The art of business
Liverpool-based artist Kate Chesters has always had a passion for creativity.
Kate sells a range of hand-crafted and environmentally friendly resin art products through her Amazon Handmade storefront – including artisan cutting boards, cheese boards, placemats and coasters. The products are made from responsibly sourced olive wood and resin.
But Kate started out as an artist, obtaining her Masters degree in Art in 2014, and she has considered herself an independent artist ever since. “As an artist, my work is inspired by epic landscapes from across the world. I take influence from the frozen landscape in Iceland the swirling blues of Niagara Falls.”
In 2017, Kate decided to take her talent to the next level by creating her unique range of resin art products.
“Having struggled to find a job in an art gallery, I ended up working for a car dealership – not a job I necessarily enjoyed”, Kate admits. “But I could never give up my passion for art, so I started planning how to make money from that passion."
”In March 2017, Kate quit her job at the car dealership and started selling art pieces independently through commissions. She also started to incorporate her art into practical products for use around the house. Motivated by positive feedback, she started selling them online that summer – and the business quickly flourished.
Inspiration to become self-made
From a business perspective, Kate says she is inspired by the new wave of artists who are using social media platforms like Instagram to bring their work to a global audience.
It’s not just the art that draws me to certain people – it’s also the way they hustle, they build their businesses from scratch, and they put everything into becoming self-made.
Kate has built up a following on Instagram of more than 15,000 followers. She says: “The internet and social media is bringing light to new and exciting artists and allows them to build their platforms without needing to be in a gallery.”
Handmade with love
All of Kate’s products are handmade, environmentally friendly – and each one is uniquely beautiful.
“I try to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to creating my artwork. I only use natural materials, so every piece is unique in shape and grain pattern. That’s important for a lot of people.”
“My olive wood boards are responsibly sourced from Tunisia,” she explains, “where the olive trees are protected by government regulations. Only very old trees that no longer bear fruit can be cut down, and harvested trees must be replaced. This makes olive wood a sustainable and ethical material to work with. Each board is then cut and finished by hand.”
Despite her business’s growth, Kate has continued to make every product by herself in her Liverpool studio.
“I like working on my own and it keeps the trust with my customers that everything has been made by me. It also means every product will meet my high standards,” she adds.
“I am a perfectionist, and that shows in my customer feedback - my reviews are generally great, and my return rate is very low!”
An upward climb
Kate has enjoyed many highlights on her journey – she even won Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday (SBS) initiative. “My prize was Theo sponsoring my stand at the Autumn Fair in 2019, which gave a huge boost to the business. It was comforting to know that I was on the right track!”
“I worked on a collaborative collection with British designer Olivia Rubin to produce a beautiful coaster collection which was incredibly rewarding. And my work has featured in Vogue three times now – it’s fantastic to see my work in world-leading publications.”
Having sold on Amazon Handmade since 2019, she feels it has helped her business to skyrocket. Her products now reach audiences in 21 countries. “Exposure to this global market has been incredible for my business. Expanding to new regions and engaging with online communities of other Amazon sellers has been an invaluable experience.”
“Amazon Handmade puts in so much effort to support individual sellers and I did a video with them which got nearly a million views on their Facebook page. The video was amazing, and they have continued to feature me on their Instagram and Facebook pages, along with other sellers. This gives a great boost to my marketing and it is really positive to see them promoting and supporting their handmade sellers.”
Words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, Kate’s advice is: “Be ballsy with your business approach! Be confident in the quality of your product and back yourself to succeed.”
“You also need to make sure you are presenting yourself in the best way possible, research and learn the best business practices and how to make yourself look the best. Take high-quality product shots and be confident in your wording.”
She feels it’s also important to acknowledge your weaknesses and be willing to learn from mistakes.
“I had no business training or business mentors when I first started, and I have been learning everything on the job. While making every product, I also learned how to manage accounts, how to search optimise my channels and how to budget properly. Next up, I want to invest in a business mentor – because there are always opportunities to expand my knowledge and grow my business further.”
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