Episode 27: Engaging Your Audience with Eva Sowinki

July 6, 2016

Today on the show we have Eva Sowinski, founder of fan*alley and awesome artist in her own right. I met her doing a show a couple of months ago and she did something I rarely see artists do: she engaged people. I don’t just mean she said “Hi”. I mean she had real conversations with them about their likes and dislikes, about why they were at the show, and what they were after. She was really funny in a way that you don’t see artists being funny often.

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Like I said, she’s an amazing artist in her own right, but she wants to talk about fan*alley, so here is their bio from the shopfanalley.com website.

fan*alley was just a vision of Eva Sowinski’s after she opened A Little Known Shop in 2013 with business partner Danielle Ochoa ofLayla and Lisette. Danielle and Eva, along with their friend Genevieve Atkerson, began hosting small craft shows filled with vendors just breaking into the art world or those looking to build their entrepreneurial dreams.

In order to expand in such a small space, Eva and Danielle decided it was time to part ways so each could continue growing in their own passions. After 1 year of running the brick and mortar, fan*alley, Eva felt the weight of running a small business on her own. She decided to cut out the overhead, as she saw all of her artists getting more and more mobile with shows. What if fan*alley was a mobile shop that curated pop-ups and galleries all over?

Now that the shop is closed, you can still find fan*alley popping up all over Los Angeles and Orange County. From comic book shops, restaurants to little unique venues. “I want to host shows that are affordable for artists to set up, continue to be grassroots, and allow our customers to get into affordable, if not free, events and spend their money on the art!” — Eva Sowinski

Eva is a creative entrepreneur in the best sense of the word. She brings together the best of creativity and entrepreneurship. She uses things like concept validation and roi. She understands customer acquisition cost and the value of retention. I don’t know if that’s because she owned her own brick and mortar store before striking out on her own to do pop up shows, but Eva knows business.

We spent a lot of time in this episode talking about shows, mostly because she’s an expert at shows both running them and exhibiting at them. Many of my friends have done her shows and loved them because they are focused a curated properly. Her shows all have themes and she brings in artists that can play to those themes.

One of the things we talked about a lot is how shy artists can open up more even if they don’t like talking to people. It all came down to three things: put your phone away, have some freebies to attract people, and have a unique twist on old favorites.

One of the examples we talked about was super emo friends. Here is an artist that took pop culture and turned it on its head by combining it with chibi and emo. Not only is it a unique concept, but it is ALSO displayed beautifully. The artist puts everything in frames and in multiple levels so you get a lot of information in a small space. Instead of competing with a thousand other artists doing the same thing, he made his mark in a different way with a unique style with drives traffic.

I still think regardless you need to hook people into your booth and make them understand that it’s about making a connection. Eva stressed multiple times the connection being the important thing when exhibiting at shows. People are there to make connections. And if you can make a connection you can also sell.

But Eva isn’t just in person, she also kills it online. Eva does something amazing where she gets the fans involved in her paintings and prints. She will post on Instagram that she’s going to do a live periscope to paint a new pin-up. Then she will ask the fans the colors she should paint the commissions. Then she’ll give away a print to one of the people watching…but because they all contributed to the print everybody wants to buy one. On top of that she just crowdsourced the best version of her print so she can sell the most of it at shows.

Now that is sales for an artist. She is taking an ephemeral product and infusing emotion into it, all while increasing sales. And she’s not the only artist that does this. She gave some great examples of other artists she worked with also crowdsourcing their work and getting people involved.

One of my favorite stories was about two sisters who are artists. They did a gallery show at Eva’s old brick and mortar shop, but during the gallery they asked people what their next show should be, and even had people preordering prints for it! They weren’t even there and their salesmanship and marketing were doing the work for them.

This was a great episode and I’m truly excited at everything Eva is doing. I can’t wait to have her on again! You can check her out on Instagram, Twitter and Periscope @fanalley and online @ www.shopfanalley.com.

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