This is the fourteenth in the series of interviews conducted by the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation about small business entrepreneurship in our area.
The Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation offers entrepreneurial services,
one-on-one business planning assistance, training, mentoring and operational assistance to existing local small businesses and startups.
We are located on the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College campus and can be reached at 540.862.0936 or moc.c1553439929deha@1553439929alram1553439929 or moc.c1553439929deha@1553439929irret1553439929.
Art Squared is located at 376 W. Main Street, Covington, Virginia 24426. The hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday 3 pm to 1 am and Saturday 11 am to 4 pm. Closed on Sunday and Wednesday. The phone number is 540.960.2111. There is no website at this time but there is a Facebook page.
I recently sat down with owner Cheyenne Sweeney to get her view on the life of being a small business entrepreneur in the Alleghany Highlands.
What made you want to start your business of Art Squared?
Opening a storefront came about through the internship with the Covington’s Farmers Market.
While working there I started falling in love with Main Street and wanted to revive it.
Mayor Tom Sibold talked to me about having artisans on Main Street. We saw a need for artists in the community to sell their work.
Tell me all about the products and what you have to offer here.
I wanted to create something for the community where people could just walk in and see local artisans at work.
The artists in the community needed space where they could get out of their houses and connect with customers.
We have rentable studio space, rentable workspace, and event space for concerts, open mic nights, poetry, or other activities.
We have a consignment shop for artisans to sell their products.
Artisans pay on a monthly basis for the amount of items they want to bring in. They can create their artwork here and sell directly from their table or studio space.
Tell me about some of the products you have now.
There are more painters in here than I anticipated.
I thought there would be more craft items.
We have people that work with oils, photographers, sewing, quilting, primitive items, handmade print cards, clothing and wood products.
Recently I had a lady come in with her knitted shawls.
We have a really wide range of items.
I would like to have more of an apparel section, pottery, health and beauty section.
Additional spaces will grow upon demand.
How do you generate new ideas?
By bringing in artisans with their ideas.
There are a lot of ideas from the community. I am trying to do as many of them as I can.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become an entrepreneur?
My biggest tip came from my mother, which is to build a relationship with people.
Get to know the people in your community, the people that work hard and are successful but successful in a way that matches your ideas.
If the focus is on business, financials and stability then find those people who are successful in accomplishing those goals.
What has been your most satisfying moment since opening?
It is every time someone walks through these doors.
I have just been waiting for something like this on our main street. It just feels good! It just makes me so happy!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want Art Squared to be something that is community generated, where people will have a place to come and do what they like.
Long range, I would really like to travel the world, showing people artwork, and meeting people in other countries who create art.
My heart will always be in Covington so I hope to always have this place.
What would you say are the five key elements to a successful business?
- Building relationships with people is always number one
- Being able to work really hard in every aspect of what you are doing
- Being willing to get your hands dirty, look professional and give it your all
- Always being teachable, to realize you do not know everything
- Don’t strive for perfection; just try to be the best version you can be at that time with the best of your abilities
Since opening your doors, who has been your greatest inspiration?
Pat Harrison. The way that he handles his business and the way that he cares about his customers. He is not only business minded but he is people minded and that is a big deal.
How are you working on having a successful customer base?
My customer base has shocked me. We have a crazy abundant amount of artists in this area who all want to support each other and spend their money on the other artists.
My customer base is shifting from where I thought it would be. Seeing the younger demographics embrace Art Squared has surprised me.
How are you advertising?
The only thing we are doing right now is Facebook and Instagram. I try to stay really active on those two things by plugging Covington, Virginia with all those hashtags.
Right now, word of mouth is getting a lot of it done.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur?
What motivates you?
Seeing the creativity of the artisans.
The people that choose to be optimistic over pessimistic is always motivating and encouraging.
The artisans and customers that walk through the doors.
You think you know everyone in Covington until you open something like this and then you realize you don’t know anyone.
Seeing things in other small towns makes me want those things to happen here.
It is all motivating!