Do you ever feel like you can’t start or grow your business right now because …. (fill in the blanks here – life’s too busy, your kiddos are little and need too much of your time, your kiddos are BIG and need too much of your time, life’s too stressful, you don’t have enough support, and the list goes on….)
The fastest way to pull yourself out of excuse-land is to take one little baby step every single day. You can absolutely find a few minutes a day to start making progress. And life doesn’t have to be perfect to get started.
Annie Quigley of AnnieQuigleyArtist.com is proof that baby steps pay off. She started her online art business when her first baby was born. She worked in the margins as a stay-at-home mom. THEN, her husband deployed for 14 months and she had TWO babies at home!
She worked at nap time every single day, and built up a business that now provides a full-time income for her family!
She honed her craft, never gave up, posted consistently on Instagram, and builds relationships there to keep her sales strong.
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear Annie’s story.
Mamapreneur of the Week:
Annie Quigley, of AnnieQuigleyArtist.com, paints the most beautiful floral canvases and other gorgeous products for your home! She's also a mom to two little girls and a wife to a National Guard Serviceman.
What you'll discover about Annie is that she built her business while her husband was deployed for 14 months and she had two little babies at home (who are only about a year apart!).
She was on a bootstrap budget, and even talks about finding her painting supplies at garage sales.
Annie started her business with a $100 investment, and now it provides a full-time income for her family!
She has this wonderful philosophy of just taking baby steps every single day, and it's incredible how that mentality has helped her to grow. She works and grows her business in the margins, and by simply taking baby steps every single day for the past four years, she has built an incredible business.
“I love your intro when you talk about running a business in the margins because I don't know anything else. All I know is running my business in the little chunks of time I find,” Annie says.
Annie Uses Instagram to Build Her Business and Connect with New People
I stumbled across Annie on Instagram and immediately loved everything she was doing. She such a talented artist, and her Instagram captions are so cute and funny!
Annie says she loves Instagram for connecting with people. “I feel like I've made so many good friends that way. I know oftentimes we get so discouraged with Instagram, but …there are so many connections I've made on Instagram, and I honestly would not have the business that I have if it weren't for this platform.”
Annie Grew Up Loving Art and Painting
Annie comes from a very creative family. She describes them as “right-brained” kind of people, and credits her mom with giving her a love and passion for artwork by encouraging creativity.
In high school, Annie took art classes and had an incredible art teacher. That time in her life built a really solid foundation for understanding drawing and painting. “Artwork was always a way of getting through the hard times in life,” Annie says.
When Annie graduated from high school and went to college, she stopped making art because she was busy trying to navigate being an adult. But after trying a couple semesters of college and realizing it wasn't her thing, she went back to her roots.
Annie lived in the apartment above her family's homemade gift boutique and ran the shop with her mom, who encouraged her to start painting again. Annie took up her brush and hasn't stopped since, and that's how her business started!
Annie started selling her artwork in her family's boutique. Then when her daughter was born, she got really serious about perfecting her craft, because she wanted to work from home and have lots of time for her daughter.
Annie Set Up Her Etsy Shop When Her Daughter was 3 Weeks Old
Annie started her Etsy shop when her second daughter was 3 weeks old!
“I was leaning against the futon, setting up my Etsy shop, and I thought, ‘I'm doing it, I'm going to start selling online!’ I finally mustered up the courage to navigate the world of Etsy,” Annie says.
You know what's so interesting? I feel like so many moms I've talked to get so much done in that period, right after they've had a baby or that's when a brand new big idea springs forth!
Florals and the Vintage 1950s Influence Annie's Painting Style
When Annie first started painting, she painted every single day, and that's how she developed her style. It's not just something that happened overnight!
“Everyone who finds ‘success' in the creative entrepreneurial world…it doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice, you don't just fall into success,” Annie says.
Annie's style of painting was influenced by the family boutique's vintage 1950s aesthetic and her parents' love of flowers. Her dad, a retired NYC fireman, tended a flower garden in their New York backyard while she was growing up!
Instagram and Personal Connections Help Annie to Make More Sales
Annie doesn't remember what triggered her to start an Instagram account, but when she made one, her mom said, “Don't do that. Nobody's on Instagram.”
Her first Instagram post got 2 likes, but within a year of posting photos of her paintings, her Etsy listings were selling out within minutes.
