Dan Ginger Tuesday, 20 January 2015.

The retail sector is being revolutionised by online sales and e-commerce. In marketplaces where there is high saturation, uniqueness becomes key and online platforms must not only look the part, but sell items that stand out from the crowd. In a time where differentiation is key, ArtStar seeks to sell exclusive gallery-standard art – emerging as a market leader in online art sales as it offers unique items at affordable prices. CEO Chrissy Crawford spoke to EntrepreneurCountry Global about how ArtStar is revolutionising art online and her individual entrepreneurial journey.

Chrissy Crawford Credit Myrna Suarez

What is your working background before Artstar?
"I was a private art advisor helping collectors build, maintain, and curate private collections. The art world was incredibly insular and inaccessible pre-2011. It was built on relationships and was very time consuming to collect great works. I had to travel to art fairs, attend auctions, have close relationships with galleries, and visit collector's homes around the world to find and vet new acquisitions. My clients did not have the time to do the leg work."

What drove you to set up Artstar?
"Many of my friends wanted me to help them find work for their homes and had limited budgets. I found a complete void in the market between wall décor and fine art. ArtStar's market is consumers wanting more than a poster or stretched canvas from a big box retailer, but cannot dedicate the time or money to purchasing from individual galleries. ArtStar offers over 500 works consumers can customize according to size and framing option. We then produce the art and ship to their door with a hanger and nail. I want to make collecting contemporary art easy, fun and affordable. Our prices start at $55 and our average order value is $200."

What have you found most challenging about being an entrepreneur?
"The technology was a real barrier to entry in the beginning. We built the site on Magento, which is very tech heavy and required expensive developers. All of my capital went into maintaining and trying to improve our websites. Our entire business changed when we discovered Shopify. I was able to cut my fixed costs by 27% and no longer needed a developer, hosting, project managers or designers. The technology for e-commerce is constantly improving and making it easier and cheaper to have a meaningful presence online."

What is different about Artstar compared to its competitors?
"ArtStar works directly with contemporary artists to create editions at a fraction of gallery prices. We are exclusive with all work and offer a wider selection, custom framing, and ship to your home. Unlike other online art e-commerce sites, we produce fine art, not wall décor and posters. All of our artists are gallery represented and we support working artists instead of selling public archives or museum reproductions. Every ArtStar print is signed, numbered, and limited edition. All works are printed to museum quality and archival. We also have LittleCollector- contemporary art for kids. LittleCollector works with top artists to create prints, books, inflatables, and fun sculpture just for children."

How do both the artists and consumers benefit by using Artstar?
"The artists have a new revenue stream from ArtStar and we do all of the printing, framing, customer service, and fulfilment. Artists receive a check based on sales and do not have to handle any of the logistics. We also introduce artists to a larger collecting base on a global scale. 20% of our sales are now international and we consider ArtStar a discovery platform as much as it is an e-commerce site. Consumers benefit by accessing curated, fine art at a fraction of gallery prices plus the ability to add a frame and home delivery at the click of a button."

How will the art business sector change in the future?
"Art was the last market to move online. I have seen a lot of art start ups fail in the last four years. Some failed because they have a tough model or spent their capital unwisely. I think they also failed because consumers are slow to understand the art market and are intimidated to purchase online. Art was so insular and inaccessible that very few consumers were collecting contemporary art. I think art online will follow the same trajectory as high-end fashion and luxury. People will have more access to art and start to educate themselves on the market and trust the online vendors. I think we are about a year away from consumers understanding the difference between a poster from Art.com and a fine art contemporary print and we want to be there when they do."

How have you worked with other companies and why were these partnerships successful?
"We work with Artsy, Paddle8, and Sotheby's. I think it's incredible valuable to work with other companies in and outside your space. You can get your product and brand in front of their lists and gain wider distribution. I believe entrepreneurs should always play nice with other companies."

How do you see Artstar expanding in the future?
"We will keep growing our online catalogue of images and start to access international markets. I would love to work with a large home design retailer as well to become their art partner. Their customers will have access to a wide variety of amazing decor via Etsy, Viyet and 1stDibs. They will want more selection and unique pieces than the same boring generic abstract prints currently available."

Chrissy was speaking to EntrepreneurCountry Global. Credit for the above photo of Chrissy goes to Myrna Suarez.

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