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A Glass Act

Who says art and business don't mix?

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.

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Glass Act.

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