So, if you’re thinking about kicking off your own business, you may find some inspiration from these five small businesses that combine the arts with unique services.
“When people are concentrating on creating art, they’re not concentrating on pain,” says Lisa Brown of Art as Therapy. She knows the frustration of dealing with chronic sickness and how art can lift someone out of the pain, even if for a while. For her, creating art was the only thing that helped her during her five-year struggle with Lyme disease. What’s more, it put her on a path to helping others through her art.
With a master’s degree in Creative Arts Education, Lisa opened her business in 1998, in Watchung, NJ, to help those struggling with adversity. Since then, she’s taught hundreds of classes and facilitated workshops throughout the U.S. and around the world in Ireland, England, and Mexico, to name a few.
Clover has helped her take payments online for annual retreats, her original art, and her book, “Hold the Moments: Creative Experiences in Parenting.” And, Clover Flex gives her easy credit card processing wherever she happens to be.
“I always say that half of this job is psychotherapy because there’s a lot of projection onto objects of great value to people. They tend to work through their problems through the instruments, and I like helping people reach that kind of catharsis with a tool that inspires them.”
Paris Patt owns Patt’s Guitar Repair in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. Patt started playing music at a young age and worked in another L.A. guitar shop before venturing out on his own.
“I’ve been playing music since the tender age of two. I taught myself a bunch of instruments over the years, including piano, guitar, and bass. Music has always been a major part of my life, but the professional music industry was never really for me.”
Frustrated with repair shops that didn’t explain why one instrument sounded better than another or how an instrument had been fixed, Patt took a position in a guitar shop, where he apprenticed and learned the trade. Sadly, his mother passed away, but she left a rental space that suited a guitar practice. So, he and his wife decided to go into private practice, opening Patt’s Guitar Repair.
Patt chose Clover after lots of research into POS systems. Concerned about the exorbitant prices of other POS systems, Patt found Clover’s leasing program appealing and began using the Clover Mini for point of sale and inventory, in addition to a separate cash register.
“Starting a small business doesn’t take much,” he says, just “stick-to-it-iveness and careful financial planning—really delineating what you need versus what you want.
And, for him, the payback is more than money. “When someone brings in an instrument that’s not functioning properly, it can be very frustrating for them. Once I fix or restore it, I can see how they light up and feel inspired to make music. I find that very rewarding.”
“You’ve got to want to do this. It’s not a side hustle or a casual way to make a little money. We want people who love kids and are educators who want to share their knowledge,” says Krystal Ferguson. She and her business partner Lindsay Duncan co-own The School–Creative Arts Education, offering programs in dance, theater, aerial arts, parkour, and more in Mississauga, Ontario.
Both Ferguson and Duncan grew up dancing and worked professionally as dancers and in the arts. With Ferguson’s background as a teacher and Duncan’s experience as a coach, they shared the same educational philosophy and vision of how the arts could be brought to children. And, when opportunity knocked, they opened their own studio.
Because they wanted to give children “access to industry professionals … with real-world experience in a studio setting,” Duncan says their teachers “have university or college degrees in their field and/or are also active performers in their industry.” What’s more, they follow trends in children’s programming closely and incorporate a wide variety of classes—from gymnastics, parkour, and breakdancing to aerial arts, hip hop, and more.
They’ve been with Clover since opening in 2017. Back then, Clover was fairly new to Canada. So, when their provider delivered the set up, he said he was pleased to present them with the very first Clover terminal in all of Ontario. “We were very proud of all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ it elicited from all the parents,” says Duncan.
They use the Clover Flex, and “it’s been amazing,” says Ferguson. “It has no issues–it just works! But for us, the most exciting part is the Virtual Terminal.” It proved invaluable when they were away at competitions. “I could just log into the Virtual Terminal to do whatever I needed to do. Now, it’s invaluable–really! We just send parents an invoice, and they can pay directly.”
They also love how easily Clover syncs with their website through the Smart Online Order + WordPress app. When they had to pivot quickly to virtual classes in 2020, they were able to create a portal on their website that links directly to their POS to make payments easy for parents. “Boom. Virtual classes were set up and paid for. It was really seamless,” says Ferguson.
“Clover completely saved us in that moment. We couldn’t have made such a big pivot in our payments processing in one afternoon like that without you guys,” says Duncan. “So, that took a big weight off of us.”
“I’ve always felt drawn to the food industry. I love the energy inside a commercial kitchen and the restaurant atmosphere in general. My first job as a teenager was as a dishwasher in a pizzeria,” says Arturo Garza, owner of Gonzo’s Rock And Roll Pizzeria in Sandwich, Illinois.
Garza went on to work under a man who would ultimately become his lifelong mentor, Gary Schaefer, AKA “Gario,” a local pizza legend. “I credit him with so much. He taught me a lot about the business during those early days in my career and gave me endless inspiration,” says Garza.
He explains how Gonzo’s Rock and Roll Pizzeria came to be: “Eventually, with [Gario’s] blessing and namesake recipe, I opened Gonzo’s Pizzeria in 2007 and renamed it Gonzo’s Rock and Roll Pizzeria in 2011. His name is very well known within this community, so it really boosted my reach when I first opened to let people know I was using his recipe.”
Customers travel up to 40–45 minutes west from the Aurora, Montgomery, and Oswego area to eat his pizza because of the Gario brand. As Gario always told Garza, “Just capitalize on my name. You have my permission, and I want you to.”
The pizzeria isn’t just any pizzeria. Combining Garza’s love for music–he’s been a bass player for 45+ years–with great food, it’s a venue for musicians. With high ceilings and wood floors, the relatively small dining transforms into an intimate stage for local talent, thanks in part to Garza’s stage crew experience at downtown Aurora’s internationally renowned blues festival.
“I think it is very important to feature local artists as a way to highlight the talent in our community,” says Garza. “The musicians that play here really enjoy the intimacy of our space. It feels like a tight-knit community where everyone knows and supports each other.”
Garza first saw “this really cool” Clover system in his local bank. His banker sent a Clover rep to his restaurant, and, he says, “it didn’t take much explanation before I was sold. I’d never had a POS system until then. And I have no regrets. Clover is one of the coolest systems ever. It really is.”
“Even though I was first drawn to Clover by its cool design, I soon realized how many other things it can do, too. It can do inventory, it can do payroll, it can do scheduling. It’s amazing. It’s streamlined my operations so I can give more attention to pizza and music.”
His Clover system also helped him quickly pivot to contactless, curbside pickup when he needed to. “One positive thing to come out of that change is that now all orders are prepaid, which simplifies our bookkeeping.”
“The beautiful thing about the arts is that it allows you to not only express yourself, connect to yourself, and connect to others, it also sparks creativity,” says Laura Hoyos of Paint 2 Smile.
As a young girl, Hoyos immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia with her family. Like her father, she became an artist, using art to connect to her Colombian heritage. In time, Hoyos developed a passion for building community through art expression and education.
Leaning on her educational background in fine arts, graphic design, art history, and art education, Hoyas forged a new path as an arts educator, opening Paint 2 Smile to help clients build community and discover their inner artists. Since 2015, she has created guided painting experiences as a team-building exercise for corporate clients in the Triangle area of North Carolina, focusing on corporate art and wellness through guided paint experiences that help teams build connections.
With QuickBooks integrated into her Clover system, Hoyos can easily keep track of her business expenses, and Clover’s Constant Contact app helps Hoyos stay engaged with customers and offer special promotions. She uses Clover Go to accept payments no matter where her business takes her. “Everything is accessible right from your phone.”
For more on unique small businesses and how Clover has helped them start and grow, read our Meet the Merchant series.
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