Mary McCoy, Independent alumni class of 2016, visited the Upper School Youth Entrepreneur class last week. McCoy has successfully developed her own business creating, marketing and selling her artwork. As a student at The Independent School, art was an outlet and something she never thought she could make a career out of. But her art teacher, Debbie Pierce, convinced her otherwise. Pierce joined the conversation last week as well via video conference.
McCoy attended the University of Kansas, where she earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts. During her senior year, she was assigned the task of creating her own art show from start to finish. This included creating the pieces for the show, choosing a venue, producing invitations and marketing the event. Just weeks before the show, McCoy left Lawrence for Spring Break, and never returned to her classes. The world was hit by the COVID pandemic, resulting in the cancellation of all in-person classes and ultimately the show. She was devastated.
McCoy completed her senior year of college at her parents’ home. She set up a studio at the back of the house and created. She began posting her works on Instagram every day. She welcomed clients into her parents’ home and began selling more of her pieces. She absolutely loved what she was doing and decided she would make it work as a career.
McCoy says she has found connecting with various communities is one of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur. She began connecting with local business owners as well as other artists on Instagram, and created her own opportunities.
“I didn’t have a resume at the time and I needed to find a way to show people my work,” said McCoy.
She spoke with shop owners and pitched the idea of holding a show within their store. This gave her exposure, while drawing a new audience to the store through her social media.
One of those shops she connected with was Bella Bonita Designs, where she worked with the owner to design a scarf for the store.
“I’ve always loved clothes and fashion," said McCoy. "I basically took one of my paintings and printed it on a scarf. Stella was really fun to work with.
“You really grow when you start connecting with other business owners.”
McCoy recently returned from a residency in France and is preparing for an art show in Dallas. Her business has steadily grown in the six years since she graduated from The Independent School. She is no longer living with her parents, she has her own studio space where she can show her artwork to various clients and she remains connected to her alma mater and the people that helped shape her.
“Independent stays with you… No matter where I am, I will always have that connection,” said McCoy.