The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Alumna start-up finds local success

Cox graduate’s business connects artists, retail shops
+Alumna+start-up+finds+local+success
Alumna start-up finds local success

Alumna start-up finds local success

One year ago, SMU graduate Sara Beth Wiley opened her ownbusiness, Art for Funds, with $100 in her checking account and a$645 tax refund check.

Wiley’s Art for Funds is a fine art publishing andprinting business located in downtown Dallas. Wiley finds an artistwho produces work she thinks will sell and offers artists a chanceto market their work in variety of retail shops. Once a contract issigned, she makes a fine digital reproduction of the artists’painting on canvas. The copy and the original are almostindistinguishable. Wiley has 11 clients and works with 23retailers.

“My long-term goal is to become a threat to mycompetitors, so either they buy me out or invest in mycompany,” Wiley said.

After graduating from the Cox School of Business in 1999 with abachelor’s in marketing, Wiley discovered that there were twotypes of jobs available: telecommunications and copy sales.

“It was cut-throat going against people with moreexperience,” Wiley said.

Wiley realized that employers were looking for a great salesman,which is not apparent on a college diploma or a teacherrecommendation.

“They wanted someone who closed an interview like a sale:someone direct,” Wiley said.

Her first job was a sales representative for a copy company. Insix months, Wiley had learned the logistics of the printingindustry and had sold the most copiers in her department. She wasthen offered and accepted a sales position for a Fortune-500company, OCÉ Printing Systems.

Wiley was required to meet her company’s sales quota— sell 400,000 copy machines. She sold 700,000.

“Once I was in I did well,” she said.

One sales call led her to the National Cowgirl Museum in FortWorth, where she got her inspiration.

By April 2003, Wiley had put together a master plan for her newbusiness. She was working at OCÉ during the day and usingthe extra time to finish the paperwork she needed to start herbusiness.

“I was very confident about my idea,” Wileysaid.

Her original idea was to work with museums and make prints oftheir artwork to sell. However, she soon discovered that workingwith artists directly was a quicker process.

Nine of Wiley’s 11 clients have a common Western theme intheir works. Wiley handpicked every artist and says she chose theWest because of its deep roots in Texas and its growingpopularity.

“The western genre is coming back. You can see it in themovies that are coming out, like The Alamo,” Wiley said.

The first artist to team up with Wiley was Gordon Thomas.

Gordon said Wiley’s approach to selling his work was verydifferent from anyone else he had worked with before because shesolicits artists’ work to different retail stores aroundTexas.

“Its hard for an artist to market themselves. Most artistsdo not have the skills needed to get their work out there,”Thomas said.

Since working with Wiley, Thomas’ work has had exposure inthe magazine Cowboys and Indians.

It’s this kind of exposure that helps artist focus ontheir art and not so much the business side.

Currently, Wiley is working with approximately 23 retailers,which include high-end furniture stores, art galleries and boutiquestores. By next October she hopes to be in 50 stores.

“This past month has been the best one yet and Icouldn’t be happier,” she said.

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