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Learning startup lessons with ArtworkHeroes

Launching your startup into the world isn’t the end of your job, normally it’s only the beginning. Sometimes that can’t even be classed as the start, sometimes you’re still in the prologue of your company's story and you don’t even realise it. Marius Sowka, CEO and founder of ArtworkHeroes found himself and his company in this situation not long after the startup's website and store went live.

ArtworkHeroes, hailing from Denmark, is a curated web store that sells the designs of over 50 international artists (and growing) printed onto various types of apparel and wall art. Marius sees it’s appeal and interest driven on two fronts. The first is the curated nature of its store that customers can engage in, picking their favourite pieces of art and seeing them added to the store. The second is its philanthropic ethos, 20% of the company’s net profits are set aside as donations to a range of selected charities. This simple set up and description hides changes the website has undergone even in its own short history.

We were first introduced to ArtworkHeroes back in December, but before we could write about them they realised that there were aspects of their plan and presentation that needed to be changed and asked us to wait. So now here we are, bringing you news of this Danish art sales startup and the question at the forefront of our minds is, “What’s changed?”

Speaking to Marius he explained that in reality when the website first launched in 2013 it could really have been described as the prototype or minimum viable product. They grew an interested customer base that was engaged in curating the artwork being submitted and had a range of designers on board. However feedback from customers highlighted some issues with the website.

The curated nature of the service and the high focus that was given on the website brought about confusion over the way things operated and fitted together. Were you going to look at items you wanted to buy or were you looking at pieces of art you could rate? The sales and curation was all taking place in the same space, but then customer engagement also spilled over into social media to encourage curation. The way Marius put it was that customers just didn’t understand what ArtworkHeroes was really trying to do, the system was confusing.

Back to the drawing board they went, the website was re-branded to make everything clearer, and the sales and curation sides of the company were separated out. Now the website is a purely sales based platform, there you can see the selected designs that have been gathered by an active curation community that now finds its home on a Facebook page. There the company share the designs and designers they have found and customers can give feedback as to which they want to see on the website.

The fact that 20% of net profits goes to charity, and that it’s easy to see which charities, has helped drive engagement as customers feel better about buying products that go to actively help others in the world. This is also true of the fact that customers can know that designers receive a direct cut from each sale as well.

ArtworkHeroes is only in its second week since the relaunch and while Marius was unwilling to talk numbers he was proud to say that even in such a short period of time he has seen a “huge sales increase per day”, and it’s still growing.

Should you be interested in purchasing anything from the store then you should know that we’ve been given a special discount code, “ArcticHigh5”, which you can use to get $5 off on the entire shop. If the idea of helping to curate and pick the pieces of art that will end up on sale on the website interests you then you can find the Facebook group where that’s happening over here.

It is an important lesson for all of us that setbacks are no reason to give up, but an opportunity to find a solution that not only overcomes the problem at hand but improves our overall situation. When we first saw ArtworkHeroes they could only sell art as “stretched canvas, poster paper and framed”, and only inside the EU. Now as part of the restructuring work they’ve also had time to expand their offerings to clothing and their reach with worldwide shipping. What could encountering a setback give you the opportunity to do?

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