Nevada Interrupted: Sparks studio owner develops ‘peace of mind’ art kits, crosses fingers for loans
The Nevada Independent
SPARKS, Nev. — Olivia Franks’ creative studio All Fired Up! near the Sparks Marina in Northern Nevada is usually bustling with families and couples designing images on paint-your-own pottery or celebrating birthdays with DIY group art projects. For those of age, sipping wine is an option while creating artistic pieces.
Nowadays, the studio sits empty while Franks updates a new online shopping page and creates birthday, pottery and variety kits with activities for people stuck at home.
The kits include everything necessary to finish the projects, such as paint and brushes. Prices range from $20 paint-your-own dragon mugs to $40 surprise kits for kids and $120 group birthday kits containing paint-your-own-pottery, mosaics and slime, among other things.
“People are still having birthdays and anniversaries and life continues to go on, even though we’re sectioned off and quarantined with our own families,” Franks said. “I think that it’s important that people celebrate those birthdays and make things special.”
She said she feels fortunate that she can continue to supply families with pick-up art projects, which not only covers some of the rent and utility bills but also helps parents entertain children who might get antsy.
“We’ve been calling [our kits] peace of mind for moms,” she said. “Art is such a nice way to [stay busy]. I think that it just brings the families even closer together. And the bonus is that [the kids] have this wonderful piece of work that they’ve worked hard on.”
Some of the projects require a kiln. In that case, Franks said families can drop items off at the studio where she can fire them. She said all of the art supplies are washable, which makes cleanups easy, and she is also working with local artists to host Zoom-guided painting classes.
“I think people are a little bit hesitant to bring [potentially messy art projects] home,” she said. “But once they do, and they realize how much fun the kids have and they are keeping them occupied, but being creative at the same time and not wrecking their houses, they’ve been super appreciative.”
Even though the Zoom sessions are going well and the art kits are selling, Franks said she has lost upwards of $60,000 in sales since the coronavirus hit and is closing one of her studios in San Diego, where she was living before she opened All Fired Up! in Sparks last July.
Because of the income loss, she had to temporarily lay off her five employees at the Sparks studio, and she is waiting to hear back on the SBA loan applications she submitted a while ago.
“My bank got back to me and said that I was 65 percent through the loan process and they were just waiting for funding to fund me basically, and then I received an email … where they announced that the [Small Business Administration] was completely depleted of all their funds,” Franks said. “Since I’ve already gotten through the application process, I’m in line for this next round, but we’ll see.”
If she receives a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, Franks said she would rehire her staff and have them help develop more creative ways to keep kids engaged, as well as get some spring cleaning done around the studio.
“If we can just get funding, that would really ease a lot of the pressure that all of this has created,” she said. “It’s definitely a scary time for all small business owners right now … the uncertainty is disconcerting.”
Despite her fear, Franks said in her 23 years of owning studios, she has weathered a variety of financially difficult situations with support from the community. The pandemic will eventually end, and that has kept her spirits up, she said.
“One of the silver linings of this whole pandemic is that we have seen people come together and really try to support each other and get through it together,” she said.
Disclosure: The Nevada Independent was approved for a PPP loan.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.