Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sarah Jaynes, a trained artist and educator, based in Almonte, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My name is Sarah Jaynes, and I am an artist with a business of the same name. I have a studio and gallery on the main street in beautiful Almonte, Ontario, Canada. My business focuses on providing unique, affordable art and prints to the art market between expensive art galleries and big box stores.

Tell us about yourself

I am a trained artist and educator and hold a BFA and a BEd. I have been teaching High School Art for 26 years and running an art business for the last 7 years. It is not easy doing both simultaneously, but the two passions cross-pollinate with each other wonderfully.

I love the soft beauty and texture of classical drawings and the loose, misty, colourful style of street art. I love building texture and depth in charcoal and the fast and free abandonment of spray paint. I am inspired daily by the beauty of the Eastern Ontario landscape and often paint the flora and fauna that I see on my travels by road and water.

The places I spend my time are not just spots on a map. They are communities of people that I love, past memories and memories to come, the sound of birds and the wind in the trees, and the glimmer of the early morning sun on the river. I relish the challenge of capturing these special qualities in my work and sharing them with others.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been giving myself permission to build a business that is custom suited for me. I have allowed myself the freedom to break from what I have been taught a “real” artist is and what a business should look like. I am not gallery represented, and despite having a storefront, I do not run retail hours and do not strive to quit my day job as a teacher.

I answer to my curiosity and creativity, so I bounce from subject to subject, and I am forever trying out new mediums and styles. I do not have a comprehensive brand. But what could be looked at as a weakness I have turned into my greatest strength. My many styles make me perfect for partnering with interior decorators and wholesalers. Companies and institutions that license my work get a lot of choices from me.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The hardest thing for me is not chasing every idea and every possibility. I am an ideas person. New products and new partnerships are all very exciting, but it is better to double down on the ones you already have and add more with caution and care.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

You are one person. You can only work so many hours in a day. Don’t push yourself to work harder. Push your products to work harder for you. For an artist, two-dimensional images can be sold as originals, prints, and digital images, and they can be licensed for use on products and vectorized for use as logos. They never go bad, and they ship easily.

For an educator, teaching is a given. But your instructional skills can also be maximized. Teaching in-person art classes is a great way to build relationships and community. But those art classes can be filmed and sold as courses and written up and sold to educators as lesson plans.

Keep a firm grip on what led you to your business. For me, it was the magic of the creative process and sharing this magic with others. It is easy to get bogged down with the demands of marketing and the nuts and bolts of running a business. Schedule in time to reconnect with your original passion with no expectations. A few hours here and there with art supplies and no intended outcome relieves stress and often leads to some amazing creative breakthroughs.

Involve your physical and virtual community in your business. Share your process, and share your failure and your success. If you nurture these relationships, you will create a reciprocal feeling of belonging. A business that is rooted in a community is more likely to last and flourish. A win-win for all.

Where can people find you and your business?

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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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