Today we get to explore the COVID pivot of Blue Moose Art Gallery.
Because of the unique structure of this particular business, hopping on a Zoom call to conduct an interview wasn’t going to be productive, so… the 21 owners and leads got together and answered some questions for you.
Can you give us some background on Blue Moose Art Gallery?
The gallery is comprised of 21 owners and we represent approximately 80 Colorado artists. Our ownership model is unique in that our owners are not employees – but volunteers. Each owner brings a wealth of knowledge to the table ranging from CPAs, journalists, nurses, social media, designers, teachers, technology, social workers, marketing, nonprofits, and, of course, artists.
With this many seasoned professionals in the room, we’re very proactive and quick to make decisions. And then there’s our Board of 5 and 16 committees who keep the gallery running smoothly every day. Plus, we all play very well together that is oftentimes unique among 20 women and 1 man! After all, we’re not your typical art gallery – we have fun!
What were your first reactions when COVID began to impact the Gallery?
Originally, it was uncertainty. On March 15th we closed for two weeks, but once the state guidance was released, we completely shut down, postponing (not canceling) classes, and put a sign on the door. The owners held a Zoom meeting on March 24th to plan our strategy. And that’s when our multi-pronged approach began.
What was the reaction from your customers?
Of course, they understood. We heard from customers expressing how much they enjoy the gallery and how they’re looking forward to our reopening. Many of our customers consider the gallery their “happy place” and oftentimes come in to just hang out and chat with whomever is in the gallery that day.
What services did you begin to change or what did you do differently in response to COVID?
Since staff and customers weren’t allowed to physically be inside the gallery, there wasn’t anything we could do about traditional selling and holding classes. So, we increased our communications, upped our social media presence, and decided to sell online gift certificates with an altruistic twist (for every gift certificate sold, the gallery donates to Direct Relief). We gathered the team to make this happen, went live on April 3rd, communicated everywhere, placed our gift certificate on USA TODAY and Visit Fort Collins websites, and it’s been very successful.
How did you connect/communicate these changes to your community and/or customers?
We are lucky to have a marketing & communications machine! We regularly send out eNewsletters to our Customers and to our Artists so these communities have been kept well informed. For a more personal touch, we’ve called customers to say hello and to see how they’re doing (very well received). Since we’re offering Curbside Pickup starting on May 5th, we’re personally calling every artist to check in and to let them know we’re starting curbside.
We also maintain a robust social media presence and post daily. We continuously engage with our customers by posting pics of artwork, artist stories, how-to videos hosted by our artists, and (in normal times) class information, and event details.
What kind of help did you seek out? (if any)
None. Since we don’t have paid employees, we didn’t apply for the PPP.
What have been the results so far?
Very successful. We’re doing well with our gift certificates, good engagement via Facebook, and the customers that we’ve spoken to were so appreciative of the call and can’t wait to come in once we reopen. Since feedback is the most important gauge we have to learn how our business is best serving our customers, we’re currently developing a customer survey.
Do you have any advice for fellow business owners who are looking at pivoting to something new?
Blue Moose Art Gallery (and fellow business owners) pivoted by adapting some of the new into our new normal.
For example, maybe start online classes, start offering curbside as normal, provide personal shoppers, beef up communications, or look into developing an eCommerce site. What specific combination works for you will be unique to you and your business.
This has been a time for pause, reflection, collective innovative thinking, and angst for our businesses. But don’t you think we’ll all come out of this stronger? We do.
Where can we find out more about your business?
Blue Moose Art Gallery
4032 S College Ave, Fort Collins, 80525 | 970-825-5704
We’re not your typical art gallery – we have fun!