Welcome to Apollo Road
My current day job is assistant fabricator at my father's furniture studio, but I am building a visual arts company in my spare time. I studied Finance in college but have always preferred welding, woodworking, spray finishing, CAD modeling, and running CNC ops to a desk. So far, I have bootstrapped this side project by selling my designs and products.
If you didn't know, the first official Apollo Road design was a titanium cooking spatula. Since 2016 I've used the trade skills my father taught me to make furniture and small crafts. Most readers probably know this already but may not be aware of my long-term plan to create a cinematography-based visual arts business. The core purpose of Apollo Road (and the reason I am putting my money, energy, and time into it) is to reduce the typical stress an artist faces day to day running their business. The net goal is an increase in quality of life and increased creative output.
It can be challenging to escape the limits of a 24 hour day. A bespoke sculpture cannot realistically be leveraged and scaled to generate income as one sleeps. Photographers and painters can run prints, but even that has limitations in perceived quality. So equity exposure can be problematic for an artist to attain. Most established artists I'm familiar with aim for higher price points and larger commissions as a way to raise their income ceiling. And for artists just starting, generating sustainable income from their work can feel impossible.
From my experience designing and building, I have experienced how spontaneous and volatile creativity can be. It often decays like some radioactive element or slips through my hands like smoke if I'm not ready for it. Even if you capture that spark of an idea, the next hurdle becomes monetization. Financial pressure is one surefire way to kill creativity, or at the very least, hinder it. My theory is that many artists hustling in the United States frequently hit the same friction points in their business that could be solved in parallel. If that's the case, I suspect an extensive reservoir of suppressed creativity is not reaching the market.
Critical to achieving that goal is creating short films that try to delve into the souls of the artists and their processes (to the degree digital media can). Existing online art marketplaces typically fail to showcase artists with modern cinematography and insightful storytelling. Does the internet need the service I'm building? Can I adequately differentiate from incumbents like Etsy, Saatchi, or Artsy? Even if I can, what difference will it make to the world?
I'm currently operating on a lot of assumptions. I am actively replacing assumptions with real-world data collected from my podcast, interviews, and market research. And without revealing my whole hand, I can say that the next milestone is to produce short films for a handful of selected artists. The subsequent milestone will be landing sales from this media. Why would artists want to take a risk on this platform? Because I don't have to bury brick and mortar gallery overhead in my margin and offer better terms. At the very least, Apollo Road will provide artists with high-quality marketing media to promote their work. I feel obligated to innovate as I am ever mindful of the state of global recovery and the potential for severe economic inflation. And it is comical to me that one of the current best sales channels - art shows - requires the artists to pay for the chance of selling their work. I think that is precisely backward.
Soon, when someone buys from Apollo Road, they will be directly funding the virtuous cycle of creative expression. When this jet reaches a comfortable cruising altitude, Apollo Road will get to work on offering benefits and profit-sharing to the artists in the portfolio.
These future services are all aligned with the primary goal of reducing creative friction. This friction arises when handling the legal, accounting, tax, art show paperwork, marketing, copywriting, and sales activities. To the extent that Apollo Road will offer solutions for each of these domains, they will, of course, each be optional or a-la-carte. Everyone operates differently.
The highest risk early on is that I can't deliver on media quality and sales targets. As costs drop and technology gets better, world-class media becomes standard operating procedure and can no longer be a differentiating factor. Superior writing and storytelling must come before high production values. The art of achieving both will be the foundation for the long-term plan.
There are still unanswered questions in this plan, and I must answer the fundamental questions: why buy art at all? If you purchase even one item from an artist at a street fair, gallery, retail store, or online, you become a patron. One hundred years ago, this ability was only possible for the ultra-wealthy, discerning, and sophisticated. It's a modern wonder that almost anyone can access beautiful works of human creativity on any given day. I hope this venture brings more exposure and accessibility to people wanting to appreciate the visual arts.
Thanks for taking the time to read my secret long-term plan. This is the first newsletter of many - if you wish to keep your finger on the pulse with new podcasts, artist interviews, films, and work to purchase - subscribe to the list and share what you find inspiring. One important note: Apollo Road will never hide content behind a paywall.
Should you wish to fund progress toward the goals outlined in this letter personally, a subscription option is available online.
So here is the road ahead: I'll sell products and designs and dump all free cash flow back into creating a cinematography-based marketplace. As the portfolio grows and more artwork sells, I'll toss those free cash flows into pivots and optimizations needed to spin up the secondary and tertiary missions: benefits and profit-sharing for artists. I hope this newsletter can one day be a miniature version of Helios' flaming chariot that brings light to the world each day.
As always, if you have comments, questions, or connections, please reply to this email or leave them below (if viewing on the web):