Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fine arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ann Ranlett, MSA, founder of Art by Ann Ranlett, located in Auburn, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm an artist specializing in animal & nature drawings rendered in scratchboard, a unique medium that allows for wonderful detail. Short description: drawing white with a knife. I also accept commissions for pet portraits (and sometimes other subjects). Animals have been a part of my life since childhood, and so has drawing. I have a degree in biology - that "science brain," combined with my love of animals and detail, makes the technical nature of scratchboard a perfect fit for me.

Tell us about yourself

I had created a few pet portraits for friends, they were well-received, so I started contemplating making a business out of art and commissions. I'm grateful for the support of my husband; we discussed the idea and realities of quitting my part-time job and decided to make a go of it. It hasn't always been easy, but I'm glad I took the leap!

My daily motivation is the challenge of creating a piece of art that resonates with my clients. I also create art "just for me" to enter shows or sell at a couple of local galleries. Those pieces run the gamut from fun to frustrating, depending on how complex I've decided to make my compositions. But I know from many years' experience that if I push past the tough spots, I'll end up with something worth putting out there.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Maintaining a steady commission list. I have to be honest; in the early days, I was surprised that commissions continued to come in, as I had no real idea what to expect. Word of mouth has been very successful for me.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Wearing many hats. As a one-person show, in addition to creating the original works, I'm a marketer, graphic designer, merchandiser, bookkeeper, etc. It can make time management and focus a challenge.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. I'm sure this has been said a million times, but you have to pick something you love and feel passionate about.
  2. Closely related to that is to find a different way to do what you love. I realized that commissions were the way to keep a steady base for me. They're art too, just very specific art. Commissions are not for everyone, but I don't mind them at all.
  3. Give yourself a break. Running & growing a business is a lot of work. You have to recognize your achievements & accomplishments, even the small ones, and be proud of what you've done.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Be confident, be flexible. Learn when to say no. It took me a while to get to the point where I'd turn down a commission. Now I'm firm about what will work and what won't, but most times, I have an alternative I can offer if the initial request isn't possible. Failing that, I have no problem referring to another artist that might be a better fit.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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