Small Business: What it's like to own an art gallery

By Aimee Shaw

Left to right: Soul Gallery manager Francis Moy and owner Lisa Voigt.
Left to right: Soul Gallery manager Francis Moy and owner Lisa Voigt.

Soul Gallery owner and creative director Lisa Voigt sheds light on New Zealand's growing art industry and what it's like to run an art gallery.

A brief description of the business?

We're an art and object gallery and the most important part of the business is the fact that we only stock New Zealand-made products. We only support New Zealand artists, both emerging and well-known.

What gave you the idea for the business?

It's always been a drive for me. I went to art school at age 30 and it was always an ambition to own my own art gallery.

How is your art gallery different to others?

We feel that we are quite unique in that no one quite does it the way we do it.


We have a formula we stick to and it really works for us. We're unique in that we intensely showcase New Zealand artists.

What is a typical day like for you?

I spend a lot of time doing social media - that has become my job. I do a lot of website work, Instagram, Facebook. Social media for art is a really good tool, visually you use it as much as you can to get the potential audience you need.

I spend a lot of time at the shop, in and out, I'm also seeing clients.

We have a corporate side to the business, so I also meet with corporate businesses that are looking to buy unique New Zealand product to give as gifts to clients. My day is full up of just seeing people, navigating people, talking to artists, finding new artists and creating a buzz around Soul Gallery.

What has been the best thing you have done with the gallery?

We expanded a couple of years ago in to the shop next door and that has been just amazing. It has allowed us to have a different clientele come in because we are bigger, a new set of artists come in because we have more space, and it's just allowed growth to happen quite naturally.

What inspired the name Soul Gallery?

The name Soul Gallery was inspired by artists and art alike, each artist gives a part of their soul when they make or create a piece, it is an acknowledgement of that.

A piece called “Silver” by Nick Eggleston.
A piece called “Silver” by Nick Eggleston.

What does the current art industry look like?

New Zealand art is really taking off in the world and it is a really exciting business to be part of. I don't think people understand or realise that, especially if they're not apart or attached to the industry.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?

Establishing a database of customers and at the same time establishing a database of artists.

It is quite an unique business in that my suppliers are also my customers because if I didn't have artists I wouldn't have a gallery.


What are you most proud of in terms of the work Soul Gallery does?

I am most proud of the charity and community work that we are involved in.

We have been asked to partner again with the Child Cancer Society to host the Cocktails, Canapes and Canvas event here in the Waikato. We like to engage and be involved in projects that are of relevant in our community.

What advice would you give to other small business operators?

My advice is to find a formula that works for the people in your business and a formula that works for people coming in to your business and your partners.

New Zealand-made art inside Soul Gallery's showroom.
New Zealand-made art inside Soul Gallery's showroom.

Finding that formula is through trial and error and the satisfaction at the end of it all is that you have this business that works really well and will continue to work really well for you.

Can you tell me a bit more about the corporate side of the business?

I decided there was a need in the corporate market to be the middle person between the artist and the corporate person as far as gift and event planning went.

So I took myself out and introduced myself to corporate clients and now we've got lawyers, PR firms, media companies - we find and source a New Zealand-made product for them that they may want to give as a gift.

It is a new market which I feel is worth pursuing, and it's proven to be so.

- NZ Herald

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