My grandma is a total legend to me. 88 years old (obviously a little younger in this photo), an active painter and creative entrepreneur. A few months ago she called me up “I hear you help people with their careers. Well I want you to help me with mine. I’m not selling enough paintings, the market just isn’t what it used to be and I need to take things to the next level”.
Unbelievable. She’s 88. Mind you this is the woman who until recently volunteered for meals on wheels. All the elderly she was helping were younger than her.
The rest of the family rolled their eyes. She does sell plenty of paintings. Trouble is at 88 she forgets. But this lady is a frustrated creative to the core – driven by ambition and the desire to create and grow. My ideal client.
So I set to work – did a session with her to get clear on what she wanted and why, explored some possible routes and sorted her out with a new website while my brother made a documentary of her. Meanwhile she spent the summer travelling the country showing her paintings at various exhibitions and networking. This is a woman who when she first started painting in her 50s had them showing in the windows of Harrods just 3 months in. She’s not shy of hustling.
This week I get an email from her: “did I tell you by the way” – (she had, 10 times already, but she is 88) – “wonderful news! a printer has approached me – he loves my naive paintings, wants to not only make prints of them but market and sell them for me – this is what I was wanting to find and he ended up finding me!”.
So, I’m heading down there this Monday to talk websites and prints. And I’ve told her I want to interview her about her life as a creative entrepreneur. ‘Oh, is that what I am?’ she said. This is in fact her fourth entrepreneurial business – she’s been at this game for almost 60 years. After serving in the wrens during the war driving lorries through bomb ridden streets she met my grandfather and they were engaged within 3 days and married within 3 months. She was not your typical post-war housewife. She had creative ambitions and business plans. Her first business was designing dresses. She hired women around the country to knit sections of the dresses (and trouser suits I think!) and post them to her where she had them made up. I have the last existing one and it is a vintage stunner, the business had to fold when they moved cities, this time in London she started a catering business – that one lasted while she raised 3 children. Then in her 50s she started painting and was quickly niched into the naive painting market. When she and my grandfather lost all their money in the Lloyds disaster they turned their home into a B&B and with this and my grandma’s paintings they kept themselves going.
Oh and she’d like to point out that never passed an exam at school. Like most of the great entrepreneurs.
So this Monday I’m going to interview her for us and I’d love to ask her some questions from you. So, what advice would you like to ask of a woman who has been creatively making money out of doing what she loves for over half a century and is still at it? Either reply directly to this email or leave your comments over here.