Making a living as an artist is a balance of talent, luck and the creation of a marketable product. Erica Anenberg found her successful balance in her unique glass giftware collection that incorporates traditional stained-glass techniques with funky designs.
Anenberg, once a photography major at California State University, Northridge, shifted gears after taking a glass design class. When she gave her newly created stained-glass boxes as holiday gifts, they were a big hit with her friends: Through word-of-mouth referrals, Anenberg garnered $13,000 in sales by the following December. "A light bulb went off in my head," remembers Anenberg, now 29. "I realized I had something here." So she invested her profits in supplies and a catalog, turned an extra room in her parents' house into a studio, and went into business as e-glass inc. in early 1995.
Anenberg soon landed a $60,000 order from Bloomingdale's. She moved the business into a Van Nuys, California, factory but found herself overwhelmed as she juggled all facets of the business herself. She turned to the Los Angeles Times for a "Small Business Make-Over," in which a management consultant analyzed Anenberg's company. "The importance of efficiency and organization was stressed," she says.
Anenberg can now concentrate on her greatest business strength: creative design. She's already branched out into making frames, jewelry boxes and other products. "I'm trying to establish a foundation for myself as an artist," she says. With estimated 1998 sales of $500,000 and her giftware on sale in such stores as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, her goal doesn't seem too far-fetched.
Brand ID equals big success.
It's not the average person who could find inspiration in a clothing hangtag, but Chris Lipper found success by turning apparel and shoe company tags into brand- awareness tools.
Lipper, founder of Chris Co. Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey, created the Tattoo Hangtag after someone suggested he sell removable tattoos within the apparel industry. After incorporating a removable tattoo into a hangtag, he set about patenting the invention and selling it to shoe companies like Converse and Skecher's. "The idea is to give the buyer, who we believe is buying the product because of the brand name, a little something extra," says Lipper, 34, whose company's orders rose tenfold from 1997 to 1998.
Chris Co. has several more removable tattoo products with patents pending and plans to use the licensing contacts from the Tattoo Hangtags to market items like Tattoo Trading cards, Tattoo Greeting cards and Skooz, tattoo schedule cards for sports teams.
Give it the old college try.
If you'd like to start a business but think your student status is a detriment, author Bruce S. Davis would like to prove you wrong. With few bills and the financial support of parents, school loans or scholarships, you have less to risk and everything to gain. Davis shares his insights in How to Start Building a Fortune, Even Though You're Still in School (Sun Publishing Co.) and outlines how to begin five low-investment businesses: auto detailing, gift basket sales, commercial painting, retail sales and student travel services.
Chris Co. Inc., (973) 285-3993, http://www.chrisco.com
e-glass inc., (818) 780-7273, Eglasss@aol.com
Sun Publishing Co., (800) 444-2524