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My First Year in my Art Business, How I started my first year as a small business and what I learned



How I started and what I've learned!



I remember when Kaleilehua Designs made a year.

It was a crazy thing to sit in and take in. In a lot to ways it didnt’t feel like it was only a year.

Perhaps that’s because even though officially my business has made a year it feels more like it’s been so many more years than that.

From being a young kid carrying a sketch book with me everywhere, taking art classes and putting my art in children community exhibits. To being in college drawing in order to just bring me joy and a break from my studies. Even to carrying a whole tote bag full of watercolors, papers, pencils and pens to the cafe my husband worked at. I remember feeling like a child again those days. I’d pick a good table close enough to see Logan and yet far enough out of the way of the customers.  He would bring me a coffee as I practiced watercolor and sketching. Those are some of my favorite memories.







I remember when that coffee shop asked me to make them a new menu sign. Then 2 more. Friends asking me to design tattoos. My mom in law asking me to create a logo for a grant and a digital illustration for another project.



All these things happened before Kaleilehua Designs started. When KaleilehuaDesigns designs started I remember that feeling. Each step scary but each step felt right. I just couldn’t think about it too much.


I love thinking about that initial day when I opened up my Etsy shop. I woke up that morning feeling both dread, hope and excitement.


Several family members found my shop before I even made it known that the shop was open and they bought some of my work. I cannot tell you the love that they gave me and the support I felt.

I am so blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who have supported me and referred me to others.

The love from all of you has really helped launch Kaleilehua Designs and helped it become what it is today.

One year down.

I have accomplished so many of my goals and I’m making more everyday!


I am beyond grateful for a community that has surrounded me with love and support.

I am kind of speechless most days. Every order and every positive and encouraging comment means so much to me.




Now what happened this year is also amazing!

I made a collection in honor of my dad and memories I have with him. I made 10 different designed Christmas cards!

I got asked by a good friend to join on a collab where we designed sweaters. Made stickers. I got asked to do watercolor house portraits, custom floral pieces, made a hawaii flower watercolor collection, went on a podcast, made Mother’s Day cards, thank you cards, birthday cards. I also made the transition from Etsy to my own website.

I learned how to stretch watercolor paper, I learned (still am learning) framing and matting. Designed a few more tattoos!

Sold art at some markets. And very recently got some art in a brick and mortar store!

I’m so excited to see what this next year will hold.


Things I’ve learned along the way


1. Trust the process

I have been pushing hard for Kaleilehua Designs to be a success. And for a small business there is so much work that goes into it before you ever see a reward for your efforts. And it is important that you need to put the effort in. A lot of effort.

But I’ve learned that I need to trust myself and my decisions especially on how I want this business to go. It’s okay to not take every opportunity. It’s okay to say no sometimes. And in these early days I know myself to want to already be a success.

BUT it will take years for me to have the success I long for I know that. That’s how it goes! AND THATS OKAY.

knowing that it’ll take maybe 5+ years to be where I am is a good thing because then I know that the efforts I put in now will have a result even if I don’t see it now. It will come if I stay persistent.



2. Make mistakes.

I needed and still need to put myself out there! It’s okay that I make mistakes. It means I’m learning. Being the only person in my business it means if something goes wrong (which it has, I have made some embarrassing mistakes!) that it’s my fault.

And that’s okay! It’s crazy how hard I can be on myself sometimes because I want to be professional and organized and together! But I am new and even still I am a human and I will make many more mistakes. But I am choosing to learn from them all. Making mistakes just means that I tried. And that’s more than I can say for the old me.


3. Only compare yourself to yourself


There are so many paths an artist can take as a career. I’m learning about new ones all the time. And although it is great to see and watch and learn from others. We cannot compare ourselves to them because they are on their own journey with their own goals and past.

We can however compare ourselves to where we use to be. Look at the progress you’ve made! And continue to make goals that feel right to you and fit you and your lifestyle.


4. Just keep going


Sometimes things don’t work the way I want it too. Sometimes things seem really hard or too big and unreachable . Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes things are really challenging to figure out. Put yourself out there even in the chance of getting rejected.

But we have to just keep going! Small steps in a forward motion get us places!

Persistence over perfect timing.


So those are some of what I have learned and continue to learn! Hope this helps you in some way. Maybe as a form of encouragement for you to reach your goals and dreams too!

I am so excited that there is still so much more for me to learn! Here’s to another year for chasing the scary dreams!


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