“I own an online art gallery – here’s how I made my passion my dream business”

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“My passion is helping people find art they love, and supporting talented artists to thrive,” says Catherine Sweet, the owner of online art gallery BobCat.

A born and bred Londoner, Catherine spent a decade building a career in non-profit marketing and communications before the pandemic provided her with a “now or never” moment and she decided to pivot her long-time side hustle into a thriving business.

She’s far from the only one for whom the long days of homeworking provided a lightbulb moment. 

According to landmark new research from GoDaddy, the percentage of microbusiness owners under 35 has more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Pretty incredible, right?

But wait, it gets better. Not only did the number of microbusinesses soar over the past couple of years, but GoDaddy’s Venture Forward study discovered that companies formed after March 2020 are also more likely to have been started by women, and people from minority ethnic groups and disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“If there is anything that life – and latterly, the pandemic – has taught me, it’s that if you keep waiting to start something, it’s very easy for the opportunity to slip away altogether,” says Catherine. 

Here, she tells us how she finally took the leap and turned her passion into a profit-turning business.I officially launched BobCat Gallery in May 2021, but I’ve been selling my own work alongside a ‘day job’ since about 2011.

I have always known I wanted a gallery of my own – not only to sell my own art, but to create an approachable space where people can find beautiful original artworks, where artists can connect to a welcoming community, and where people can explore their creativity and how it can influence their lives for the better. 

I now represent 24 artists, as well as myself. Every time I connect an artist with someone who loves their work enough to buy it, it’s such a wonderful feeling. 

I have a connective tissue disorder called hypermobile Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, which comes with a whole host of complications. Having a condition which limits your mobility can be tough – not only because you spend the majority of your life in pain, but because even on the days when your body can’t move much, your brain can still be racing ahead.  

One of the basic challenges I have to overcome on a daily basis is not getting demotivated because I can’t do everything at the speed I would like to.

When it’s just you taking care of everything for your business, making sure you pace yourself is crucial. The majority of what I do is funnelled through my website, so it’s vital that it is simple to update and navigate, looks streamlined but not aloof and doesn’t cost the earth. 

I’ve used a lot of different website builders and content management systems over the years. When it came to choosing one for my business, I chose GoDaddy because it is super simple to use and it was the most cost-effective option compared to most other ‘out of the box’ website packages. With a couple of clicks I can update my content, the products in my shop and my mailing list. 

My advice to other women thinking of starting a business would be to feel the fear, then do it anyway. I can’t remember who first said this to me, but it’s true: if something isn’t at least a little scary, then it probably isn’t worth doing. 

Creating my business has been terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but it all starts with a business plan. If you put the effort in up front to get that in place, you’ll know where you’re heading to in the long run.

Ready to turn your passion into a profit-turning business? We’ve teamed up with GoDaddy to offer you the chance to win a brand new Apple Macbook (worth £1,735) and bespoke GoDaddy start-up bundle to kickstart your career. What are you waiting for? Simply answer the question below for your chance to win. 

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