We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanna Lemmon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanna, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I dreamed of owning my own business many years ago. My father was a small business owner also. And my mother was an artist. They both helped shape who I am today. I received an Undergraduate degree in Education from the University of Memphis. I taught elementary school for many years in Memphis, Tennessee and have taught art in schools and preschools in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area since moving here 9 years ago. About two years after my husband began his job at the University of Alabama as a professor, I went back to school to take classes towards a masters degree. I graduated in May 2019 with a Master of Science in Consumer Economics degree from the University of Alabama. Between my love for art, teaching children, and a desire to open a small business, the dream of the Art Garage began to take shape. Then Art Garage is essentially an art studio for children. It provides open play space for children to create, family art memberships, classes and workshops. We host art birthday parties, corporate team building events, parents’ night out, community art nights, art camps, and much more. We have been in business for 18 months and have loved meeting new families and sharing art with children from all over the country. I am so proud of this place we have built for our community. And I am always honored when people from other cities come to visit us because they think we offer something unique.
What should our readers know about your business?
The Art Garage is unique. It is an art studio for children where they can take classes on a weekly basis or can come to art camps during summer break or holidays. But the classes and the camps are not what make us unique. We provide children with a place to create. So many families today prefer to let their children play video games or watch videos for hours on end. They don’t want their children to make the mess. And I understand that! I am a mom too. The messes drive me crazy. But something important happens in the mess…imaginations start to flourish. When children are given opportunities to create with their hands, amazing things can happen. A shoe box turns into a fairy house. A paper towel tube turns into a rocket. An egg carton becomes a treasure box. It’s been so much fun watching children’s big ideas come to life. And they get to make the mess at the Art Garage to bring those ideas into action. We have learned that when children are given space and tools to create, the combinations are endless. I love this most about the Art Garage. I have miles to go when it comes to learning lessons about operating a business. I feel like each week I learn something new. But at first it felt like I was learning a new lesson every hour. It was exhausting. But, with the help of wonderful employees, a very supportive family, and feedback from the community, little by little, the Art Garage is becoming a wonderful asset to our community. I am continuously surprised by the number of people that visit us from out of town or drive into Tuscaloosa on a regular basis. It speaks volumes about what we have to offer families.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Tuscaloosa, Alabama. And when my husband was interviewing for professor positions, I prayed, “please, anywhere but Alabama.” Boy was I wrong. Tuscaloosa is home to us now. I would definitely want to show off our city to someone visiting. I would take them to our growing downtown area. We have the cutest shops and best restaurants. Some of my favorite shops in the downtown area are SWAG, Lou and Co., The Shirt Shop, Wagners, Lorrie Lane Art Gallery, and of course the Art Garage. We are located in the downtown area where visitors from hotels pass by our storefront studio on a regular basis. Now to eat downtown, For breakfast, I would take them for a walk through the beautiful government plaza courtyard over to Monarch coffee. The owners of this small business mentored me when opening the Art Garage. A casual lunch would be tacos from Taco Mama or burger at Avenue Pub. Before dinner time came around I would take them to the Wine Market for charcuterie and wine or Loosa Brews for some of the best local brews and pinball machines. For a nicer dinner in the downtown area, I would take them to Five for uptown chicken or panned chicken or sushi at Chucks fish. Depalmas has the best Italian food and the Side by Side always has delicious desserts. Later in the week if we ventured out of the downtown area, I would take them to the cutest boutique, Papori. Bradley’s Market would be the perfect place to shop for a beautiful wreath for a front door. I would probably take my friend to the sweetest gift shop, Confetti or Peterbrooke Chocolatier, so she could snag some happies for friends back home. If we were all finished shopping I would make sure to take her to the Riverwalk along the Black Warrior river. It is ideal for a walk, bike ride or getting in a run. And before she left town, as if you can even come to Tuscaloosa without mentioning it, I would take her to the University of Alabama campus. I would show her our magnificent football stadium and walk her around the historic and beautiful campus. The huge Oak trees and sprawling lawns would be perfect for an afternoon picnic on any day except game day. To me all of these places make Tuscaloosa feel like home now. And I am so grateful we did move to Alabama.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Gosh there are so many people who have poured time and encouragement into me as I began the journey of opening up the Art Garage. I was financially able to open the Art Garage debt free because people believed in what I was dreaming. I ran a kickstarter campaign from February 1, 2020 to March 1, 2020 and exceeded our goal of $25,000. I was blown away that people were supportive of my dream for our community. My backers are the real reason the doors are open today. I was physically able to open the Art Garage because of the time dedicated and hard work of my husband and children. Many people also helped to open the Art Garage because they poured words of encouragement into me and covered me with prayers. I had great business mentors through the University of Alabama and the Alabama Small Business Development Center. My landlord has done everything in her power to help me succeed. But more than the money, more than the mentors and supporters, I truly believe the Lord’s hand guided the entire process. The tiniest details were worked out only because of His blessings on me. I feel like Thomas in the Bible and doubt a lot! But when I start to remember all the ways things fit together to open the doors of our studio, only then do I stop doubting and recognize the blessing of owning my own business.
Jennifer Brown Lifestyle Photography and Lux Photography & Services LLC.