Building Artist’s Careers/Interview with David Fuss

By Carolyn Edlund

David Fuss is a super salesman, effective manager and very funny guy. He got serious for this interview, however, and shares his strategies of how he helped artists launching their careers.

AS:  You started out as an art student yourself, and ended up helping other artists succeed. Can you describe how you got started?

DF: I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. During my college career I took my projects, and rescued projects from other students destined for the dumpster, and turned them into cash. I would dust them off, spiffy them up and go door to door selling them ( I soon realized that I was responsible for much of the university dorm décor). That’s when I discovered that a living could be made by helping other artists reach their goals of financial stability through their creative endeavors. It carried over into a professional career which included the successful launch of Lissa and Ohvals into the marketplace from scratch.

David FussAS:  How did you do this?

DF: My work with Lissa Lou was most rewarding.  I started with a starving artist who produced amazing images, added her work to tangible products, peppered in some common business sense, then created a sales venue to launch her work into the retail market. The results turned the starving artist into an artist with an income. I took on other small start-ups and reviewed potential artists for a few more years until I joined Evergreen Enterprises.  I love my job, although I still yearn for the days when I could take a brilliant artist and mold them into a viable commercial product.

AS:  Artists have great ideas and lots of talent, but not always a lot of business savvy. How can they increase their business  sense?

DF: Here are some basics:

  • Take advantage of university or continuing education small business classes.
  • Use the talents of quality local sales representatives to get your product out there.
  • Listen to your wholesale customers. Your customers are the ones on the front lines. They have much to gain if your product is successful.
  • If you are selling direct to the retailer, start every meeting with  a 15-20 minute business discussion. Ask open-ended questions. This will help your sales presentation and you will receive valuable feedback.

AS:  Give us some concrete steps to conceiving, producing and marketing a product line.

DF: My suggestions are:

  • Know your customer.
  • Start with images and products that have a local or regional connection.
  • Produce consumable products, such as greeting cards, stationery, gourmet, etc.
  • Include items that have an attractive price point.
  • Include groupings of items with a similar image to increase the average unit sale. For example – produce a mug, greeting card and coaster with the same complementary image.
  • Create a niche in the market.

AS:  What are the biggest mistakes artists make in trying to start a business?

One obstacle to overcome is the separation between the artist’s own creative work and images that are marketable in the retail environment. Many artists hold a personal connection with their artwork. To be successful, the artist must break that personal connection and use their creativity as a means to financial stability.

Look for images and products that can accent your creative talents and be marketable to your target audience at the same time.  Once you receive feedback from retail sales, capitalize on the best sellers by expanding that image on multiple products.

As your career matures, build upon your strengths and outsource the means to reach your goal. Focus on what you can do best. Find a reputable sales representative and treat them well. Listen to your customers and adjust accordingly.


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