I reached out to Evelyn Henson after I featured her in an artist spotlight post a few weeks ago. She was kind enough to let me feature her for a career profile! I hope that you enjoy reading her advice as much as I have!
Evelyn Henson, Founder of Evelyn Henson
What was your first job out of college?
This! When I graduated, I had a degree in art history and communication studies and no specific idea of what I wanted to do. From internship experiences, I knew I liked creative atmospheres so I (unsuccessfully!) pursued a few jobs in art galleries and museums during the summer. As the months went by, the art business I had started as a way to keep me busy slowly began picking up speed so I took the leap!
What inspired you to take the leap and start your own company? Was this something you always planned on doing?
My awesome friends had been encouraging me to sell my work. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence otherwise. Since I hadn’t landed a job immediately after graduating, I thought it would be a fun way to make money and pick up new skills. Plus, I was twenty-two and had absolutely nothing to lose! I’ve always loved art, and while I had never seriously considered it as something I could do as a career, I think my situation made taking the leap fairly easy.
What were the first steps you took to starting a company? What logistical advice do you have for other people who want to start a business?
Fortunately, I had built up quite a bit of a painting inventory (It helped me de-stress during my senior year!), so all I initially did was make a logo, announce what I was doing via Instagram, and open up shop. I started on Etsy, which makes it fairly easy to sell. Had I had long-term goals when I started, I probably would have done way more research and marketed better. I really didn’t dive into the more logistical things until a month or two after, and that’s when I bought my domain name, started a blog, streamlined my shipping process, and did more research.
From a creative standpoint, my advice would be to research your industry inside out and try to find your own niche. Having a specific audience has helped me tremendously. I’m also continually learning new things, and here are a few resources I have found particularly helpful are Marie Forleo, Jess Lively’s What I Wish I Knew, and Creative Inc.
How would you describe Evelyn Henson (the company) in a few sentences?
Led by the mantra “painting is a celebration of life,” Evelyn Henson seeks to create affordable and stylish pieces of art for young women. With Evelyn Henson, everything from paintings to lucite trays begins with a paintbrush. Inspired by modern art, textiles, and interiors, Evelyn Henson hopes to bring uplifting and colorful décor to your homes.
You are so good at promoting your business on social media! What advice do you have for self promotion, PR, and social media?
Haha thank you! As a visual person, Instagram comes easily to me, but Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are typically not something I think to use frequently. Scheduling posts on these platforms has tremendously helped me maintain my social media presence. I’ve gotten to a point where I write an entire month’s worth of blog posts and schedule them out. It’s more time efficient and helps me to stay organized. I also follow brands I love so I can see how they’re utilizing a platform.
As much as I tweet and instagram, self-promotion always feels awkward. I read an article a week or two ago that talked about how selling your story is more powerful than selling your product. The idea of your brand “conveying a story” is a great way to utilize social media—especially in terms of self-promotion.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out?
From shipping to finances, there are SO MANY things I wish I had known, and I honestly can’t believe how much I’ve learned in the past year. The best lesson I’ve learned (and am continuing to work on!) is to never undervalue your work. So many people try to barter with you, get items for free, etc. It’s much more fun and rewarding to work with people who love your work, not your price.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting your own business?
The biggest challenges have come from being my own boss and working from home. I have a hard time not working because there’s always something I either want to do or need to do, so not giving myself a break at the end of the day often causes me to get stressed and burned out easily. As a one-woman show, there’s no one to ask for help when I have a question (unless you count Google)! On the flip side, it has made me more resourceful to have to teach myself so many new things. The biggest reward is getting to paint (almost) every day with my dogs in the same room!!
What is a typical day like for you?
Obviously, every day is pretty different depending on what and how much commission work I have that week. I usually wake up around 7 and start working around 8. I try to get emailing out of the way first. Some mornings are entirely spent packaging and mailing orders, and on others I dive right into illustrating or painting. I’ve been doing a lot of map illustrating recently, so there has been a lot of drawing happening over here!
Where do you see yourself, and your company, in the next five years?
Oh wow I don’t even know! I would love to relocate to a larger city and connect with more creatives. My current business goal of the moment is to expand my wholesale accounts to get in more stores, so hopefully in five years I’ll be at a brick and mortar store near you! After seeing such a positive response to my lucite trays, I’d love to also offer more products over the next few years.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to graduate from college and enter “the real world?”
Stay as close to your college roommates as you possibly can! I miss mine!
What is on your desk right now?
I mostly work from a large table, which is currently a mess of paint, brushes, sketchbooks, my laptop, map illustrations that need to be completed, my Day Designer (worth every penny), and a water bottle. I also currently have a birdhouse on it that I’m painting for a local Habitat auction.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
It varies! For paintings, I usually find flower bouquets on Pinterest and create my own arrangements from them. I pull a lot of color inspiration from abstract artists. For prints, the inspiration comes to me in waves, and honestly isn’t something I often seek out. I just keep a running list of ideas that come to me. I always pay attention to fashion and lifestyle trends as well.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Growing up, my dad always told me to, “Just do your best and that’s all you can do!” That mantra helped me survive math class after math class, and has allowed me to develop a strong work ethic. If you study as hard as you can and still fail, at least you know you tried! I’m constantly just trying to be my best self.
What advice do you have for other young professional women?
This is pretty cliché advice, but don’t compare yourself to what others are doing. I think it’s a trap we all fall into! I know I do, and it’s such a waste of time.
Thank you so much, Evelyn!
Images via Evelyn Henson.