This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner Wake Technical Community College.

In 2017, almost 2 million sellers sold goods through the ecosystem — an online site where many artisans sell their work. As Etsy’s tagline goes, “If it’s handcrafted, vintage, custom, or unique, it’s on Etsy.”

Platforms like this, and outlets like Instagram and Facebook, have created a unique space for entrepreneurial artisans and artists, or “artpreneurs,” that continues to grow.

But an artpreneur’s resources are not limited to the Internet.

In the Triangle, many artisans and artists who are either starting a business or growing an existing one are looking to Wake Technical Community College for support and seminars like the upcoming “Taking Your Home Business to The World Market with Etsy” as a business jump-off point.

When potter Terri Hamrick, owner of Frog Heaven Pottery, decided she wanted to start selling her work, she sought guidance from the Small Business Center at Wake Tech.

“I went over and talked with Katie Gailes — she was wonderful,” Hamrick said of Gailes, who is the director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Wake Tech. “She gave me so many ideas of things that I could do. It got to the point where I couldn’t write them down fast enough.”

Gailes suggested that Hamrick create a Facebook page for her business. She also advised Hamrick to gather information for email lists, suggested software to use and offered ideas for how to build a client base.

“She was just a wealth of information,” Hamrick continued. “I don’t know how many times I went and met with her. She just gave me a lot of good stuff and support. She was very encouraging. It’s very hard for artists to make it financially because it’s kind of the last thing that people spend money on.”

Hamrick’s background as a clinical social worker and substance abuse counselor may be surprising, but she said that when she did a career test, both art and social work were at the top of her results. Not knowing how she could “possibly make money or survive as an artist,” she went into social work, always knowing that she would find a way to express herself artistically.

Years later Hamrick became interested in pottery after a coworker introduced her to it, and she started taking regular classes. She practiced her skills for four years before she started selling her work at farmers’ markets.

Because this is such a common struggle for artists, Wake Tech is providing a panel discussion at Imurj on Friday, March 1 from 3:30 until 5 p.m. The First Friday panel discussion will discuss some of the most common barriers to an artist’s financial success with several local successful artists.

Another way Wake Tech is helping entrepreneurs is through its partnership with  LaunchWakeCounty, modeled after the LaunchMyCity movement. Programs in seven Wake County towns offer access to capital, community support and business training to people in underserved communities with entrepreneurial goals.

Brenda Priest, an artist and the owner of Your Door & More custom pen and ink illustrations, served as an events manager for LaunchHOLLYSPRINGS. Though an artist and artpreneur, she also considers herself a “mompreneur” as she works her business around being a mother.

“The pure excitement, passion and energy from the [LaunchHOLLYSPRINGS] cohorts was palpable. These students were ready, willing and able to put in the hard work to participate in this business accelerator class,” Priest said. “I have personally been more motivated to work smarter in my business.”

Priest has a degree in interior design, but “really fell in love with architecture.”

A summer spent learning how to draw with ink and pen led her to being hired as a subcontractor for the Parade of Homes, but when the housing recession hit in 2008 she said the “work dried up.” Wanting a flexible schedule that allowed her be a stay-at-home mom and still have income, she started toying with the idea of starting her own business.

“I started the business with no idea how,” she said. “When my girls went to school, I went to Barnes & Noble and sat in the book stacks with a cup of coffee and read business books. I attended many networking groups — listened and learned. I approached my artwork as a widget to sell.”

In 2011 Priest was commissioned by a company that creates fully licensed products for the NFL, MLB, the NHL and college teams. As a result, her sketches were screen-printed and appeared on NFL stadium banners.

Priest said her most rewarding experiences to date have been seeing her work in a retail shop and being asked for her autograph, and the fact that her youngest daughter recently transferred to Long Leaf High School for the Arts in Raleigh because she wants to be an artist like her mom.

Hamrick recalled one of her best moments as aPlatforms like Etsy, Instagram and Facebook, have created a unique space for entrepreneurial artisans and artists, or “artpreneurs,” that continues to grow. creative entrepreneur — walking into someone’s home who she did not know and seeing a piece of her pottery on their living room table.

“Somebody had bought it for them and given it to them as a gift, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, look at that,'” Hamrick said.

Artist Sonia Kane knows all too well the warm feeling that comes from people appreciating your work. A selection of Kane’s oil paintings were recently exhibited at Cary Town Hall.

“[It] was the most personally meaningful show I have had to date,” she said. “This 31-painting series, ‘Painting the Camino de Santiago,’ was based on my pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.”

Kane’s husband, Matthew, is the brain trust behind LaunchWakeCounty, having brought the model to North Carolina and started the initial program, LaunchRALEIGH, as a 50th anniversary project for the North Raleigh Rotary Club.

He modeled it to a similar program called LaunchDetroit. Both of the Kanes’ entrepreneurial interests have rooted them in the local business, and artist, community.

“To me, being an entrepreneur in the art field means that I get to immerse myself in that beauty as I capture my vision on canvas, and then I get to find ways to share those moments of wonder and peace with others,” Kane said. “To new artists looking to pursue a career in the art field, I would say that the true riches of an art career come through the community you can build with other artists and with your collectors. The best thing you can do for your career is to reach out and connect with others who love art as you do.”

Added Hamrick, “The services that I got at the Small Business Center were wonderful. For people who don’t have business skills — you have to have them. If you don’t have them, your business is not going to succeed. You have to do your research to find out how to sell your product.”

To that end, many resource providers are gathering at Smash ’19, provided by Triangle Artworks on Jan. 30 at The Frontier for the Quick Connect session as a way to share resources for artpreneurs in the Triangle.

“These events are meant to encourage, educate, and provide tools and resources to budding and established artpreneurs. As William Shakespeare said, ‘The object of art is to give life a shape,’ and we want to support that in our community,” shared Cherith Roberson, director of the Wake Tech Small Business Center. “Celebrating the artpreneurs in our community brings us joy.”

Upcoming Artpreneur Events

This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner Wake Technical Community College.