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Wen Ouyang and Richard Dunn know how difficult it is to make it as an artist or — as we like to say — a creative entrepreneur. Wen is a design student at Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture. She has been selling her artwork at different events since she started her studies two years ago. Richard makes music for a living and has seen first-hand how tough it can sometimes be to make ends meet just by making art. Together, they decided to help people like them — and Artmu was born.

Wen and Richard identified two problems. For artists — especially those still studying or just starting out — it wasn’t easy to find buyers outside a few events. On the other hand, potential customers had challenges finding art they’d like. There are many talented artists in Aalto alone, but there was no easy way to find and contact them. When the problems were clear, so was the next step — they needed to start a business to solve them.

Blue Mine I-III, Limited Edition Photography Print by Timjune

The duo applied to Ignite by Aaltoes, where they formulated their business plan and took the first steps toward launching Artmu. After the summer program, they were closer than ever to realizing their vision but weren’t quite sure how to continue or where to get support. Luckily, one of the people attending Ignite with them was Aaro Angerpuro, who was then working at Aalto Ventures Program. From Aaro, Wen and Richard learned about AVP and found out about Impact Studio. 

Impact Studio is a pre-incubator program at AVP that runs continuously, taking in new participants on a monthly basis. The schedule is flexible, and attendees can progress at their own pace. This was a perfect fit for Wen and Richard, who had to start studying and working again after the summer, and they decided to join.

Juhannusyö | Midsummer night, Oil Painting by Leena Seppälä

In Impact Studio, Artmu started to gain more momentum. Wen and Richard started the program in the fall of 2022 and have since developed and launched their website, conducted customer research at TOKYO Christmas Sales with their brand, and started collaboration talks with some retail businesses. They’ve received mentoring on leadership, business strategy and technology. However, perhaps the most helpful thing has been the community. “It’s a very supportive environment. People understand our struggle, and we can share ideas and solve problems together,” Richard says.

Now, Artmu is a working platform where emerging artists can display their art for potential buyers, and anyone interested in art can browse and purchase the works of young, local and independent artists. But what will it be in the future?

Ceramic Hiragana vase by Julius Rinne

The current plan for Wen and Richard is to set up a base in the Helsinki area, expand the current offering, and start producing their own events. Then, when the time is ripe, they could expand to other cities and perhaps even other countries. Eventually, they want to create a community that brings artists and art lovers together.

It’s a very supportive environment. People understand our struggle, and we can share ideas and solve problems together.

Wen and Richard are two artists who used their own talent and understanding of art to create a viable business. There are art students who criticize their choices, but Wen and Richard want to emphasize that many artists are, in a way, entrepreneurs: “If you create something and sell it to people, you are an entrepreneur, even if what you create is art. Most artists could benefit from entrepreneurship skills, and we’ve been lucky to learn them at Ignite and AVP.”

Artmu is currently looking for a new team member, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to join their art revolution. And of course, if you want to buy some art, you know where to look.