Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tony Pharo, Founder of Tony Pharo, LLC, located in Irvine, CA, USA.

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

I am an artist. My business is the world and all the people and interactions within it. More definitively, I like to think of my customers as anyone with an open mind, seeking creative energy, and wanting to feel something or start their day from a piece of art created by someone like myself. Collectors, in my mind, are people wanting or seeking something. Although my work can provide that, I largely do this for myself and the therapeutic aspect of it.

Tell us about yourself

I am originally from New York. I moved here when I was 27, and I am now 34. I moved to Southern California to get my life together. I was going down a long and dark path that felt like it was only getting narrower as time progressed as I struggled with drugs and alcohol. Since moving to SoCal, I have been on a roller coaster of life lessons and growth from those life lessons. I had originally moved here with $1,200.00 and a suitcase. Now I have a sustainable job in sales and that job, along with the self-work and the newfound family I've been gifted since moving here, allows me to pursue my passion(s) and find different things that inspire me. Along the way, I found myself in therapy every other week for the last three years, and ultimately my work in therapy and the constant pursuit of growth and progress is what landed me in painting back in October of 2021.

My main motivation for what I do is the therapeutic aspect and the insight it provides, but I also find myself gravitating towards always wanting to push people's thinking, and this creative voice that I've found is the perfect and non-aggressive way for me to do that. I often struggle with having high expectations of people in general, but definitely with those close to me. This creative channel allows me to voice what I like in a constructive and, obviously, creative way.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Being that I have a very business-oriented mind, it was a struggle for a while to learn the acceptance of the slow pace and growth that my work needs to take for me to start to feel like I am at a level of creating that I feel is warranted... It's funny re-reading that right now because I am such a harsh self-critic of myself and my work. Once I realized that my biggest hurdle since has been not correlating a certain level of growth or success to my work with the sale of my work. It does not happen overnight, and I can't change that. My biggest accomplishment, as a result, is when I feel that or obsess on that, because of my business mind and experience, I can channel that energy into the business side of it.

Having my website rebuilt from scratch for the last three to four months while maintaining my current at the same time, hiring a social media manager, a publicist, a copyright attorney, etc. In a nutshell, making sure all the "building blocks" are in place so that when the time arises, all my core infrastructure is built and ready to take on whatever is thrown my way and with the least stress or anxiety possible, as I struggle with anxiety often. As of today, painting since October 2021, I have amassed 12,200 followers on Instagram, I have sold multiple paintings, eight of which have art purchase agreements, claiming my rights to the work after the sale, and I have had three exhibitions with two upcoming next year.

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

Not listening to my mind and what it likes to tell me. That can turn into the biggest roadblock for me. If I allow myself to believe those thoughts, it can turn into me not continuing to create, not completing things I need to do for the business side of things or creating a month's worth of stress and anxiety that affects everything. If I allow that, with how early I am in this art world, it can hinder everything across the board, and I do not like to rest on my trajectory. I aim to partner with a well-established art gallery and a team of dealers by the end of year three.

It's important to remember that as we experience life with ups and downs, the business will usually be the same but amplified in my experience. As a result, I have to maintain awareness around that and walk through the punches thrown at me to stay the course. Usually, the better I do that, the more efficient I can be, and the more my business can flourish and grow as it has begun to do.

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

  1. You are who you hang out with, as my mom always told me. Make sure you have a solid core group of friends, work associates, and business contacts for networking. In my experience, if you have that, you can usually get the feedback you need, the inspiration you need, and the confidence to take action on the things you need to. Very little can be done on my own, especially when running a business. I like to have people around me in general and in business that have the strengths where I have my weakness. I have to remain in humility and be willing to ask for help and guidance when necessary.
  2. Thoughts are not facts. Don't let your mind keep you down. Of course, we will all have times when we listen to our heads and find ourselves "stuck," but the less that happens, the more efficient we can be, and the more our ideas, our business, and our success can reap the rewards and flourish.
  3. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new ideas, whether in business, art, or life. Experimentation is so very important for what I do, not only in my painting but in my job, my life, and my relationships. What we do on a daily basis reflects in our business and reflects in us as people. When I feel discouraged, I like to tell myself, "fake it 'til you make it," and if I can remember that long enough, usually whatever the venture, the painting I am creating, the relationship I am pursuing starts to form and I get a more clear vision of what I need to do, I then have more self-confidence, and I am overall more happy and content with myself, my life and my business life.

For me, these are three keys to success.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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