Please introduce yourself (any co-founders) and your startup?
Scott Ko (Director and Founder) and Sarah Cummins (Executive Curator) and we started up ColourSpace, a new art subscription service targeted at corporate environments.
Our vision is to transform the city into a giant, borderless gallery. Much like having fresh flowers delivered, ColourSpace helps offices create vibrant, dynamic environments by regularly curating new artwork for the space, essentially turning the office into a pseudo-gallery. On the flip side, all our artwork is sourced from local artists, creating a new channel for them to get their artwork out there.
ColourSpace = Uber for art, delivered as a ‘Gift Box’ experience
How did you go from idea, to MVP and launch?
Scott came from the corporate environment, being a Management Consultant for the public sector, and so identified the problem through being in an environment where the art never changed. The office would have fake flowers delivered monthly, but never changed the artwork despite repeated calls from the staff.
What if a service was created that changed the artwork on a regular basis? With all art sourced from local artists? As a subscription type service, it would ensure a regular source of income, both for the business and the artists.
To create the MVP, Scott first talked to some artists to ensure there was demand and a supply of artwork. Then, he printed some business cards, created a placeholder website with stock images of artwork to provide some semblance of evidence, and went hustling. Only when he was able to secure his first couple of customers, did he then create an ABN and a bank account.
Throughout the growth journey, ColourSpace has adhered to lean principles, favouring low-tech process and solutions by creatively leveraging tools such as Zapier or creative solutions to otherwise costly issues. For example, one logistical issue we encountered early on was the heavy use of bubble wrap to transport artwork. Not only was it expensive, the single use nature that many artists adopted meant an incredibly wasteful and unsustainable approach. So we created our own reusable bubble wrap bags that we now are looking to monetise.
What challenges did you face during this period and how did you overcome them?
To find our first client, we asked ourselves what businesses would value the work environment more than others, and identified that co-working spaces would likely be the most suitable candidate, especially given their recent boom.
However, the biggest challenge was understanding that a) We operate in a B2B market and therefore b) Learning about how different the sales process is (compared to the B2C market). The lead conversion process is much longer than we anticipated, finding the decision-maker was harder, and a significantly higher proportion was based on relationships, word of mouth, referrals, and networking.
Overcoming this involved a combination of research, practice, and sheer bloody-mindedness. We had to get out there and hustle, to try new approaches, to be open to different events where we can meet people who wanted to work with us individually who would refer us to others.
During this journey to build and launch your startup what is one thing you look back on with a sense of achievement?
The biggest achievement for us is winning the HatchQuarter Start-Up Prize within 12 months of starting up. As a new business, we built ColourSpace completely from scratch from the ground up. To win a prize valued at $33k within 12 months was highly rewarding and validated what we were doing.
Offer us one insight, tip, marketing strategy or growth hack that has worked really well for you and your startup?
Prototype and MVP like a pro, and try to avoid high tech solutions where possible. By adopting a mindset in which we would create everything ourselves, we forced the business to be lean, reduced our costs, and ensured that we could easily pivot or refine our processes based on market demands.
Simple example – we identified that our sales process for on-site consultations in which we asked prospects to select what artworks they liked was cumbersome and set the wrong expectation. So we wanted to create an interactive tool in which prospects could visually select which styles of artwork they like. We created this ‘Art Palette’ using PowerPoint, hyperlinks, some graphic design tricks, then saved it as a PDF. Total effort from start to finish – 4 hours. It is now the default tool we send to our prospects and has been well received.
One other important tip that we’d like to share with the broader start-up community: Don’t be afraid of making money! Many ideas are good ideas. But successful ideas are ones where people are willing to pay you money for.
How is your startup going and what do you aim to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
It’s been 12 months since we started, and we’ve learnt that growing a B2B business is slower than expected. We’ve also learnt a great deal about how property cycles work, and continue to learn what the market values about art. Though ColourSpace has already broken even from a Direct Cost perspective, within the next 12 months, our goal is to make the business completely break even.
In the following 12 months, our aim is to set up more ColourSpace hubs around Australia, so each city is a gallery, supported by its community of local artists.