“If You Weren’t Frugal Before, You Definitely Will Be Now!” Words of Wisdom with Alix Greenberg, Founder and CEO of ArtSugar
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alix Greenberg, Founder and CEO of ArtSugar, a curated e-commerce platform that sells artwork by globally sourced, underrepresented artists with large social media followings, and donates a percentage of each sale to the charity of the customers choice. Since launching her first company in 2015 called Portraits For Good, which has now scaled into ArtSugar (launched October 30, 2017), Alix has donated over $11,000 to several non-profit organizations through art sales: limited edition prints and commissioned pieces. Beyond her work, Alix co-chairs the young members board of Temple Emanu-el, NYC and does the New York Times crossword puzzle every day and finishes (usually).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born and raised in NYC and spent nearly a decade working in the Fine Art industry before founding ArtSugar in 2017. Art has always been my passion — I have a BFA from Cornell (I like to draw portraits!) and an MA from Christie’s Education. I was also the Editor and Chief of my high school art publication, “Images,” but that was a long time ago. I’m also dedicated to giving back to the community (something my parents instilled in me) — so ArtSugar is basically a compilation of all my interests. Given that i’m a lifelong artist too, my art is also up on the site — I am always shocked and excited when someone buys my work — my Larry David Smiley Face is a surprise hit! I do commissioned portraits as well.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
I had the opportunity to showcase ArtSugar on a large instagram account focused on couples called @couplegoals. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day, so we needed to stage the scene and get the content up as soon possible. This account is basically all professional models shot by photographers, but since we are bootstrapped, I enlisted the help of my couple friends (who are doctors by the way!) and used my iPhone to photograph them being cute in their apartment. It actually turned out amazing, and since I put holes in their living room wall, I figured best to give the artwork to them. So they are happy too!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
ArtSugar is the only online art selling platform that donates a percentage of all artwork sales to charity. Giving back has always been important to me so it was essential that it would become part of my business. When I was still at a 9–5 job, I had a side business called Portraits For Good for a few years, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it into something full-time. After a death in my family last summer, I had a realization. I decided that life was too short — I was going to do what I love and scale my business, and ArtSugar was born. The story is: my grandmother passed away from pancreatic cancer in June 2017- she was a second mom to me — if we didn’t speak every day, I saw her multiple times a week. I was so sad and angry, I felt the need to do something about it — I got involved with an organization called Code Purple Now, which is the only national awareness and advocacy campaign to drive a bold new approach to federal pancreatic cancer research. The team, led by Bob Wright and Liz Feld is amazing — they inspired me to channel my grief into something good, and were so supportive of the idea of implementing a socially responsible element into purchasing art — no matter what the cause. I decided to focus my energies on my business, invest in myself, and scale. Since launching, I have partnered with several organizations. Most recently, we partnered with God’s Love We Deliver, which improves the health and well-being of men, women and children living with serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. I am still so moved by my experience working with them — from selling limited edition prints by Michael Turchin online, to auctioning off the originals at their facility — I know I’m doing what i’m meant to.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have several!
My family has been instrumental in helping me get to where I am. They introduced me to art at a young age — I was in fingerprinting class at the Met by age 4! They also taught me the importance of visual culture, charitable giving, and generosity of time and spirit. They gave me the best education possible — that’s something no one can take away from you. My sister is my rock.
I am also grateful to my artists who came on board long before ArtSugar was launched and still just an idea — their faith in me inspires me to work hard every day. They’ve extended such open arms by sharing ArtSugar with their dedicated followings. These artists, hailing from Kiev to Los Angeles, have become colleagues and friends. I am also so grateful to the non-profit organizations that have partnered with me. Their willingness to take on a company that is so new and small is beyond gracious, and I am blown away by their support and interest.
Finally, my friends! From legal advice, to writing copy — I go to my friends at least once a day for their expertise — and i am so lucky because a. they don’t charge and b. They are all basically geniuses. I don’t know what id do without them!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It’s twofold — ArtSugar combines two key building blocks that strengthen our communities: art and philanthropy. Helping underrepresented artists support themselves through their art and enabling them to implement a socially-responsible element to their work is surely uplifting. This is just the beginning of the journey for me, and although I have over 40 charities and nearly 40 artists on board my platform, I plan to increase our numbers in artists and non-profits, so we can truly maximize our impact.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Patience is a virtue! I’m still trying to figure this one out myself — I run at full-speed and expect everyone else is too — this is simply not the case, so learning to relax is key. (I have not mastered this yet!)
2. You will not sleep! Waking up at 3am energized to fulfill orders or write ill-timed emails will become your norm.
3. You become your work! People say owning your own business is like having a baby. This is true! It is completely all consuming — you are always thinking about it and worried about it even if you are having a deep tissue massage or at dinner with your best friend.
4. Get an office! I started my business out of my studio apartment, but am realizing achieving some kind of semblance of work/life balance is important. If your apartment doesn’t have multiple rooms and you are sleeping in the same room as you are packing, shipping and framing in (like me), then find a small space elsewhere so that after a long day, you can be actually excited to come home!
5. If you weren’t frugal before, you definitely will be now!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I’ve always wanted to meet Tina Fey ever since reading Bossy Pants. I love that she is a businesswoman who can find comedy in everything. I feel like laughing through life is a really great way to live.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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