Why Small Businesses Matter in New Canaan: Hooey Mountain

Why Small Businesses Matter

Shop small, do big things for your community

Why Small Businesses Matter puts a spotlight on the local merchants who donate their time, talent, goods, and services for the betterment of our community. The shop local movement spreads virally as local businesses who are “tagged” have the opportunity to share their story!

You're IT Hooey Mountain!

Four questions with Hooey Wilks, founder of Hooey Mountain.

Why did you start your business?

As I approached my empty nest years and was thinking about a suitable last-chapter career, I wanted to do something that I had always wanted to do (last chance!), own my own small creative business. I also wanted something that truly made me happy and would also bring joy to others. I love photography, textiles, art, and the outdoors and was hoping to incorporate all of that somehow, so decided to go back to school in a field I have always loved, but never pursued on a professional level. Art.

What is your best-selling product/service?

My photography of vintage toy skiers helped me grow my business.  These whimsical images have been very popular with ski homeowners, which has been a boom during the pandemic.  Many New Canaan families have second homes near ski resorts and have supported me and helped me by buying and/or sharing my website, Instagram, etc. I have additional original ski home art for select buyers which is starting to take off as well, but the toy skier photographs are by far my best sellers.

How many local businesses do you use to support your business (products and services) and can you name them?

When I first began this ski art business, I relied on the generosity of local ski shops to help me spread the word.  Ski & Sport (New Canaan) hung some of my work in their store, Wilton Outdoor Sports, allowed me to set up a table at a few of their independent film events and Hickory and Tweed (Armonk) purchased and sold my very first set of prints. I print and frame my smaller images but rely on Gilded River (Port Chester) for large professional prints and some of my framing. I buy 90% of my art supplies from Jerry’s Artarama on route 7 in Norwalk (Note: not the online chain which is a different owner).

I also participate in local art shows at some regional art centers (Carriage Barn Arts, Rowayton Art Center, Greenwich Art Society, and Darien Center for Arts). Local designer Ainsley Hayes of Ainsley Designs (New Canaan) has been helpful in both buying my art for her private collection as well as helping sell my work to her clients. Local artist and framer Tom Bernstein framed one of her large pieces for me.

As for gallery/retail representation, most of that happens in Vermont, and out West except for Oak and Oil (Katona) who was the first to sell my art and helped pave the way for other representation closer to ski resorts. In the early stages of my business, I attended some local business workshops held at New Canaan Library such as a marketing one by BJ Flagg of Nurenu (New Canaan) and worked with SCORE (Norwalk), an excellent resource for entrepreneurs. SCORE holds workshops and pairs you with a mentor in a related field (often a retired professional). Can not say enough great things about them as a resource.

I found my very first 2 (and several more later) antique toy skiers came from the local antique store Odesmith and Richards (New Canaan)
Also, please add: As well as Ainsley Designs (New Canaan), Jill at Pimlico Design (in New Canaan at the time) offered her advice and feedback in informal focus groups.

Have you "reimagined" your small business?

When I started my business, I was more focused on textiles and was taking classes in NYC at FIT (textiles, marketing, and business development) as well as Norwalk Community College (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, In-Design, etc.) and Silvermine (painting and textiles art). At the time my business plan was leaning toward high-end bedding and decorative pillows, and at the same time, I was shooting photos of my antique toy skier collection for reference art for painting to use on the textiles. At one point the whole focus shifted to selling the images and related art instead of using them on textiles. So, I guess I not only reimagined my business, but I also totally transformed it and went down a different path.

Finally, when I was considering my last chapter, owning my business was important because I wanted it to be transportable if we wanted to move. I have realized how nice it is to be near so many great resources and vendors and can’t imagine moving it. Being in a mountain town would be great, but I would have to recreate a support system of resources and vendors that do not always exist in remote mountain towns.

Hooey would like to nominate Ainsley Hayes of Ainsley Design to be featured next - "They do great interior design work and is very supportive of our local community in so many ways.  She always gives back and pays it forward!"

Visit Hooey Mountain online here, and make sure to check out their Facebook and Instagram pages as well!

HamletHub thanks Fairfield County Bank for making our Why Small Businesses Matter series possible!


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