Spotlight on Brave Fine Art
Today’s Spotlight is on Andy and Liv of Bravefineart, which like many small creative businesses, began when they saw a need or a gap in the market; in this case for fine art, antique and vintage art from characterful old portraits to beautiful landscapes. To create an online gallery that was accessible to all, rather than shrouded in mystery and high prices, or worse still “price on enquiry” where you just don’t even bother asking because you know that, unless you have an endless money tree, it is going to be well out of your price range.
Andy is the buyer, spending one day a week in the business, while Liv works full time and supports with the presentation and the packing!
You can browse the online gallery here or read on to find out more about the idea behind the business and how Andy and Liv got started.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
Well... I moved into a new flat in 2017 and wanted to furnish it with a nice selection of art on a budget. In the past, I’d bought prints as I thought that was all I could afford, but this time I wanted to find an original painting that really meant something to me.
I began my search online but it soon became apparent that everything I liked was either too expensive or had a ‘please enquire’ price tag. I also noticed that the art world often feels shrouded in mystery and unusual terminology - which really didn’t help. But, after weeks of searching, I finally discovered a beautiful portrait, tucked away in a nearby antique shop, that I fell in love with.
And the rest so they say...
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
I remember the day that everything changed. Liv and I were talking through the idea one Sunday morning and she also felt really strongly about it. At the time, I had a steady job and we discussed our options, knowing that it was a huge leap into the unknown. We decided that initially I’d work on Brave one day a week and we could fulfil the orders in the evenings. Within four weeks, we were both surrounded by paintings, cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. Something that hasn’t changed since.
3. How did you fund your business?
We began with £3,000 that I had left over from a previous house sale. All of this went into starting the business and paid for stock, packaging, technology, company formation, and framing equipment.
Buying the first few pieces was quite a nerve-racking process as we had to get them right or lose some of our initial capital.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
We both love being around so many beautiful paintings and we’ve met some amazing people along the way. Every day we discover something new about an artist or find out the real story behind an antique portrait. It’s been quite an intense 12 months as the to do list just keeps on getting longer but it’s a lot of fun too.
The hardest part is dealing with a lack of financial security. In retail, you just can’t predict how things will go from one month to the next. So you have to live with a certain amount of uncertainty around you at all times. That’s why I’m so pleased that Liv is also behind the idea as you need to be in it together.
5. What help was missing for you?
There was so much to learn in our first year - from how to research an artist through to how to safely package a painting. We discovered most of the answers online as there are plenty of help articles available. However there isn’t one single reliable source of information, so it’s a case of having to piece together different opinions and then learning from your own experiences.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
During the first six months, we tried to sell contemporary art alongside antique/vintage art. There are so many brilliant emerging artists out there that haven’t been given a chance to shine. However, this proved to be very challenging as contemporary artists need a completely different kind of service. To be sustainable, a gallery also needs to help an artist to gain publicity, run exhibitions, and produce prints. We did consider taking this on but at the moment we just don’t have the time. Maybe one day we’ll give it a try.
7. What have you learnt?
I’ve had to train my eye to only buy quality because in this business you have to live with your mistakes and ours are all hanging on our wall!
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Shoppers expect an online business to be available on social media 24/7, so be prepared for this. Facebook and Instagram are great for getting to know new customers and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it does mean that you can never really switch off. Just last night, I was discussing a new order with a customer at 1am.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
We love discovering the story behind each piece in the collection, as a painting is so much more interesting when you get know the people behind it. Often, much of the information has been lost over time but occasionally you find a fragment of an inscription that unlocks a whole family tree.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
9.5 but luckily we both love it 🖤
Nicola says “like any small business a certain amount of belief and passion is required to get started on your endeavour and a lot of support. Andy is lucky that Liv is firmly behind the project and can support the business, because launching any endeavour, especially one that is 24/7 in your 1 day a week is always going to be challenging. And the learning curve……….one of the reasons I started this blog is to share journeys of creative business, because in nearly every case, someone has had an experience or learning that makes it easier for others, especially as there is not “one size fits all” advice out there. Learning a new skill is as time consuming as running the business so any small amount of help is always a good thing, especially if it avoids people making a mistake.”
The Girl with The Green Sofa