We had the good fortune of connecting with Fox Piacenti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Fox, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Like many business owners, I’m here to scratch my own itch. I had a personal frustration with how art commissions worked– especially in regards to how they worked for personal, original characters.
I had a vision in mind of how I could fix it– how I could solve the problem. And I had the skills to do it. I’ve always been of the mind that if you want to see something change you have to put in the effort, so I took all the skills I’d learned over my career, learned a few new ones, and did it.
I wanted to see the end of artists having their pay stolen out from under them. I wanted to see the end of people paying for art they’d never get. I wanted to make my living making better tools and opportunities in this space.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Running a business has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I learn new things every day I wouldn’t have gotten to know before. Like any other job, there are things you don’t understand until you’ve been doing it for a while. Unlike other jobs, there’s no one to defer to when a decision has to be made. It’s in your hands.
The more you can pay attention to what your customers value the better off you’ll be. You need to have a mindset to serve others or people will see that you’re not there to help them. Have self-respect, set boundaries– and when you see your customers making a mistake that benefits you disproportionately, let them know. If they find out that you sat by and watched them mess up, they’ll remember. Be consistent. Be kind.
People remember how you make them feel more strongly than what you did for them. Helping someone out doesn’t endear them to you if you’re abrasive the whole time you do it. Listen carefully not only to what people say, but to what they don’t say. Most people won’t speak their mind, but if you are attentive, and listen carefully, they will open up to you.
Most of all, lean into discomfort. If you dislike working on finances, if you dislike doing marketing, if you dislike doing whatever– go and learn it anyway. When you start a business, there’s no one else to do these things, so if you remain ignorant about them, they will turn into liabilities. You can hand them off to someone else once you’re big enough to hire them out, but until then, suck it up and take care of it. You grow at the speed of your lowest competence, so you have to learn as much as you can.
The biggest thing I want people to recognize about Artconomy.com is the level we go to be transparent and fair about our dealings. We want to bring as much clarity and integrity as we can to a space that has a history of being filled with flaky people. We’ve built-in features to help artists make sound decisions on pricing– we break down every fee we can to be as transparent as possible.
If an artist uploads more revisions than they’ve promised, the system reminds them it’s OK to say no to clients demanding more than they’ve agreed to. The price calculator helps them figure out what their hourly rate is so they can determine if it’s sustainable.
The thing that excites me the most about what I do is that when people try the system, they love it. Some people only do their commissions through Artconomy now because it’s the best tool for them and meets their needs when nothing else has. That makes me happy– I’m happy to help.
The code to do everything the site does is immensely complicated. I’ve had to rewrite most of it a few times over by now. There were features I wish I’d had in the beginning but did not, but the only way I could really learn what I needed was by trying and failing over and over. Being persistent is key, and it’s paying off.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The Johnson space center is number one on the list for people who are from out of town. Houston’s famous for NASA and the space program, and there’s so much to learn there.
Houston’s a fractal city, with smaller towns inside of it, each with its own character. There’s a ton to do and see. City Center is especially lovely to stroll through. Discovery Green and Hermann park– especially the Japanese garden, are captivating.
I love the local breweries, though I’ve been avoiding them to slim down! Karbach and St. Arnold’s give great tours and the beer is exquisite. I haven’t been to 8th Wonder yet, but I hope to some day. Not to mention the distilleries– we’ve got some great spirits, too!
If they’re in the mood for something weird, the Orange Show is a great place to go. There are myriad museums to enjoy as well. The Museum of Natural Science, the Art Car Museum, the 1940 Air terminal Museum– these are just a few.
Food-wise, there are some hidden gems, like Pappy’s. While not exclusive to us, Pluckers is my favorite wing’s place. I love the Pappas restaurants, especially Pappasitos. Lupe Tortilla’s great, too!
Perhaps it’s my nerd showing but I still love laser tag and I’m grateful that Houston has it– and in multiple locations. There’s a new furry convention starting up in August called StratosFur that I’ve been helping with. That will be a very colorful event!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to thank my wife most of all. She found me before I launched Artconomy.com and encouraged me the whole way. She’s been instrumental in improving the feel of our outreach and helping me better understand the emotional landscape I’m navigating. And she’s as sharp as I– perhaps more so. I love every day I spend with her and I couldn’t be more lucky to have her by my side.
AudreyStarlight, Psychoseby, Yggdrasil-Incar