Without small business, we’re nothing. TheLatch— and GoDaddy have teamed up to rally behind local businesses and entrepreneurs during this unprecedented time of change.
We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand
Brisbane gallery owner Tove Langridge believes that the key to any business surviving a time of hardship is a willingness to adapt.
TW Fine Art has both a traditional gallery space in the Fortitude Valley and an online gallery which showcases all its pieces for sale. This hybrid approach to art selling sets TW Fine Art apart: customers can peruse the collection online then make an appointment to see it in real life (if they wish). It also offers bespoke works to customers with a specific vibe and size in mind.
Tove is all about making art accessible for everyone — he recognises that galleries can be stuffy or pretentious, and wants to turn that on its head.
While he’s already mastered the online shopping experience, now that his gallery is closed thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, Tove is finding creative ways to make it even more user-friendly.
His online gallery is evolving to include video content that gives a more three-dimensional view of a piece. He’s also planning to integrate super high-definition photos so potential customers can zoom all the way in to see the texture of an artwork, with the help of GoDaddy tools to help bring his dream to life.
We caught up with the art gallery extraordinaire to chat about his business and approach to art selling and to hear his thought-provoking ideas on how small businesses can be ready to adapt to changes and set themselves up for success.
TheLatch— Let’s dive straight in. I thought it would be interesting for our readers to hear about your story from the beginning. Can you start by sharing a bit about your business and how it started?
Tove Langridge: We moved back from New York about seven years ago, and planned to open a gallery, but my initial concept was to make the gallery online and actually have a smaller retail space and focus the traffic through the online store. The focus initially, was to work with lower price points and digital prints that we’d made in collaboration with artists that embraced the idea of a digital platform, where the piece could be custom sized to whatever the client wanted.
That was the initial concept with the option of say a local customer coming into the shop and being able to look at the different samples of the work, so they got an idea of the quality of the pieces.
At that stage, there was no one really trading original artwork of the type that we deal with, online. Then, we started bringing a couple of samples of original artwork into the gallery and readjusted the website to showcase the samples, with the help of GoDaddy (which was really easy), to be able to facilitate those sales.
We work with artists who are primarily international and they have representation in many different countries. I think that worked to our advantage. For example, somebody may see one of our artists and might have already seen their work in Europe, so they were already familiar with the quality of the work. We always try and photograph the work perfectly. We colour-match it for web to the actual piece in the prints, and the print sources are also colour-corrected.
I think through that process we established confidence with our collectors. Over time we’ve been able to introduce higher value works online and the concept is quite the same.
We are really aiming for good customer service delivering high-quality products. But I always wanted a business with less overheads, which is why we thought about seeing whether or not we could potentially do this online and how we could do that.
“I always wanted a business with less overheads, which is why we thought about whether or not we could do this online.”
TL: Have you, from the very beginning, had quite an international audience, given that you’ve been online from the start?
Tove: Yes. And it took us a while but I think we’ve developed a fairly strong social media presence. Everything is interrelated and that feeds back into our website. We collaborate with like-minded brands. Like property developers that have a really strong social media presence, or properties that we feel are suitable to the type of work that we show.
TL: Do you see your site as a great place for people who are just getting into art to kickstart their collection?
Tove: I do. And that’s part of our business philosophy. A lot of the time when you walk into a gallery, it can be a really pretentious environment. It’s renowned with snobbery and elitism. And I don’t think that’s what art was ever meant for. That’s why, I think there’s a benefit, even by going online, and almost treating it like you’re shopping for a, I don’t know… like a T-shirt online? In a way, the presentation style of it opens it up to a new audience, which is definitely what we’re about.
TL: Has your business felt the effects of the coronavirus? People are spending more time at home, so perhaps they are wanting to invest in art so they can fix their space up? What’s your take?
Tove: I think initially, there was a shock value and then people could see the market slipping. I’d say most of our pieces are between $10,000 and $20,000. That would be the price line. So initially, I think, we did see a bit of a stall just because there’s a lack of confidence. But I’m hoping that over the next couple of months, that people have confidence again. And I agree with you, people are at home, and having a personalised space that you’re living in, that is comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing and all those things, is good for the soul.
“Having a personalised space that is comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing, is good for the soul.”
