A marketing platform for often-undervalued works of art by students was the first-place Teen Track winner of the 2019 Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition.
The e-commerce site, High School Artists, enables students to sell their work directly to the general public — works by dedicated young artists that might not otherwise see the light of day.
The winning project was a collaborative effort by a team of four seniors from Boca Raton’s Saint Andrews School. All are part of Honors Investments and Entrepreneurship taught by John Daly, the school’s AP Economics and Investments/Entrepreneurship teacher.
Each class member was tasked with coming up with a business plan; the class voted to choose the top four proposals. Teams were then formed to develop the top plans for a final presentation.
“I was thinking about high-schoolers trying to make money,” said High School Artists’ 18-year-old founder and CEO, Adam Stiefel. “While thinking of a concept to pitch, I got a Snapchat from a friend of an artwork he had just made. Artists create a tangible product that’s worth something, and it became clear to me that there should be a way for them to monetize such high-quality work.”
Stiefel’s idea became one of the class picks. Rounding out the team is COO Billy Swann, age 17; CMO Chloe Bogen, 18; and CFO Dalen Michaels, 17.
Swann noted how the cost of supplies can add up for aspiring artists.
“For many kids, their passion is painting or drawing, but they have to work bagging groceries to pay for supplies,” Swann said. At the same time, middle-income families may feel priced out of the art market, while unappreciated works languish in closets.
The team’s business plan addresses these needs via the e-commerce website, HighSchoolArtists.com. Here, students are provided guidance on how to price their works based on size, the creation time required and the amount of detail involved. Suggested prices range from $10 to $300, higher if the work is a prize-winner. To help incentivize schools to promote the site, a percentage of profits from each sale goes directly to the school where the student is based.
“On High School Artists you can get high-quality, one-of-a-kind pieces for a very reasonable price,” said Swann, who notes that the site helps develop and promote young, entrepreneurial artists.
Crunching the numbers was among the team’s bigger challenges.
“There was nothing on the market to compare it to,” Michaels said. “There were tough questions, like, how do you know there’s a demand for this? We needed to show that it was a viable product and service.”
The website, now operational, is designed to create a personal link. Behind each artwork in the website’s gallery sits a picture of the student artist.
The team projected sales of $40,000 for the first year, leading to a gross profit of $11,600 and net of $1,700. By year 5, they project $140,625 in sales and an income of $338,968.
Several artworks on the site are by Bogen, who is currently enrolled in AP Studio Art. She focuses primarily on photography, she says. “I’ve been doing it for the last four years, using both film and digital, as well as some graphic design.” She plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin after graduating this spring.
Swann is headed to the University of Florida to study electrical engineering. Michaels plans to attend the University of San Diego to study international business and entrepreneurship.
Stiefel has been accepted at Florida State, where he plans a double major in political science and entrepreneurship before going to law school. But he also wants to continue working with High School Artists, which he hopes to take nationwide.
“I was blessed to have the best group,” Stiefel said. “They had the most drive, ambition, charisma, presentation skills and work ethic.”