When it comes to expressing love, humans have exhausted all possible ways and methods of wooing that special someone; be it a lover, a friend or family. From roses and chocolates to writing long Facebook posts explaining how much the person means to them, now they are saying only one thing- Been there! Done that!
But let’s not eliminate the fact that the world will never run out of innovative gifting ideas. And one of the reasons is that we have been blessed with artists since the dawn of civilization. Thanks to technology and drive to invent something new, the concept of Commissioned Art has taken over the stereotypical ways of saying that you care. All you need to do is ask your favourite artist to create a customized artwork for you according to your specifications. You can also use it to bestow customized and one-of-a-kind gift to your loved ones, and tell them how much they mean to you. But where will you find these artists from?
ArtCorgi is bridging gaps between artists and art lovers by providing an online platform for commissioning digital art. This startup is not only working towards empowering budding and upcoming artists to grow their network and financially support themselves, it is also assisting art lovers to connect with artists who could recreate their special someone (and/or them) on a digital canvas in whichever avatar they want. Simone Collins, COO and Co-founder of ArtCorgi, talks about how she and her fiance (also the Co-founder) are taking the notion of commissioning artwork to new heights, along with wedding planning and selecting baby names.
About the Company
Q: Tell us something about your company ArtCorgi.
A: ArtCorgi is a site where you can have a photo (e.g. of you or your friends) or an idea (e.g. a dream about a skateboarding unicorn) turned into an original, awesome work of art. Clients can pick from a wide variety of artist’s styles- once they find one they really love, they upload reference photos, describe their concept, and place an order.
Within days, the chosen artist will provide a sketch for review, then deliver a final piece, which clients can apply to anything from stationery to Facebook cover photos and avatars, framed wall prints, mobile phone backgrounds, and desktop wallpapers.
Q: What is ‘behind-the-scenes’ story of ArtCorgi?
A: ArtCorgi was inspired by my co-founder’s proposal to me! I was working with Malcolm Collins on another company (and dating him, too) when he decided to propose to me using a series of commissioned illustrations featuring the two of us. He shared the commissioned art on reddit for me to find by chance, and his proposal quickly went viral!
Malcolm had a very tough time commissioning the 21 pieces of art he used to propose to me. He emailed over 300 artists he found on deviantART and Tumblr before finding the 18 who eventually created illustrations for him.
From all the interest people expressed in the romantic art Malcolm commissioned, we realized that there was an opportunity for a business. We also figured out that we could make the art commissioning process a lot easier by creating a vetted, carefully-reviewed network of artists and acting as a friendly go-between bringing artists and clients together. So when our first startup fell flat, we decided to give ArtCorgi a go. Now, instead of having to email a bunch of artists to see if they might even be interested in creating a work of art from you, you can simply choose an artist’s style, upload photos, say what you want, and make your purchase.
Q: Why do you only commission digital files of artist’s work?
A: We actually offer print options to those who order commissions through our site- we just like to keep things simple by not requiring artists to send original prints or drawings themselves. Most of our artists work with digital media anyway, so it makes sense for us to handle printing ourselves.
Q: What are your strengths?
A: Our strength lies in our passion for artists and art. We realize that commissioning art isn’t exactly a common thing to do these days, and that it is going to take immense effort and persistence to make it a mainstream ‘thing’ people do. Thankfully, we have the passion and enthusiasm to keep working at it. When we’re finished, we want everyone to know they can become a patron of the arts and shape the modern art world. Working with artists and incorporating personalized, meaningful art into one’s life is simply too much fun to miss!
Making ArtCorgi a Brand
Q: What is the competitive advantage of ArtCorgi?
A: We’re the friendliest and most accommodating place for commissioning original, personalized art from up-and-coming artists. We take great pride in our personal touch, cheery approach, and straightforward processes.
Q: How are you marketing as well as increasing brand awareness of ArtCorgi?
A: We’re starting by offering the best service possible- something that people will want to tell their friends about. We’re also utilizing Facebook and AdRoll ads along with a mix of other advertising and sponsorship channels to spread the word, since our initial client base is still pretty small.
Pitching and Cracking 500 Startups
Q: Congratulations for making it to the Accelerator Program of 500 Startups. We are keen to know about how you made it to the top 29 companies of Batch 9.
A: I’m sure a lot of it had to do with luck! Malcolm and I have been applying to every relevant accelerator we’ve heard of for well over a year now- 500 Startups included. It helps to get used to rejection- and to be open to filling out applications over and over again.
That said, we were also lucky to have some 500 Startups team members and mentors commission art through us before the applicant review process began. I bet it helps when those voting on companies to include have used one of the applicants’ services before (and enjoyed it).
Q: During the pitching process, what hardships and problems did you face, and how did you tackle them? And what did you learn from it?
A: The morning before one of our meetings with a 500 Startups team member, I became very unwell- to the point of not being able to stand up. I was ready to give up and stay in bed all day, but Malcolm convinced me to take some painkillers and hobble over to the meeting. I don’t think anyone noticed anything was wrong, and the meeting went well. I don’t think we would have gotten into 500 Startups if we didn’t go to that meeting.
What I learned from this is that sometimes you just have to push through- even when work and exhaustion becomes so intense that you literally can’t walk anymore. Sometimes, the hardest moments- those points at which you want to give up- are the most crucial.
Q: Now what is the next step in 500 Startups, and how do you plan to go with it?
A: Our number one priority is to get more customers (we want more people to enjoy the experience of commissioning art!). We’ll be testing this through ad campaigns, content marketing, paid endorsements, free commission giveaways, and commissions we order ourselves in hopes people will love and share them. By the end of our experience with 500 Startups, we want to have a very sound understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Word of Advice
Q: What is the word of advice you would like to give to Startups who one day aspire to be where ArtCorgi is today?
A: Learn to view failure as progress. Be OK with feeling incredibly dumb (and be open to learning things quickly). And do what you love- there’s no point in foregoing the security and constrained hours of more traditional jobs if you aren’t head over heels in love with your business and willing to let it take over your life.