Today we are introducing you to Fiona, the owner of Art Mania Studio, a socially inclusive safe space for the community to experiment with their creativity.
Art Mania Studio is a creative hub offering both traditional and unique art and craft courses in different formats for any experience, background or ability. It is a studio set up for the entire community with an emphasis on disadvantaged target groups including people with disabilities and mental health challenges.
When Fiona faced some mental health challenges, she used her artwork and creativity as an outlet through her recovery. Seeing the impact it had on her own life, Fiona wanted to provide this as a service to other people who had similar experiences as her, to help them through their personal challenges. Today, the Art Mania Studio community ranges from 5 years old to 92 years old.
“The business has sculpted my life and made me accountable and given me the opportunity to function as a valued community participant. I thought why can’t this be an option for other people? I live for this motive every day.”
Keep reading to hear more about Fiona’s Art Mania Studio, small business journey.
My business is Art Mania Studio and we are in our 13th year. I have been working with Many Rivers for 6 years now. My initial contact with Many Rivers was because I’d outgrown a smaller building
My mum had passed away and she had given me a lot of encouragement to help me grow and succeed. I had a lot of fear about how to go about it. That is why I contacted Many Rivers, for that ongoing support. Prior to that, I lived in Alice Springs and I was a project manager. I’d set up programs for the Department of Health for mental health, I wrote legislature briefing, I was a frontline trainer and delivered up to Cert 4 in a diploma for drug and alcohol community services sector.
I met someone in a park who recommended Many Rivers to me. We had a conversation and they also had their own business. They asked if I’d heard of Many Rivers.
Now I have 10 employees, including 4 part-time workers and then casuals that work about 21 hours a week.
Working with Many Rivers
Initially, Dylan came in and looked at the business. He looked at changing my business from a small business, so we discussed business development, finances and cash flow. Down the track he assisted me with personal loans and recently Many Rivers has helped me get legal representation to help renegotiate my lease arrangements. They were increasing my rent and the pro bono legal support through Many Rivers covered the cost to do that on my behalf.
The most important thing about Dylan is that he is just an email, a text or a phone call away and his turn around time is incredible. As an employer and a boss, you spend your life patting everyone else on the back but the encouragement and the ongoing recognition from Dylan just gives me a real boost. Sometime when you fall down a bit and you’re loosing your pride they tell you that you are doing well and that you’re doing okay.
I’ve had a number of loans from Many Rivers. We haven’t had to get one recently.
The biggest success is that we have managed to slide through the COIVD19 pandemic and change and adapt. We are still open and managing well.
Probably the biggest challenge is changing with the business. So, growing as a business owner, manager and employer and changing my own strategies and thinking capacities along with the growth of the business. The only other challenge I’d say is marketing, everything is online now. How do you know that you are targeting the right people and what is worth the money?
How has your life changed since starting your art small business?
The biggest change for me is that when I came out of corporate and was struggling with my mental health. I am now forced to challenge my own mentality every day because people are counting on me. My staff are counting on me during the day to be lively and positive. My personality rubs off on the staff and we try and be warm and flexible to people. This has been one of my biggest challenges and successes at the same time. Without this business I don’t think I would be in this mindset.
I see young people come in who are coping with similar experiences I have had. I see there is some way through creativity to help them. When I can see the results from their experience with Art Mania Studio and I see it click in their eyes, it is very rewarding. That is their language that I’m able to speak to them through this different, creative portal.
Future Goals for Art Mania Studio
Because of COVID-19, we need to change our business models to go from strength to strength and not go backwards. We are already dealing with the general public but now it is about making it a more targeted program.
There are very few art programs in Newcastle, so we are looking to link with another support worker service so that she can send some of her clients to me. One of the amazing things about Many Rivers is the networks, that is just one link. We will then be able to go to other services and tell them what we do and show them a referral process and we will grow our staff.
Thanks Fiona for sharing your Art Mania Studio small business.
We know there are many other people out there looking to take the next step of setting and we know your story will inspire them to take the leap.
We’re here to support you the whole way.
Please take the Small Business Self-Assessment and see if we are right for you.
If you loved this client story and would like to read another, take a look at Trizzy’z Hair, a small hairdressing business owned by Trista in Maitland, NSW.