Kim Rutherford has always loved being creative and is a self-avowed craftaholic. She was flipping chalk painted furniture and wanted her pieces to stand out, so she used her Silhouette machine to make a custom stencil to use on a furniture piece.
DIY Sign Painting Business
A little while after making the stencil, she was visiting the states and noticed a business making chalk painted wood signs with stencils. A light bulb went off, and she decided to paint her own signs with custom stencils made with her silhouette machine. Wood signs were so much easier to make compared to chalk painted furniture. She soon created a mobile business called Signmakers Workshop to teach other people how to make their own signs. She operates her business in Ottawa, Ontario.
Take away – If you love creating something, chances are that others will want to learn how to do the same thing.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
When she first started Signmakers Workshop, it took three or four months to get some traction. She knew she was onto something when she saw a copycat post on someone’s Facebook page about a sign painting workshop. The post looked so much like one of hers that it fooled her for a moment before she realized someone had copied her idea. At first, she was rattled, but she made the decision to be the “tip of the spear” and focused her energy on marketing.
Take away – You can’t control other people, so focus on what you can control: your reaction.
Kim’s business suits her outgoing personality. Her workshops are held in other people’s homes, local restaurants and vineyards. She loves the social aspect of her business, which helps her create a relaxed and fun vibe at the parties she hosts.
How to Host a Creative Workshop
To set people at ease, she tells people at the start of her workshops to take “perfect off the table”. Afterall, the style of the signs is farmhouse and rustic which is very forgiving. She holds up one of her signs that says, “Welcome to the Sh*t Show” and says, “if you’re trying to be perfect it’s going to be a sh*t show”. This gets everyone laughing and ready to go.
Take away – The easiest way to get people to relax is to make them laugh.
Besides sign painting, she’s taught people how to stencil on coco mats, pillowcases and stocking hangers. Her workshops are one hour long and she charges $50 per person Canadian dollars, which as of this post is $37 USD. She also sells DIY sign kits for those who can’t make it to her events.
Take away – Create a product for those who can’t make it in person.
When teaching in other people’s homes, she frequently books parties with the guests. She offers whomever signs up a free sign if 10 people attend their party. She’s also taught in other venues such as fundraisers and kids parties.
Teach Sign Painting at Local Restaurants
Another great place to teach workshops is restaurants. The students pay Kim to paint a sign and the owner of the restaurant makes money by selling food and drinks to her students. In the summer, she teaches sign painting at local vineyards. The vineyard charges per person which includes a sommelier and a flight of wine and a tour of the vineyard. The students leave with hand-painted sign and a belly full of wine and food.
Take away – When you own a mobile business, the possibilities for venues and collaborations with other business owners are plentiful.
This isn’t Kim’s first business, she owned a home daycare for 15 years where she cared for five children ages 1 to 3. The business allowed her to stay home and homeschool her children.
Signmakers Workshop Business Stats
Years in business: 3
Location: Ottawa, Canada
What: DIY sign painting
Average workshops per year: Over 100
Length of workshops: 1 to 2 hours
Workshop fees: $50 Canadian dollars per person or $37 in American dollars.
Max amount of students: Up to 50
Travel Stats: 30 to 60 minutes from home.
On the horizon
Kim and her husband are nearing retirement and they want to travel for part of the year, so Kim is phasing out the location specific part of Signmakers Workshop. She’s also gotten tired of hauling around heavy wood signs, so she’s pivoting her business, and will soon be teaching people how to run their own sign making workshop businesses. Look for her course launch in the spring of 2020.
For more mobile art business inspiration￼, check out our post on Doris Benter who teaches 150 art workshops year in public libraries. ￼
Pop up Art School is a mobile business that teaches over 50 art workshops a year in public libraries, afterschool enrichment and adult art workshops. If you are looking for an enjoyable and low start up cost side hustle without the ball-and-chain of a brick and mortar studio, join our Facebook group Pop up Art School-How to Run a Mobile Art Business. Whether you are curious or ready to start your mobile business, stop by and introduce yourself!