Irish Women in Business - Katie Tsouros of Artfetch
In the latest in our Irish Women in Business series of editorials, we're talking to Katie Tsouros of Artfetch.
Katie set up Artfetch, an e-commerce platform which showcases emerging artists from all over the world.
The Artfetch team curate and select original content and there really is something for every art fan, regardless of how big or small your budget is.
We spoke to Katie to find out more about her vision for Artfetch, the day-to-day running of the business and her plans for 2015.
Where did the idea for Artfetch come from?
I had a gallery before Artfetch called KTcontemporary in Dublin that specialized in curating the work of young, emerging artists at accessible price points, and the idea for Artfetch kind of evolved from that.
My Mum Patricia and I started to talk about how we could make really great emerging art accessible to a much wider audience, on a global scale, and how we could connect artists all around the world with new buyers and collectors.
We wanted to make art buying much simpler for people, to remove all the cloak and dagger and offer an alternative to the traditional galleries, and as people who buy everything online we realized that art online was something that hadn’t really been capitalized on, or done that well, especially in the emerging part of the market.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how your career started off.
My background is in contemporary visual art and curating. I did my undergrad in Art History & Philosophy in UCD and an MA in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. I worked in a couple of well known galleries in London and Dublin, Sadie Coles HQ and the Rubicon Gallery, and a freelance curatorial firm called Artwise, and did a couple of months in IMMA before I opened my own space.
I had that for around 2 years, curated over 15 exhibitions there working with 30 Irish and international artists, before moving on to start Artfetch.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
When I started KTcontemporary I honestly did it because I couldn’t get a job, at least not one that I was excited by or wanted to be in. I was a little disillusioned by the art world and how it operated, I still wanted to work with art because that’s what I knew and loved but I wanted to do something fresh and make my own stamp.
From there I moved on to Artfetch for many of the same reasons, I had a vision of how we could change how people interacted with and bought art, how to make collecting easy for people and fun, and get art and artists the to new audiences. And I also saw a huge opportunity, it’s a massive market and I saw a gap that needed to be filled and a way to carve out a niche.
What challenges did you meet when starting out?
Too many to name! In fact when I look back I find it hard to believe the amount of challenges I overcame, and what I know now compared to then, and at the time you don’t even realize how much you are achieving just by doing.
For me one of the biggest things was the foray from ‘art world’ into ‘tech’ or ‘startup world’ – I found that very intimidating.
The site build was hard to navigate too with no previous tech knowledge, you get so many different opinions about how and what to build and who should be doing it, it’s hard to decipher what’s the best option for you and your business.
Who has inspired you along the way?
People. Always people. I have a great network of friends, supporters, mentors and colleagues who I’d be lost without. I think if you surround yourself with people you admire and who encourage you it’s the best inspiration you can find – apart from art!
What does 2015 have in store for the business?
2015 is very much focused on growing the business - expanding our database of artists into new and existing regions, for example we’re really looking to build our portfolio in the US at the moment, and to grow our global client base and continue to increase sales month on month.
What are your personal recommendations for starting your own business?
Surrounding yourself with good people and building a strong support network is the most valuable thing you can do. I saw Eventbrite founder Julia Hartz speak once and she called it building your village – never a truer word said. It took me a while to learn that people are really willing to help, so take it, because we all need it!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
If you’re thinking about it and want to do it you have to just go for it, and in fact some level of naivety is essential. And be very clear with yourself about your vision and goals, it makes it much easier to have something tangible to work towards.
Some advice that was given to me that I always pass along is that what is really important is your vision for five years down the line and the little bit of progress you make towards that every single day, nothing in between matters. Golden rules: do it simply and always make sure your customers are very very happy.
For those who may not know much about the art business, can you give a few simple tips for building up an art collection?
Buying art is not as hard as people think! My first tip is to always go for something you like, not something you think is a good bet, because no matter what you have to live with it. When you find something you like try to find out a bit about the artist - where they studied, if they’ve been written about, where they’re showing their work and who with - it will give you an idea of the context of the artist and where their career is headed.
And don’t be afraid to ask questions, nobody is expected to know everything or even anything about art, and it’s ok not to. It’s easy to take an interest and learn a bit more, at Artfetch we are always publishing content about our art & artists and how to start collecting, and we provide a free curatorial service, so if you want to get in touch with any queries at all we’re always on hand to help.