Interview with Tessa Smits – Mixing art with entrepreneurship


When we think about entrepreneurship we usually think about the traditional jobs. We rarely stop to think that artists are also entrepreneurs. At least that’s the case with me. On November 27th completes 10 years of existence and is hosting a festival to celebrate it, as one should. Among several activities, there are art exhibitions and we interview the artists exposing their work. Here is the story of Tessa Smits, the artist who gives great lessons on being a successful entrepreneur.

Hi Tessa, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Tessa Smits, 41 years old, artist and writer. I wasn’t always an artist. I worked as an interim marketer for years and started my own online company. After years of working 24/7 my company went bankrupt, I lost everything; my house, work, money. However, instead of feeling depressed I felt relieved. There was no more fear because there was nothing left to lose, I decided to take this opportunity and follow my passion for making art and became a full-time artist. Years later I wrote a book about this period: “Failliet, mooier wordt het niet.”.

You call yourself a ‘failed entrepreneur’ why is that?

I don’t call myself a failed entrepreneur. I did suffer a bankruptcy, a lot of people might think that means I’m a failed entrepreneur. But I disagree with that. I’m still a very enthusiastic entrepreneur and love working independently. I do work in a totally different way than before my bankruptcy. Losing everything brought me a new perspective on life. Instead of following money objectives, I now follow my heart and intuition and money seems to follow automatically.

When was the moment you decided to become an artist?

One day when I was 30  years old, I was looking for something I could really pour my heart into. Out of blue, I decided to go to an art shop and buy some painting materials. From the moment I put my first brush stroke on my canvas, I was hooked. It felt like coming home. Creating something with paint, something I never did before, felt so familiar, I just knew, this is what I’m supposed to do. But it took me almost 8 years and a bankruptcy to have the courage the follow my heart and become a full-time artist.

And how is that going for you so far?

It has been a ride on a rollercoaster ride, I decided to live with my sister in Spain. This way I had all the time and space to start this new art career. The first year was all about experimenting, trying to discover what my signature would be. It became really clear when I discovered the dot technique. Painting with drops of paint. A very meditative way of creating an artwork. From the moment I used this technique, I fell in love with it. And from that moment on I started to make dot paintings. After 1,5 years, sales also started to grow and now after 3 years, I can make a living being an artist. This also gave me the opportunity to come back to the Netherlands to find my own home again.

Since I’m back (September 2017) it looks like everything is even more in a flow than before. People can actually see my work in real life now and that makes a big difference. In these first months that I’m back, I sold several paintings, took on new commissions for artworks and I am planning on exhibiting for the first time. I’m extremely thankful for how everything is working out right now.

 What do you expect for yourself in the next 5 years?

I have no idea, I don’t plan that far ahead. I just follow that what feels good for now. Most important for me is that I keep on doing what I enjoy the most. And I have no idea where that leads me.

What is your advice for people looking to become entrepreneurs?

Follow your heart, guts, instinct, and feelings, they are always right. There is a reason you want to start a business. What is your passion or talent? How does it make you feel when you can fully focus on that? That joy, happiness, and longing for freedom is the feeling you want to hold on to. I know it is really hard to let go of the money objective but please try. Running a business with the constant fear of not making it at the end of the month is going to result in bad decisions. I believe that if you really have the courage to stay true to yourself that it will lead to more business than you can imagine.

And what is your advice for people who are struggling with being an entrepreneur?

The struggle is almost always about the dilemma: how do I make enough money. People think they have to compromise. And I know it is really hard to trust that everything is going to be alright if you just follow your heart. But if you don’t try and stay in the grey area, it will be a struggle forever.

Jori questions

Profound question

You can go back in time and give your parents one single piece of advice on how to raise you. What do you tell them?

I would tell them to love me unconditionally, that I’m already perfect the way I am, they only have to love me.

Weird question

You won a contest and now you’ll have your own statue on the moon. What pose would you make for it? Why?

Dancing! The best energy ever and it always helps me to get in touch with myself, feel completely free and inspired to create.