Neon art boosted by Mailchimp and QuickBooks

See how design studio Neon Workshops markets and manages its finances so it can educate and inspire students, artists and more to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
**Subject was compensated for their participation in this article.
Director | Kris Rimmer
Producer | Thomas Ashton
Production | VINCE
Neon Workshop

When people think of neon, they often conjure up images of advertising stores, diners and Broadway shows. But, when Richard Wheater traveled from the UK to New York on a student exchange program to study glass-blowing, he developed an appreciation for neon as a medium for artistic expression. When he returned to the UK, he took a job in a commercial neon shop and began teaching the creative side of the craft as well.

He combined his interests in creative design and teaching in 2009 by founding Neon Workshops in Wakefield, UK. He says that the most rewarding things about Neon Workshops are that he gets to introduce people to neon for the first time and that he can use neon in ways that haven't been done before. ‘Neon Workshops is a product of something that just didn't exist,’ Richard says.

In addition to producing and installing large exhibitions and commissions for galleries, artists, TV, film and theater, Neon Workshops instructs a diverse student base. ‘We've taught everyone from priests to long-distance lorry drivers, to people in the medical industry and, of course, students and creatives.’

Teaching, fabrication and installation services make up the brand's main income streams. It also has an online store where people can buy products, like limited-edition neons, books or posters. And soon, Richard hopes to diversify the range even more. The brand's expanding into building and selling an electron bombarder (a machine that creates light) so that people can continue working with neon on their own after attending a workshop. These machines aren't just for workshop students, though – they'll also be aimed at colleges and universities to teach students the art of creating neon.

‘We use QuickBooks on a near-daily basis. I can, at a glance, log in and see what's happening financially.’
– Richard Wheater

Bringing neon art to the masses with Mailchimp segmentation

‘Most people don't know what neon is, where it came from or what it can actually do,’ Richard says. And, for such a niche business with varying customer segments, spreading a passion for neon and educating the public on its relevance is vital to its success.

Neon Workshops uses Mailchimp's segmentation tools as a way to connect with its customers based on interests or behaviors. ‘Mailchimp allows Neon Workshops to target our varied audiences with specific information, whether we're putting out a workshop, running an exhibition or, more recently, about to start offering machines to help people create their own neon,’ says Richard. ‘Sometimes those newsletters will have more than one group that's relevant to receive those newsletters. And, for us, that helps reduce the amount of unsubscribes and encourages more clicks.’

As it begins to sell the machines, it'll set up a separate segment to keep customers informed and engaged – Richard doesn't want to send the information to someone whose only interest was an online purchase. ‘Being able to select who we send out the newsletters to by departmentalizing them into groups allows us to target people with that relevant information – it just helps us have a better relationship with our customers,’ he explains.

Managing finances more easily with QuickBooks

‘We use QuickBooks on a near-daily basis,’ says Richard. ‘I can, at a glance, log in within seconds and see what's happening financially. And that's priceless, to be honest.’

Neon Workshops uses QuickBooks Online Plus to help make its financial tracking more convenient. First, it links to its online store and workshop registration, so those transactions are synced into QuickBooks*. It also syncs QuickBooks with its bank activity, allowing it to create invoices, make delivery notes and check payments. ‘We also more recently have used it to make it easier for clients to pay their invoices by emailing through QuickBooks with payment buttons,’ says Richard. QuickBooks also shows which invoices haven't been paid, so the team can reach out to those customers for payment.

QuickBooks helps him grow his business, Richard says. He allocates codes to each income stream and can see over time how much money the brand made from each product or service. ‘QuickBooks is a useful resource for being able to see that and then knowing what effort to put where.’

Neon Workshop
‘Don't be afraid to go and just ask for people's advice, and don't expect to have all the answers yourself.’
– Richard Wheater

Using Mailchimp and QuickBooks together*

Neon Workshops currently uses a spreadsheet with information about customers who attended workshops, as well as people who've purchased from its online store – along with the amount they've spent. After learning about the integration available for Mailchimp and QuickBooks, Neon Workshops saw a benefit to using it to compartmentalize its customers' contact information based on previous purchases.

Neon Workshop

Advice for business owners

Starting a small business poses challenges for many but, for artists who are also business founders, it can be especially hard. ‘Remain determined and don't give up. There'll be times when you feel like everything is going against you and it's incredibly overwhelming,’ Richard says. ‘Don't be afraid to go and just ask for people's advice, and don't expect to have all the answers yourself.’

Kick off your marketing journey in a way that could save time ‌and bring in revenue. With Mailchimp and QuickBooks Online, send emails fast using synced purchase history and Mailchimp's drag-and-drop templates.

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*QuickBooks Online and Mailchimp sold separately. Integration available. Availability of features and functionality varies by plan type.

*App integration available with QuickBooks. Some apps require third-party integration to connect to QuickBooks Commerce. In those instances, subscription, acceptance of the company’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, and an integration setup may be required. Additional fees, terms and conditions apply.