Ever talked yourself out of applying for a job because you deemed yourself underqualified, only to stare disbelievingly at your laptop screen when you stalk LinkedIn and find out that the person who got the role in the end was once your intern? Where men can be assertive and brash, women often tend to shrink back and proceed with caution rather than throwing it to the wind. I’ve worked in fashion for almost eight years, but there are times when I stall over dishing out styling advice to my friends never mind readers. This can work both positively and negatively, but if you’re looking to disrupt rather than plateau, then the only way to evolve is by doing things that scare you.
Juliette Loughran started her career working for her father’s business selling high-end, luxury cars, before deciding to make moves in the art world, launching her own ‘roaming’ gallery. “It’s a world I hadn’t given much thought to,” she admits. “That said, I’ve always wanted to have a great art collection and I also thought it was a way to educate myself and kick start that.” Initially, Juliette saw the gallery as a sideline project but one show rolled into the next and after three years of back-to-back shows, Loughran Gallery was officially launched. “I had no idea there was even the perception [the art world] was hard to get into. I think my ignorance was probably a blessing,” Juliette says.
Well, isn’t it always more rewarding when you’re unexpectedly thrown in at the deep end and still manage to come out breathing? Of course, a crystal ball would be nice, but really believing in what you’re doing makes any business or plan almost instantly successful—even if you do fail, at least you went for it. We were interested to find out how Juliette built her business from scratch, her tips on breaking into an industry as an outsider and how social media plays into her strategy, research and client retention.
It wasn’t necessarily my plan to have a gallery or even to work in the art industry, it’s a world I didn’t know anything about nor had given much thought to. Art was always my passion and one day I had the idea to turn that passion into a business. I had originally thought it would be almost a side line business for me, a project I’d work on when I had the time. That said, I’ve always wanted to have a great art collection and also thought it was a way to educate myself and kick start that. For me, building a collection was a childhood ambition. I always found it quite a romantic idea that in years to come you’d forever have all the memories and stories of how you came across the works or artists. The business started to snowball and almost before I knew it I moved away from what I was doing at the time to concentrate fully on the gallery.
When you have a family business it’s not really like working for anyone else; you’re a team and everyone gets involved in anything that needs doing. I’ve been brought up in that world so I always thought it would be difficult to transition into working for someone else. I wish I could say I sat down and did a business plan and really thought it through, I didn’t. I just knew it’s what I wanted to do. If you’re passionate about something, I always think you make it work. I definitely didn’t have much sleep for the first three years. I was working every moment I could. We did pretty much back to back shows moving all over London. It was really full on but amazing and taught me so much. Once I’d got the website built I really engaged with my client base. It made it easier to communicate with clients and it was a great platform to get the artists and work out there.
HOW SHE’S USED BEING AN OUTSIDER AS AN ADVANTAGE
When I said before that I really hadn’t got any knowledge of the art world, that is the absolute truth. I had no idea there was even the perception it was hard to get into. I think my ignorance was probably a blessing. I didn’t know the rules or how things should be done.
The first artist I approached with my idea was Dave White. I’d bought a couple of works from him previously and we’d hit it off. He was totally behind my idea from the very get go and both Dave and his wife Chris were an amazing support, they really mentored me which looking back gave me confidence in what I was doing. I didn’t know any of the other artists so it was just a case of approaching them and asking if they wanted to be involved. We’re not talking about being involved with a big fancy gallery or even with a new gallery that had good investment. It really was a complete start up and work in progress.
For the first show I used a mews garage to exhibit the work so possibly not the best prospect they were being offered at the time. It was so tiny, on the opening night everyone was spilling out onto the street. It was December and absolutely freezing cold, probably not the warm welcome to Loughran Gallery people were expecting, but it was so fun and I guess it kick started the vibe that we weren’t like any other gallery. To this day I’m not sure why they said yes, but I’m so pleased they did, sometimes it’s just a gut feeling both ways.
I followed my instinct and did what I thought would work. I wanted to create an experience around each show so people would enjoy and want to come back for the next time.
WHY POP-UPS HAVE BECOME SUCH A BIG PART OF HER STRATEGY
It would have probably been more economical to start off with a permanent space. That said, I didn’t want to get funding so the pop-up option was the best way for me to self-fund the gallery. Pop-up locations presented themselves and opportunities arouse. I never had a checklist of what I wanted, just a very open mind and I always knew exactly when I saw something whether or not I wanted to create a show there. Having your own business is a very personal thing. Sometimes it’s not just about the bottom line; other factors come into play so it’s a balancing act.
ON CHOOSING WHICH ARTISTS TO WORK WITH
I research a lot. I read all kinds of book and magazines and love to visit different museums and collections but also just simple social media has been great. I recently came across an artist on Instagram and ended up buying some of his work. You just never know where you’ll see something you love so I like to keep an open mind. I go a lot on gut feeling; it’s not a science but I am a big believer in intuition and following your instinct. Other than that, it’s really important for me to get on well with each artist, to be compatible and enjoy working together.
HER STRATEGY FOR GETTING THE RIGHT CLIENTS INTO THE RIGHT EXHIBITIONS
You have to understand your clients and what it is they enjoy and are looking for. Once you know that you can build on it. I work closely with clients, both in bringing artists they may not have heard to them and also in building their collections. I prefer to work on a personal level rather than firing off hundreds of mail outs. You get to know your clients’ tastes and what they’re looking for – it’s really rewarding when that clicks.
I don’t like aggressive networking. I’ve never been to anything just purely to network, I don’t think it works like that plus it just would be exhausting. I think people underestimate the importance of looking after yourself in all of this. You can’t take too much out of the tank so to speak. So is it a good idea to be constantly networking as opposed to working on the work you have to do? In my opinion, no. Referrals are a fantastic way of finding new clients and a lot more effective.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSERVERANCE
You have to stick at it, business doesn’t just happen and you can’t expect it to. There are so many stories of people on the verge of failure and then something happens and they make a success of it. I really think that most of the time that something is just sheer determination. It’s easy to give up but to really dig in and get the job done is hard. I’ve been lucky to have strong influences from some fantastic people so don’t be afraid to reach out for support.