Staples Small Biz Success Story - Claire Hall Design

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at


In honour of national Small Business Week (October 20-26, 2013), we’re sharing the startup story of a Canadian small business each and every day throughout the week. In our second instalment, we speak to Claire Hall, owner and founder of Claire Hall Design.

Meet Claire Hall. She’s an artist, but not in the traditional sense of the word. She’s extroverted, personable, tech-savvy and anything but ‘starving’—and she’s on a one-woman crusade to bring her custom-made, affordable artwork to homes across the country.

 Today we sit down with her and talk entrepreneurship, dreams of the small screen, and find out what pearls of wisdom she has to offer budding business owners.


How did you come up with your business idea?  What inspired you?

Claire: I’ve been making art since I was a little girl, but doing it as a full-time career actually happened by fluke. I used to paint in my spare time, and one day I decided to put the paintings I’d made on Facebook for fun. Within a day I’d received over 20 orders for artwork, so I took it as a sign and within a week I’d quit my job in the fashion industry and was on the path to my new career.


How did you capitalize on the opportunity?

Claire: I started off by selling to my friends and family, and once those contacts dried out, I had to start thinking about marketing my business. Around two years ago, my business was featured in the Toronto Star, and my website had over 1500 hits the day the article was published. From that one article I received about 100 orders, and the experience made me realize that free media exposure was definitely the way to get my name out there.


How long have you been in business?

Claire: I’ve been in business for just over two years now.


Who is your ideal customer?

Claire: My ideal customer is someone who’s looking for quality, original artwork at a reasonable price. It’s always a bonus when clients give me some creative freedom, too!


What makes your business unique?

Claire: I think the custom aspect is what makes my business unique. When a client contacts me, I will either go to their home to do a consultation or they’ll send me a photograph of their space. During the consultation we’ll discuss exactly what style, subject matter and canvas size it is that they’re looking for, and from there I’ll go back to my studio and create some digital mock-ups where I superimpose different options for artwork on their walls so they can see what their space will look like before I begin painting. This works very well for my clients as there are no surprises, and from the get-go, they know exactly what they’ll be getting and what the finished product will look like.


What benefits do you offer your customers?

Claire: I offer my customers one-of-a-kind pieces that have been created specifically to suit their space. They’re getting much more than just painting; they’re getting custom-made artwork that incorporates whatever colours they have already in their décor, and reflects their own personal taste.


How did you raise money to start your business?

Claire: Luckily my business didn’t require a lot of capital to start up. I had some savings and used them to pay first and last month’s rent for my studio space, and from there I made sure to charge my client’s half upfront to ensure that my supplies and time were paid for before I started painting.


What do you love about being a small business owner?

Claire: I really enjoy the flexibility and freedom of making my own schedule. I also like meeting clients and getting to know people that I might not otherwise get the chance to if this wasn’t my profession. Above all, I love seeing my business grow—that’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. The harder I work, the luckier I get!


How does Staples make running your business easy?

Claire: I’m always printing reference images for my paintings, and I always use my trusty printer and ink (both of which I bought from Staples) to do so. When I’m making mixed media pieces, I print the photograph portion of the painting at my local Staples store using their copy and print services. I just sent the document to Staples through their online facility, and as soon as I get there, it’s ready to go.


Name your Staples 'staple'...

Claire: My staple product would have to be Staples’ own brand ink for my printer. It works perfectly and it’s very cost-effective.


What has made your business a success?

Claire: Hard work! I think that, combined with extreme dedication, quality service and a high level of professionalism makes a great recipe for business success.


What lessons have you learned being a small business owner?

Claire: There are too many lessons to list! But if I had to pick some, a few would be to never give up, to protect yourself when it comes to compensation, and to get through the lows because the highs will be so worthwhile.


What are your business goals for the future?

Claire: My ultimate dream would be to bring Claire Hall Design to the small screen and become a design personality on television. I would also love to own my own high-quality―yet affordable—home décor store, and to have prints of my artwork sold across the globe.


What advice would you give to somebody that wants to start their own business?

Claire: Never do anything just for the money. Decide what it is that you love to do the most, and try to find a way to make money out of doing it. You’ll never really feel like you have to work a day in your life if you can figure that out.

Don’t miss tomorrow's instalment of our Small Biz Success Series, in honour of national Small Business Week (October 20-26, 2013).

By Andrew Patricio

October 22, 2013