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Original photo by Makenna Tourville
Career

Maggie Phipps on Creating a Business During a Pandemic and Body Positivity

From creating a business in the middle of a pandemic, to going viral on TikTok and amassing over 11,000 followers on Instagram in a year, Maggie Phipps has used what once was her hobby to create a business, Maggie’s Girls. Known for her commission work, Maggie replicates customers’ photos into bright works of art. Paintings of vibrant hues and shades that resemble thermal images litter Maggie’s Girls’ Instagram feed. From canvases, prints, keychains and her most recent addition, vinyl records, Maggie’s Girls has a wide variety of art for all price ranges. Body positivity and body diversity is a recurring theme of Maggie’s Girls with typical imperfections highlighted, such as stretch marks or rolls. Showcasing body representation and a sense of female empowerment is an important topic to Maggie. Here, she discusses what it’s like running her business by herself, strategies for a successful brand and body diversity.

What inspired you to start Maggie’s Girls?

What inspired me to start my business was actually COVID. I was living in LA at the time when I started my business, and with the state of California under lockdown plus the added issue of being let go from my past job, I decided to create Maggie’s Girls. I have always loved business and everything that involves it, so I decided to combine it with my hobby of painting to start my own business.

I know you run a one-woman show and take care of all of your orders alone, so what is it like running your business by yourself?

Lonely and isolating. My job mainly consists of me just painting for hours on end so interaction with others isn’t common. On the other hand, it’s also empowering as I have been able to achieve so much alone.

What’s your day to day life like?

I typically have an eight hour work day where I get to make my own schedule. It generally consists of commissions that take three to eight hours depending on the piece and answering messages on my Etsy or social media.

What strategies have you used that have helped you grow your business?

My #1 tip is to diversify your social media. You want to be on every social media to increase your chances of your work being seen and your content going viral. I also share everything regardless if it gets two likes to get it seen. Also, niche down. I used to like painting everything, but I focused on one specialty so viewers know what my shop is about.

You started Maggie’s Girls during a worldwide pandemic, but what have you learned from creating a business from the ground up?

I’ve learned that you can’t expect success straight from the beginning. In the beginning, I placed my first print order for $100 and the first week I never sold a thing. It took about three months to see progress and consistency.

Are you able to say what has been the bestseller on your Etsy?

From my shop, my “OG print” is the best-seller which I find shocking, but to this day it sells the most. It also went viral on Pinterest with over one million pins which led to being stolen by copy-cats and shared all over the internet without my name attached to it. 

What made you choose to focus your business on female bodies and what inspired your particular art style?

When I first started, there wasn’t a lot of body diversity representation when it came to art, which made me want to represent bodies of all shapes and sizes. I also use my own body for a lot of my photo references. When it comes to my art style, I hate blending so I purposefully use chunky highlights and shadows to get my end result.

Your artwork does involve some explicit content, so what safety precautions have you put in place to make your customers feel secure?

I always ask for ID upfront unless the model is fully clothed. I won’t paint a commission piece if they don’t have an ID. I have a hidden secret album for the reference photo which is deleted immediately after. I also ask for the model’s permission before posting the art piece on social media

What is the long-term strategy for how to grow Maggie’s Girls?

Long-term, I want to have my own website to separate myself from Etsy. I also am currently working on building a brand to focus less on commissions. Eventually, I want to focus on my business as a brand and only do a few commissions a month compared to the current volume. I would also like to hire an assistant because I hate social media. If I could, I would have zero social media at all, but I do love making connections with my customers.

Outside of art, is there anything else you want to do in life?

My dream is to move to Europe, maybe get a big dog and live in a cabin in the woods like Twilight for the aesthetic. Basically, I want to be off the grid.

You can find Maggie Phipps on her socials:

Instagram: @maggies.girls

TikTok: maggies.girls  

Hi! My name’s Makenna and I’m currently studying textile and apparel management at Mizzou. I am interested in ethical fashion, sustainability, and traveling.
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