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How I Transitioned from Employee to Small Business Owner


Olson-Larsen Galleries, a contemporary gallery and custom frame shop in Greater Des Moines (DSM), will soon be celebrating 40 years in business. Susan Watts, the gallery manager from 2003 to 2010, then purchased the business. She previously had spent four years with the Salt Lake Art Center in Salt Lake City, where she served as Coordinator of Education and Curatorial Assistant.

Taking Over

Susan talks about transitioning from manager to owner of the gallery, as well as learning the financials and ebb and flow of the business. When it comes to an aspect of the business that comes hard, ask for help. Find financial resources you can trust and build a support network.

Sales Strategies

Susan talks about how she is working to change the image of Olson-Larson Galleries through in-person networking, social media, strategizing how to go after new clients and other demographics. In the video, Susan touches on the number of shows the gallery holds to make connections with new and old clients. From presentations to an opening reception or artist introductions, the gallery focuses on an education of service to build relationships and make sales.

Leadership Strategy

In her day-to-day business, Susan says she likes to hear ideas from her staff and she tries to balance her staff’s talents with managing.

A Second Location

The main location displays works by artists represented by the gallery. From photography to mixed media and everything in between, the gallery works with both individual and corporate clients. A second location in Historic Valley Junction, located in West Des Moines, allows for the gallery to reach new demographics in a visible space. The alternative space lets artists be seen even though the gallery may not be able to host the art in its main location.

Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 365 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.