By Marsha Ralls
As the owner of a commercial art gallery for more than 24 years, I never imagined that people would buy art online, or that I would be selling to them without any prior relationship or connection. I had seen the importance of developing mutual trust and respect with clients, and per tradition, I would nurture these working relationships over a period of years. However, I was proven wrong; while I have continued to spark and build new connections around the world as an art consultant, I’ve done so remotely with the ability to work anywhere. I’ve heard companies refer to someone like me as a “nomad,” and I know many entrepreneurs who fit this class of professionals.
We aren’t tied to a specific location, building or time schedule; rather, we continue to adapt to our current situation based on the time zone and nature of the project. I’ve been able to attend a morning conference in Washington, D.C., USA, on a Wednesday, travel to London that afternoon and finalize a sale through an email on the flight. My ability to more fully participate in events and the current global dialogue gives my business exposure in many locations, where I’m able to meet artists, curators and professionals in person. There are, however, necessary technologies that make this possible— constant access to Wi-Fi is a must, as is a laptop, tablet or smart phone. Luckily, this isn’t a problem in most locations. I’m also heavily supported by my amazing team who can handle day-to-day operations and difficulties as they arise.
Within the past few months, I’ve decided to take it a step further and embrace mobile technology in a different way. While I’ll continue to do business via email, I’m embracing the unique opportunities that have come from mobile applications (apps). I’m creating my own lifestyle art app; it will allow myself and others around the world the ability to transform how we learn about, experience and purchase art. My entrepreneurial passion stems from connecting with people and creating opportunities for them to learn and grow; this seemed like the perfect medium through which to work. I also see this decision as a conscious effort to remain relevant as a business when more and more consumers are interacting with their mobile devices. Regardless of gender, ethnicity or economic background, people love customized content and products, and by tapping into my market at a personal level, where I could easily arrange a special event or pop-up exhibition, advertise it through my app and use it as an educational resource, I see a lot of potential in engaging communities wherever I happen to be traveling.
For those who may be contemplating how to better integrate technology into their business by making mobile technology an inherent part of the process, here are a few suggestions I would share:
- Think broadly: Instead of trying to fit your business objective into a service that is being used elsewhere, see this as an opportunity to extend your core values and mission through another communications channel. You may not want to sell products through mobile technology, but you could provide educational information, insights into your industry or even advertise events and sales you might be having. Certain features that serve one business might not be right for another.
- Invest in a tech team you can trust and depend on: I don’t want to worry whether or not there are broken features or links on my mobile app when I’m trying to schedule an event or upload an artist’s bio. Choose a tech team that provides online and telephone support, one that double checks for errors before launching your software. You might want to choose an individual or company that costs more but offers the insurance you need to sleep at night, instead of lying awake wondering if your contractor will finish on time.
- Patent your technology: I currently have two patent-pending technologies that are unique to my app. If you’re creating incredibly unique technology that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the market, take the time and resources to patent it. This might put a damper on your timeline, but it could pay big dividends in the future.
- Launch in stages: Just like businesses host “soft openings” or beta test their products before the “big reveal,” ensure that your mobile app is released in its best form. I chose to launch in stages, which is less risky than rolling out everything at once. This also gives me the opportunity to advertise new features that could entice a larger audience.
With the right idea, the right technology and a good support system, small businesses could open themselves up to a new and growing audience of consumers. Building the app not only gave me the freedom to spend more time as a road warrior, but it helped me better connect to artists and buyers around the world, while meeting other nomads like me. What’s more, it allows me to take a breath and stay home more frequently, now that my app gallery is open 24/7. I’m communicating with art lovers everywhere, even when I’m asleep. That freedom is the best gift of all.
Marsha Ralls is an EO DC member, President and CEO of Closed Monday Productions LLC, and a founding member of Women of EO, a dynamic group unifying women entrepreneurs, empowering them to live their best lives. Learn more about Women of EO and their upcoming summit in Athens, Greece.