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Community Involvement Contributes to Artist’s Business Success

Susan Davis is a Wyoming artist name you might recognize. And if not, it’s likely that you have seen her distinctive photographs. Davis photographs landscapes in the surrounding Laramie area, and offers her large, fine art quality print images and cards in numerous stores and galleries, including the Works of Wyoming Gallery (WOW) in Laramie.

And the public is loving – and purchasing - her work. Part of what has helped Davis gain more visibility and traction with her photography business is the combination of her commitment to WOW, and the business support from their parent organization, the Wyoming Women’s Business Center (WWBC).

She learned about the WWBC in the early 2000s, and started working with them in 2008 to grow her photography business. She initially received an IDA matched savings grant from them, which helped her get off the ground with a new printer. 

“I got full life out of that printer,” says Davis, “and made enough to replace it when the time came. That’s a big improvement from when I first started out.” 

Davis has also received business counseling from the WWBC, as well as attended numerous roundtables offered by the WWBC that focus on a variety of business ideas.

“The roundtables are really helpful,” says Davis. “To know I can get business help and advice for free, like how I’m keeping my records, is amazing.” Davis says she has worked to expand her business by developing new images that she and her clients find interesting, as well as expanding the papers she prints on and increasing the size of her prints. 

However, Davis’ photography business success really shines when it comes to her work with the WWBC’s associated gallery, Works of Wyoming. Davis says that she knew of WOW from its inception, and has been selling her work there since 2008. Since then, her sales in the gallery have more than doubled. She says that aside from selling at the gallery, her background in art, which includes a BFA from the University of Iowa, and work in other galleries affords her the ability to offer help at WOW, rather than only seeking out help. She has been volunteering in the gallery for a number of years, and in a variety of roles as needed.

“Being on the Board of the WWBC has given me an opportunity to contribute feedback and ideas,” says Davis. “It has allowed me to see another side of the business equation, and how hard people at the WWBC work to make things succeed. That has helped me want to work with WOW to make things happen.” 

Davis says that the community of people who work within WOW to improve the gallery presentation makes a difference to every artist represented there.

“The thing about WOW is that there are all of these artists together, and such a wonderful collective of people with different skills that come together there to make it a better place,” says Davis.

“The gallery has really helped me to value my work more and help me price more appropriately for the quality of it,” says Davis. “Lorena at WOW has advised me on pricing, and that has really helped my gross sales.”

The staff at the WWBC believes Davis’ success is closely tied to her commitment to the WOW gallery as a volunteer. They say she has not only been part of the selling process as a client, but devoted to the organization’s growth and well-being.  Aside from being on the WWBC Board, Davis has helped jury work for WOW to determine if new art is accepted, hung work and wall tags and helped arrange the gallery, entered inventory data, talked with customers, and most recently has helped with a move to a new gallery space.

“Her involvement with WOW and the WWBC has been a real win-win,” says Jonathan Howdeshell, business counselor for the WWBC.  “She has contributed a ton to our organization by being on the Board and spending countless hours helping at the gallery. I know she has seen an increase in her sales at WOW because of all her hard work.” 

The feeling is mutual. Davis says the opportunity to help the gallery look interesting and bring something of value to the community and the artists there has been inspiring.

“I was amazed by the sweat equity and the amount of work and dedication it took to get the new space for the new WOW building up and running,” says Davis. “Debbie Gorski (the WWBC director) set a remarkable example for the organization, sanding floors, and helping get things ready for the opening. It was above and beyond, and is amazing for the community to have that space. Debbie led by example and made me want to give more back.”

Davis continues to increase her gross sales every year she presents her work through WOW. The work, the time, and the effort at the gallery has all helped her gain more and more business success. But she would argue that there’s even more that keeps an artist doing what they do.

“In the end the trick,” says Davis, “is that you really love your work and can share that with people.” And her work with WOW makes that happen for everyone involved.

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