Starting Before You’re Ready – Marianne Vander Dussen

Starting Before You’re Ready

My Backstory

It's been four years since I first opened my little art studio in the former Tweedsmuir Public School in North Bay Ontario, now 176 Lakeshore Coworking. At the time, the school was under construction as it was slowly being converted to office spaces, so my rent was a pittance due to all the work being done. Even though I felt completely unqualified to be offering art lessons and paint nights, with the encouragement of my friends, I decided to test the waters and see what would happen if I opened my studio doors to the public.

Marianne Vander Dussen - Painting of the Floor

Before the studio, I had been painting on my guest bedroom floor, in a little two bedroom basement apartment that I was sharing with my husband.

Marianne Vander Dussen - The Studio at Tweedsmuir
The Studio at Tweedsmuir

I cobbled together the studio tables and chairs using old classroom materials I found scattered throughout the building, and painted the boards colours that were inspired by the coastline of Georgian Bay. The studio was a hit, and I was running classes out of the space about five times per week. 

Lessons Learned

In the four years that have passed, I have learned a lot about running a business. After six months in the studio, I realized that I was doing the majority of my teaching in restaurant venues and private residences, so I closed down and moved my practice into my newly purchased home. Between 2016 and 2018, I ran hundreds of events (corporate team building, fundraisers, bachelorettes, etc.) and taught thousands of people. I loved my work. But after becoming pregnant with twin boys, I realized that working 3-4 nights per week was not sustainable with small children. So I closed my mobile paint class operations and focused more on in-class teaching and course instruction.

Marianne Vander Dussen - 55 Painter of Moon River
55 painters of Moon River

Then the pandemic. When I first realized that things were starting to go south, I drove up to the university to photograph all of my students' portfolios, so I would be able to grade them if they locked down campus. As I was driving on the highway, I was lamenting the fact that I'd no longer be able to teach for the foreseeable future. Then I really thought about it, and decided, "no, I'm still going to teach, I'll just do it online." This decision was complicated by the fact that I also lost daycare the following day, but we made it work by running the paint classes during the twins' naptime, and with some extra family support. 

Four months later, and I find myself in a completely new position, where I am finally able to increase the amount of art that I'm producing, and the work is selling successfully. Right now, my inventory of original pieces is a grand total of two. 

Coming Soon...Online Shopping!

One of the most important lessons I've learned in running a business is to start before you're ready. As such, over the next month or so, I'll be building an online shopping platform into my website. Like an original painting? Want a print? Click, put the piece into your cart, and you're done. Shipping anywhere in Canada and the US? No problem, I'll make it happen.

Right now, I only have two available originals, but that will be increasing. I have so many ideas for smaller works that will fall into the more affordable category, as well as larger commissions that I'll be working on.

Marianne Vander Dussen - Come Away With Me
"Come Away With Me" (2018) oil on canvas, 16" x 20", available.

Marianne Vander Dussen - Lake Superior: Rhyolite Cove
"Lake Superior: Rhyolite Cove" (2020), oil on canvas, 18" x 24", available.

Custom Commission Promotion

I also have six pieces remaining in my special promotion: I will paint you a custom, original piece of your choosing on a 9"x12" panel for $500, including taxes and shipping and/or delivery if local. You choose the photo, and I paint it (excludes human portraiture, pets are okay). This will be running until October, and will likely be the last opportunity to purchase a work at this price. 

Marianne Vander Dussen - Blank Canvas 

The Takeaway...

The point is, I'm not ready to start an online shopping platform. I barely have anything left to sell. But rather than waiting until I'm "ready", I'll build the infrastructure I need now, and work my tail feathers off to create the paintings to fill it later. No one who runs a successful business is ever ready, but they do demonstrate a willingness to go all in, and I'm doing the same. I'm all in, ready to make some beautiful art, and ship it straight to your doorstep. 

Thank you, once again, for supporting me on this journey. 


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