Your Fortune is in Your Focus

Jennifer Ferguson

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This week, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, Jennifer Ferguson. No relation, but still, same last name, different business, different story, different day. But Jennifer Ferguson of Artistic Painting Studio, where she shares amazing DIY’s using a fun technique called foiling. And she has got a family of six kiddos, three of which work for her out of her place in Huntington Beach. And I cannot wait to hear from her and let her impart all of her wisdom to us.

Your Fortune is in Your Focus

Jennifer has some great ideas to share with us on how she stays focused. She has turned a singular focus into her full-time income which enabled her to expand into “all the things”.

Listen in as she shares with us all about her:

  • Pre-internet marketing efforts
  • Evaluation of her business revenue
  • Discovering a focus for her brand
  • Transitioning from brick and mortar to the online space

In this episode, we cover:

  • How Jennifer came up with her focus
  • How she has slowly incorporated her daughter into the business
  • Tips on sourcing materials
  • How to stay focused
  • How to work hard and play hard

Links and resources mentioned during this episode:

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Complete Transcript of this Episode

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce to you all Ms. Jennifer Ferguson. No relation, but still, same last name, different business, different story, different day. But Jennifer Ferguson of Artistic Painting Studio, where she shares amazing DIY using a fun technique called foiling. And she has got a family of six kiddos, two that work for her out of her place in Huntington Beach. And I cannot wait to hear from her and let her impart all of her wisdom on us. Jennifer, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you so much, Melanie. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you today. Oh, my gosh. I don’t know where to start.

Well, start with just telling us a little bit about this business you have and how you got started with it.

Well, that takes us back about close to 34 years now, so sometimes it’s hard to reach that part of the memory. But I actually was introduced to the art of stenciling, and that is what just kind of grabbed me and discovered I had a passion and a heart for that immediately and turned it into a small little side hustle. It wasn’t called a side hustle back then. It was just like a hobby or you were just crafting. Okay. But in today’s term, it was a heck of a side hustle. Okay. I love it. So I just started actually stenciling for other people, going into their homes and trying to make them more personalized and pretty for different customers. And at one point, I just had so many customers asking me that they loved it. They wanted to hire somebody, but maybe it wasn’t in their budget, but they loved the art form and they wanted to learn. So I listened to my customers, and that is how Artistic Painting Studio actually started. And on a wing and a prayer, I opened my first retail studio and started teaching the entire community how to stencil. I want to say I started actually doing the painting probably about 34 years ago. And I think I’ve had my studio for 30 years now, at least maybe 32. Somewhere around there. You forget it’s been a long time.

Definitely. I love that. And so you basically started out just going into people’s homes, doing the craft for them, and then they were, like, asking you for how to do it themselves. And so you came up with this idea of opening a studio where they could come and learn. Or was it on site or how did those classes work?

No, it was a place where they can come and learn. I kept the classes very inexpensive, so I just wanted to be able to share the art. To me, any kind of art form I think is so good for the heart and soul. And I think everybody needs some kind of relief. So it was just great to have people come in, teach them how to stencil, seeing the excitement in their faces, and especially people who thought they had no creativity whatsoever, it was such a blessing to be able to just watch them light up and just be so excited that they could do this and anybody could. Stencil okay, there are some tricks to the trade, but I basically could push out a group, bring them in, push them out, make them they were totally happy and successful with their art and just having a blast. So that’s kind of how it began. And then from there, I just kept growing the business. So from stenciling it went into the decorative painting industry, which would be the faux finishing the plasters. And I actually have had a contractor’s license for over 30 years. I’ve retired from the actual custom work about four years ago. I finally got to the point that about 53, 54 years old. I decided I didn’t want to climb scaffold rigs, five gallon buckets and set up ladders and all that stuff anymore. So we decided it was time for me to just stay inside my business and run my business without going out and doing actual commission work. It was about a five year transition, though. You don’t just stop. I was making really good money doing commission work, so you can’t just go, okay, we’re just going to stop that one day. And we had to transition. So we really were transitioning our business to an online presence, even stepping away more from the brick and mortar, even though we have brick and mortar, we were encouraging people to go online in order instead of coming into the location. And it’s been a long time since I really had, I want to say a retail pad location. We’ve been pretty much warehouse office space, dealing with enough product that we needed a warehouse door, we needed a roll up door, we needed pallets to be able to come in. So we kind of transitioned after probably about the first once, say, five years, we probably had retail pad and then went on to more of that industrial warehouse area. But the business kept growing, kept transitioning. And I discovered Foils probably about 30 years ago, and most people had no idea. We’re still introducing people to Foils, and they think they’re new. They think there’s something that just popped up and like, this is just the greatest and the best, newest thing. And it’s like, well, they’ve been around for a long time, but there are so many more patterns and design holograms available, so they just lend themselves to absolutely everything.

