Jessica Stafford Davis – Founder of The Agora Culture


I think the best thing outside of a plan is to jump out and begin.

Stafford Davis is the founder of The Agora Culture and Art On The Vine, she is also an art expert currently serving on the boards of the Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) and the Advisory Council for George Mason University School of the Arts. In addition, Jessica is a member of ArtTable, a leadership organization for professional women in the visual arts.

Where did the idea for The Agora Culture come from?

My idea for The Agora Culture came from a need that was not being met. I was unable to learn about collecting fine art, especially artists of color. Since I found it difficult and only a small group knew the ins and outs, I wanted to open it up and share with my peers. I feel that everyone should have the opportunity to have a seat at the proverbial table if they so desire.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There is no typical day and that is what I love most about being an entrepreneur. Days are long but rewarding and often they bleed into one another.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One thing I have learned so far is that I do not have all the answers. I rely on a trusted team of advisors to help me flesh out my ideas and give suggestions on how to bring them to life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Within the art world, the continued exposure of art institutions through social media has made work and artists who were once only known to a few known to many. Also, instead of traveling to many of these hard to access sites for exhibitions, you are able to experience them live through Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, and more.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Writing down a to-do list is a must. I find that it keeps me on track and I am lost without it.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My first job being a florist at the local shop in my neighborhood. I hated this job because while my friends were out having fun and not having a care in the world, I was working. Now looking at it from the other side, it was my early exposure to key professional principles that taught me the importance of discipline.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t do anything differently. Hindsight is always 20/20. I think the best thing outside of a plan is to jump out and begin. I have learned from all of my successes and failures.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Never give up. I keep getting up and starting over and over again each day.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Staying true to the original question I was answering with my business. It is easy to get sidetracked with what will be the next great thing, but I believe slow and steady wins the race.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

As an entrepreneur, I’ve faced my fair share of failures. For example, recently when I was working on a new art project for The Agora Culture. The project involved working with multiple groups of people. Some of the information and requirements that I communicated verbally were not executed correctly. Therefore, we lost valuable time. I failed to have everything in writing, something I would normally do, but in a rush skipped this step. Nothing matters unless it is in writing. We were able to move forward despite the mistake but from now on, I always put things in writing.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

If I were to recommend a business idea, it would be a rent to buy fine art option for millennials. This will give millennials an opportunity to own fine art and work their way up to purchasing it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Recently, it was the first run of posters for Art on the Vine, a new art exhibition we produced in Martha’s Vineyard. These posters were the first tangible item I could share with the team that let us know all of our hard work was turning into something real. It reinvigorated the team and helped us sprint through to the finish line.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I love the basics and utilize Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite products. Specifically, Excel and Adobe Photoshop are my two go-to’s that I rely on the most.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

One book that everyone should have in their arsenal is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book contains key business principles that everyone should know whether they are an entrepreneur or working for another company.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Thelma Golden, the director of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Golden is also a leader in the art world that has specifically helped to raise the visibility of artists of color. I recommend following her – @thelmagolden.

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