Annie credits Instagram with helping her get a lot of her sales today, but it took time to build up her presence on the platform. Her early success on Etsy was a result of forming relationships through her family's shop and with the local community.
“I know the online world can be hard, and I feel like when people are just starting out, if you're only online it can be really discouraging,” Annie says. “So I often tell people, if they're just starting out, to get into their local shops and form relationships that way. Don't just jump in and sell your work online and wonder why no one's buying it.”
That's so true! I think we take for granted the power of our own network of our friends and family and how they are our first customers and cheerleaders. They help spread the word to get us in front of new people.
Measure Your Business Success By How You Build Relationships
Business success depends A LOT on how well you build relationships, and sometimes we take that for granted.
If you have one person get in touch with you through Instagram, you give them the very best you possibly can, and then you go from there. They might tell a friend (or two, or five!) It's not about having the most followers, it's about starting where you're at. That one person who contacts you could be a loyal customer forever!
“Don't just shoot for the stars right from the very beginning, because that's how you get defeated so quickly,” Annie says.
Customer Photos Create More Relationship Building + Marketing
Annie tries to send personalized notes with each package and asks for pictures, because getting those customer pictures means so much to her. She loves seeing how her artwork is displayed in someone’s home.
Every time she gets one, she runs to her husband and says, “Ahh! Look at the picture I just got!”
(Check out my IG Stories and see if you can spot two of Annie's paintings in the background!)
Plus, having happy customer photos is a great marketing tool too!
Annie Creates Margin By Sticking to a Routine
When Annie was selling out of things in her shop on a regular basis, she had about 3,000-5,000 followers. It wasn't a ton, but it was enough of a following that they wanted to grab her products as soon as they were listed!
At that point, Annie had a 1-year-old and a newborn, and she made sure they took one long nap in the middle of the day so that could be her time to work.
She would paint and then show sneak peeks throughout the week, so her followers knew there would be new products in the shop by the end of the week.
Annie would shoot for making a monetary amount each week, and then create the number of paintings that would help her reach that goal. In the beginning, she was making 20-30 pieces a week, all during her girls' nap time!
The best advice Annie received from her mom was to create a routine and stick with it. So Annie painted every single day for two years. She had the same routine for her children every single day. (And this was when her husband was deployed for 14 months!)
I want to encourage moms out there to fight for that routine! It might take more time, effort, and work (and maybe even some heartache and tears!), but in the long run, it’s a lifesaver. Plus your kids will get more sleep and (hopefully) be happier!
Annie encourages moms to focus on baby steps in their business. She can't grow her business as fast now as she did in the beginning, because she's in a different season of life with her kids. But that's OK, because the little chunks of time she spends on her work all add up at the end of the month.
Growing a Successful Business Means Doing What You Can With What You Have
Annie's story is such proof to any mom out there who is saying, “I would love to build a business online, but …”
All of the factors in Annie's life could have held her back, but she just did what she could with what she had, and now she brings home a full-time income with her artwork, which is just amazing!
Four years ago, Annie spent less than $100 to start her business. She bought her domain name and got a table and some brushes from a yard sale.
Today, Annie still works in the corner of her kitchen, in the little space where she started her business, but now, her business brings in a full-time income for her family!
Annie’s Perseverance Was Rewarded With a Product Line
A year ago, Annie started doing art licensing. This means that Annie’s gorgeous floral prints now show up on a wide range of different products, like dish towels, mugs, and other gift items. Other companies can manufacture those items by licensing Annie’s designs from her.
Annie receives a royalty check each month from the sales she makes through the company that licenses her designs. It’s been a wonderful addition to her business, but it didn’t happen without perseverance on her part!
Annie established her connection with this larger company through a mutual artist friend, but was initially turned away! She inquired again, and 6 months later she received an offer to create a line of products.
I love that! I don't love that Annie got turned away, but I love that she tried again! So many people would be like, “Oh, I guess it's just a no,” and they would just leave it at that. But Annie didn't give up, and her perseverance was rewarded with a product line and a royalty check each month! Heck yes!
Instagram is A Powerful Tool to Promote Your Business
I think Instagram is the most powerful online platform right now, as far as building up your business, creating relationships, and gaining new customers. Annie's sales numbers are proof of that!
