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.
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!
Lift – photo by Historia Photography