As part of our interview series with art start-up founders, we spoke with Elina Gough from ArtSnug, a company making art more accessible to more people. Elina Gough was the winner of Startup Weekend Art we organised last year. The new edition of the art hackathon, Art Challenge will be held on 22/23 January at Central Working Whitechapel. Read on about Elina’s experience from winning the event to growing the company into a sustainable business one year on.
1. What is ArtSnug and what does it do?
At the heart of ArtSnug is a very simple idea – to make art more accessible to more people. And this translates both into what we sell as well as how we sell it.
Our focus is on hyper-affordable art – one that people would buy more as artcessory for their home rather than as investment. As a result ArtSnug mostly sells limited edition prints by a range of amazing emerging and often also established illustrators, printmakers, collagists and photographers with prices ranging from £50 to £300.
Making art physically more accessible is another important aspect of ArtSnug, therefore from the very first day we have been selling art where people already are – coffee shops, bars, interior design stores, etc.
2. What motivated you to launch ArtSnug?
I’ve always thought of myself as a creative problem solver, constantly on the lookout for a new challenge to tackle. Which is why I ended up in advertising, helping brands solve their business problems. And while it definitely was a great experience working with some of the world’s most loved brands at one point I started feeling more and more frustrated that the best ideas never saw the light of day. Eventually this frustration grew into an itch to start my own business and turn one of my ideas into a reality!
3. With a background in agency-side marketing and advertising, how easy did you find navigating the art world?
I quickly realised that not having a professional background in art does not necessarily mean I have a lack of credibility to sell it. In fact, I could use my marketing background and personal experience with art to define what ArtSnug is all about – selling art to people like myself who view it as being an integral part of their home interior rather than investment or an individual and often expensive object of admiration.
4. You were part of a team that won first place at the Startup Weekend Art hackathon last year. How did the event help you launch your own arttech start-up?
Before the Startup Weekend Art I had lots of business ideas, ranging from completely mad ones like launching the world’s first Christmas tree rental company to some more realistic ones like a one-stop online wedding stationery service. However none of them ever moved beyond being just an idea. In a way, Startup Weekend Art forced me out of the comfortable idea stage, where everything and anything seems possible. It made me start thinking about how this idea could turn into a viable business proposition.
5. ArtSnug has been in existence for about a year now. What were the most unexpected challenges you experienced?
Seemingly having thought through every detail of the business plan during the Startup Weekend I don’t think I was 100% ready that the original idea may not work!
So the biggest challenge of the last year was definitely accepting failure as a part of the journey and continuing to test different angles until I landed on something that got real traction.
6. Was anything about setting up the business easier than you expected?
It may sound silly, but going into the Startup Weekend Art I thought I needed at least a designer and a developer to turn my idea into a reality. While having a team is definitely preferable to going solo, you can still do it and get your business up and running in a matter of days with the help of such amazing sites like Squarespace, Froont, Shopify etc.
7. December is a busy month for ArtSnug. Tell us what is in store for art afficionados in London.
Besides having 5 amazing exhibitions on in London – from ink and tea drawings by Carne Griffiths at Romo Deli Camden to polaroid collages by Andrew J Millar at Curio Cabal Haggerston, I’ve been testing a new spin-off to the original idea – ArtSnug pop-up shops in public spaces bringing together artwork by 30 different artists.
I just spent 3 days at the really cool home interior store West Elm in Central London and have some amazing corporate pop-ups coming up at places like Kings Place in Kings Cross.
8. Looking into the future, what are your plans for ArtSnug in 2016?
I’ve got many ideas waiting their turn to be tested in the real life, but one thing you can expect for sure – ArtSnug will continue to make art more accessible to more people!
9. Finally, you probably wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t an art lover. What are some of your favorite artists?
I am genuinely lucky to be able to work with some of my favourite artists. A year ago I wouldn’t have even dared to think that such established artists like Carne Griffiths and Lucille Clerc would even consider working with a little start-up like ArtSnug.
Outside the ArtSnug world the artist whose work has always touched me on the deepest level is Ai Weiwei. I admire the grandeur and depth of his ideas and the detail of their execution. I really do think we Londoners are incredibly privileged to see the work by this genious in his Royal Academy of Arts exhibition.
To keep up to date with ArtSnug‘s latest exhibitions and art sales, check out their website: http://www.artsnug.com/
Inspired? Join the Art Challenge hackathon 22/23 January.