I know a lot of people who have been trapped at home and they’re already thinking, you know what? I’m going to paint my walls. I’m going to clean the place. I’m going to rearrange things. And hopefully, as a part of that whole process, people might then consider purchasing a piece. It could be from our print categories, which start at $250. Or they go for an original piece.
TL: Have you had to pivot the way you operate, or is it business as usual for you?
Tove: No, we’ve definitely had to pivot because the gallery’s considered a public space. So that first wave of shutdowns affected us. We had to close the gallery up. But we still use our physical space because I think it’s important. It’s about confidence for our customer. When they see a painting in a gallery that looks professional, and they see it as a physical bricks and mortar establishment, I think that helps to facilitate the online sale. So, we’re still doing a lot of photography in the gallery behind closed doors.
But we definitely had to change things up, and think about whether or not every shopper’s psychology will change as a result of this, which I definitely think it will.
Now we’re thinking about what our potentials are with GoDaddy, to try and enhance the virtual experience. While we’re not necessarily dealing with customers face-to-face at work, that’s the strategy that we will try put in place and figure out how to enhance that virtual experience to make it even more appealing.
“We will try and figure out how to enhance that virtual experience.”
TL: Have you thought about what that might be? Are you thinking videos?
Tove: I’m thinking more high definition images, where you can actually zoom in on a piece so you can open it up in a separate window. Also, video content would be fantastic just so you get a more three-dimensional view of the piece.
I’m also looking at more interactive templates where people, say for example, they’ve got their wall in mind that they’d like to place an artwork. They know their wall is 2.4 metres. They could take a photo of the space and superimpose the work into their space. We are talking about how we can potentially make that a part of the website.
TL: In the short term, how can customers support your business?
Tove: The way to really support a business is financially. But I think the other way to support the business, is through promoting a culture that’s more interested in longevity of objects and sustainability. I’m not going to change the piece on my wall every two years. The idea of investing in something that’s solid and has the quality that lasts. And I guess, finding inspiration in creativity. And I think now, we’ve all got to be more creative than we have been recently. So I think art is a really great way of inspiring creativity. I think the passive way of engaging with us at the moment is to look at the content we put out there and create a conversation with people.
TL: Do you think the way you operate your business will be changed for good after what we’ve been going through?
Tove: I do think so. I hate the idea of never having a physical space, because I think so much about shopping in general and purchasing things is about getting to touch and feel it before you buy it. So I always liked that. But I was always pushing towards a more virtual experience, too. But I was met with a fair amount of resistance, particularly in Australia. I think that’s because we came from the US and the virtual culture there is much more established than it is here.
So, almost to start with, I was forced to have the physical space… Or sorry, expand on our physical space even though that was never really my full intention. But I’m thinking through this whole experience, that maybe there will be more of a demand for it. People will establish more confidence in it and hopefully, we can have a more equal distribution of sales through both avenues.
TL: Do you have any advice for other small business owners or entrepreneurs on how they can remain agile and adaptable during this time?
Tove: Well, for one thing, I think you can’t get stuck in your ways. You can’t be stubborn. And I think you also always need to be on the lookout for technology to facilitate what you want to do. I’m always looking for different things that I think I could use or adapt and it doesn’t necessarily have to be from my industry. I’ll look at other industries and see what they’re doing and figure out how we can adapt that.
“You always need to be on the lookout for technology to facilitate what you want to do.”
You need to have a flexible enough business model to be able to make changes fairly quickly. So I think culture is super important with that. I think if there’s a good company culture and staff are happy and there are good systems in place, it’s quite easy to implement a change quite quickly before those things are fractured. And I just think always surrounding yourself with people who are good at what they do.
TL: As a business owner, how would you stay motivated? What is it that’s driving you every day?
Tove: I talk to people I respect and who are positive, and entrepreneurs that don’t necessarily look at things in a negative way, even though they might feel like that. They will always find the good in a situation. So it’s important for me, at the moment, to talk to people like that. Just to bounce ideas off of coworkers and collaborators that I work with. And I think just really brainstorming.
And basic stuff. Exercise and making sure I have some form of routine in the day time really works for me. So, if I don’t have a schedule, then I tend to get a little bit wayward.
GoDaddy is empowering entrepreneurs around the world by providing all of the help and tools to succeed online. With 19 million customers worldwide, GoDaddy is the place people come to name their idea, build a professional website, attract customers and manage their work. Our mission is to give our customers the tools, insights and the people to transform their ideas and personal initiative into success.