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Startup Corner: Meganne Rosen O'Neal and Laura Provance, Arts & Letters LLC

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Minimally viable product …
We are a gallery and boutique that also offers language courses. Our artwork and products are sold on a consignment basis. Because our merchandise is on consignment, it is fairly low risk.

Advice received …
Oh my. Any small-business owner will tell you people love to give unsolicited advice. I think the best advice we received was in regard to changing the layout of our space and to consider the merchandising aspect in relation to the organization of products and furniture. As far as worst advice, for some reason people are always offering up “million-dollar ideas” that they do not want to implement themselves. Often for us these are handmade products ranging from very interesting T-shirt designs to custom but outmoded electronic accessory fashion. Think pager jewelry.

Mistakes …
We worked with a local sign company to create and install our external sign. The sign fell down, and we learned thereafter that our insurance did not cover the sign, nor did the company offer a refund or have a warranty option. We did not have it in our budget to replace the sign. If we could do it over again, we would have more carefully inspected our insurance policy, and we probably would have gone with vinyl signage, not aluminum.

Greatest need …
Customers. I think this is true for all downtown retailers. Downtown Springfield has come a long way, but there are still certain fears and stigmas associated with downtown that we all are working together to overcome.

Hurdles …
Opening and sustaining a business is very difficult. Our location in downtown Springfield has presented us with an array of unique challenges to overcome. Making ourselves known as a new business was a challenge, but we now enjoy large crowds for First Friday Art Walk and have become the go-to spot for unique gifts for many locals.

Next phase …
Our goal is to work with other retailers in downtown Springfield and the (Downtown Springfield Association) to improve the downtown experience and increase visibility for downtown businesses through beautification efforts and joint marketing campaigns. We also have been working on an online sales option for Arts & Letters.

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