When Sheila Frost was a child, she fell in love with the visual arts. But like many children of the time - it was her father who told her: “Don't do art because it won't pay the bills”. He wanted her to be a doctor, but the blood made her queasy, so she chose business instead. She would grow up to prove her father wrong, by marrying art and business years later by forming Gallery Frost. The journey of how she got there, like the story of all entrepreneurs, took a few detours along the way back to her first love of the arts.
Professionally, what she’s been doing for 25 years is IT work. In an industry that doesn’t include a lot of women, this decision would prove to be foreshadowing and come in handy a few years later. Before she landed in IT, she was in banking. She left that to pursue more time with her children and started teaching. She picked back up her childhood hobby of painting and after five years, had a website collection of her own pieces. It was then she had a lightbulb moment - that she couldn’t produce products for the market quickly enough versus those committed to their creativity full-time. She was approached by artists to help with promoting their art, and the idea of creating a digital hub for artists was born.
The best part of Gallery Frost is using the strengths to build the collective. Sheila is a self-taught marketing specialist and IT person, so she is able to bring skills and expertise to this task of making the world more colorful and an artist’s creation more accessible. This allows the artist to focus on what they do best - a creative person’s dream.
Sheila proved to be ahead of the curve, ensuring that those micro-entrepreneurs could be seen digitally when COVID hit and moved everyone to virtual worlds. The challenge was speeding up the process of building a platform that would be easy for artists to interact with and being ready to launch on a different level to meet the demand of the public. On the side of the digital gallery, she also grew the consulting side of her business, advising the artists of best business and marketing practices. The long-term goal is to create a vibrant and robust digital marketplace, where artists can sell pieces, and also sell classes and other services. It would be the best of artisan markets and putting it online for the world to see, hear and feel.
Sheila was at a crossroads when she entered the Women Entrepreneurship Centre (WEC) program. She was contemplating returning to the workforce but had this business that needed more structure. She had the marketing and business degrees just needed the push in the right direction. She recalls fondly of her time in the program and always looked forward to her sessions. It allowed her to fill her business toolbox with learnings she could implement right away and turn them from theory into practice.
The most impactful takeaway, one she wrote on a sticky note was the quote: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” She recalls being struck but its succinct simplicity and was a good summary of all she learned at WEC and throughout all her studies in the last 30 years. But if Sheila’s story proves one thing, art and business were part of her plan all along.
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Tanya Hayles is an award-winning event planner, public speaker, and freelance writer authentically telling stories and creating change. Located in Toronto and can be found tweeting her free time away at twitter.com/tanyahayles or at tanyahayles.com
The Women Entrepreneurship Centre (WEC), as part of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, is dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs of every age, stage and culture to achieve their business dreams. We believe in fostering leadership. We believe that everyone deserves an equal shot at success. We believe in connecting you with the right people, skills and support to make it happen.
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