Would you like to start teaching art classes for kids as a formal business? Join us as studio owners and art educators share their personal experiences.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our art studio series so far. If you missed part 1 and 2, be sure to check out 6 Tips for Running a Business Teaching Kids Art Classes and This Mom Saw a Need for Art Programming and Started a Kids Art Studio.
Today, I’m so excited to share interviews with four different process art business owners.
Some started teaching art classes for kids rather recently, while others have been doing this for a decade or more!
As you’ll see, some own art studios, while others teach in their homes.
They are from all around the world (hello Australia!).
And all are women.
I’ve been so inspired writing this series. Hearing these women tell their stories has given me a sense of community in the building process and courage to keep on trying this thing I really love.
I hope this inspires you as well.
And maybe, if you’ve been waiting to take that leap, you will see that it’s a dream that is within reach.
How to Start a Business Teaching Art Classes for Kids
Catalina Gutierrez of Red Violet Studio
c. 2014 in Miami, Florida
I first started with one after school art class at my kids’ school five years ago. Then I started to see a lot of interest of moms from a younger crowd of kids (under 3 years old). That’s when I decided to open my first Art Mommy&Me class.
I am a mobile art studio so I do these classes at different locations, like private homes and centers. My classes are designed for kids 12m-4 years old. It’s been a great experience having a mix aged group and I always try to design different art and play stations that are developmentally appropriate for the different ages in the class.
At every class I have 5 different set ups or ideas to design and prepare. I read a lot, research and when you’ve been doing this for so long, ideas just start to flow more easily every time. Of course there’s a great community of art teachers and studios on IG that provide a lot of inspiration as well.
marketing + fees:
Social media, e-mail and word of mouth from satisfied parents that have come to my classes has been my best way of promoting Redviolet Studio.
I did my research at the time to see what similar classes would cost, and having in mind the amount of materials and the time involved in preparing, setting up and cleaning up for these classes–I came up with my fee.
I started 4 years ago with just a few kids in one single class, and as time has passed I’ve grown to doing about 3 or 4 classes a week for this age group. And I’ve hired someone else to help me with the classes, to be able to expand even more without me having to do it all.
Danielle Falk of Little Ginger Studio
c. 2009 in Sydney, Australia
I opened my Art Studio after running after-school art classes additional to my “real job” as an ELS in a large elementary school. When I had my daughter 4 years ago and took extended maternity leave, I focused on expanding my business by testing the market with different classes, setting up systems and learning promotion. I’ve always run my classes as a small business, with an ABN (Australian business number) and paying tax.
I run A LOT of different classes for different ages but the core of what I do is cater for elementary students ages 5-12. All my vacation programs are for this broad age range (over the years I’ve gotten quite good at creating art experiences enjoyed by all ages). I do segment my after school classes into K-2 (ages 5-8) and 3-6 (ages 9-12). At the studio I also run a Big Kids studio class for 10-14 year olds, process art sessions for 1.5-5 year olds and a preschool class for 3-5 year olds.
I get my ideas from Instagram and Pinterest, galleries–and I love making up activities. Getting inspired by materials and visiting our local recycling co-op. I run a lot of different classes but our Preschool Process art class usually has 5 activities including a playdough and loose parts table (we just keep changing the loose parts).
marketing + fees:
Word of mouth is number 1! In other words, do a good job and word will spread. Getting on the first page of Google is really important and good old fashioned flyer drops also work.
The other most powerful strategy is local Facebook parenting groups–both advertising and commenting. I also donate to school fundraisers.
A golden rule is never charge less than babysitting (if its a drop off class). Unfortunately pricing is REALLY difficult and trial and error is all you can do (and ask your clients)!
I still run 4 classes at two different schools (renting classrooms after hours) as well as at my beautiful Art studio, which is a lease on a largish commercial shop. It means my business is quite varied and involves managing staff.
Courtney Boitano of OT Outside
c. 2015 in Los Gatos, California
I started when my youngest was two to fill a need for more activities for that age group that isn’t in preschool yet. I hosted the class in my backyard and then at a friend’s backyard when we moved. Last year, I turned this into a more formal business and filed a DBA and created a website. I now have people pay in advance and try to really run it like a business.
