How I Started A Small Business Selling My Artwork Online

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emma high-quality prints and greeting cards

Emma Caroline Russell

Founder
Hollypolly Prints and Co.

Team Size

1

Revenue

Not disclosed

Location

High Point, North Carolina

STart Date

Mar 2020

Our inspiring female entrepreneur today is Emma Caroline Russel, a founder of Hollypolly Prints and Co. After losing her job, this creative entrepreneur has decided to start her small business and sell her artwork online. She designs beautiful and high-quality prints and greeting cards for any occasion. After you finish reading her story, make sure to check her amazing artwork.

INTRODUCTION

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.

Emma Caroline Russell Hollypolly Prints
Emma with Holly

Hello! My name is Emma Caroline and I am from High Point, North Carolina. Though I grew up in North Carolina, Tennessee has always been my second home. My parents and much of my extended family is from Tennessee, so I was raised on all things orange, starting with Tennessee football. That led me to attend the University of Tennessee, where I graduated from in 2019 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.

Following my graduation, I worked as a freelance designer in a corporate environment. I thought is was a dream come true, and for a while, it was. However, as life does have a way of throwing some curve balls in one’s path, in February my contract was ended and I found myself without a job.

Determined to not let this sudden change in my plans keep me down, I started the job search immediately. Only to be met with some flat out not or a lot of “we would take you but we can’t right now.”

These rejections made me question my confidence and my worth of a professional and a person. After a quick pity-party, I decided if I couldn’t find a job, I would make my own. I had always dreamed of owning my own business and finally decided to go for it.

sell artwork online

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?

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My day changes everyday. I typically start my morning walking my dog Holly and listening to a podcast, usually about history. As the creative head of my business, I find it’s really helpful to clear my head to get ready for the day.

This is then followed by a coffee and going over my to-do list that I made the previous day of things I need to get done. These tasks can range from planning new designs, to contacting clients, to website management.

From here, I usually have lunch and will maybe walk Holly again, especially if I need to clear my head creatively. Then I get right back to work.

If it’s a Friday, I will have a meeting with my sister to talk about financials and marketing. She is two years into her business degree at UTK so I am very thankful for her help.

I try to stop working around 5:00 to eat dinner with my family, though some days I feel like I never stop working though.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR

PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.

Growing up in a close knit family, cards have always been a mode of communication. My sister and I have kept “Mem Boxes” which are boxes filled with notes, tickets, memories, and of course, cards. That’s where the idea for my card company came. I wanted to create a way for others to send love to whoever they wanted to using an original card.

As for the name of my business, it is named after my dog Holly. I have often struggled with anxiety and depression so I adopted Holly as a way to help with the side-effects. She has brought so much joy and happiness to my life. She has been very helpful in getting my through the struggles of starting a business.

Nevertheless, I started my business completely from scratch, with no business experience. I took roughly $1,000 from my savings and started working. As it’s just me, it was both terrifying and exciting.

So far, I have received positive feedback from those who have purchased Hollypolly cards and cards. I am very grateful to those who have taken the time to support this new business.

sell artwork online

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?

The biggest achievement I’ve had was selling out my “Rabbit” cards in 1 day. Up until that moment I had been questioning what I was doing, but this made me feel like I had really accomplished something. I had to start a waitlist and order new stock, of which I also sold of.

 

WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?

My Dad (who owns his own medical practice) has always said, “customers and employees first.” That has been my strategy, and will continue to be, especially since I rely heavily on word of mouth from my customers.

For example, early on a customer didn’t received her order at the correct address. In response, I refunded her and expressed shipped new cards straight from the printer. I want to make sure my customers are satirized and that they know they mean the world to me.

As for future growth, my biggest goal is have a store front within 5 years and have this be my full-time job by the end of this year. In order to accomplish this, I have focused a lot on building my brand. Brand is to be something comfortable and reliable. I want people to think Hollypolly when they need a card or want to add some art to their space.

sell artwork online

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?

The future makes me so excited! In my vision, I want to have a store front and have my cards purchased and sold by major retailers such as Anthropologie or Target.

RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES AND TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS.

For the business side of Hollypolly, I use Squarespace, Google Calendar and Square for my custom work. Squarespace has been my biggest took as made it really easy for me to keep track of everything from orders, costumer information, and the analytics of my website traffic. Having access to this is a huge weight off of my shoulders and I therefore would recommend it anyone. 

For the design side, I rely completely on my education in graphic design and the skills I have developed over the years. I would highly recommend a graphic designer to any business owner because good design makes for a good business.

I also use Instagram and am working on taking advantage of Facebook. I would recommend using both but they can be difficult to sink up. It also can be frustrating that you can’t do the “swipe up” option on Instagram unless you have 10,000 followers. For small businesses, this would be a great tool but there are unfortunately restrictions.

sell artwork online

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PODCASTS, BOOKS OR BLOGS?

“She Makes Money Moves” is a Glamour podcast about female business owners who give advice to other women. I really like it because it’s comforting to know that very successful business owners have experienced the same obstacles I have. I listen to it while I am working on designs or working on my website, it gives me a little extra “pump.”

Additionally, a book that has been great for me is “Everything is Figureoutable” by Marie Forloe. She is absolutely hilarious and goes deeper than “do this and this and you’ll be successful.” She encourages you to look at your life as a whole rather than just a small business owner.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

 

DO IT! It’s hard… it’s stressful… but it’s worth it. I’ve been doing this for about a month but I am WAY happier than I was at my corporate design job. Sure, I miss the security of my old job offered, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The key is to surround yourself with people who know what they are talking about and who are going to support you. I have reached out to many female entrepreneurs in my life and they have all been willing to help me.

I would also recommend having a good understanding of your weaknesses and strengths. For me, I know finance and planning are not my strengths, so I get help from people who understand it. It takes stress of me and it makes things run smoother.

WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?

I have two ideas.

First, a platform as a part of instagram just for new businesses. This way we can get our names out and grow our online following.

The second idea is a FREE course for young or new entrepreneurs so they can learn how to use platforms like social media to grow their businesses properly.

Violeta Semenova

Violeta Semenova
Founder
theBizLadies

Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!

If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.

By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.

If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!