Meri Cherry Art Studio is movin’ on up. We outgrew our old space, in what seemed like a matter of minutes, and as soon as our 3 year lease was up, we jumped at the opportunity to open our new location just a few minutes down Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles, California. This space is almost twice the size, with three times the parking and it’s gorgeous from top to bottom.
I get asked all the time How to Open An Art Studio for kids, so much so, I’ve already written two posts about it.
So now, in year four, I’d love to share what I’ve learned. I am still (and forever) learning and growing. The bigger we get, the more I am stretched emotionally and mentally. This is definitely a process and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to keep going. Meri Cherry Art Studio is a special place that our amazing community has gathered around to support and be a part of. Everything I share is based on my own experience with a pretty heavy dose of magic sprinkled on top.
So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 tips for How to Open an Art Studio for Kids Part 3. I hope you find them helpful.
In the beginning we threw a lot of spaghetti against the wall to see what stuck. We still do that once in a while, but most things we do our more intentional now. We take a lot of consideration to decide if something is the right fit for who we are and the clients we serve. Meri Cherry Art Studio is a process art studio. We’re not trying to be anything else. We believe in art that is all about the making and the doing, rather than the finished product. Period. You can not come here to make 20 paintings of the Eiffel Tower that all look the same. It’s not going to happen and even though that might be great somewhere else, it is not who we are and we are very clear in explaining that to potential customers.
I have been part of a women’t business group called Love Over Metrics with Jadah Sellner for the past two years. In Love Over Metrics we talk a lot about our ideal client and getting clear on exactly who that is. It took me a while to figure this out because we have a lot of different customers and I wasn’t sure how to put all their characteristics into one “person.” Then we had the pleasure of getting to talk with Jasmine Star on a live chat with Jadah and Jasmine told us all about her own ideal client and I finally got it. Jasmine knew exactly who she was from age, to daily routines, to where she hangs out and after hearing that I was able to figure out our own ideal client. Now, when we do an event or workshop or project we ask ourselves if our ideal client would think this is cool and if the answer is no, we definitely rethink it. Here’s a good post to help you get started about finding your ideal client if you’re interested. This has really helped me in a number of ways.
Did you know that every business has a company culture even if they don’t know what their company culture is? I had no idea this was a thing until I started talking to one of my favorite people, Lakita Williams from CoCreate Work. Lakita has helped me get clear on our company values at Meri Cherry and how we create our own culture based in those values. It’s still a work in progress but our principals sound something like this. We are an efficient, caring team. We are kind. We are passionate believers in the magic of process art. Our studio and the work we do represents our values, ideas and aesthetic. We use language that honors individuals and their capabilities. We are grounded in service and community.
Hiring is a challenge. There is really no other way to put it. Each year I get better at it and this year we’ve had the pleasure of adding incredibly capable, hardworking, delightful people to our team. In the beginning I had no idea how to even do an interview. I ended up talking the whole time instead of asking important questions and getting to know the candidate sitting across from me. Now, three years later, I am able to sit across from someone and ask those open ended questions to get a better sense of what makes that person tick, but it’s still hard and I have a ways to go. I used to think I needed a responsible person who showed up on time and was good with kids. Now I am a lot clearer on the kind of qualities that work in our close knit environment. We are looking for efficient, multi-taskers, who listen, take direction, apply it and do it with a smile and a sense of gratitude. We look for confident, intuitive, empathetic teachers who love children, are self starters and willing to learn. Energy and personality are really important and I go back to something over and over again that I think I learned from Justina Blakeney. If you don’t want to spend six hours in a car with someone, don’t hire them. It might sound a little harsh but the more experience I have with a team, the more I find this to be true.
This is a repeat from How to Open an Art Studio Part 2. Parking was a constant issue at our last studio. It was the bane of everyone’s existence and just such a waste of time and energy. Our neighbors were always on our case and frankly, it became a hostile environment I never wish to repeat. Our new studio has the best possible parking with the understanding that this is still LA. If you’re considering opening a brick and mortar, please do yourself a favor and make sure parking is not an issue. Expect to be super busy like this and remember that all these amazing people need some place to park!
I love being part of a community. It’s something I value for my family as well as my business. Take the time to get to know your customers and offer the best service you can possibly give. Be grateful and humble and do your best to make every person that walks through your doors feel special and welcome.
It can be very hard to loosen the reigns in the beginning of any business when you think you know how to do everything or you think it will take too much time to train someone or you don’t trust other people to do it as good as you or you think you can’t afford to hire someone. Or a million other reasons you might have for doing everything yourself. That’s fine, but if you want to grow that’s not going to work. I’ve had to learn how to delegate, hire the right people and loosen the reigns and the truth is, in a lot of aspects my team does things a lot better than I do. But more than anything, I am the visionary for my company and there is no way I can think big picture and do bigger, long term projects if I am teaching all day or answering the phones. It’s just impossible. The stronger our team, the more passionate I become about the power of what we’re doing and all the greatness that lay ahead and I am so excited and grateful to these amazing people!
I love being a leader and I try very hard to be the best leader I can be for my team and community. That sometimes means getting out of my own way, especially when I know I’m being judgmental or not my best self. It also means leaning into my husband Ev, and listening to his advice. He has such a different perspective than I do and he ALWAYS comes from a place of non judgment and caring. So it’s good to listen to him. He also doesn’t take things personally so that is often very helpful. Being a leader also means listening to my gut and speaking my truth, even when it’s hard. I decided to post about about a heated topic several months ago and I got totally blasted for it. I mean, it was a bit cray. Sometimes I look at the post when someone randomly decides to call me a name or feels the need to leave a comment waving goodbye to me as a follower, and I think, should I take this down? And then I think, hell no. This is my feed and what I believe in and there are woman out there who don’t have a voice and for whatever reason I have been given this platform and this is what I care about. So yes, I may lose followers, and I lost hundreds, but I gained self respect and a stronger sense of community for it and when my girls are old enough to understand all this, they’ll be proud of their mama, knowing she stood up for her beliefs. And that’s what good leaders do.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of my favorites is Raising the Bar by Alli Webb and her brother, Michael Landau, the creators and owners of Dry Bar. In almost every episode they talk about good design and how important it is. Our last studio was basically an extension of my garage and backyard art studio. It was cool, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t heavily thought out or highly functional. We had zero storage space, and I mean zero. If you ever went into our bathroom, you know only too well how true that was. In our new space I was able to think through every inch based on 3 years of experience. Ev and I spent hours talking about every area and how it might function, in addition to our color scheme and how we wanted to use our logo and brand colors throughout the space. I think we achieved something really special that can be repeated over and over again in any city in the world if we decide to franchise or open more studios on our own (which is a very real possibility that we are working on for 2020!)
Ok, so, there are my top 10 tips for How to Open an Art Studio for Kids after 3 years of business. I had asked on Instagram what questions you have for this post. I wish I could answer them all but this would be like a 50 page book rather than a blog post. SO, I’m getting ready to launch an in person Masterclass for studio owners along with a Live Process Art Workshop in September. Stay tuned for details and if you want to be the first to know about it, click here and scroll down for the email subscription box. Thank you so much!!!! I hope you found this helpful. xo, Meri
pics by Brandilyn Davidson Photography