Welcome to Episode 2 of the first Sparking Growth Podcast season! In this episode, I talked with Shawna, a sculptor from Maine. She has been working on finding the right audience for her work. As a military veteran, she has found that she often gets pigeonholed as “good for a veteran” rather than simply a good sculptor. Being pigeonholed is all too common for many of us, so in this episode, Shawna and I work through a number of ideas to help her find and connect with her ideal audience, expand her business through unique marketing, and partner up with other entrepreneurs to further her work.
Here is a cheat sheet of some of the episode highlights:
Shawna’s intro, 0:31
Her obstacles to defining an audience, 1:42
Getting out of the pigeonhole, 2:19
Bridging audience gaps and creating stories, 6:06
New ways to connect and engage with clients, 7:55
Collaborations and growth opportunities, 9:36
When we get tunnel vision in our business, 10:02
Identifying your audience, 10:55
Finding beneficial partnerships, 12:40
Diversifying your revenue streams, 13:30
PR and how to approach it, 14:36
Why it’s important to open up to your audience, 16:52
Should I keep my product lines separate? 19:12
Where to find Shawna! 22:36
Let’s dive a little deeper into a few solutions for expanding your audience, though!
1 | Bridging audience gaps to find new opportunities
One of the defining attributes of Shawna’s sculptures is that they provoke conversations. If you look at Doc the Ambulance dog, whom we mentioned in the episode (and which has, since the recording, won an Honorable Mention at his latest art show!), you immediately have some questions and can start to envision his story. Click on Doc’s picture and you’ll be taken to Shawna’s sculptures portfolio. Take a look at her pieces and see how they grab your attention.
Because of the stories her pieces bring to life, I suggested she consider working with writers to TELL those stories. Rather than just sending the piece itself to buyers, she would be able to send the STORY as well. This adds value to the piece without requiring more sculpting and it sets it apart from many other sculptures. Because of the historical aspects of her pieces, Shawna could work with historical societies and possibly even educational organizations to bridge the gaps in her audience.
If you’re struggling to find the right audience for your products or services, think about ways that you can bridge the gaps and reach new segments of potential buyers.
2 | Diversifying your revenue streams
This is SO important for entrepreneurs in any field! If you rely on a sole income stream, you’re setting yourself up to get burned. In Shawna’s case, sculptures are a high-end piece with a limited audience (due simply to the cost to produce them). She can also only make so many large pieces at a time, which limits her income from these pieces. She’s been smart in that she has not restricted herself to these sculptures; she also has a line of housewares and decor items that she sells through Etsy. This allows her to produce more items at a wider variety of prices, opening her work up to a larger audience.
Something else we discussed in the episode was taking the stories that were written about her pieces and turning them into an anthology coffee table book. She could accompany each short story with a picture of the finished sculpture and create the book from there. This would give people who aren’t able to afford the sculptures themselves to still engage with it while at the same time further diversifying Shawna’s income streams – a definite win-win!
If you are putting all your income eggs in one basket, STOP. You need to find other revenue streams to keep you going in case one dries up.
3 | Why it’s important to open up to your audience
Being vulnerable is hard. It’s something most of us struggle with at some point. Shawna isn’t shy about the obstacles she faces because of her health, but opening up still isn’t easy for her. When you tell someone about the difficult areas in your life, it can feel like complaining or looking for pity. We all struggle, though. Sometimes, knowing we’re not alone can be such a blessing.
By sharing – in a positive light – the challenges of your life, you might be able to lift someone else up. Be willing to be vulnerable and your audience will be able to connect more deeply with you.
Want to connect with Shawna?
Find her at shawnabarnes.com and jsbarts.etsy.com, and on social media: Facebook (sculptures and ceramics), Twitter, and Instagram. Don’t forget to subscribe to Sparking Growth for more episodes and share your biggest takeaways in the comments.