We recently connected with Rebecca Baum and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebecca, thanks for joining us today. Risk taking is something we’re really interested in and we’d love to hear the story of a risk you’ve taken.
As an artist, I never thought I would own a business. I didn’t enjoy thinking about money, and didn’t really understand what a business was. That all changed when I stumbled upon a little art school for sale in Old Colorado City – With no formal business education, background, or general understanding of what I was in for, I took a risk and dove in. Here’s my story.
My husband and I moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado in 2018. We chose Colorado Springs for the beauty, nature, and the size of the city. We felt as a newlywed couple we wanted a chance to develop ourselves as partners and individuals in a place of our choosing. We quickly became familiar with the area; My husband’s first job in Colorado Springs was commercial real estate brokerage and volunteer consulting for SCORE. Through these jobs we met a wide variety of people and became familiar with the general vibe and culture throughout the area.
We moved to the westside of COS in an area called Old Colorado City. It is considered the art mecca of COS, with a variety of galleries, restaurants, and shops. The area is highlighted by one of the most popular city parks in the country, Garden of the Gods. The home we haved lived in for 4 years was right next to this rock formation with incredible views of the foothills of Pikes Peak and Red Rock Canyon Open Space rock formation (we really lucked out with this location!).
I got a job as the Assistant Director of Squash Blossom Art Gallery. I enjoyed becoming familiar with the local community. Through my interactions with local business owners, I met the former owner Marcie, of “Studio 101” (now PPAC) an art school in Old Colorado City. Marcie told me of her desires to go back to teaching in public schools and inquired if I would be interested in purchasing the business. I started managing the business and teaching the art classes, then within 4 months I purchased the business from Marcie.
Upon purchasing the business, we decided to move into a nicer location just one block away to accommodate adult art students as well as youth.
Purchasing the business, signing a commercial lease and taking out a business loan were all 1st time experiences for both my husband and I. Signing a personal guarantee for 95,000K was an “oh sh*t” moment – Especially as my husband was in a fully commissioned, 1099 role that takes years to ramp up to a livable wage. Unlike residential leases, this commercial lease was a five year commitment; Failure was no longer an option.
Fortunately, my husband has a high risk tolerance and instilled a-lot of confidence in me that I would be able to do what needed to be done to be successful. I learned all types of new things! I had to grow beyond my stubbornness with math and technology and embrace how helpful it can be. I experienced and learned processes that needed streamlined and subsequently developed standard operating procedures and manuals for students and teachers to allow us to scale. As we grew in student size, I learned ways to enhance the customer experience and offerings based on customer feedback and general revenue growth around particular times of day, types of classes, teachers, etc.
As our name became more prevalent, I was delighted by the people who reached out with interest in the studio; This included everything from aspiring artists, to parents, to random folk that wanted to donate art supplies to a special cause. Because of our commitment to the art community, we have been able to hire all teachers through general interest through our website or word of mouth.
We now pride ourselves in having a growing group of incredible and dynamic art educators with both unique and impressive backgrounds. With a team of 9 teachers, we offer classes in adult painting, adult drawing, adult clay (memberships and workshops), youth art memberships (seasonal) and youth art workshops/camps.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Pikes Peak Artist Collective is an art school, offering art classes, workshops and memberships to youth and adults.
We have invested substantial time, energy, and money into our website. We’ve had the support of a website designer Chris Weaver and an SEO coach Nick McKenzie. Our brand, on the other hand, extends far beyond our website. Our brand is our beautiful studio space, the high quality materials we use, the care our teachers invest in their students, and most importantly, our customers, as they each bring unique backgrounds and skills to our artist collective.
We take a lot of pride in who we are and what we represent; A creative community that inspires one another to grow as individuals and artists. This environment is what has lead to our exponential growth over the last three years.
Can you tell us about what’s worked well for you in terms of growing your clientele?
Our teachers as coaches – My husband has helped me reflect on this about my style over the years; When someone is in my class, I truly support the individual, and meet them where they are at. This is something I seek and support in all of the teachers at PPAC. This dynamic is substantially different than lecturing a class, as it inherently brings out a subtle form of art therapy and genuine care of our customers as people and, more importantly, artists. By meeting individuals where they are at, our teachers are able to truly walk alongside them, opposed to just telling them what to do. This mindful practice of supporting our customers’ artistic journey is (from the feedback we hear) one of a kind, and our retention numbers prove it!
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
Our brand and website.