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Close Knit: Artist, Gallery Pursue RIDDC Business Lessons

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] From left, Knitting artist Robert Brosnahan and Casey Weibust, Gallery manager at Out of the Box Gallery, with some of Brosnahan's wares for sale at the gallery.

 

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] From left, Knitting artist Robert Brosnahan and Casey Weibust, Gallery manager at Out of the Box Gallery, with some of Brosnahan's wares for sale at the gallery.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] From left, Knitting artist Robert Brosnahan and Casey Weibust, Gallery manager at Out of the Box Gallery, with some of Brosnahan’s wares for sale at the gallery. The two took the RIDDC business lessons, part of the Self-Employment Project, to learn about pursuing their entrepreneurial goals.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Knitting artist Robert Brosnahan sells his knit fingerless gloves, scarves and hats at Out of the Box Gallery in Jamestown, RI.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Knitting artist Robert Brosnahan sells his knit fingerless gloves, scarves and hats at Out of the Box Gallery in Jamestown, RI.
JAMESTOWN, RI — Knitting artist Robert Brosnahan is embracing his capitalist side with the cooperation of the RI Developmental Disabilities Council and Looking Upwards/Out of the Box Studio & Gallery.  

Robert, 37, is a longtime knitting creator who has made scarves, hats and gloves for friends and family, what he calls his “family business”, since he was seven-years-old.

“Robert has been knitting for a long time,” said Casey Weibust, Gallery manager at Out of the Box Gallery, though he’s been using the studio for his work the past five years. 

Knitting has also been a longtime practice in his family, for generations, Robert said. The work has been slowly growing on him. 

“I’ve become more and more passionate about it,” Robert said. Weibust said she noticed the calming influence practicing his art provided him. The work started showing signs of wider appeal.

People in the studio took notice of his work, and started asking if Robert could produce the pieces for them. Often, people wanted to know if he would sell his items. It began to be clear that Robert had the makings of a successful business, if he knew how to start and manage it.

During the classes, Casey and Robert learned a lot about running a business and marketing it, and received help from the RIDDC in putting those marketing lessons to work, including a business grant.

The program, ‘Self-Employment-The Spirit of Individual Enterprise’,  is funded by the Governor’s Workforce Board and Department of Labor and Training’s “Real Pathways RI” initiative, which supports partnerships between and among public, private, and nonprofit agencies that focus on serving populations with traditional barriers to employment. The Council initially partnered with the Center for Women in Enterprise (CWE), Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to develop the curriculum for the classes and individual business counseling with business development instructors from the project.

“I asked Robert if he’d be interested in attending the class with me,” Weibust said. She said  Out of the Box, a community arts hub at 11 Clinton Ave., running about 10 years, remodeled its studio space in 2018. The spot attracts folks who enjoy creating art, including professional and aspiring artists. The gallery also provides exhibition and studio space, technical support, networking and inspiration for its members and a variety of opportunities for the community.

It’s a constantly expanding effort, Weibust said. 

During the classes, Casey and Robert learned a lot about running a business and marketing it, and received help from the RIDDC in putting those marketing lessons to work, including a business grant, just under $1,000, to help Robert with knitting materials, shelving for his gift shop space in the studio, tags for the merchandise, business cards, and equipment, including a hand loom. He was also able to sell his work at the studio as a paying $65 yearly member, granting him 70 percent of sales at the space instead of 65 percent for non-members.

The classes did require some homework, though.

“The homework was fun, actually,” Robert said. One assignment, he said, was to describe what makes your business special, what helps you stand out. For Robert, that meant items knitted in his family tradition by a passionate artist.

He also learned a little about accurately pricing his products. While he used to practically give his work away with a token $5 price, his average price is now $20.  

Operating the business from the studio has been a good deal for Robert. 

“It’s the best time I ever had,” Robert said. He gets out of the house, doesn’t get claustrophobic, and there’s a lot of space there for him to use. 

In that space, Robert has room to display and sell knitted works including masks, purses, and hats, and his most popular item, fingerless gloves, “They sold out,” Robert said.

Robert’s work is available for sale at Out of the Box, 11 Clinton Ave, Jamestown, RI 02835, during gallery hours, Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. His work will also be part of the Looms and Community Centers exhibit at the gallery from May 16 through June 30.

This page is part of a series of sponsored content pieces for the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council.

 

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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