How Fine Art America Built Its Business by Bootstrapping

By Mikal E. Belicove|For entrepreneur.com|January 20, 2012

Sean Broihier adds new meaning to the term “bootstrapping.”

Operating on sweat equity alone, in 2007, Broihier launched Fine Art America, an ecommerce marketplace for works of art. Artists upload digital images of their artwork to fineartamerica.com and offer them for sale as frame prints, canvas prints, greeting cards and more. Once a purchase is made, Fine Art America outsources the printing, framing, matting, stretching, packaging, shipping and insuring. Then, the company processes the buyer’s payment and sends the profit to the artist. That leaves the artists time to do what they do best — create art.

Broihier’s Santa Monica-based company competes with such funded giants as art.com, allposters.com and cafepress.com — and he’s outperforming them all. Last year, Fine Art America earned $1.5 million and the site offers more than 2 million items for sale — all the while competing for market share against enterprises with hundreds of employees.

So how does Broihier do it? Here are his five tips on how to bootstrap a business:

  1. Be lean.┬áHe started out by…

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