a Saturday morning reflection

A few year back, a friend opened an art gallery for about half an year. It didn’t prevail. This morning it came across to my mind. As a witness to history, I can see several more things now from what I learnt between now and then.

The focus has been placed around art rather than on art. The idea emerged as “seeing a trend coming”. The store is located in a upraising neighborhood. There are many art galleries opened around the area. So the hope was that they will attract tourists and buyers to the area. This concept has no problem. But the core competition with this approach will be laying on the quality of the art work acquired and the salesmanship. Because the purpose behind this concept is hoping to “sell”, rather than “promoting” art. So without external fund support, the high burning rate eventually killed the operation.

What could have been done differently?

1. Getting the store front vs not getting it. Getting the store front actually is some how the starting point. It provided an anchor. It provided credibility up to a certain level. But the cost is a higher burning rate, which later on became a burden. (The friend also invested quite some money to renovate the space. This can be argued as an unappreciated action in The Lean Startup model.)

2. Getting customers vs getting artists. This is a chicken and egg problem. With the store front, indeed the two sides meet. But they didn’t trade. The tone of the operation had been set on “waiting”, because it is believed that selling art is not selling life-insurance. So you shouldn’t up sell your customers.

3. Didn’t obey the first dollar rule. As mentioned before, some resources has been allocated on non-essential tasks. (Or said the decision has been made without marketing research or market validation.) For example, the renovation. The most essential question, how to make the first dollar, has been procrastinated.

All these are after thoughts. Basing on the expertise and knowledge of the group at that time, I don’t know how we could have done better at that point. So, the biggest lesson might be: don’t enter a business in which you (and also important, your friends) are not the expert. If you want to start a business, start it around your core competence.

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