So you’ve known about Foils for about 30 years. When did you start kind of niching down? Obviously, you took your business from in person a little more to online, and then how did you just kind of narrow it down closer to these few applications that you offer now versus just the world of things you could be teaching in the creative space?

Well, it’s hard because I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m one of those people that thinks they can do all things and they want to do all things. So it’s really hard to niche down at all. But there’s actually three of my kids that work for me, not just two. One of them is a brainiac. Okay. And he analyzed the business probably about five years ago, and we just started looking at this one area of kind of focusing on the foils and just saying we were going to kind of, like, narrow our focus. Not that we were I’m not letting anything else go. Okay. Melanie I couldn’t let anything else go, but I was going to focus a little bit stronger on the metallic foils and just try to introduce the world to them. So we saw that there was a good market, and we kind of just have tried to stay focused. And sometimes it’s hard because I am that person. I still do furniture. I do my own walls. I don’t do other people’s walls. And yeah, I want to do all things. Okay. So we throw those foils on everything we possibly can, from our shoes to our hats, two walls, two furniture, to doing tumblers, any type of small craft. I’ve seen some of the adorable projects you have done as well. I think you did rain boots. Girl, you made me want to go buy rain boots just for that.

Oh, my word. That’s hilarious. Yes, I definitely did. I absolutely love your products. And so I want to hear a little more about I understand that that was kind of where you wanted to go. How did that play out for you? So when you started just sharing the one thing, did scaling down help you.

Blow up focusing and niche down a little bit? They always say the riches are in the niches, and that is kind of true that we are basically known for foils we do have the largest collection available. I think we’re at close to 350 and we might be around 400 different colors and patterns by the end of the year, which is freaking amazing. I still have no idea where we’re putting all this. Okay. But it does, it helps you to stay focused. And as having a business that still deals with plasters and textures and rollers and all the other supplies and materials that we carry, we focus on the foils, but all else sells. So they come to our site looking for one item, but they might pick up a piece of wood or surface that we have as well. Or they think, oh my gosh, those rollers look cool too, and they definitely will pick up a few other items. But Niching down definitely is a good thing for business. If anybody is like me and they think they can do all things and they want to be an all things sometimes, it’s really good to focus on that one. So, yeah, it really has changed and transformed our business a little bit.

Yes, in a positive way. And I think that there’s so much gold in that. Jennifer. Do you like Jen or Jennifer?

I have been shortened down to Jen for the last probably ten years. So it’s like when I introduce myself, I say Jennifer because I think if I say Jen, they think I say Jan, but most people just call me Jan. But I will answer to either.

Well, answer to whatever you like. But Jane, what I wanted to tell you is that there is so much gold in that that you just said, and I don’t know if you heard it, so I want to repeat it for everyone listening that we all have a heart for all the things. We are natural born creatives, that is okay. But when it comes to business and really building a business that can last the test of time, if you will narrow down to just one of those things that you love the most, explode with that and then bring out the crazy, you can literally start showing all of the things that you wanted to at the beginning and just knew better than to. And like you said, they come to you for the foils and they stay with you for the rollers and the plasters and the paints and all the things. So don’t think that it’s never that you can never share all the things, but starting with one thing is where you’re going to see success. So Jen, tell us a little bit about your weekly. Like, how does that look? How do you run the business now on a weekly basis?

