Stephanie Manasseh, SM Art Advisory & Accessible Art Fair Founder & CEO in times of COVID-19

Stephanie Manasseh

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in times of COVID-19.

We have been talking to inspiring Women Entrepreneurs who are pivoting their operations to adapt to the changing climate.
Meet art entrepreneur Stephanie Manasseh, and read about her road to entrepreneurial success; her approach to the business struggles caused by the COVID-19 crisis; and the way her portfolio of clients has been growing despite this unusual period.

"This is a great time to put our thinking caps on and get creative. Creativity will lead to new projects, new networks and in time new opportunities. We should support each other in this time and by supporting each other we will get out of this stronger."

When and how did you first become interested in starting a business?

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. My father ran a high end clothing manufacturing company in Canada from the mid 70’s to the mid 90’s and I was always fascinated by the concept of creating something that people want to buy. My mom being an artist, it was natural for me to combine the two and create my own business. I was truly inspired by both of my parents.

Can you tell us a little about how Accessible Art Fair started?

The art fair seemed like a natural progression in my life. Having witnessed first-hand from my mother how difficult it was to get gallery representation, I felt compelled to start something that offered an alternative to platforms where only galleries can present artists. In 2006, ACAF was born and we haven’t looked back since.

What is SM Art Advisorty’s Unique Selling Proposition or competitive advantage?

I set up SM Art Advisory to offer a broad range of services in the arts. With 14 years’ experience with the business and with Accessible Art Fair we have built a strong and reputable brand/ from concept to completion, SM Art Advisory offers its clients exclusive access to rare gems in the art world and provides thoughtful and professional insight into the market in order to expertly facilitate any kind of project. Accessible Art Fair has grown to be the fair for unaffiliated artists.

As a woman entrepreneur, what did you consider crucial for Accessible Art Fair’s success?

I think the secret to the success of ACAF is the strong brand and integrity behind it. Artists see this as their fair and the collectors as a place of discovery. I think being a female entrepreneur behind it, I managed to give it the heart it needed to succeed.

If you had to choose your top achievement as a women entrepreneur, what would it be and why?

I actually never think of myself as a ‘woman entrepreneur’ but upon reflection I think that juggling young babies and the company at the same time was probably a big achievement-  but many women have done this before me so it is not very original!

Has the current COVID-19 situation affected Accessible Art Fair and the way you and your team work?

We have had to postpone the fair from October 2020 to May 2021 and still we don’t know what the situation will be then. Our team has had to get creative and come up with a strategy to keep our audiences and artists engaged and I think we have managed this through artist talks and videos.

What is Accessible Art Fair doing to overcome the problems caused by COVID-19?  

We have postponed the fair to next year and focussing mainly on our activities with SM Art Advisory. Helping clients with their collections, project work for the Jewish Museum, and keeping engagement high with the artists and clients.

Are these solutions already bearing results?

Absolutely, I have managed to gain several clients in this time and have had lots of lovely engagements with artists and clients.

Has Accessible Art Fair had to apply for access to finance from banks, or any government support packages, because of COVID-19? If so, did you experience any extra difficulties in doing so?

We have managed to apply and have received a few grants.

What would be your advice to WEgate community members in order to conquer this unusual situation?

This is a great time to put our thinking caps on and get creative. Creativity will lead to new projects, new networks and in time new opportunities. We should support each other in this time and by supporting each other we will get out of this stronger.