Annie says she looks at which posts perform the best and then uses that information to help her figure out what kind of content to create in the future.
A lot of people have told Annie to show her face more on her Instagram profile. But the posts where Annie shows her face don't trend well!
So she shows up on IG Stories and talks to people there, but most of her posts are pictures of digital art with a quote or florals, because those are the posts that have performed the best.
Annie uses hashtags frequently on her posts (she uses Plann to put together her best-performing hashtag set), and says 60-80 percent of her views come from those hashtags!
A year ago, she was only getting 9 or 10 views from hashtags, but now she can get up to 10,000 views on one post!
Since Annie started focusing on posting artwork to her profile, she says it's been the easiest and most authentic Instagram growth that she's had since she started.
Annie says, there are weeks when reach, views, and engagement are down, and that’s really frustrating. But overall, she would 100 percent recommend Instagram to any mom who wants to start and grow a business from home.
Caring for Others is Good for Business
I tried to get Annie to spill more beans about her top secret strategy, but she laughed and said, “I’m more right-brained, I don’t have all these strategies for growth!”
Her philosophy is paying attention to what’s working, doing more of that, AND building relationships with all of the wonderful people who are already engaging with her on Instagram.
“When people comment on your posts, talk back to them!” Annie says. She focuses on each individual, forming relationships with them and caring about the people who are taking time out of their day to talk with her.
“It comes down to being a human being and caring about other people. Just wanting to have friends and serve your audience well,” Annie says.
The Secret Weapon of Small Business Owners
Even though Annie mostly shares pictures of her prints, I still get a sense for who she is — from the way she writes her captions to what she shares about — and her personality still completely comes through!
No big business can beat that for me. They're not going to be able to be my friend the way a small business owner is. And they don’t have the same strong personality either!
Don't worry, creative mamas: There will always be people who love and support small business owners!
Annie's Foolproof Instagram Strategy
The bulk of Annie's Instagram strategy is:
- Produce excellent, gorgeous work
- Post photos of that work
- Study Instagram insights to know what's working
- Use relevant hashtags
- Be a real person and engage with all of the people who take the time to share your work, comment, or message you
Instagram Stories Welcome Your Audience Into Your Profile
Annie recently started using Instagram Stories more intentionally, and she thinks that has helped with sales. Whether it's talking about what's going on in her shop or showing her face, IG Stories have made selling a lot easier for her.
Annie started playing around with using hashtags in IG Stories about 6 months ago, and she says it's been a process of trial and error. She uses bigger hashtags than she would normally use in her feed, and she'll only use one or two hashtags per story.
On really good performing posts, Annie can get up to 20,000 views, but on IG Stories she gets maybe 500 views. (Those numbers might make you think that IG Stories aren’t worth Annie’s time, but….)
The thing with IG Stories is it doesn't serve the same purpose as the feed. IG Stories feel more welcoming to your customers, and it's a different experience. It's about the people that you’re building up wonderful relationships with!
And even if it's 500 people who are seeing your story on a daily basis, that's a big number! I've been encouraging all my students to commit to IG Stories, regardless of views, to see how powerful it can be.
Relationships matter so much more than reach! And I’d rather have 500 die-hard fans than 20,000 views on my post, when most of those people might never see my content or engage with me again.
Connect with Annie
Did you not just love hearing from Annie? I love how she takes baby steps every single day so that she’s always making progress and getting better at her craft.
And Annie’s Instagram strategy is simple and straightforward. She's not spending hours a day messing around with all sorts of crazy complicated tactics. She measures what she does, implements more of what’s working, and builds relationships most of all!
She's doing the kinds of things that any mamapreneur can do!
Get Your Free Marketing Plan to Grow Your Business
Now, Annie is actually in my group coaching program for Brilliant Product Launches right now. While that program is not currently open for enrollment, you can get a small taste of my Brilliant Product Launch system by signing up for my FREE marketing plan at brilliantbusinessmoms.com/marketingplan.
I walk you through every single step in detail because I don't like to leave anything to chance. As busy moms, the easiest way to get off track is to not know what step to take next, right?
I like to break it all down for you so you can craft that marketing plan and bring in more customers for your business.
Head to brilliantbusinessmoms.com/marketingplan to get your hands on that guide and grow your business!
And, of course, now it's your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!