(Note: this is the fourth in a series of stories on UAFS alumni entrepreneurs. If you are a business owner and a UAFS alumni and would like to have a story written on your business, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Colors leave Angela Alvos paintbrush as she begins to create a work of art on the canvas. The room is small, but her artworks adorn the walls she smiles as she continues to admire her studio.
Alvos never expected her art to impact the Fort Smith community, but that’s exactly what happened after she opened Cross My Art in 2009.
After taking time off from her previous job in retail to take care of her newborn son, Alvos decided it was time to get back on her feet and begin working again. She rented a small space where she could work on custom artworks for customers.
She then had the idea to start offering art classes to friends in her space. As her audience grew thanks to the help of Facebook, she asked her mother to retire and help her open a studio.
“I was scared to death,” Alvos said. “I didn’t know how I was going to make people understand the way I created my art. I was so grateful to see people leave feeling good about themselves after my first class. I still think it was more therapeutic for me than them, but I loved feeling like I was giving back.”
Alvos said she believes her experiences at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, which was Westark Community College when she attended, gave her the confidence to start her own business.
“Although it's not been easy, it's been very fulfilling,” Alvos said. “I truly believe my experiences at Westark gave me a great advantage in running a successful business. Studying there gave me a sense of pride for our community. I learned from my professors what it meant to find your passion and use it. I use my early childhood education skills every single day teaching all ages to paint. My time at Westark helped give me the confidence to take risks and start my own business.”
By year two, her business had doubled and she moved locations.
“I would have 30 people sign up for a class, and I couldn’t fit 15 in the space that I had,” Alvos said. “I think Facebook really drove my business success the first three years. I developed a string following of loyal customers and it just took off from there.”
Because of her strong social media following, Alvos took a leap of faith and opened Sweet Southern Glaze, a ceramic painting art form, to her business.
“I knew others had tried to open similar businesses in the area,” Alvos said. “But I thought since I already has a strong following through Cross My Art, it just might work.”
Sweet Southern Glaze has been a success and Alvos has moved to her third location on Rogers Avenue.
Although it has grown, Cross My Art has still prioritized building intimate relationships with its customers, which Alvos said is a key to its success.
“I can always tell when it’s someone’s first time at Cross My Art, because they are afraid they aren’t artistic enough to create something,” she said. “By the second time those people come in, they are excited and full of ideas.”