Liz Powers is the co-founder and chief executive of ArtLifing, a company that provides homeless and disabled artists the opportunity to earn income through the sale of their own artwork in the form of original paintings, art prints, and other products.
While a student, her company was part of the Harvard i-lab’s Venture Incubation Program. Now, ArtLifting is based out of the Harvard Innovation Labs’ Launch Lab.
How did you get started at the i-lab?
I applied to be part of the Venture Incubation Program in the i-lab in the fall of 2013. We actually weren’t accepted the first time we applied. We were just at the idea stage at that point.
We kept building the company, and we were accepted to the VIP in the winter of 2013.
I was SO excited. Not only did I stop running the business out of my apartment, but I became connected to inspiring mentors, i-lab staff, and other entrepreneurs. It was a total game-changer.
Which resource at the Harvard Innovation Labs was most helpful for ArtLifting? Why was it so useful?
My fellow entrepreneurs.
Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs allowed us to limit the time spent researching how to build a business and go straight to a solution.
For example, instead of having to spend hours researching payroll companies, I just asked the founders of other teams sitting around me, and they recommended specific companies to work with.
No matter how different someone else’s business is, it is absolutely amazing how much you have in common. All founders and entrepreneurs need to file the similar paperwork, market their company, get lawyers, etc. The list is endless.
What’s next for you and your venture?
We are continuing to expand our impact nationally. We are in eight cities so far and have already had five of our artists find housing.
We are also expanding into e-commerce, licensing, and even corporate sales. We have already sold to two Fortune 500 companies, Staples and Microsoft, and are psyched to keep growing.
If you had to give another student one piece of advice to get the most out of the i-lab or Launch Lab, what would it be?
Ask a LOT of questions to everyone around you. Be aware of your weaknesses and surround yourself with mentors in those areas.
You’ll find that you can have more advisers than you have time to meet with them, so be extremely strategic and diligent with your time.
Anything we missed? Feel free to wax poetic here…
ArtLifting is a business of the future. We are creating jobs for homeless and disabled individuals. We are bringing invisible talent into focus.
I am thrilled to help start a movement of businesses that create jobs for homeless and disabled individuals.
Over the last nine years I have learned a lot. I have listened a lot. I have heard time and time again from homeless and disabled individuals that they don’t want a handout. They want opportunity.
I am excited to be part of the movement of for-profit social enterprises that are redefining “social good.” Proving how “social good” doesn’t just mean “charity.”
We are creating jobs, offering opportunities, and helping invisible individuals become visible.