How I turned my passion for art into a business
Amazon Handmade seller Kate Chesters shares how she turned her passion for art into a business.
Liverpool-based artist Kate Chesters has always had a passion for the creative field and her artistic talent carried her through university and she obtained a Masters Level degree in Art in 2014. She has worked as an independent artist ever since and in 2017 she decided to take her talents to the next level, creating a unique range of artistic kitchen products in her unique style which she sells online through her Amazon Homemade storefront.
Kate sells a range of stunning, hand-crafted artisan cutting boards, cheese boards, placemats, coasters made from responsibly sourced olive wood and resin.
She said: “As an artist, my work is inspired by epic landscapes from across the world. I take influence from the frozen landscape in Iceland the swirling blues of Niagara Falls.”
Kickstarting a business
Kate started her career as an artist, obtaining a Masters in Art in 2014, however, she says that while her studies helped her to grow creatively, her degree did not give her the training to build a career.
“Having struggled to find a job in an art gallery, I ended up working for a car dealership – not a job I necessarily enjoyed,” Kate admits. “But I could never give up my passion for art, so I started planning how to make money from that passion.”
Kate left her job at the dealership in March 2017 to pursue a more creative career path. She started by selling commissioned art pieces but wanted to expand her business further and began to incorporate her art into practical products around the house.
Soon after, Kate set out to create a unique range of resin art products which she started to sell through her Amazon Handmade storefront. These products included a range of artisan cutting boards, cheese boards, placemats and coasters. The products are made from responsibly sourced olive wood and resin in an effort to be more sustainable.
From a business perspective, Kate says she is inspired by the new wave of Instagram and social media artists who use platforms like Instagram to a global audience.
“It’s not just the art that draws me to certain people – it’s also the way they hustle, they build their businesses from scratch, and they put everything into becoming self-made,” she explains.
Kate has built up a following on Instagram of more than 15,000 followers. She said: “The internet and social media is bringing light to new and exciting artists and allows them to build their platforms without needing to be in a gallery.”
Handmade with love
All of Kates handmade, artisan products are not only meticulously beautiful but are also environmentally friendly.
“I try to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to creating my artwork. I use natural materials and I love that each piece is unique in shape and grain pattern.
My olive wood boards are responsibly sourced from Tunisia, where the olive trees are protected by government regulations. Only very old trees that no longer bear fruit can be cut down and harvested trees must be replaced. This makes olive wood a sustainable and ethical material to work with.”
Kate only uses natural materials, so every piece is unique. “It makes each piece special and one-of-a-kind, which is important to a lot of people. Each board is made and finished by hand – if someone is buying a handmade product, I think it’s nice to see that it is handmade. Every piece has a story and therefore will mean more to the people that are receiving the gifts.”
Despite her business’s growth, Kate has also continued to make every product by herself in her studio in Liverpool. “I like working on my own and it keeps the trust with my customers that everything they are buying has been made by me. It also means I can trust that every product will meet my high standards.”
This care and attention to detail has been integral to Kate’s growth and customer relationships, “I am a perfectionist, and this shows in my customer feedback. My reviews are generally great, and my return rate is very low.”
A steady growth
Kate launched her product range online in 2017 and has had many highlights in her business journey. “One highlight was winning Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday (SBS) initiative,” she said.
“My prize was Theo sponsoring my stand at the Autumn Fair in 2019, which was worth several thousands of pounds! This gave a huge boost to the business and it was comforting to know that what I was doing was on the right track!”
Her work has also been recognised by other high profile artists and she worked on a collaborative collection with British designer Olivia Rubin to produce a coaster collection for Esty.
“I have also been featured in national and local press which has been great for recognition and my products have been in three issues of VOGUE UK!” Kate shares.
Kate started selling on Amazon Handmade in 2019 and the platform has helped her business to skyrocket! Amazon allows her products to reach a far bigger audience and she has delivered products to 21 countries globally and 39 US states.
Kate says, “exposure from the biggest online sales market has been great for my business! It has allowed me to expand to new regions that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to so soon. It has also helped me to engage with online communities of other Amazon sellers where I have been able to get lots of valuable advice!”
Words of advice
Kate’s main piece of advice for aspiring business owners looking to kickstart their business is to: “Be ballsy with your business approach! Be confident in the quality of your product and back yourself to succeed.”
“You also need to make sure you are presenting yourself in the best way possible, research and learn the best business practices and how to make yourself look the best. Take high-quality photos and be confident in your wording.”
Kate says that it is also important to acknowledge your weaknesses and be willing to learn from any mistakes. “I had no business training or business mentors when I first started, and I have been learning everything on the job.”