Catherine Sweet believes in affordable art for all. Her online business, BobCat Gallery, was launched in May 2021 following a ‘now or never’ moment when she left full-time employment. With pop-up exhibitions across London and ambitions for a physical gallery in the future, Catherine showcases small scale artwork and supports 24 fellow artists.
From concept to curation
An artist herself, working primarily in acrylic, oils and materials on canvas, Catherine favours bright colours and texture, taking inspiration from both the natural world and her favourite music.
Finding it increasingly difficult to grip due to her hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, she has adapted her way of working and experiments with palette knives, stencils and spray paints, along with air-drying clay, collage and stitching.
“Having a condition which limits your mobility can be tough – not only because you spend the majority of your life in pain, but because even on the days when your body can’t move much, your brain can still be racing ahead.”
“One of the basic things I have to overcome on a daily basis is not to get demotivated because I can’t do everything at the speed at which I would like to… Making sure you pace yourself is crucial, otherwise everything collapses! And they say slow and steady wins the race, eh?”
From creating art and curating exhibitions, to building artistic communities and finding the perfect pieces for buyers, how did Catherine turn passion into profit? She explains that planning is an important part of the process.
“It all starts with a business plan.”
“If you put the effort in upfront to get a plan in place, some of it might be adapted along the way, but overall you’ll know where you’re heading to in the long run. I considered all the best bits about buying art, and I have tried to make those come to life online with BobCat Gallery.”
As well as forward-planning, Catherine has a vital understanding of the needs of her customers and fellow creatives alike. She is passionate about connecting people to the art they love, but also art that has been produced with love.
“I have hand-picked the artists I work with so that my customers know they can buy with confidence, and I am always available if they have any questions. Each and every piece I sell is a handmade original, and everything I list online is under £500 including shipping.”
“I want my customers to know they can own something unique and beautiful without breaking the bank, but I don’t push my artists to create the same thing again and again if they don’t want to. If they are not happy with what they are creating, our customers won’t be happy either.”
A resilient person, Catherine prides herself in bouncing back when things don’t go to plan, one of many characteristics she credits to her late mother. Like the art she creates, she believes success is ever-evolving and changes from person to person. When goals are reached, she finds comfort that another is just around the corner, and has learnt to feel the fear and do it anyway.
“If something isn’t at least a little scary, then it probably isn’t worth doing. Starting this business has been terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure! There will be moments when everything doesn’t look so rosy, but you have great people on your side. Keep going, keep learning, keep being grateful for the opportunities that come your way, and everything should work out OK.”
“If you put the work in, the rewards will find you, even if they don’t appear straight away.”
Acknowledging that it isn’t always easy, and that nobody said it would be, she believes anyone can start a business if they are determined enough to keep trying.
The online aesthetic
So where to start? For BobCat Gallery at least, business relies heavily on web sales. Over the years, Catherine has tried many different website builders and content management systems, but chose GoDaddy for its simplicity of use and cost-effectiveness.
“There are tonnes of great templates to get you started, a range of features you can customise to make sure your website reflects your brand, and great tools to help with SEO and content marketing. With a couple of clicks I can update my content, the products in my shop, my mailing list and more.”
“With GoDaddy, building a website was a breeze. Everything was easy to set up, configure and customise just as I wanted it.”
“I love how easy it is to edit the categories in the online shop. For me, it means that my customers can browse and buy according to their budget, their favourite style, or by searching for a particular artist. I also like how simple it is to drop in HTML on any page if you need to embed something – for instance, a virtual gallery space to showcase artwork collections or exhibitions. I do this once a month, and with a couple of clicks it appears exactly as I need it.”
With GoDaddy, this artist admits she doesn’t need to be an expert in web design since everything is paint-by-numbers. And while she finds consistency in her website partner of choice, every day is different in business. She considers where she was one year ago and smiles, reminding herself that she has her own business and anything is possible. She continues listening and learning, enjoying the moments that make it all worthwhile.
“I still do a little happy dance every time I sell something!”
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