Launching a Successful Online Business
Laurence is one of the smartest digital marketers I know. I met her when she was running the L’Oreal business at Nurun, and followed her career for 4 years at Ogilvy, where she worked on brands like Dove, Kraft and Continental Airlines. In 2007, Laurence took a gutsy leap of faith and left the security of a full-time job to launch ArtWeLove.
ArtWeLove is an online learning community and store that makes it easy to explore and collect works from today’s most talented artists. Her mission was “to make fine art part of everyone’s life, easily, enjoyably and affordably.”
The site debuted in 2008 with artist profiles, events and industry news, primers about art history and genres. Says Laurence: “People are fed up with the elitist art world. They feel like they don’t have the intellectual tools or historical context to enjoy art. We want to make art more approachable.”
I asked her about the revenue model. “Originally it was advertisers. So I set out to develop lots of content and attract visitors. But it was a terrible time to secure funding and everyone felt burned by digital ad models. Plus, developing fresh weekly content was very labor intensive.”
“So I considered other business models – there were only a few options – and realized that our site members also wanted to collect art affordably. We were getting lots of inquiries each week on where to purchase works by our showcased artists.”
Laurence and her team fielded a quick survey and found that 50% of members reported they would buy featured artwork. So ArtWeLove started talking to artists, and soon introduced a line of limited edition, museum-quality prints, priced below $500. For as little as $15, everyone can own limited edition artwork, delivered to their door, beautifully packaged with a certificate of authenticity.
“The artists love it because they’re a little bit socialist. They like the idea of making their work available to every aspiring collector, and not just the lucky few.”
ArtWeLove has introduced over 40 limited edition prints to date, with new ones coming out weekly. Almost all of the featured artists have granted exclusive video interviews to ArtWeLove, which can be viewed on the web site.
Less than 2 years after launch, Laurence has achieved some major milestones. She’s secured a first round of VC funding, attracted over 20,000 unique visitors to ArtWeLove.com and her limited edition print business is booming. Though like many entrepreneurs, she doesn’t pause to catch her breath. “I’m living my dream,” she says smiling. Who knew it would be such hard work?!