Graphic designer Glenn Jones talks being an artist in an increasingly digital world, branching out to service the retail market and working from his Auckland home.
What does your business do?
Glenn Jones Art is an online art print business that focuses on Kiwiana designs. We've been going almost six years. I was a graphic designer and my wife Julia Kinnell, her background is project manager and construction. We've got a young family and after we had our first baby and Julia had gone back to work we were more conscious of trying to start up a business so we could stay at home with the kids, and that's how this business was born.
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It works well because I am the creator and Julia is very good at the background stuff; accounts and dealing with emails. We find that those two sets of skills work well together. We don't have our own physical store but we're in about 50 stockists around the country.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I had been involved in, and still am, in a T-shirt business, so I had gone from working in a studio to then having an online T-shirt business and seeing the potential of it. When me and Julia were talking about ideas that would give us the opportunity to work from home together I knew the barriers to starting a online art print business, we're on a Shopify platform, it was all about social media and online advertising. We knew that if we worked hard on it we would be able to buy a business. The motivation behind it as a starting point was to be at home with our children, and now it has gained a little bit more in size.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Our day starts by splitting taking two children to school and the other to kindy and then we come back and we really just start to get out our online orders that have come in overnight. We have a storage unit not too far away from where we live and as we've grown we've worked with other partners to create products that have our art on it, and we sell that too through our online business, so we'll go through what we need to send out the most of and go down to the storage unit, pick those. All the actual art on our site goes through to a printer and frameset so we don't touch it, we keep an eye on those orders.
The morning it is about having a look at our orders, making sure we have everything in place for those orders to be fulfilled, Julia usually takes control of that, and I work on creating more prints or on the back end of the website.
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What does your design process look like?
All of my art is digital art, Vector-based, and that's based on where I came from as a graphic designer. I'm all computer based and it is a pretty fluid process because when I come up with an idea I'm in a position to draw it pretty quickly and once it is drawn it is uploaded onto our site and I put it on social media and it is ready to sell. I can go from idea to having it sold within really a few hours.
Generally, my inspiration comes from growing up in New Zealand. A lot of my art is Kiwiana based but strongly set in nostalgia, and that's where we found a lot of people can relate and meet us on the same wave length, especially people living overseas, and we notice it more at Christmas time. When they come back at Christmas time they want to take art away that reminds them of New Zealand, and often that's things like lollies and other stuff that we were exposed to growing up in New Zealand, that maybe only New Zealanders get. Inspiration is pulling on my memories and also seeing what's around in the everyday environment and trying to put my spin on that.
What is the busiest time of the year for your business?
From Labour weekend on is the busiest time. Father's Day is also a busy time. These days, and now with the Black Friday sales becoming more profile in New Zealand, it actually all leads into Christmas. Because a lot of Kiwis are home for that summer break from overseas we sell a lot of our art to those living overseas. Even January is a busy time of the year - from late September through to February. People also like to fill their baches with art, summer is our main sales time.
What are your long term plans?
Just to grow. For the first couple of years we ran this business we kind of thought we'd see how it would go, we then saw the potential of it and the growth of it. After that we started working on business development. We work with Zac de Silva who runs Business Change, and he really helped us put a business plan into place, and we check in with him all the time now to grow our business and make sure we're on track.
What will you focus on next year?
We want to work with more partners to be able to produce more products. We also want to do a bit of R&D to create more products. We've got hundreds of art prints now and a lot of those can go across different products and so that is our main focus for next year.
What's the biggest challenge you have faced running the business?
Being able to keep on top of growth. For a long time when we first started printing everything ourselves, we would literally get the kids in bed and then we would then start bagging the prints up, doing greeting cards and slipping each greeting card into a packet, and we got to a stage where we looked for people who were already established doing that kind of thing. The hard part is when you are growing and to find ways to let the business grow with you. We run this business from home but we may have to look elsewhere because every year it grows more and more. Every year we are going down to our storage place and getting a bigger unit.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Give it a go. A lot of people think the barriers to get online and an online business going is too hard, in this day and age it is really easy. The barriers to entry today are so low.