Well, it's been a little over a year since I left Red Hat and opened the picture framing shop in Natick. I look back on an eventful year, and look forward to an uncertain future...

A year ago most days at the shop were rather like the old Maytag Repairman commercials. I could go days without seeing another soul in the shop. I busied myself with setting the place up, doing some demo projects, and sweating blood over how I was going to get the word out and start getting business. I tried all kinds of things: Yellow Pages ad, postcards, letters to local businesses, trying to make networking contacts, craigslist... very little happened at first. I spent many months anxious over the lack of business.

Still, I did not consider my efforts to have been wasted. I considered every outreach, every contact, every promotional piece, to be a seed planted in the field of commerce. Hopefully, a few of them might sprout and begin to provide sustenance.

One at a time, a few of those seeds did indeed germinate. The local gallery owner came to me needing LOTS of glass and mats. He came back to get some printing done. We have since become friends and he sends business my way whenever he can. I hosted several artists in my gallery, and they have all come back as customers and referred more customers to me. I continue to remind my online friends of what I can do, and people bring me work :)

Perhaps the biggest boost to my business has been to volunteer for the Natick Open Studios. I attended the planning meetings (wearing my logo shirt, of course!) and volunteered wherever I could. A number of the Open Studios artists have since become both friends and customers.

I am beginning to develop a reputation as someone who is clueful, intelligent, friendly, and resourceful. People love my framing and printing work, and they love even more that I have an eye for color and design. I am also known for being a resourceful problem-solver.

So in short: I'm settling in to the business, I've made an impression, and people like me.

It's not quite enough, though. I'm still not doing enough business to support myself -- indeed, this year I have not paid myself a dime out of the business. It's all been invested back in equipment, promotion, marketing, and now an employee. I've been living off of savings, which are now dwindling. I'm starting to look for tech contract work in case the money runs out and I have to backfill my income by other means.

I'm hoping I can ride it out until business picks up to the point that it sustains me... we'll see. I really really love what I'm doing, but I also rather enjoy financial solvency.

It's been quite a year... we'll see what next year brings.
There aren't very many decent pictures of me playing the harp, but I intend to start changing that...

That icon comes from this picture )

Last week Natick had its first monthly Art Walk, where downtown merchants stay open late and bring in local artists to show off their work. I, being a downtown merchant, participated. Since my shop is a bit off the main drag, I did the pied-piper thing and played the harp outside to draw attention to my place. A local news photographer, who'd visited the shop earlier, came back and snapped this pic, which she shared with me.

Technical note: here I'm playing my small 29-string Pakistani harp... I'd loaned it to a friend, but borrowed it back for the occasion. Even if I *could* move the pedal harp to the shop for things like this, I'm not sure I'd want to. Of course, now I have to start practicing songs that fit on the little harp... I've been spoiled by playing a harp that goes more than one octave below middle C...
Wheee!!! I got my first live, non-family, paying customer today!

It was the saleslady from Yellow Book. She came in last week to discuss my taking out an ad (which I did) and in the process she fell in love with one of Tam's pieces and with a print that I hauled out. She came back today to go over the framing in detail. The *original* of the piece she fell in love with was rather too rich for her blood, but being a true Ferengi I sold her a digital print of the piece (having just finally gotten my 24-inch printer producing decent output, not a minute too soon!)
I got a deposit and everything! (Credit card machine works too!)

speaking of Ferengi, the original is still available ;)

Anyhow, I guess this means I'm now in business for real :) I'm now working the shop two days a week fulltime, and I can also use Tam's studio to meet with Boston-based clients by appointment. I just scored me an LCD projector on eBay, and I've got some specialty software that basically allows me to pack a "virtual frame shop" into my laptop (take picture of piece, upload, then drag-n-drop mats and mouldings until you like what you see)

Full details of what I'm up to are at www.baldwinhillframing.com. I can do custom framing, mat cutting, and canvas stretching. I can also do digital output: photographic-quality up to 13" wide, high-quality archival up to 24" wide, and standard-quality inkjet up to 44" wide, all on a variety of media (we're currently investigating silk, f'rinstance!)

Generous discounts offered to friends, family, and early supporters ;)

March 2015

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