Startup Showcase: Connecting artists, art lovers and the masses
Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews entrepreneurs for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on April 7, 2019.
According to Statista.com, global online art sales amounted to about $4 billion in 2017. Artwork Archive states that one in five high net worth individuals collect art. These statistics often create a misconception that art collecting is reserved for the elite and that a person of less wealth cannot have their own personal art gallery.
Local Minnesota entrepreneur Bren Hampton is the creator and founder of White Wallzy. She believes every wall should be a gallery and has made it her mission to break down the barriers of art ownership by uniting communities of artists, individuals and businesses with inspired local art and inspirational human stories. Her online market place is building bridges of creativity and human connection, giving local communities the power to inspire each other.
Name of Company: White Wallzy LLC
On the web: www.whitewallzy.com; https://twitter.com/whitewallzy; https://www.facebook.com/WhiteWallzy/; https://www.instagram.com/whitewallzy/
Business Start Date: Jan. 2, 2019
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 1
Name: Bren Hampton
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of Birth: Litchfield, Minn.
High school attended: Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in Walker, Minn.
College attended: Minnesota State University, Mankato
A. What led you to this point?
Q. I’ve had a series of ups and downs in my life that have helped me be the strong, loving, vibrant woman I am. My entrepreneurial spirit has led me to work for two startups, try my hand at affiliate marketing, and start two of my own businesses. The first was My Clear Essentials, 2010-13. I designed, manufactured and sold comfort accessories for women utilizing a medical technology. And now White Wallzy.
Q. What is your business?
A. White Wallzy is an online marketplace selling the creations of visual artists. Our mission is uniting communities of artists, individuals and businesses with inspired local art and inspirational human stories.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I was sitting on my couch looking around at my walls that were still blank after living in my studio apartment for 18 months. It wasn’t because I wasn’t out looking. I could see art, even art that I liked, but I never bought any art. There’s no meaning with art when I don’t know the story behind it.
I was thinking of the painter I occasionally see around Bde Maka Ska with the canvas on his easel, his pallet of paints in one hand and his brush in the other painting the skyline of Minneapolis. I realized I wanted to connect with a local artist so I posted an ad on Craigslist titled, “Free Gallery Space.” In summary the ad said, “If you have art that you’d like wall space to hang and to show occasionally, evenings or weekends, let’s talk.” The idea was resonating so strongly with me that I kept talking. One conversation was with a friend who I shared my story with. I said that if I couldn’t have meaningful art where I know the artist and their story then I’m perfectly happy with my white walls. My friend said, “You know, you’ve got a ballsy business idea there.” We both looked at each other and said, “White Wallzy.” I immediately purchased the domain name, not knowing what I was going to do with it. A little over a year later, after a warm, autumn day in 2017 White Wallzy LLC was formed.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. People think art collecting is reserved for elite, high net worth individuals. There is a misconception that our home or business cannot also be our personal art gallery where we meet the artists and know the story of every art piece.
Q. What big hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. In startup phase, my biggest hurdle has been website development. I thought I had a website ready for artists to sign up in January 2019 only to potentially lose a few artists because of frustrations with the website and setting up their online account. I am now pivoting by taking a different approach with my current web developer and researching other web developers.
Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. I have a strong leadership skill set. I listen without thinking about what I’m going to say in response. I ask questions to truly learn about someone and to find out what their needs are. I am more of an artist lover than an art lover. I can problem solve by maximizing resources. I consistently feed my mind with the knowledge of great leaders. Then lastly, balance, because I know White Wallzy won’t be successful if I don’t also love and nurture all other parts of my life.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. Having a solid personal foundation. I know my core values and how those align with the White Wallzy mission. My personal connection with the business, my motive that inspires me, is what uplifts me and carries me through the frustrating points.
Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
A. Only myself.
Q. How are you funding your business?
A. My savings
Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?
A. Three things:
• Revenue generation that covers the business expenses.
• Artists who are earning an income through White Wallzy.
• The stories of individuals (homeowners, renters and business owners) whose lives have been enriched because they have living artwork in their homes and businesses where they know the artist and the artist’s story and they are creating their own stories as they share their discovery of local artists.
Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
A. Being a great leader. Leaders grow their businesses by solving problems and maximizing resources and they do this by influencing.
Q. Why do you do what you do?
A. I believe that artists create from pure, positive energy and they want to share this. White Wallzy is a love brand where they can share their creations with the power of their story.
Q. How did the James J. Hill Center help you with your business?
A. First it was research on their AtoZ Database that helped me forecast initial sales projections for my business plan. During my research time, I learned of the CO.STARTERS opportunity. CO.STARTERS at the Hill helped me gain clarity, conciseness and confidence in my White Wallzy business concept. By the end of class I had a pitch deck prepared.