As part of my refurbished Blog (are you enjoying it?) I am profiling different entrepreneurs every few weeks as part of my Mompreneur Monday Series. I have learned a lot from other successful women and am continuously looking for different ways to do things in business. I met Leanne Laine, a talented and successful wine artist, at a networking group a few years ago. I was immediately drawn to her and work – not only is she talented but she is super nice! She has created a flourishing business for herself and her family and I thought that she would be someone that all of my readers could learn from.
A little bit about Leanne from her website:
Born: Manila, Philippines – Raised and still residing: British Columbia. Visual art has always been Leanne’s passion for as long as she can see. However, like many people, Leanne was raised with very traditional values to grow up and become something more “practical” to keep up with this fast-paced society instead of doing art for a living. So she received her Business Management education and background instead while being a self-taught artist for many years as a personal hobby. Painting or sketching on her own time was her way of escaping from the pressures of making the “right” decisions for herself — all the while her destiny was right at the tip of her paintbrush.
Despite trial years of spiraling into the fast lane of the corporate world (like many young adults from the city do after finishing school to make Mom and Dad proud) forced fate had become of her in July 2003 where she was suddenly laid off from her last employer due to company downsizing. Although unexpected encounters like this are becoming far too expected in today’s age, it can be very disheartening for many. However, losing her job turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of loathing in devastation, Leanne felt it was time to accomplish her dream of becoming her own boss by turning her part-time love for art into a full-time career. Not only is she fulfilled doing something that she truly loves, especially when it’s inspiring the hearts of others, but in her first year alone she sold over 400 of her hand-painted works that are now being displayed with private and corporate collectors from around the world, and still climbing today.
Scarlett: In your bio you talk about your previous corporate career. Were you always artistic? Were you trained in fine arts or was it just a hobby?
Leanne: Art was always a life-long passion and hobby since I was a kid. I just love working with colors, art supplies, sketching.. anything creative. It’s a part of who I am. I did take fine arts as an extra-curricular course through high school and received some awards so I signed myself up to take more art classes after I graduated. But at the time, I couldn’t afford to keep the classes plus I just felt more comfortable expressing myself through self-taught techniques anyway so I dropped out and took Business in college instead. Meanwhile, I had a M-F office job that kept changing because my position was always temporary or the company couldn’t afford to keep me so I got laid off. I grew tired of not knowing what was going to happen to my job especially in an economy that continues to struggle, so I decided to look to my love in creating art and try turning it into a business.
Scarlett: Did you have money to start the business or did you have a small business loan or other types of financing?
Leanne: I had a little bit of savings that I had built up over several years but it wasn’t much. All of it went to starting it up. It was a scary time but I’ve already experienced a taste of hitting “rock bottom” earlier in my life when I had nothing for a little while, not even a home. So deep in my heart I knew that if I was able to get out of that, if I didn’t give this business a shot, I would really regret it later. Sadly, so many people talk about how much they want to start their own business ventures but they won’t go for it because money is holding them back. In my opinion, if you want something bad enough, you just make it happen. It takes perseverance, courage and patience.
Scarlett: You started producing your own prints in-house – how did you learn this aspect of the trade (pre-YouTube!)
Leanne: I did some travelling to meet and speak with leaders in art and publishing industry. I also knocked on the doors of a lot of art publishing companies. Some were kind enough to take the time talk to me/show me around… but 80% of them wouldn’t even open their doors. One company was even downright brutal telling me that my art wasn’t going to succeed. That was a harsh reality check. But I’m grateful for their honesty because it drove me to work harder. A few years later, I got an email from the same company asking if I wanted to work with them.
Scarlett: You were already experiencing success prior, but how much has your business grown after Social media exploded in the last 7-8 years?
Leanne: It’s been incredible. I have THE VERY BEST collectors and I could not be more grateful for their love and support. Before, it was all just word-of-mouth. Social media now just multiplies that reach. I recently ran into a blog that advises artists NOT to use social media because it’s a “waste of time”. In my opinion, it’s an even greater waste if you don’t take advantage of it! Artists typically don’t have much capital to begin with so social media is the perfect outlet to reach out for support. But the very best thing about social media for me has been the many friendships I’ve made with my collectors. They are absolutely amazing people. It is my honor to know them and that they have chosen my art over millions out there.
Scarlett: What has been your biggest hurdle in the business to date and what lesson did you learn from it?
