Ashley Prince always had a love for art and design and so went to Iowa State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. She is a painter, designer, creator, and teacher who wanted to share her passion for art with others. After some deliberation, Ashley started her own art business, Pickled Palette, LLC, in the spring of 2014.
Initially, Pickled Palette was a home-based business that only held painting events in local restaurants and schools. In early 2015, Ashley won one of the top prizes at a local “Swimming with the Sharks” business competition. With more confidence and determination, Ashley found a great location on Morningside Avenue and opened an art studio and classroom. With her new prize money she was able to buy some needed equipment to start teaching ceramics along with painting on canvas.
Just before Ashley opened her storefront business, she searched online for business plan advice and found the Western Iowa Tech Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Sioux City. Along with answering some basic start-up questions, SBDC Director Todd Rausch provided financial advice, marketing assistance, and encouragement.
When asked how she describes her experience with the SBDC Ashley says, “They’ve been so helpful. Todd’s always been there when I needed any guidance with my business. He’s quick to respond and gives me that extra push when uncertainty strikes.”
Pickled Palette’s studio seats up to 60 people. Services have expanded from offering just painting classes to now also offering pottery, glass fusing, and board art. The business features walk-in convenience to allow for creating at any time along with classes for kids, adults, and families. Group events vary, from team building, to employee appreciation, to just learning new skills and techniques. The studio is open for individual painting during all hours.
Ashley was originally the only person working in the business, but she now employs seven part-time staff and is currently working on hiring a full-time assistant manager. After her first full year in business (2015) company sales increased 33 percent and look to grow even further in 2017.
Along with business assistance, the SBDC connected Ashley with different groups, including student honors groups who wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship. Talking and teaching those groups have helped Ashley to develop many beneficial relationships and to connect solidly with the community, plus secure many returning customers. “The SBDC helped me to reach my goals and gave me the courage to pursue and grow my business,” adds Ashley.
Most surprising to Ashley is the self satisfaction of owning a small business and the importance of having a strong community and support circle. She adds, “Owning your own business can be a lonely adventure, however I have found the benefits in surrounding myself with like-minded people to speak to and exchange ideas.”
Ashley’s biggest challenge to date has been finding an equal balance between work and family time, especially with small children. She very much wants to always be available for her children without overlooking her business goals. Her biggest triumph is instilling a good work ethic in her children while showing them that hard work can pay off and bring you success.
Ashley markets her business mainly via Facebook and Instagram, but has also done local TV, radio, and email marketing, plus a few print ads. She also prints informative materials, especially for her kids’ camps. Check out the company’s social media sites at Facebook and Instagram.
Pickled Palette contributes significantly to its community, partnering with a select number of non-profits. Ashley greatly enjoys this and here are some of her company’s donations.
- Food Bank of Siouxland: Proud sponsor for the annual Empty Bowls dinner event, which hosts a silent auction and dinner, and features handcrafted bowls donated by her studio (150 donated last year). Guests get to take the bowls home.
- Hosted fundraising events with the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
- Campaigning with plate sales to promote Hunger Action Month recently with the Foodbank of Siouxland.
- Pickled Palette will soon be offering Believe Mugs for the Believe Big campaign. These are mugs that can be painted by anyone who wants to participate, and then are donated to cancer patients, to brighten their lives and encourage them through treatment.
- Paint for a Cause event hosted for Siouxland Mental Health to promote Rock the Stigma, breaking barriers of the stigma of “mental illnesses”.
Future plans for Ashley’s company include staying on the cutting edge of art mediums, to keep Pickled Palette’s customers entertained and continually trying new art. Ashley would like to add more hands-on classes with clay and pottery-throwing classes, plus offer more fundraising opportunities for schools, churches, and non-profit organizations. She sees a lot of potential for Sioux City to grow its art scene, and is happy to be one of the city’s resources for families to experience and learn art. Ashley feels that not everybody has to be a fine artist to try their hand at something artistic; her business creates opportunities and she and her employees lend expert assistance.
Ashley continues to contact the SBDC whenever she needs more business advice. She says, “Todd at the SBDC is my adviser and mentor. He answered many basic start-up questions for me, plus provided needed marketing assistance and financial advice. The SBDC is a great resource to lean on to help you take your passion and turn it into a business.”
For more information on this innovative Iowa business that encourages artistic expression, visit its social media sites listed above or the company’s website at www.pickledpalette.com.
Pickled Palette has won the America’s SBDC Iowa January 2020 Small Business of the Month Award.