She is a guest here, because , despite challenges,  she made it go right and

established her studio and business and a producing artist now.

She uses traditional and modern methods to do her job. And  she is located in Gainesville, Florida.

I’m going to let her tell her story. Very inspiring! 

 But before I go, you know how Grant Cardone says “Success is your duty, obligation and your responsibility”.

I think Leslie is a living example of that. And thank you so much Leslie,  for sharing your story with  the world.

Leslie Tharp


Q: Why did you decide to have your own business          (as opposed to getting a job somewhere).

I’d come out of art school around the time the economy was failing and there seemed to be zero well paid creative jobs in my field. After picking up some different jobs and working for minimal pay in fields I wasn’t passionate about, I decided it was time to get serious about selling my artwork.

Q: Did you have any worries at first? And how did you overcome them?

I was mostly worried I would be rejected. That no one would appreciate my skills. I got through my anxiety by making lists of tasks to complete by certain dates, and then treating them like homework assignments. I put aside time every couple days to get something crossed off the list.


Q: What were the first five actions you took to get started?

1-I signed up for every cheap or free tutorial, blog series, or workshop on owning a business. I had a whole slew of creative and technical skills to make beautiful art, but knew very little about how to sell that art. These tutorials would cover topics like pricing my work, budgeting for costs, negotiating contracts, utilizing social media and more.

2-I budgeted time to work on my business. I chose to wake up an hour earlier to work on my website before work, or dedicate 5 hours of my Saturday to being in the studio, methodically practicing new techniques. Basically, I had to prioritize my time, and make sure I was showing up and putting in the hours even when I was tired or would rather be fishing.

3-I found ways of surrounding myself with folks doing similar things. It really helped to know other people were in the same boat as me. We shared tips on getting started, but we also drank coffee and complained about how broke we were. It was just what I needed.

4-I started saving money to buy tools. $40 for a grinder one month. The next month I could afford a $50 vice. I didn’t have much extra income at the time so this was tough, but bit by bit I started building my shop.

5-I made time and space to make my art. It was really hard to learn all the business stuff, work a bunch of jobs, and still be creative and make art. I started clocking my hours, and proving to myself that if I just showed up to do the work than inevitably the work would get done.

Q: Did you come across with challenges and doubt yourself (thinking “what am I doing?” )

All the time! I’m really stubborn though, so I’m used to just gritting my teeth and going for it. It helped to know other people who were at the same stage as me, trying to create their own art business , having the same issues (we even got to complain together) and also searching for mentors.

I organized a group of artists in town and we would meet and hold meeting in each others’ studios. This group helped me meet people who were finding success in creative fields, and they would help me sort out problems I was having.

Q: Did you invest a lot of money?

I started small by buying power tools at local pawn shops. Probably $50 a month for the first 6 months. I was able to acquire basic shop tools that way, which included a drill, grinder, safety gear, and some other handy tools. After about 6 months I began investing in “big ticket items” like a  , forge, anvil, and oxy/acetylene set up. Those each cost anywhere from $300-$600. With those items I could operate a modest blacksmithing business and would only have to come up with the cash for coal and gas to burn. It wasn’t until I got my first big sculpture commission that I bought a nice welder, which cost me $1400. Over the next couple years I spent nearly everything I made on buying large tools for the shop, a power hammer, plasma cutter, all the big investments that could in the long run would increase my efficiency and make me money. It took several years to have a shop that wasn’t always in need of something, but I was able to get there without having a dime to my name when I began.

Q: How do you see the future of your business?

Interest in my artwork and custom metalworking has increased and I hope to move into a larger metal studio in a couple years and possibly bring in some help, as I typically make large public art sculptures or large custom metal projects.

Part of my original business model was to incorporate teaching into my practice. I love teaching and it was so difficult for me to find someone to learn from in Florida when I caught the blacksmithing bug, so it always seemed like a great idea to offer blacksmithing classes. I’ve been teaching in my studio for about 5 years, but interest has really picked up lately and I’m working to expand that endeavor into a blacksmithing school, under the name of Leslie Tharp Designs that offers both short terms and long term learning opportunities that focus on the art of blacksmithing.

Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to start a business?

Be willing to learn and adapt as you go and take every opportunity you can to refine the way you run your business.  Enjoy the ride! It’s a wild one, but it’s so worth it!


The Chase, photo by Historia Photography
The Chase, photo by Historia Photography
Out of the Woods
Summer Showers

Leslie Tharp1


Photo by Angela Boggs Photogrpahy


Lift – photo by Historia Photography


Lift – photo by Historia Photography



Photo by Sean Deckert
Photo by Sean Deckert
Photo by Sean Deckert



Only the legs by Leslie











Now as you know, I talk about producing, producing, producing and starting a business to move those products out of your hands, out of the boxes you collect them in, into people’s homes.

