From Part-Time Artists to Full-Time Artrepreneurs
In 2015 John Timothy and his wife MaryBeth decided it was time to use their passion and talents as Native artists to supplement their income by not only selling their original artwork, but also selling their images in printed forms. To help accomplish this goal, they obtained a loan from the Cherokee Nation CDFI to purchase the equipment to print their art images onto tiles, mugs and other items. At this point, MoonHawk Art became MoonHawk Art, LLC.
The couple chose to do sublimation printing for two reasons: to create beautiful, quality and affordable products, and to leverage the little time they had to devote to creating new works of art. MaryBeth explains, “When I was little, we didn’t have a lot of money. There was no way we could afford original art to hang on the walls. But one thing that we always had was a Norman Rockwell calendar hanging in our kitchen. I loved it. And because of that, Norman Rockwell has been one of my major inspirations in becoming an artist. We should all have access to art for our homes. John and I want to make our work available to everyone.
Shortly after starting the expansion of their business, the couple started receiving assistance from the IDRS Acorn Project. The program helped the couple create a new website, expand marketing efforts through social media, helped them with strategic planning and provided training on business topics via webinars. John and MaryBeth say the program has been instrumental to the launch and growth of their business.
According to MaryBeth “The program has helped us in so many ways. As an entrepreneur you face so many challenges which are difficult to overcome, especially when you go at it alone. But through the IDRS Acorn Project, we don’t have to do it alone. If we have a problem, we pick up the phone and ask for help. They’re always there for us. We might be a two-person show when it comes to managing the daily operations, but through IDRS we have a team of small business experts who are always willing to brainstorm solutions and help us grow our business”.
When John and MaryBeth started receiving technical assistance through the program they both had regular jobs. MaryBeth worked part-time at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma while John had a full-time position at Bacone College. In June 2018 MaryBeth was able to quit her job and focus on the business full-time. A few months later John was also able to devote his full-time attention to the business as well.
“I’m amazed. Three years ago when we started this journey, we never imagined our business would grow this much, and we sure never imagined that we would be able to make a living creating and selling our art full-time.” said John. “If there is one piece of advice we would give to someone starting a new business, it would be to utilize resources, like the IDRS Acorn Project and other small business assistance providers, as much as you can. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t reached out.”
The IDRS Acorn Project is a small business training and technical assistance program for Native American entrepreneurs. The program is funded in part by the Small Business Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The program provides small business services to anyone who is a Native American enrolled in a Federally recognized tribe or the spouse of a Native American. For more information about the Acorn Project or the services we provide to new and growing businesses, contact Mark Thompson Mark@idrsinc.org and visit Nativebiz.org .