When is the right time to hire when scaling a new business? Meet artist and studio owner Jamie Smith
When Jamie Smith left her teaching job to pursue a creative career, she realized right away there was demand for a support network serving Vancouver artists like herself. She'd always been interested in bringing people together, so she started THRIVE Studioalong with a series of motivational speaking sessions to that she could share her work and experiences with like-minded people.
A couple of years on, her crew of female artists is alive and growing in beautiful British Columbia. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to Jamie about building a business based on community, making a living from hosting talks and why getting out of her pajamas is so important when she's working from home!
I used to be a high school art teacher, but I always knew that career path wasn't for me. I am an artist first and foremost, and when I decided to branch out from teaching and got my first studio, I realized right away that I wanted to leave my 9-to-5 job and find a way to make being a full-time artist work.
After about two years of painting for a living, I was offered a beautiful studio space here in Vancouver, but had to find a couple people to share it with so I could afford the rent. I loved the space right away, and since I'm all about bringing artists together — whether that's through the ROVE art walksI organize or just meeting people for coffee — I knew I could make it happen.
That was the beginning of THRIVE, a collective of female artists who work out of the studio. We also hostTHRIVE Talks, a monthly speaking series where successful women in the arts come together to share their personal journeys and pass on practical advice.
Beyond that, I also tartedTHRIVE Mastermind, a monthly meetup where the same group of people gather each time for business guidance and to talk about what they're doing right, what they're struggling with, and so on.
Who was your very first customer?
Just after I signed for the studio, I was approached by two creatives, Tara Galuska and Sarah Clement, who said they’d heard I was making a group for artists and wanted in.
They were so excited about the prospect of the monthly meetups that I could tell right away there was a demand for this sort of community in Vancouver.
When did you know your business was going to work?
The first talk I did sold out, which was really exciting!
Also, when it came to start a new session of the Mastermind group, every single one of our members wanted to sign up again, which was a really positive sign. I ended up adding a second session with fresh participants in the new year, and my big project right now is to start another two groups.
When I sell out these events and see that artists are excited about the community, I feel so grateful and inspired to keep going.
How do you price your talks and sessions?
I'm in the rare position where my clients are very much like me — female artists in the greater Vancouver area — so I feel like I can understand what they're looking for from these groups and talks, and what they'd be willing to pay for them. Pricing can be kind of terrifying, especially as art is so subjective!
With THRIVE, I was able to think about what I would be willing to pay and be confident that my pricing was in line with what my customers would be happy with.
For example, the THRIVE talks are $25 a ticket, and participation in the Mastermind group costs $45 per session. While other entrepreneurs have told me I can charge more for what I do, it also comes down to knowing the audience and scaling up at the appropriate time.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every morning I do a 7am workout class, which has made a huge difference to my well-being. Then, even if I'm working from home and don't have any meetings, I make a point of getting dressed and ready for the day. When you have no schedule, it can be really hard to get out of your pajamas!
I also try to journal and do a little meditation for about half an hour before going to the studio and working on marketing and social media or email and other admin tasks. I'll also sit down for an hour or so to focus on my art.
If I'm not at the studio, I'll organize as many meetings as I can in one day and make sure to do any necessary follow ups.
Networkingrequires a different mindset for me, and switching back and forth between the business and creative mindset can be tough all in one day, so I try to space out these tasks.
Then, about three times a month, I'll also have an evening event, a THRIVE talk or the mastermind meetup, so it's a pretty busy schedule!
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I'd really like to know when the right time is to scale up is, specifically in terms of hiring help.
It can be tough to build a team, and knowing who the best person to hand your baby off to is tricky, so I'd love to hear perspectives on that.
Let's help Jamie out!
Do *you* have experience with scaling a new business and hiring help?When did you know it was the right time to hire your first employee or team member?
Share your ideas and experiences with us below. :-)