Mission Street Grant

So Mission Street Grant asked me 5 questions and I thought I’d share my answers to them.
Tell us about your business and what makes it unique. Please provide a general description of your product, customers, competitive landscape, and overall performance.
I am an artist. I do graphic art (like logos and business cards), illustration, sculpture, clothing graphics, and scale model building. I have a lot of time-in-grade as a production artist, digital pre-press technician (critical color, layout, imposition), and professional scale model builder. Most, if not all, of my clients are creative people themselves: fine art photographers, jewelers, glass artists, and authors. I’m not the only person doing what I do, but my background in art (including photography) and critical color set me apart.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Describe both your greatest achievements and biggest challenges.
I started my own company for two reasons: I’m introverted, and the digital pre-press industry underwent massive reductions in the early part of the century, as basic image editing software got better and better and budgets got tighter. In the Denver Metro, we went from seven independent shops to one. For a while I was an employee of one of my former contract clients, but I discovered I was happier working on my own. Limited to what I can do by the cost of the vertical-market software I’d like to have, I’ve been doing 2-dimensional work for my gradually growing client base.

My largest challenge is my introversion. I need someone who actually enjoys marketing my product to others, so I can focus on the part I love – making the art.

My greatest achievement is seeing my work outside my studio, whether it be a bike jersey, a piece of art in someone’s home, or a logo I’ve designed.

How is your business involved with the community you serve? Examples include: giving back to the community, sourcing locally, and/or contributing to economic development via hiring.
As time permits, I volunteer both my time and my skills to specific non-profits or educational groups in the metro area. I’ve worked as a volunteer with Rebuilding Together and Project C.U.R.E. I’ve volunteered my skills to The International Plastic Modeling Society (IPMS), and one of its local chapters, the IPMS/CoMMiES (Colorado Modeling Militia Enjoying Sci-Fi).

I’d like to grow the business to the point that I can afford to rent work-space outside the home, and perhaps take on a part-time marketer and/or another artist.

What would a $150,000 grant mean to your business and how will you utilize the funds? Please be as specific as possible.
This would mean a massive expansion in my businesses abilities and products. A more powerful computer would enable faster renderings and larger files; $$17k. Form•Z solids modeling software; $10k. A fine laser engraver/cutter would enable cutting services and enhance design abilities; $10k. A 3D printer for rapid prototyping and the generation of smaller final models; $30k. A large format printer like the Epson SureColor T7270D, would enable me to fill my own creative needs & the needs of others who need one-off large format prints; $7k. And then the time. Time to learn. Time to grok. Priceless.

What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term growth plans for the business? How will this grant contribute to your plan?
In the short term I’d just like to be able to continue doing what I’m doing. As I’m able to afford it I’ll expand in one direction or another. A bit here, a bit there. It’s slow and often times frustrating as bills seem to hit right when I’ve got the cash for expansion.

In the long term, I’d like to add to my skills by acquiring new tools and offering those services to clients, new & current. I’ve got people who’d like to get short run parts made, individual prints, modeling dies or vacuum forming bucks.