Accessorizing with art
EpSteps mixes artistic designs with fashion
Sarah Epstein '12 has long admired her mother Tina Epstein's elaborately colorful oil paintings. As a child, she would watch her mother spend long days painting in their Dallas home and give input on what she did and did not like. Throughout the years, the artwork marked Sarah's own development through life, and as she grew up, her mother's artwork changed and evolved with her.
Now, as a senior in college about to embark on a new stage in life, Sarah is making sure that Tina's artwork continues to evolve as she grows older.
Bringing Tina's artwork to a wider array of audiences, and recognizing the ways in which art can be practically used, Sarah has recently started a website, titled "EpSteps," that sells Tina's artwork printed on canvas shoes and tote bags. While only launched in mid-November, the website has already received over 1,800 hits.
With an art studio built into their house, Tina's work has always been available to Sarah. Several years ago, when she saw that her mom had printed one of her vibrantly colored paintings onto a pair of canvas shoes, she had the idea of making her mom's artwork just as accessible to the world as it is to her. It was then that Sarah had the first idea for EpSteps, and recommended that her mother start the business.
While Sarah says Tina never had the time, the idea for EpSteps lingered as an eventual goal in Sarah's consciousness.
"My mom was super supportive," Sarah says. "She never had the time [to start the business], but she said I should take it and run with it."
This summer, as the History major became more interested in business, she decided it was time to start making strides on EpSteps.
Deciding that "creating a business was a good way to learn about business," she began searching for websites that would allow her to print her mother's artwork on shoes.
At the same time, Sarah started building a website. Although she says she has little experience with website design, she found a user-friendly program and got plenty of help from friends.
"I started building a website and getting input," says Sarah. "Different friends helped me with different aspects. Some friends in marketing helped me with marketing, Computer Science friends helped me with computer stuff, friends in art would offer suggestions for the design."
Sarah has created an easy system of distributing the ordered shoes. Since she has already designed the shoes on a separate designer website, when customers order a shoe, it links them directly to that site. The design website takes care of printing the shoes in the right size and style and does all the manufacturing.
The website prices range based on product and style. Smaller tote bags cost $23.95 and bigger ones cost $35. Sneakers and flat shoes cost $60, while low tops and high tops are $68.95.
When the website launched, Sarah sent out an email to all of her friends and family alerting them to the development. Now she is working to contact various art and shoe blogs and relying on friends to get the word out.
Sarah says she is pleased about the positive responses she has gotten so far and is happy her mother's artwork is receiving such encouraging feedback.
"I've been getting a lot of compliments on the artwork itself," says Sarah.
"The website has an art gallery page that features some of [my mom's] artwork. I think that's been really cool for her, and I think she was very flattered that I felt that I could start a business based on her artwork. I think that's a big compliment to an artist that you feel like their artwork can reach such a big market."
However, with limited time and a small budget, Sarah says she has faced several challenges, although having access to the Brandeis community has been immensely helpful.
"People at Brandeis have helped me through the different aspects of starting a business," Sarah says.
"People of all disciplines who know more about a specific aspect of business than I do [have helped me]," Sarah says. "Having that variety and wealth of opinions has been so helpful to me, and a network of people that's also supportive of an idea and so supportive of trying new things."
Sarah has no idea what the future will hold for EpSteps, although she hopes the website will continue to grow. While she plans on doing some traveling after graduation, she hopes to later get a job in business, for which EpSteps has been great preparation.