How to Build a Mobile Business Teaching Art Workshops in Libraries
Doris Benter, the owner of Library Arts, teaches over 150 workshops a year, all while teaching full time as an art specialist at a private school. Doris shared with me the three business boosters that had the greatest impact on the growth of her business and what she is doing to expand her business.
Doris lives on Long Island in New York and noticed that teachers were offering programs at her local library. She was looking for a way to earn extra income so she walked to her local library and asked the children’s librarian if she could teach some classes. The librarian said yes, so Doris quickly developed five programs for children and the library hired her to teach them. That was 15 years ago. Currently, her website has 300 workshops, for kids, teens, adults and parent and child art classes for 3 to 5-year-olds.
Business Booster #1
When Doris started she did not have a website. She marketed herself by mailing flyers to librarians. A year after she launched her business, her husband created a website for Library Arts which allowed the librarians to choose a workshop at their leisure.
Takeaway–It’s OK to start your business even if you don’t have a website, but if you want to see growth you’ll need one eventually.
Business Booster #2
Doris started with workshops for kids, and in response to librarian requests, added teen workshops and adult workshops.
Takeaway–Talk to librarians, they’ve done the market research by listening to their patrons.
Business Booster #3
There are only so many hours in a day, and Doris works full time, so she expanded by bringing in two independent contractors whom she features on her website. They bring variety to what she offers on her website because they teach different mediums than Doris.
Doris receives a 15% cut of their workshop charge, minus their material costs. On her website, 75% of workshops listed are taught by Doris and 25% of the workshops are taught by the independent contractors.
Takeaway–Work smarter not harder. Another teacher who is not tech savvy might be happy to hitch a ride on your website and in return give you a cut of their workshop fees.
Doris has created an impressive steady flow of income with her business. She teaches 11 to 15 workshops a month, usually in the evenings after school. Her busiest time is in the summer when she teaches 55 to 70 programs! During the summer, she teaches up to three programs a day.
I asked Doris what she sees as the difference between teaching in a school compared to teaching in a library. In her classroom, there is more structure and she has to follow a curriculum and teach units. As for her library workshops, the emphasis is on relaxing, having fun and being creative.
Marketing to Libraries
Here at Pop up Art School we market our business through emails to librarians in our area. Doris, in contrast, sends snail mail flyers two times a year to her list of almost 200 librarians. She feels that lots of librarians are old-fashioned and they enjoy having a piece of paper they can file away to refer to when they want to book her.
Doris sends a flyer in late August with her workshops for the fall and winter. In December she sends a flyer to market her summer workshops.
Takeaway–Market yourself in a way that’s effective and useful for you and the recipient.
Years in business: 15
Location: Long Island, New York
What: Art, crafts and clay. No-sew felt pillow based on the book Hug Machine. Mosaic sea glass jars, light switch plate and planters. Canvas painting, jewelry holders and mirrors with decorated frames.
Length of workshops: One hour. She arrives 30 minutes early to set up.
Workshop fees: $265-$275 per workshop. Cost of materials included.
Max amount of students: 20
Travel Stats: Most workshops are within an hour drive of her home.
CSLP Themed Workshops: Yes. In 2020, for Imagine Your Story, she is offering dragon sculptures made with neon model magic. Each student will get a pinch flashlight with a black light bulb. After the workshop, kids can put their dragon in a dark room, turn on their flashlight and the dragon will glow in the dark!
On the Horizon
Looking towards the future, she is seeking other venues to teach art. She recently did a workshop at a WordPress local cat café called the Shabby Tabby. She has also done crafts tables at Bat Mitzvahs and has helped Girl Scout troops earn badges.
In one library, she’s begun teaching a process art-oriented class, for kids who are on the autism spectrum. She takes up to 10 students many of whom attend with an aide. The goal is to provide a social and creative experience for the children.
Library Arts has a similar business model to Pop up Art School. We both started with workshops for kids and expanded as librarians asked for workshops for different age levels. Our summer workshops are developed to correlate with the CSLP theme. Both businesses cater to the needs of librarians and their patrons.
I’m so impressed with Doris’ business. She is teaching consistently and killing it in the summer. She has set the bar high for the rest of us. I thought we were doing well teaching 55 workshops a year, but 150 a year is next level! To find out more about Doris visit her website libraryarts.com.
For more mobile art business inspiration￼, check out our blog post on Kim Rutherford’s biz Signpainters Workshop￼.
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!