I have children as young as 16 months and as old as 5 in the group! This age group works well even though it is a large spread because the youngest ones can learn from the older kiddos. And the older kiddos can feel a sense of responsibility and tap into more self-regulation when they realize they are the elders.
I attempted to separate it this fall with a younger class for 16 months-2.5 and then 3 and up but I didn’t have many sign up for the 3+.
Most children are enrolled in preschools by that age and may have younger siblings who then need to nap once preschool is over. So even doing a class after preschool didn’t seem to make sense. Figuring out the timing of classes is still a challenge.
My own two kiddos are a huge source of inspiration. I love to observe them and see what they love to do. Whether it’s diving into a sensory bin up to their elbows, mixing potions, pounding hammers or painting. I try to bring that inspiration to my Messy Tot groups.
I also choose developmentally appropriate activities that will build specific skills or motor milestones. And I always pull in my occupational therapy experience and background into each activity. Through this I try to give parents tangible tips that they can replicate at home or understand what the benefit is with each activity.
Sometimes I get carried away because I will get so excited to do something! I usually try to have about 5 activities. Always a sensory bin, a fine motor activity, a process art activity and then 2 more “periphery” activities.
I love when those “periphery” activities just envelope and become center stage. Something like bubbles, or a water pouring station, or playdough–and the kids just take off with it and develop their own social game or have this amazing sharing experience that you could just never replicate or try to contrive!
marketing + fees:
It is challenging to get the word out to try and fill multiple classes. I enjoy the challenge, however, because it taps into skills I need to develop personally!
Word of mouth is proving to be the best way to grow! I’m trying to be better about asking people to spread the word or telling people about it when I see they have a child who is age-appropriate for the class.
I really try to be fair about what other classes cost around us, the time and materials involved, and what that cusp is between what people will pay and what might turn them away. Sometimes when clean up takes a long time or setup is involved and my time dedicated to the class is tripled I think I should charge more, but it is just a sign of a really fun time that was had by all!
I get nervous when I really stop to think about this being my career because it is unchartered territory for me. I have never done marketing–getting the word out, blog posts, email campaigns… it is all new! But I just put one foot in front of the other and try to ask questions!
Amanda Bright of Brighter Art Studios
c. 2018 for Amanda’s business, but her art journey began 10 years prior
Our toddler art group started because I had a 3 year old and was tired of not having fun things to sign her up for. I also had several friends in the same boat at the same time. A few years prior I read about a toddler art group on The Artful Parent, and kept thinking about it.
As a trained artist and a former art teacher, I had the skills and didn’t mind toddler artistic messes.
My classes are for 2-5 year olds. We do a lot of process art in the toddler classes. My 2 year old students can explore and play and make delightful messes and my 5 year old students can do the same, but on their own level. I’ve found they all learn from observing each other, no matter what the age.
I get most of my ideas from Instagram and a few of my favorite websites like The Artful Parent and Deep Space Sparkle. Then I adapt the lessons for our needs and abilities. Occasionally I get my own flashes of brilliance, but they usually are sparked by someone else’s brilliance.
marketing + fees:
Other than my initial brainstorming with my friends and neighbors, enrollment in classes has all been from word of mouth. I am awkwardly bad at marketing myself. Seriously, it’s embarrassing how bad I am. That is something I have been working on. Luckily my students’ parents and even my own children will tell anyone and everyone about our studio and the classes. They are much more effective at marketing for me that I am!
I try to keep fees for classes low. I don’t live in an area that would willingly support what I should probably charge, so I make sure the class fees cover the materials we use plus just a little bit more.
What started out as an experiment did end up turning into a business. I started with a couple toddler classes and then added a K-6th grade class after being begged and begged. There was much more demand for these classes than I thought there would be.
This year I’ll be adding some classes for teens and adults and will probably split the K-6th class into upper and lower elementary classes.
I don’t want to overwhelm myself or my family (I have a busy husband, three busy kids, and two lazy dogs) so I’m intentionally growing the studio very slowly.
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