Leanne: Infringement. Over the years, I have been experiencing a growth of serial copycat sellers. So we’ve hired a team to help us enforce the web as best as possible to get my images removed where they are being resold without authorization or used for commercial gain. I am also so grateful for loyal fans who recognize my work enough to tell me where they’ve found them. We’ve sued other businesses and companies, shut down websites, blogs, Facebook posts and even pages, where sellers have tried to claim ownership. This whole challenge has taught me to take it as a back-handed compliment and appreciate the flattery. Sometimes, finding infringement activity has turned into blessings. I believe there are way more good people in this world. I’ve encountered very disappointed customers who have bought a fake of my work and were told it was indeed mine. The quality of the art was so terrible. They felt horrible knowing that it was a fake but were happy to have found me directly and have been buying from me since. When you put your heart and soul into art that gets ripped off, of course it is heartbreaking because my art are my babies. Needless to say, it is impossible to catch all the infringers. But we have to keep up the fight as best as possible, especially when my family and I depend on it. I have almost 600 works in my portfolio. Thankfully, I love what I do so I just keep creating more work. They’ll just have to try to keep up with me.
Scarlett: What is your long term goal with your business?
Leanne: The common feedback I get when someone buys my work is not just how the piece fits well into their interior design space, but mainly that my work “speaks” to them and what’s going on in their lives. This is why I love getting to know my buyers because many of them have shared such personal stories. These stories range from something as simple and happy as the love for the wine country they grew up in so my art reminds them of it… or how my work reminds them of a funny memory or inside joke they have with a dear friend…. but sadly most of the stories I hear are from those who (or their loved ones) are suffering from some kind of illness whether it’s visible or not, or depression and that somehow my work helps them find peace through it all. This is the most humbling experience about being an artist. I have been blessed with a gift that has brought me and my family freedom. I cannot even explain the gratitude because my kids are not only learning the value of hard work, but are also witnessing the importance of doing what you love in life and how it can impact others. So my ultimate goal is to not only to keep inspiring and passing on my messages of love, light and happiness through my work and keep creating new pieces… but to also do my best to keep giving it back.
Scarlett: Have you ever considered bringing on other artists and mentoring them through the process you have perfected?
Leanne: Absolutely, there are in fact 4 artists I am currently mentoring. We meet via Skype or in person to go over their action plan on becoming an “artrepreneur”. But I’ve been getting more and more aspiring artists emailing me regularly that I’ve decided to start building a workshop so that I can help more artists.
Scarlett: You work with your husband in your business. How do your strengths/weaknesses help you to have success in business and then in life?
Leanne: I think our success as business partners started with the way we are as a couple. Stewart and I fit like a glove in everything we do because our communication is solid. There were great challenges in the beginning of our business and we knew there would be. But since we both had the same desires and goals in life, we knew that the only way for us to succeed was to be honest about our own failures and weaknesses, keep supporting and congratulating each other in all that we do.. and most of all, keep pressing on with a great deal of gratitude for one other. We don’t take life for granted. Stewart is not only my husband, father of my children and love of my life, but he is my very best friend. He is truly my God-sent angel.
Scarlett: What was your most surprising/amazing sale (ie. large order, celebrity sale, etc.)
Leanne: That’s a hard one because I appreciate every sale, whether it’s from a large restaurant with over 120 locations that has graced their walls with my art, a celebrity or notable business leader… but the one that sticks out to me the most is from a woman who has collected at least a couple dozen of my original works. Her and I became “pen pals” (or should I say, email pals) over about a span of 4 years. Then after a few weeks of not hearing from her, her husband sent me an email to thank me very much for my art because he believed it was what helped his wife live longer than expected. It was just then that I had discovered she had been suffering from cancer and then finally decided to be with God in heaven. I was in shock and remember bawling all over my keyboard. We had become great friends and she shared such amazing stories and life lessons. It is clients like her who always keep me grounded.
Scarlett: You are very active in networking with other moms and women and business. If you could give a word of advice to other Entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
Leanne: Keep it simple. Women today, especially moms, are feeling more and more expected to be “perfect” thus creating a much more stressful and complicated life. Escape that mentality immediately. People who embrace their imperfections move closer to their goals and succeed in not just business but also in life. People who keep relishing in all the negative, don’t. It’s that simple. Celebrate yourself by accepting every aspect of who you are, perfect or not… and have wine.
Thank-you Leanne for such honest and informative answers! I am so happy that Leanne is a fellow Surrey mom that is living her dreams of success!
Leanne does not frequently offer promotions however but right now she is offering the pieces from the “Wine Accompaniment Collection” at 10% off when you buy it as a set.
You can see more of Leanne’s art on Pinterest HERE.