that place of wonder as a creative business owner, always looking at things through the lens of examination. Is this offering still relevant to who we are as a business? Is it time to create a new offering, and do I feel inspired to do so? Asking those questions means you are constantly looking to improve your business, to create offerings that will excite and delight both you and your target audience; really, in a creative practice, that's the best place to be!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- No one will be good at everything, including you! Play to your strengths. If you don't enjoy an aspect of your business, or you don't feel like it is your strength, then outsource it once you can do so in your business! This might feel counter-intuitive when you are just starting out and are not making too much money, but putting money back into the business in this way has really allowed my business to grow. For example, I never felt like I enjoyed bookkeeping and tax prep for my business. During the second year of my business, I began asking around and found a fantastic local accountant who has run the books for my business ever since. This allowed me to have more mental space and time to devote to creating more offerings while also supporting another female-owned small business... a win-win!
- Collaboration is a way to fast-track your ideas and create more inspiration! Working with other like-minded artists has always been exciting to me, and great forward momentum began to happen, especially with my art retreats, once I noticed how much collaboration played into my process of working out ideas! I co-host my art retreats and many of my online classes with my friend and fellow artist Mati McDonough @matiroseart. We began working together after realizing just how powerful our chats about our ideas and inspiration were. We would have these in-depth phone calls in which we would bounce ideas around, and that's when I really started to see those fleshing things out with another person helped to get an idea out of my head so that together we could start to see if it made sense in a real-world "let's make it happen" kind of way! Most of our early offerings grew out of thinking about what we most needed or where we most wanted to travel. Once we had that clarity then understanding that if this was true for both of us, then there had to be many other women like us who also felt called to those places or inspired by those same things. This clarity helped us to begin to call in our ideal clients! If you don't have any like-minded local friends who you can bounce ideas off of, I'd recommend joining an online class or going on an in-person retreat where most of the other people enrolled will be excited about the same topic that you are! In this way, I have made amazing connections that propelled me forward!
- Take small steps forward; action creates momentum that will lead to more action. I know it's obvious, but it bears repeating that the things you do every day make up your life. So even in small ways, you can begin where you are in your day-to-day. Want to create an online class? Look at what you are good at, think of what people would want to learn, and there you have your topic. Keep it simple to start. There are wonderful online classes about creating online classes; take one! Just begin, and I guarantee that the forward momentum of beginning will take you somewhere new!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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