KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The last few years have proven challenging for many small businesses as consumers have cut back on their spending. But one Westport shop has not only survived, but expanded by selling "fun" in addition to its usual goods and services. It's a lesson that may help other entrepreneurs survive tough times.
Hook Gallery opened three years ago as a frame shop, selling art to homeowners and interior decorators. But the owners soon discovered creating their own art was a lot more fun for customers, and Hook has grown by teaching folks to paint.
Painting parties are now a big source of income for this shop. And everyone likes a deal, so Hook offered discounts through Groupon to stage Bring Your Own Beverage paint parties that have resulted in party-goers becoming art and frame customers.
The business has grown so much by adding fun, that Hook moved from their 1,200 square foot frame shop to a 2,500 square foot gallery nearby.
Partner Danny Sullivan says creativity and value makes his business stand out from the crowd.
"We're talking about a group of people coming in about 25 at a time," Sullivan said. "We have them bring in a bottle of wine or beer or sodas, whatever they want to drink beverage-wise. We have an artist do a painting and the crowd paints along with us and it's a great time. A lot of fun for everybody and every time usually someone walks out with a great painting."
The average ticket price to go to a painting party is about $30 per person. And Sullivan says he's usually sold out two weeks in advance. His advice to other small businesses: If you can add value to your specialty by including an element of fun or entertainment, do it. Customers are more likely to spend money when they enjoy themselves.
After individuals create their own works of art, Sullivan offers to frame it for them, for a price of course. He says hundreds have become repeat customers, now taking an interest in displaying art in their homes.