Gabriel Pons is a young entrepreneur who took a big chance in order to realize his dream of owning his own business.

He did something that many others desire to do, but ultimately fear; forego a safe, corporate career path to pursue his true passion of art, and enter the risky and challenging world of small business. Gabriel and his wife Scarlett, both former students and professionals in the architecture field, took their passion for the arts and channeled it into a beautiful gallery and retail shop, Ponshop Studio, in Fredericksburg, VA. They offer classes to people of all ages and share their own beautiful artwork as well as those of several other esteemed artists in their community.

We talked to Gabriel about his experience and he shared his shameless stories about small business – the good and bad. In the end, his advice should serve helpful to anyone looking to open and grow a brick and mortar business, or anyone considering the transition from corporate to small business as he did.

Why did you make the transition from corporate to small business?

My wife and I really enjoy art. We thought that the architecture field was what we wanted for a while, but eventually our passion for making art and creating a positive space to share it was what we really wanted. Both experiences have created their own set of challenges, but we love what we’re doing now.

Are you happy with your decision? If so, what’s been the greatest reward from making the switch?

Yes, I love making art and I love being able to be both an artist and business person at the same time. The most rewarding part is having a place that the community can be a part of, and sharing what we love with others who have the same interest.

What was the most difficult part at the onset?

Where do I start… There are so many challenges and things to adjust to when you first open a business. For one, this kind of business is very consumptive – it will take a lot out of you. There are so many different things to manage and track. ShopKeep helped a lot with that part, but in the beginning, we had file cabinets full of hand-written documents.

There are so many different things to manage and track. ShopKeep helped a lot with that part, but in the beginning, we had file cabinets full of hand-written documents.

If I had to pick one thing that was really difficult to adjust to at the beginning, it’s the sudden influx of visibility and traffic. Our store is kind of out in the open, on a street with significant foot traffic, so even if they’re not shopping per se, a lot of people will stop in and look at the art. You have to get comfortable with being open and accommodating to visitors all day long. It was definitely an adjustment since I hadn’t previously ran a store.

What’s one challenge of being a small business owner that most people don’t anticipate?

I think no one truly anticipates how many hats you have to wear and how involved you must be in the business. I’d say my biggest challenge currently is planning for growth. It’s difficult balancing the day-to-day of the business with trying to grow, but also taking it in stride and not being too ambitious and doing it too quickly.

Why is it important to have a point of sale system for this kind of business?

When we started in 2010, we started on a shoestring budget and did everything on paper. We needed to take more inventory and track it. We needed ShopKeep to grow from where we started. Without a point of sale, you’re really not managing your business and making decisions from factual information, you’re just making choices on a hunch.

What advice do you have for someone looking to make the same transition that you did?

You have to go with your heart, but you also need to prepare yourself as best as you can. You’ll be doing a lot of learning as you go, but it helps to do prior research and speak with others who are currently going through it.

My advice for when you start the business is to get a system in place so that you don’t burn yourself out. I mean both a technology system like the point of sale, and a process for managing everything because it’s very overwhelming at first. You don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t have historical information to determine how far along you really are.

Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate who uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.