November 9, 2022
Today marks our first year anniversary! I launched Aurélie’s Gallery with just 3 photographers – 3 amazing people who trusted me with their work and decided to support me in this new adventure.
The road had been bumpy with a lot of false starts, delayed launch dates and website bugs. I was banging my head against the wall and thought the day would never come… and then, our website designer sent me a message saying the site was up and running!
I remember the moment clearly: I was out treat-or-tricking with friends’ kids up in Harlem in New York. Not the best moment to deal with work but there you have it – the life of a small business entrepreneur!
After years in advertising and fashion, organizing photo shoots, searching and hiring photographers for ad campaigns, curating photography portfolios and working on a photography magazine I had launched with a friend, I had met many talented photographers. I was looking for something new to do, a new challenge, a new project, a new way to work in photography, and the idea of having a gallery came naturally.
I thought at first of having a physical space, and although having a spot to call my own and model the way I saw fit was enticing, I also knew I would quickly hate having to go to a white cube, waiting for someone to walk in. Besides, the cost of renting a space was prohibitive for the self-funded start-up I was. The next best thing was to go online. (The covid pandemic only reinforced the need to have a virtual gallery, accessible anywhere at any time, free from time and space restrictions.)
Early on a friend of mine told me my job would be both art, commerce AND technology – truer words were never spoken! I learned so much these last 2 years! From SEO to social media, from e-commerce platforms to newsletters, from print on demand to shipping and sale tax… the learning curve before and during this first year has been steep at times and some topics remain quite obtuse despite my best efforts (I’m looking at you, SEO). Technology constantly changes and evolves so there’s always something new to learn and try, which I enjoy. Work is never boring when you keep on learning new things!
It’s now time to pause and reflect on this first year.
There are plenty of things I would do differently if I did them today. Insight is 20/20 and all that jazz… But I do believe I did the best throughout the process with the information I had at the time. Regrets are a waste of time: learning and moving on is a much better use of my time!
What did I learn during this first year? Here are the Cliff Notes:
- When starting a business geared toward the general public, don’t underestimate how long it will take said public to notice you. Be ready for the long haul, and don’t get discouraged when you hear only crickets. Keep at it – time takes time.
- Write a business plan (or better yet, work with a business consultant on one). Putting your ideas on paper will help you clarify your vision. It also makes your business idea feel more concrete and real.
- Financial projections are important but be prepared for slow growth (or little growth, or even no growth!). Overnight successes don’t happen that often (and organic reach on social media doesn’t happen at all anymore – stop dreaming!). You need to invest in your company for it to exist. Put money aside for it, have a part-time job somewhere else… do what’s needed to give time for your company to find its footing while still paying your bills.
- Before launching, spend time creating a proper workflow and structuring your company. It’s not when you’re in the thick of it that you have time to work on the legalese of your contracts or figure out how to schedule your social media posts. Set things up before you put your baby out into the world.
- Create as much content in advance as possible: blog posts, newsletters (even if you only have 5 people to send them to), social media posts, website pages, product descriptions, … Have as much of them ready early on so you have a leg up and can schedule ahead of time.
- Contact everyone you know and invite them to follow you on social, sign up for your newsletter, spread the word, etc… Let’s be real here: your first few sales will come from friends and family, and that’s OK (big shout out to my friends and family!).
From the initial 3 photographers we started with, we grew to now 10 online exhibits! Our artists span genres and styles, from landscapes to portraits, from Black and White to color photography. I knew some of the photographers from my previous career, working with them on ad campaigns or on my magazine; others approached me to work together, while some were recommended by friends.
The artists we feature come from different horizons and have very different styles. Yet, one thing remains, I love their work. There’s not one image here I don’t care about.
Stay tuned for more!