Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Heather Donis, Owner of Heather Donis Designs, located in Virginia Beach, VA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is the art of making people happy by using vibrant colors and whimsical subjects. I am an artist, an acrylic painter. My customers are those that connect with the wonders of the natural world and those that love color. They are looking for something to brighten their homes or something unique and colorful to wear.
Tell us about yourself
It's the old cliche that ever since I was little, I wanted to be an artist, except it has taken a long and winding journey to arrive here. In 2009 I had my son, and I was working as a Graphic Designer at the NEXCOM and knew I wanted to stay home with him. In 2010 I couldn't stand it any longer and left the job to be a full-time mom. It gave me the opportunity to pick up the brush again. I dabbled and continued to do some freelance graphic design work until that dried up. I was looking for the perfect part-time job, and my friend suggested I do Paint Parties.
At this time, I was doing some small craft shows here and there but not taking them seriously. It was something to keep me in the art world. I did my due diligence, and there was nothing like that in our area at the time. My background is in Art Education, so I made something up based on the research I did in other areas. It took off in 2012. In 2020 when Covid hit, I wanted to make some sort of transition - the parties had been doing well, but the market was getting saturated with other instructors, and by then, big corporations had moved into town. I was then forced to pivot as all parties came to a halt.
I began painting more with intention and then getting products made with my artwork on them. I started doing markets, festivals, and art shows full-time. It was more survival mode. I continued to parties virtually at first and now sporadically. Shows are my main source of income. I now get up every day with a purpose that is twofold - to brighten someone's day and hold my own therapy sessions.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is holding it together. I am a single mom to a 13-year-old son, have a mortgage, and live on my art. As far as I know, I am a rare breed. I would love to meet more like me for a support group! Seriously though, my biggest accomplishment is connecting to my customers and being extremely grateful that people love and connect with my work which is an extension of myself. I am told how much it makes them happy. I am proud of that.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
So many hard things to do being a business owner! You are the bookkeeper, marketing and advertising person, mom, handling maintenance on your home, car, and body, scheduler, and last but not least, the creator. Oh, I guess that's more than one :)
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Interview yourself - know what you want to accomplish. Give yourself a direction, a path to follow, aka goals.
- Get systems into place. Get files organized and consult with an accountant.
- Schedule your work days/hours and stick to them. Be able to say no to people during your work hours. Focus on you and your work during these hours.
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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