When Ruth Muller launched Print Ark a year ago, she had no idea she would be helping creative women from across Australia turn their hobbies into flourishing businesses.
The concept was born out of frustration, but soon developed into a desire to see fellow 'mumpreneurs' succeed.
A demanding career as a social worker both here and overseas left Ruth, 32, with little time for the things she enjoyed. Becoming a mum reignited her creativity.
"Women often say that being a mum can erode some of your identity. For me, it was the opposite. I started drawing and painting again, dabbling and learning graphic design," Ruth said.
"As I began looking for ways to market and sell my art, I discovered just how many women are creating beautiful artwork, but struggling to make a profit.
"Too many women dismiss their own creativity as being little more than a hobby, and so they aren't willing to invest the time. Those who do give it a go, can find it incredibly difficult to build an organic following that results in sales.
"It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole, spending hours maintaining a website, engaging on social media, trying to stay up to date with all the latest trends and algorithm changes," she said.
"I wanted to build an online community for artists, no matter where they live or what stage they're at, that would enable them to spend more time doing what they love – creating!"
In its first year, Print Ark has attracted more than 7000 Facebook followers and 3000 on Instagram.
Ruth said Print Ark served two purposes – giving time-poor artists an audience of art lovers and providing buyers with a one-stop-shop.
"Decorating my three childrens' bedrooms was extremely frustrating, because of how difficult it was to find affordable wall art online that was also unique," she said.
"Many people can't afford originals but don't want mass-produced prints like those sold in department stores. They want to support small business. Print Ark offers a wide range of prints for the home or office to suit every taste and budget: fine art, photography and graphic design."
Ruth is hoping that Print Ark's inaugural Showcase, launched this week to celebrate its first birthday, will encourage more women to pursue their creative dreams from home, make a career change or turn their so-called hobby into a business alongside their day jobs.
"Collectively we are stronger. We can share our resources and knowledge to help each other succeed," she said.
Question: What is Print Ark?
Ruth Muller: Print Ark showcases independent artists and small businesses who produce wall prints, stationery and other printed products. We serve two purposes - giving time-poor artists an audience of art lovers and providing buyers with a one-stop-shop. We thrive on discovering and promoting, unique and high-quality prints from our handpicked collection with our goal being to give our members more time to focus on what they love doing- creating!
Question: What inspired you to start Print Ark?
Ruth Muller: Originally, the concept was born from frustration. I struggled to find quality prints that were unique, and I recognised that there were many talented small businesses out there producing exactly what I was after, if only I could find them easily without trawling through hundreds of search results! So Print Ark was born, to showcase independent Australian artists, designers and small businesses, and I love that we are supporting small business by making their work more accessible to all of us!
Question: Can you talk about the success you've had in the first year?
Ruth Muller: The first year has been about setting the foundations in place for the future Print Ark. I think quite simply the highlight of the first year has been, the amazing Print Ark audience that grown and is continuing to! Since launching Print Ark in May 2017, I have built a Facebook audience of over 7500 and an Instagram following nearing 3000. I love seeing people follow along and engaging with posts, and being contacted by people asking for advice or help to find "that perfect piece". It confirms to me that people are enjoying what I'm doing and loving what they are seeing!
Question: How do you juggle work and being a mum?
Ruth Muller: It definitely is a juggle! I have 3 young children and a husband who works away from home. I do have set "work days" during the week when the kids are at daycare/school but apart from those jam packed 3 days, "work" is often squeezed in around gymnastics and playdates, after the gym before I collect the kids from the kids club or at night once they are asleep. I'm lucky that my business is very portable!
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about the artists who sell their work through Print Ark?
Ruth Muller: All I can say is that this has been my favourite part of Print Ark. Meeting these amazing, kind and ambitious women has me celebrating their wins with them, and wanting to see their businesses succeed to the greatest of heights. In many cases I can relate so closely to their journey too. They are small business owners, they are pursuing their creative dreams, juggling life, children, family and other work commitments. They push through, creating the most amazing pieces, completely unique to their business and style.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Ruth Muller: Once I drop the kids off at kindy/school, my typical work day is likely to start with scheduling my social media promotion. I'm quite particular in what I choose to share and I often get lost in the Instagram vortex resurfacing hours later! Most important to me is that I ensure that I credit the original sources and tag products where possible. This can be a time-consuming task but because I am sharing other peoples work and images it is one of the most important.
Beyond this often I am working on preparing promotions and collating pieces for our Showcases, as well as spending time checking in and communicating with businesses. I am always on the lookout for those who would make suitable members to our collection and I also spend time responding to new enquiries. In addition to this, I dedicate a good amount of time to researching and learning. I think it is always important to keep improving my knowledge and how I can best continue to support Print Ark Businesses.
Question: What's next for Print Ark?
Ruth Muller: Now that we have celebrated our first birthday we are very much moving into a new phase. With the last year focused on building a strong foundation, this next year is about growth and continuing to build our amazing collection of businesses.
In the future I see Print Ark becoming a community; supporting a wide range of businesses and services and expanding to incorporate stationery, wall paper, decals and beyond! Also, I really want to create a special database of businesses that customise, print and create the perfect gifts, as I know these services are highly sought after. I'm looking forward to seeing this vision take shape!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Image#1 All That is Wild Desert Queen
Image#2 Sara McLeary Flopsy Fine Art Print
Image#3 Pick a Pear Creative