This post was originally published on NOEW.org. New Orleans Entrepreneur Week is a festival celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in New Orleans.
“Just fucking do it.”
There’s a piece of advice for you, if you’re an entrepreneur in need of a little inspiration. It’s what artist Ashley Longshore attributes her success to as an artist and entrepreneur, or “artpreneur”, as she says.
She’s extremely focused. She’s bold. She’s all about business–she won’t shy away from telling you how much she loves making money. And she’s unapologetic about it all.
“I’m an American entrepreneur and what that means to me at the end of the day is fucking Benjamin Franklin,” Longshore says.
In case you haven’t noticed, “Fuck” is her favorite word.
She uses it freely in conversation to express her excitement, and it comes off as playful, rather than harsh. Have a conversation with her, and you may catch yourself slipping a few F-bombs too. Just like one of her clients did–a seemingly reserved woman- while I was interviewing Longshore, expressing her delight over one of her current pieces.
She has that kind of energy that makes you feel comfortable–like you’ve known each other a while.
Walk into her stunning gallery in Uptown New Orleans, and you’ll hear f-bombs flying between the walls that are decked with paintings of Mr. Franklin himself and juxtaposed with bright, loud paintings of Chanel bags, and bottles of Veuve Cliquot.
Photo: Alexandra Arnold
With write-ups in Forbes, Vogue, ELLE, she’s been called a “one-woman entrepreneur” and touted as a modern day “Andrea Warhol”. Longhsore’s pop art celebrates American consumerism. Her clients include many of Wall Street’s elite, and although she is based in New Orleans, she caters to markets in larger cities like New York, Miami, Houston, and LA. She’s currently working on her next collaboration in Japan.
You want to get on her client list? Well, you’ll have to get in line behind Salma Hayek, Penélope Cruz and Blake Lively. Her commissioned paintings start at $30,000, and this past year, Longshore earned her first million dollars in revenue.
She’s no lightweight.
She recently returned from New York Fashion week where she is the first artist to score an exclusive collaboration with the Bryant Park Hotel in New York City for a luxury suite converted into a “Longshore inspired haven.”
In other words, she’s killin’ it.
But her days weren’t always as bright and upbeat as her artwork.
Longshore still remembers a time at the beginning of her career when she was twenty five, flat out broke and couldn’t afford to pay her rent.
“Twelve years ago, I was painting every moment of my life. I’d go to bed at 1 a.m. and start painting at 5 a.m. Just painting, painting, painting, trying to understand myself and just knowing that If I could get to a point where I could create something marketable that people would want to hang on their wall,” Longshore said. “I would get an appointment with a potential client and I would take every single painting that I had.”
She’d managed to fit all of one hundred and twenty of her paintings in her old, beat up Ford expedition, and she’d go out trying to sell any of them.
She doesn’t want to go back to that time in her life. Ever.
“When I tell you, after twenty three years of this career, my God, how many times I cried myself to sleep at night. You know the kind of cry when you’re gasping for breath? Because I just wanted it so bad,” Longshore says.
She’s spent the past twenty plus years honing her skills and building her business from the ground up. She’s steered all of the aspects of creating, marketing and selling–from building an email list, to hosting events at clients’ homes, to using social media to market her work and grow her audience.
“I think it’s about really finding your craft and what you love and getting really, really good at it in your lifetime. Practice every day. Get better every day,” Longshore said. “Whether you’re a stockbroker, or starting a restaurant, or a musician, or you’re a bakery,” Longshore says.
Photo: Alexandra Arnold
Creating her own path and profit
Longshore has been learning every aspect of building a business from her artwork along the way. She decided to forego the traditional path of working with galleries to display her artwork. Instead of paying galleries fifty percent of profit on the sales of her pieces, she has self-represented herself and sold directly to clients.
“These artists go work with galleries, and they don’t ever know who’s buying their artwork. So, let’s say that all of a sudden, these galleries don’t want to work with them anymore—they have no database,” Longshore says. “They have no way of connecting with the people that already love their work. And the best client is already a client.”
Now, she’s on a mission to shake up her industry and pave the way for other up-and-coming artists.
“The greatest thing I’m trying to do right now is change my whole entire industry, and teach artists to not work with galleries, how to use all of this technology, how to self-represent and know their clients,” Longshore says.
Mastering the Market
Part of why she’s been so successful at that is because she recognized the influence of social media, and its ability to connect her with her loyal fans, and engage new ones, early on.
And it’s one of the skills she’s mastered, with a hefty following of over 20,000 on Instagram, and a very engaged fan base.
She’s managed to do it in an authentic way, something that artists are utilizing more and more as a means to grow a following.
With Longshore, what you see is what you get. Her playful personality shows through on her social media, and it’s hard not to laugh scrolling through her Instagram feed.
Photo: Alexandra Arnold
Whether it’s videos showing her artistic process, or expressing her love for clients using the aforementioned profanity, to posting little bits of inspiration, Longshore has built a following and connected authentically with her fans. She says connectivity with her audience has been one key factor in her success.
Like one of our favorite quotes she posted by Deepak Chopra, “Find the place inside of you where nothing is impossible.”
“You can see that on my feed when I’m crazy and wild and other times when I’m posting these inspirational things because I’m talking to myself out loud so the world can hear it,” Longshore says. “I’m like, Ashley, you can do this. You’ve got all this work to do. You’ve got clients to do. You’ve got a Japanese collaboration right now. You can do this.”
“I had so much work to do, and I found that quote and I posted it for myself. A lot of times people think I’m like Yeaah! I’m already there,” Longshore said. “No, I’m on this journey too, man. I’m posting this because it’s what I need right now for my soul.”
Photo: Alexandra Arnold
Hard Work for The Win
So how does one manage all of the aspects of her business, including creating art, selling it, and marketing it, and manage to stay calm?
“Just do it. Find that spot and just fucking focus and do it. You don’t sit around and talk about doing it, you do it. You don’t sit around and talk about why something isn’t going to work or why it won’t work. You just make it work,” Longshore says.
It’s that relentless work ethic that has made Longshore such a successful entrepreneur.
As her business grows, and more clients and projects pour in, Longshore says efficiency has been critical to success.
“You gotta figure it out. It’s understanding yourself and how you work better. It’s all about your time. You have to figure out how to produce work as quickly as possible, maintain your quality, and then move,” Longshore says.
For Longshore, that’s success. It’s what every entrepreneur dreams of.
And as far as she’s concerned, there’s only way to get it.
Work. Work. Work.