I’ve been super blessed this year. We finally got to a figure financially where I was actually able to bring on my daughter full time, and she was making a really darn good income in her prior job. She hated it, but she was making really good money. I was finally able to match her salary and bring her on board. So that has been a huge blessing. And so I also have my stepdaughter and my son. That worked for me. But the transition has been great because it’s allowed me to slow down a little bit, not have to do all things. So she handles social media for the most part, which is a full time job, which is unbelievable, but it really is if you’re going to be on all platforms, it takes almost somebody full time to create that content and edit and post and keep it going. So basically my week, though, I come in, we try really hard to remember to open up that planner because I’m still one of those girls that has to have a day timer, okay. And open it up and look through it. And I’ll have to say my best weeks are when I do open it up on Sunday and I know when I’m ahead of me for the week. And I block time for certain projects and always have a plan, always have a goal. Because when you don’t, that’s when it gets crazy. It just gets crazy here. And nobody knows what they’re doing. Nobody knows what direction we’re going. We’re just kind of going through the motions and we’re making things happen, but we’re not with any purpose. So we really try. We even set weekly meetings with the team. We have different team meetings depending on what aspects of the business we are looking at or working on. But right now I have the three family members. Two of them work physically here in the studio. One of them works part time, virtually. And then we have two other part time people that come in and help us move orders through because we are 98% online. We have people that still think they can come by. But I even had a phone call this morning and she says, are you a place where we can come by? And I just had to explain that we really aren’t anymore, that it’s so much easier for them to place their order online if they’re local, we’ll refund their shipping and call them when their order is ready. But it almost shuts us down from the team to be able to work if we got somebody in here looking at stuff. So we do love it. I have to say though, Melanie, it’s a double edged sword because when I was teaching classes hands on, when we had customers coming into the studio, those are when some really incredible relationships were created and built and are still relationships that are still nurtured to today was because of that physical contact with those people. So it’s different. Okay, I teach online, but I don’t think you can ever get to that connection you could when you were teaching in person. So we are thinking about maybe I hate to even say I’m throwing this out there about doing some in person classes for 2023, just so that we get that connection once again. And not that we’re not connected with our community and our followers, but it’s just different.

And I’m curious, Jennifer, where are you online? Like, when you teach classes, what did you find that was the best route for promoting your business?

We have a private group. It’s called Jen’s Painting Group. Okay. It’s online, it’s Facebook, but we also have a whole separate website that hosts all of their content and training. So it’s quite sophisticated. And like I said, I got one brainiac that works for me. He handles all of that. So that’s where I teach. But we’re on everything. I’m on Facebook. I try to be there almost daily, just sharing with people, sharing with our community. We’re on Instagram. We’re on TikTok.

I know you have a YouTube.

Yeah, I also do YouTube. We try to blog still. Okay. But again, it’s all those things where it’s like, facebook is really super easy for me, so I do a lot of it. My daughter is TikTok and instagram. She loves those. Instagram is her baby. Okay. We finally hit ten K followers on Instagram, having a huge giveaway coming up. So she just loves that that’s her. So she’s really good at the TikTok and Instagram. And then we try really hard to get content for YouTube and blogging. Okay?

Yes. So I love the idea of hiring out someone a little bit younger, maybe even I don’t know if they always have to be younger, but they just seem to tend to be more happy about doing Tik Tok and all the newer platforms. So hiring that out is really wise, I think. If that’s not your cup of tea, how do you stay focused?

It’s hard because we all have that shiny object syndrome, okay. It really is. Having a plan for the week, having deadlines that have to be hit, segmenting out daily tasks, and just knowing what we have to accomplish and having deadlines. Deadlines are probably my best way of staying focused, because if somebody came to me and said, oh, here is this project, okay? And whenever you get it done, that’s fine. It could take me two years to get that done, but if somebody said, hey, I need that by the 31st, boom, I’m on it. So to me, it is deadlines, okay? That keep me focused. And I put deadlines on every project so that they do get done going, even back to having somebody younger in the business. So I’m 27 years older than my daughter, and she’s coming in not just to work for me, she’s coming in to transition to carry on this business and keep it going for hopefully the next 30 to 40 plus years. Okay. We have no intention of I will slow down, never retire. Okay? But it’s fun because her name and her face is becoming part of the business. She attracts a totally different group of people. She’s got that young hip generation, and it’s just fun. Her and I have done some lives together, and it’s hysterical because, you know, the mother daughter banter. Okay.

I can only imagine my daughter. That would be crazy.

It’s fun. She says she’s not crafty or creative. There’s more in her than she thinks there is. So it’s just fun. I basically get to teach her on a live where it’s great because she doesn’t know a lot of stuff and she’ll ask questions and stuff that maybe the viewers aren’t asking, but I’m helping her learn, which is helping them learn as well. So it’s a great transition, and we’re having left.

That is awesome. So that is a little tidbit for anyone who is thinking about adding someone in, is if you can go live together and slowly transition them in as part of your business, you are going to be so better off in the long run because the people will accept them better. Once they see you accept them as part of the business, then they will accept them as part of the business.

