ArtLifting seems like a cool concept. Tell us more!
Liz Powers - Co-founder of ArtLifting
we empower homeless and disabled individuals through the sale of their artwork. The basics: there are thousands of talented artists creating work in shelters and disability centers. The majority of consumers want to buy socially conscious goods. We connect the supply and demand by selling originals, art prints, and products. We bootstrapped our original $4k investment to revenue in the six figures."
Where did this idea come from?
"I have worked with homeless and disabled individuals for 9 years. My job used to be running art groups in shelters and I was amazed by the talent that I saw. I created ArtLifting to share this incredible talent with the world. To share the inspiring stories. Too often my clients were used to people focusing on the negative. The fact that they didn't happen to have housing. Or are in a wheelchair. They didn't want pity. They didn't want a handout. They simply wanted the chance to share their talent. Our goal with ArtLifting is to create a movement celebrating strengths. And it works. It is amazing to see the domino effect on individuals' lives when someone finally focuses on their strengths. It provides energy. And hope."
Public Benefit Corporation…why? What is it?
"A Delaware public benefit corporation is a new legal entity that combines high-growth business with a legally binding social mission. So far, it has proven to be the perfect fit for ArtLifting. We have a double bottom line: to maximize both impact and financial growth.
Many people wonder why we chose to create a for-profit social enterprise instead of a nonprofit. Having to wait a year to hear back regarding grant proposals made moving fast impossible. There are countless talented homeless and disabled artists who need a marketplace to share their work with the community. I needed to solve this problem. Not just in Boston where I'm from, but nationally. And fast. I know so many individuals who can benefit from a marketplace now. Not 5 years from now. That's why I decided, well aware of the potential for "vilification," to create a for-profit social enterprise - one that would be financially sustainable and scalable."
Tell us more about your path to entrepreneurship – you're neither technical nor an MBA. How has this helped? Hurt?
"I am a serial social entrepreneur. I have worked with homeless and disabled individuals for 9 years and created the LIFT Bike Project in 2009.
At my previous job, I was amazed by the talent that I saw. I created ArtLifting to share this incredible talent
with the world. To share the inspiring stories. It has helped to come to entrepreneurship from a rare angle. I am driven by passion each day. And I am surrounded by experts who advise me on strategic challenges."
What's the most important milestone you're chasing in 2015?
"We are building up our enterprise sales. We just hired our first director of sales and are psyched to increase our partnerships with corporations. We recently landed our first two Fortune 500 companies, Staples and Microsoft, and are thrilled to continue growing our enterprise partnerships. We have learned that companies are excited to partner with us to not only have beautiful artwork in their space, but also have inspiring labels next to each piece sharing the artist’s story. Employees and clients are inspired every time they walk to a meeting now!"
Where do you see Art Lifting in 2020?
"I see ArtLifting as a huge social enterprise that is creating a national movement celebrating strengths. ArtLifting will offer a wide variety of products and change the lives of millions of individuals. We have already had 5 artists gain housing and 100% report increased confidence. We can’t wait to watch our impact grow in the future. Not only are our artists’ lives changed, but also the customers’ lives. Our customers’ have reported that they are inspired and humbled by the stories of our artists. The stories of facing challenges without hesitation. The stories of our nonverbal autistic artist Nick Morse who chooses to speak through his artwork. The stories of overcoming domestic violence."