Emma Ferrante, a junior graphic design major, is the owner of Art by Emma LLC and a resident in the Samford Startup student business incubator program.
What is the story of your company? How did it start?
My shop all started back in middle school when I got about 10 packs of canvases for Christmas. I began painting them all different colors and playing around with lettering using some of my mom's Sharpies she had lying around.
All throughout my early teenage years I started marketing off of my parents' Facebook accounts as family friends would place custom orders.
With the help of social media, most of my orders come through direct messages. It was a lot to keep up with, so I am infinitely grateful that Etsy makes it so easy to sell on this platform.
In 2019, I officially launched Kind Hearted Creations, my first LLC, as I approached my first show, selling my items at a booth. Over the past three years or so, I have been blessed with the chance to make this my "full-time high school job" and it has been so amazing.
As the journey of moving into my college years has begun, I rebranded my business into simply Art By Emma LLC. My prayer for this shop is that it can be a personable faith-filled place where you can find joy in my artwork.
Why did you want to join the Samford Startup program?
I wanted to join the Samford Startup program to grow my confidence as an entrepreneur. I have always had an ambition to me, but in my time at Samford, I have begun to believe more and more that I can make my dreams a reality. Through the Startup program, I hoped to seek mentors who knew far more than me and do my best to fill their shoes in my own way. Needless to say, I have yet to be disappointed by those who have gone before me as teachers.
How has the Samford Startup program supported your business?
The Samford Startup program has provided me with an environment of hard workers and go-getters. The people surrounding me have made me set higher goals and believe in myself more because of their encouragement. They are the people who turn the “What-ifs?” into the “Let’s begin.” Dr. Mazzei has also pushed me in my growth as an individual, encouraging me in all aspects as an innovator. Not to mention, as a Resident member, the space that I have been provided as well as the funding contribute to my weekly success.
What has been the most challenging part of launching your business? How did you overcome this?
Honestly, the most challenging part of my business has been trusting myself. It sounds weird, doesn't it? It's MY business after all.
But truthfully, people-pleasing is a real struggle in the creative world. I struggled at the start of taking commissions when people would say, "You should paint this!" or my least favorite, "I'd really appreciate it if you could recreate this for me."
What started as a confidence in my designs and my abilities, then became a chronic case of imposter syndrome. Why does my work not look like theirs? Maybe if I had their branding, I'd be more "successful." But at the end of the day, I have learned that it is only when I trust myself, my passions, and what I know, that I can take great pride in the things I make, whether it sells once, or one thousand times.
How has the Samford Startup program helped you grow professionally?
The Samford Startup program has taught me numerous ways of how to "dress to impress." I found great importance in the way I represent my business on a whim. It is not just in what I wear physically, but how I carry myself. I grew in my ability to make and give an elevator pitch while being succinct and confident.
How has the Samford Startup program helped you achieve or exceed your business goals?
The Samford Startup program has allowed me to exceed my business goals by equipping me with day-to-day skills such as budgeting, setting prices, and knowing how to get the best "bang for my buck" and be smart with my money. I have come to know the value of my work and of my time because of my peers in the incubator.
Looking to the future, what do you envision for your business?
I plan on continuing to sell my products on my Etsy for the time being, as well as eventually expanding my business into selling on different digital platforms that are more user-friendly. I plan on staying consistent in my social media presence with all of my creations as a graphic design student, and with that, I hope to launch my own website within the next year!
How is your business redemptive in a Christ-like manner?
My business has transformed the way that I view my vocation as a daughter of the King. God crowns His children with characteristics that He possesses, and my favorite of those is creativity. The One who created us and knows us by name, then in turn gives us the ability to be like Him. He gives us an abundant imagination to be able to create from, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
How do you see your company having an impact on the Samford and Birmingham communities?
My art has made space for conversation, and that truly is all I could have ever wanted. To me, my company has been successful if it can just point one person back to their Creator.
Why would you encourage other student entrepreneurs to join the program?
I would encourage other students to join the Samford Startup program to get their dreams and accountability to become a reality. It is when you start putting pen to paper and speaking about your idea that it's able to come to life. What better time to start than now?