As opposed to just all of a sudden someone else is going live on your page, and they’re like, who is this? And blah, blah, blah. So I think that is absolutely genius. So I would ask, are you all in the same studio at the same time or just side by side on camera?

No, we’re here together. So when we’re going live, we’re both sitting in front of the camera having a son, sometimes what we call a **** show, but we have a good time.

That is so funny. And so let me ask you, what advice would you give yourself back at the beginning when you were just getting started?

Oh, gosh, if you had that crystal ball back then, I want to say probably the area that I wish I had focused a little bit more on. So in the very beginning of our business, we did a physical newsletter that we physically mailed out to our customer list. I had grown that incredibly large, and then the Internet came on. Okay? So my business was before the Internet. Okay. I wish I had grasped the capabilities better, had understood it better, and had gone into more training in that area because I think our email list would be probably 10,000 times larger than it is now. And just that whole technology side. Okay. I don’t think I didn’t fight it, but I didn’t embrace it as well as I should have. So that’s what I would just definitely advise people, is to embrace the technology that you have in your hands today because it’s amazing what it can do for your business.

So are you feeling like you should have kept a physical newsletter in addition to your email list now, or are you thinking you wish you would have kept their information?

I wish we would have transitioned it better. Okay. Because physically and that was the whole beginning of it, is people didn’t have emails yet. They didn’t even know what one was. So it was hard transitioning, and once we finally did, our newsletter went from probably 10,000 people to maybe a couple of thousand people. So it took a long time to build it back up. And I just wasn’t as disciplined as I probably should have been in that particular area of keeping contact, because the physical newsletter was phenomenal on what it did for our business and just that whole transition time, we didn’t jump on it as well as we should have.

Got you. Okay, I’m going to completely do a 180 and ask real quick because I wanted to find this out. When you decided to go all in on the one technique or the one medium of foils, how did you know where to source your products? And was that difficult of a process? Did you just Google everything and figure it out? Or like, most of us, or how did you go about that?

Well, we had been dealing with the foils for 30 years, so we had a heck of a collection at that point. I actually bought one of my competitors out when she was ready to retire, so I ended up with that particular line that we added. And believe me, it’s a lot of time on the Internet. We don’t do alibaba. We didn’t go that way. We sourced and dug. And I’ve spent so many hours on my computer and my kids look at my screen, and I have so many tabs open at all times because it’s resourcing, and I’m afraid to close them because I won’t find it again. Okay. And we’re constantly resourcing. We have had 1233 companies we have been working with exclusively for quite a few years, and we have just resourced three more companies that we are testing and playing with and probably bringing in their foils as well. And that is how we have continued to grow our line. Plus, we are custom designing foils as well, so we have stuff that are totally exclusive to us that nobody else could get, notless they were one of our retailers. Okay. Right.

I feel like there’s like a little course in there somewhere. A business course.

Sure.

Okay. So last but not least, Jen, we all want to know inquiring ears, want to know what motivates you.

I call it carrots. First of all, I love what I absolutely do. It is my heart, it is my passion. Coming to work is not work. Okay. There are days that are definitely physical and sometimes totally exhausting, but I have to laugh with my staff at times that they can’t understand because they don’t own my passion, that I love every part of my business from taking an order to packing their box, because I feel it’s an experience when they open that. So I take pride in packing their materials, what they’ve ordered and that they’re going to have a great time when they open this up to maybe I don’t love pouring material and labeling it, but it’s every part. But what motivates me is just flat out I love what I do and when I referred to carrots is I work super hard so I can play super hard. So my carrots are my trips. I always have to have something planned. I have to have something where I’m working towards. We’ve got some big ones coming up. One for just my boyfriend and I and one for the whole gang. So that’s motivation to work hard because that way we can play really hard.

I think that is such wisdom, you guys. I’ve heard this before and I used to do this, but I’ve fallen short of it. Somewhere along the lines along the way is that whole planning a date again in advance. It’s that deadline and it’s something exciting that you’re looking forward to and then you just work backwards towards it. I love that. I love that. So where can we find you online, Jennifer?

On our website, you can always just head to artisticpaintingstudio.com and on every social media. We are artistic painting studio.

Perfect. I will put that in the show notes. I so appreciate you and I’m so glad you took the time to be here with us.

Thank you so much. It’s been a complete pleasure being here with you. Thank you, Melanie.

You’re so welcome.

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