Blood, sweat, occasional tears & growing pains
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. It's hard to believe but two years have gone by like a flash since my passion for art became a business reality. So much has happened in the last year and a lot of hard work went into getting there, but our loyal fan base was the most important ingredient.
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I would be remiss if I didn't thank my family for their support too. They've put up with the long hours, my frustrations, successes and business bumps and bruises. They've chipped in with great ideas from business advice to giving me the thumbs up (or down) on new pieces I wanted to add to the catalogue. The business is a family affair now and my beautiful wife Shannon, always my closest confidant, has now joined the business and helps with shipping, logistics and research.
Just like in year one, we continued to work hard both growing the catalogue and developing our connections to gain exposure locally and online. After a lot of hard work, we met and entered into new retail partnerships this year placing our prints in several stores within Ontario and with an online retailer out of Los Angeles. Late in the year the Ottawa Senators came calling. As Sens fan and Daniel Alfredsson fan too, it was a real honour to be commissioned to create three commemorative prints for his jersey retirement.
We spent a lot of time at shows last year meeting new people too and introducing the ManMade Art brand. Shows are a lot of hard work—packing up the car, unloading, setting up, standing all day with no time to get a bite or any sort of break. But it never gets old hearing stories firsthand about how my work resonates with people or how my pieces were going to be special to the person they were buying for. One of the coolest things I've discovered about myself in this venture is the value in challenging myself. Lets face it, most artists are introverts to some degree, and talking about their work can be tough. I'm no different, but changing that has been very rewarding.
I don't often get to hear those stories through online sales, but I'm continually amazed and excited to fulfill orders headed to the four corners of North America or beyond. Imagining someone hanging my work from far away places like New York City, Frankfurt Germany or Port-Aux-Basque Newfoundland is pretty cool.
New ideas and suggestions regularly found their way into the business from the show floor and our email inbox. One of the most common requests was for us to begin offering our prints framed so in early 2017 we launched our framing service. Affordability, quality and supporting Canadian makers are pillars of the ManMade Art business ethos so job one was to find a way to satisfy all three. Framing can be expensive yet I was not prepared to sacrifice our standards in order to offer a lower price point. We were able to source high grade solid hardwood frames and heavy plexiglass from suppliers in Montreal and Toronto and worked with our Ottawa printer to upgrade our paper stock to a thicker weight. Because we buy everything in bulk we were able to pass on the savings—a win, win, win for everyone. As popularity for framing grows, we plan to expand on the range of sizes and finishes available. Stay tuned.
2016-17 also marked the introduction of our ManMade Fund. It was inspired by the sad news about Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip. His diagnosis hit home. We are a similar age. My wife and I are huge fans. There were tears shed in our home. But his tragedy was also an epiphany of sorts for me. Throughout my life I have given my time and personal financial support to causes I believe in. I had recently released our 'Bobcaygeon ' print and decided to donate a significant portion of proceeds to The Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research in the time leading up to their final Ottawa concert in August 2016. It was so successful and gratifying that I expanded our charitable giving efforts to all purchases. We now divert a portion of all revenues to donations that support several local and national charities. In 2016 alone we donated over $2250 to the Gord Downie Fund plus The Ottawa Senators Foundation, and The Ottawa Food Bank.
So thanks for coming along for the ride. I have to say a giant thank you to everyone that has been a loyal supporter and fan of ManMade Art for Guys thus far. You are truly appreciated and inspire us to work even harder in year three!
All the best.