Janice Wei is the co-founder of online platform Artsee in the City and among the first to graduate from Foster’s Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program. Since graduating in June 2018, she’s been busy growing her company and cementing her place in Seattle’s entrepreneurship community. We recently caught up with Janice to discuss Artsee in the City, life as an MS in Entrepreneurship alum, and more.
The Artsee in the City origin story
Janice describes Artsee in the City as an “online platform that reaches out to independent, emerging artists to help them bring their work to cafés, restaurants, offices, or any business that has a wall to do display and exhibitions.” The platform was inspired by Janice’s childhood experiences of going to hotels and restaurants with her parents and seeing rotating art displays in the lobbies. A recent visit to Beijing’s former military factory now major art destination 798 Art Zone was also a point of inspiration. In a tech-heavy city like Seattle, Janice hopes that Artsee in the City will help Seattleites “be inspired by art” and encourage “emotional connections.”
Beyond making art more accessible, one of Artsee in the City’s goals is to alleviate some of the stress that comes with the business side of the art world—i.e. booking shows. “After talking with artists, they are so thankful for someone doing this,” says Janice, “…to help them to reach out and look for opportunities so that they can focus on creating.”
One month after graduating from the MS in Entrepreneurship program, Janice and Artsee in the City successfully hosted their first art exhibition in a lower Queen Anne coffee shop. For their second event, the company decided to transform a Seattle coffee shop into one-night art reception space. The café extended its hours for the night and the artist was able to invite friends and family to see their work. As a result, the café increased their sales for the day and the artist sold a few pieces.
Citing the MS in Entrepreneurship program’s emphasis on getting out and talking to people, Janice and her co-founders Dorriene Zhang and Linyu Li (also MS in Entrepreneurship alumni) regularly attend events to network with investors, accelerators, and other Seattle-area entrepreneurs. They’re also continuing to build relationships with Seattle’s artist community, connecting with artists at local events and via email and social media. The word is also starting to get out beyond Seattle’s city limits, as artists in Boston and Vancouver B.C. have reached out to Artsee in the City.
Reflecting on the MS in Entrepreneurship experience
When asked about her favorite classes, Janice says that the Entrepreneurial Finance class and the quarterly pitching sessions have been particularly influential. “Finance really helped me to understand the overall business…how it actually works,” she says. “It changed my mindset about operating a business.” Being able to succinctly and effectively communicate the business is a tool Janice uses on an almost daily basis. Recalling all of the meetings and conversations she and her co-founders are having with artists and those in the startup world “involves a lot pitching” says Janice—a skill she credits to the program’s emphasis on the art of the pitch.
Another skill that Janice is deploying is using metrics to assess her business. For example, Janice tracks the number of artists and exhibition spaces Artsee in the City is working with and compares that to their goals. “Using those metrics help me grow and track my progress,” she says.
The weekly check-ins with the rest of her MS in Entrepreneurship classmates was another reason why Janice is grateful for the program. The community really helped her overcome the adjustment to Seattle’s overcast days and the isolation that comes with being an entrepreneur. “Having someone in the back to support you is just so important,” says Janice. Beyond the mood boost, getting to see what her classmates were working on was really inspiring for Janice. For her, it’s clear that her classmates all have “bright futures.”
To anyone considering applying to the MS in Entrepreneurship program, Janice is quick to point to the program’s unique combination of MBA level coursework with hands-on entrepreneurship experience. “It’s a great program for personal development and obtaining knowledge at the same time,” says Janice. If you’re thinking about applying, Janice offers three simple words: “Just do it.”
Three questions on entrepreneurship
Before our time with Janice was over, we asked her to share her thoughts on what it means to be an entrepreneur, the benefits of being an entrepreneur, and advice for people just getting started. See her answer’s below:
What is an entrepreneur?
“The one that executes but never gives up.”
What are the advantages of entrepreneurship?
“It’s about working on your own idea. It’s just a fabulous thing. I have the passion and I want to tell other people about this idea that I’m working on.”
What is the best advice for first time entrepreneurs?
“Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. Keep on going, and learning, and talking to people and meeting new people. It’s lonely. It’s hard. Everyone knows it but after you go through the hardship, you deserve the best things.”