Dear Karen: I'd like to sell my paintings. I have about 100 pieces in oil and watercolor. How do I start?
Answer: Start by identifying local galleries and attending art fairs in your area. Study which kinds of works certain outlets specialize in and find those that are suitable for your style, said Moti Shniberg, founder of MutualArt.com.
"If you think that your work is a fit for a particular gallery, go to an opening there and introduce yourself to the staff," he said.
Follow up a few days later by sending them top-quality photos of your work or arranging to meet with them and show them some of your most commercially attractive pieces. If the staff doesn't want to handle your work, ask their advice on a gallery that might be right to represent you, Shniberg said.
If there aren't any galleries in your area, or if you don't want to pay commissions, you can rent a booth at a local art festival or street fair. You'll need to invest considerable time that way, but you'll keep more of the revenue for yourself.
A marketing plan for a new product
Dear Karen: I'm about to manufacture a new product that will need proper marketing. Do you suggest hiring a company or doing it solo to save money?
Answer: If you can't spend money on a public relations firm, hire a consultant to help you prepare a marketing plan and then execute it in-house or with the help of a freelance marketing person. The plan should define your product's benefits and its target market, come up with a way to position it in the minds of prospects, and identify other businesses that can market cooperatively with you, said Al Lautenslager, a Wheaton, Ill.-based marketing consultant.
Get out and network to promote your new product and hire a printing or mailing company to help you carry out a direct mail campaign.
"Once the revenue of your business increases, you can spend more money on marketing, perhaps by sending more direct mail. Save advertising until you can afford to advertise on a consistent and repetitive basis," Lautenslager said.
It's key to get employees together to plan a strategy rather than letting your marketing become scattershot.
"The more planned out, organized and prioritized a marketing campaign is, the higher its probability of success," he said.
Is now the time to buy property?
Dear Karen: Our board of directors recommends that we buy business property, but are we crazy to buy in this market?
Answer: Not at all, said Chris Hurn, president of Mercantile Commercial Capital, a specialized lender based near Orlando, Fla. Although mortgage funding has seized up recently, if your business is profitable you will be able to get funding eventually, Hurn said.
"This is a phenomenal time to look at buying commercial property. Commercial developers in many areas have cut prices in half over the last year. Even in strong markets, we're seeing 20% to 30% discounts," Hurn said.
Hurn often recommends the Small Business Administration's 504 Loan Program.
Borrowers who qualify can put 10% down and often get a monthly mortgage payment that is not much higher than their rent, he said. Information is available at the SBA website, at www.sba.gov.
Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to ke.klein@ latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.