Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fine arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Cheryl Kline, Founder and Owner of Kline Academy of Fine Art, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a skill-based art academy dedicated to teaching historic and contemporary drawing and painting techniques to teens and adults of all skill levels. Classical techniques, French and Italian academy, as well as innovative abstract, non-objective, and Bay Area figurative. Our students are very diverse - teens working on a portfolio for college, adults who want to advance their painting skills, animation and video artists, tattoo artists, retirees, and basically anyone who wants to get better at their art-making.
Tell us about yourself
I was a working artist, and I also had about 10 students. I started Kline Academy of Fine Art in 2007. My partner and I purchased the property on Motor Ave in Los Angeles on an interest-only loan until we could get funding. This was supposed to be a place for my personal studio and a classroom. But in 2008, there was a financial crash, and to survive, I gave up my studio, added a classroom, and created an academy. I hired my artist friends whose work I loved, and a school was born!
I have had to put my own work on hold over the years and try to juggle the demand from the galleries that represent me. It has surely been a juggle, but what motivates me each day is to see all who come to our studio for art classes... it's more than an art school; it's an arts social event.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is surviving since 2008! Anyone who got past 2008 and Covid should receive an award! Not only that, we kept our artists working throughout the pandemic.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
In the beginning, being able to pay all the bills on time like rent or mortgage, property taxes, upkeep, payroll etc. I used to wait until someone would pay for a month of classes and then race to the DWP to pay the electric bill just before it would be shut off. Once business starts to improve, it's hard sometimes to think about taking risks to continue to build your business like adding more to an advertising budget or hiring a new employee because you never know when the next crisis will hit and you don’t want to be stuck without a cushion or “nest egg.” Also, having to wear all the “hats” to make a business run smoothly and be successful. I still answer the main phone 24/7 so I don’t miss a potential new student. Another difficulty is overworking and not taking “me” time. This is super important for any entrepreneur to be sure to set boundaries and know when your body, mind and spirit needs to be nurtured. Working with many types of personalities, skill sets, backgrounds, cultural differences, age groups will surely give you some sleepless nights. Remember too, that no matter how hard you try to be a considerate employer, someone will always find fault with you and it only takes one disgruntled person to poison your team. I wake up every day and try to do my best to keep the business running and growing so everyone has a job and at the end of the day, that is all you can do.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
It's not as easy as you think. What is your overhead vs. what you are offering = price you charge. Find an equation that gives you the true cost of what you are offering. Overhead, advertising, staff hours, social media ads, other advertising, hotel, air, food, transportation, etc., assistance during a workshop, monetary loss due to cancellations, etc.
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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