This, of course requires SELLING. 

You can assign your time partly to production, partly to promoting and selling.

Once your business picks up, you can get help. Either hire a person part-time, could be even a relative, friend etc.  Or you could simply be business partners with someone you absolutely trust. 

You can have an agreement on task division and money splitting.

So you’ve got to be able to sell, otherwise you will accumulate the products and give them away for free and eventually throw in the towel!

Therefore, you or assigned person needs to be good at selling.

Grant Cardone is the one guy I know who has products to improve ability to sell.

There might be other motivational salespeople out there….make sure to get inspired and educamated  on the subject of SELLING.

But this “Cat” Grant, wants you to market your product, and SELL!

Get going!





I remember the times when I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of having my own business.

It was a no way situation. Because my family and nation (pretty much worldwide concept) only prepared me to get a degree and work for an establishment. So wrong! 

I only followed the idea, because I didn’t see many examples of people starting their own businesses especially without a degree. Or the opposite idea being talked ( such as be creative, produce and  don’t be dependent on others, being independent is better). 

Until I saw people actually exchanging skills or producing in their own businesses

No one pulled me aside and gave me a lecture on the subject I am talking about today. I observed and put 1 and 1 together, I compared.  On one side action-production is welcome- on the other side, the action pre-requires years of empty studies and degrees, diplomas ( = approval) where LIFE (individuals) waits for the day it can be in  a field and doing what  it likes.

It was “wow” period for me.  I had thoughts like, wow, so I could have a business (even though I am not rich? OR I am not obsessed with money?),  I could be a piano player (even though I haven’t studied in a conservatory?), I could paint professionally (without going through art school? ), I could write books (even though I ain’t got a degree in English Language and Literature?). I COULD do all these?

How liberating! Once you realize that you DON’T HAVE to obtain degrees and diplomas to participate in life’s production areas, the experience is like being at a desert table going…hmm which desert do I choose?  : ) 

Which one do you choose? 










Per my rough calculation  there are 205 million adults between the ages of 18 to 65 within the US.

Most of these people should be producing for themselves, they are not too old, not too young, so no excuse.

Per the there are only 27 million businesses in this country. 21 million of these businesses have no payrolls (meaning the individual works in his own business). Only 6 million of businesses have payrolls. 

So let’s figure this!  We have 205 million people , let’s take out the 10 million stay-at-home moms (I know how hard it can be to have a business while you are taking care of kids)  that leaves us with 195 million people.

So what are these 195 people doing? Looking for employment in those 6 million businesses. 

How are you going to fit 195 into 6??? Of course there is “unemployment” .

You need to forget about what you learned from your parents (even if you are an adult) and society and create your own employment.

This doesn’t mean put on a tie or a business suit….

Use your skills and interests. If you don’t have skills,  what do you like possibly doing?

Put your attention on it. You can start and build skill thereafter.

We are lacking success as a nation or as the world (per the numbers), but I do know that we do not lack interests.

Many of us have positive interests , singing, dancing, dress making, art making, knick knack making, pottery, designing furniture, photography, writing, cartoon creating, being a positive news agent in town, gardening (sell your flowers!), vegetable growing, painting houses, tile layer, wood works, carpentry,  up-cycling furniture, carpet cleaning, gadget making, card making, knitting, ….list goes on and on. You could even think with the idea “what service or tools people need but are missing? “

All these things are needed in the world by people. Just because some people are producing in these fields, does not mean you can’t produce.We do need more creation in the world.

The numbers above show (these are only in the US, you can imagine the rest of the world) that we are mostly consumers and literally not confident to produce. When we do this, we are leaving the production area to Pharmaceutical companies, “Healthcare”, Armed Forces, “Food” Companies (each put out chemical/food products by the dozens).

We may think, well who’s gonna buy my product….it is up to your skill, enthusiasm and how much you are making yourself known .

Skill probably being the least important, especially at the beginning. 

TRUE. But how? Imagine you made a rough pottery coffee cup.  When you are enthusiastic about it and make yourself known by others as the potter, one soul might find your work interesting. It is likely.

However if you took out the other two (enthusiasm and making yourself known) , it doesn’t matter much, how skilled you are or how stunning your product is. How are people gonna know?


Remember you can start small and thrive. Thrive to be known for your product , thrive to produce the best possible product , accomplish a great customer service, create the best image and fame etc. 

It can be so small that you are producing 2 items this week and your only customer is your grandma and aunt . Next week try 3-4 and head for local open market in town. The next week produce 6+ go to the local stores, advertise in your local newspaper, use all the social media (which is free), introduce yourself to people.

Eventually you will have a successful business, that’s how the businesses start.