Students strike gold with ‘Texas Louvre’ art site

While many students ask themselves if anything they do in class will be useful in real life, that is not an issue for senior marketing majors Tanner Vaughan, Gilbert Mendoza and Eric Roberson.

They have a successful art auctioning Web site and nearly $750 in sales to prove it.

The three students began a business venture in October called the “3-20 Challenge” as part of the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class taught by Assistant Prof-essor and chair of the Management and Marketing departments, Dr. Barbara Dalby.

“Rather than just the typical things you do in a course, I wanted them to get the flavor of being an entrepreneur,” Dalby said.

During the challenge, each team of three students was loaned $20 as an original investment and given three weeks to turn a profit. Not only did the original loan have to be repaid, but also $2 a week in “rent.”

Of any profits, 20 percent would go to “taxes” and 10 percent back to the “investor” as dividends.
Vaughan developed the idea for an art auctioning Web site, inspired by his mother.

“My mom is an oil painter, so the original idea was to commission a painting from her, sell it online and give her a portion of the profits,” Vaughan said. “Then I realized that this is a lot like what an art gallery does, only they take paintings that are already finished, sell them for the artist and take a portion of the profits. My thought was that I could do the exact same thing, only do it online.”

The students created their Web site using a free service and named the site The Texas Louvre.

They began by auctioning art from Vaughan’s mother and several of her friends who were also artists.

“She and a couple of her friends had several paintings lying around that they hadn’t been able to sell at their shows,” Roberson said. “They gave these unsold paintings to us to sell for them.”

The students auction most of the art through eBay, although several paintings sold quickly from the site itself. The Texas Louvre features art from Austin artist Robin Cheers, California artist Tom Brown and “V” Vaughn, Tanner Vaughn’s mother.

The site includes an art gallery of paintings that can be immediately purchased, links to current eBay auctions and information about the artists and the site itself.

The students keep 20 percent of total sales, with half going directly to the artists and the other 30 percent to the class in the form of “taxes” and “dividends” to the “investor.”

This has not come without challenges, as the young entrepreneurs have sometimes struggled to collect money through eBay’s payment method, PayPal.

So far, however, a total of nine paintings worth $745.50 have been sold.

Dalby was not the only one impressed with the business students’ work.

“We have a management and marketing advisory group that comes on campus, and we had the students present their business to the advisory group,” Dalby said. “They were really impressed with what the students are doing. You can call it a project all you want, but it’s really a business.”

Dalby credits the organization and persistence of Vaughan, Mendoza and Roberson with their success.

“They really kept after it and didn’t procrastinate at all,” she said. “They had to stay organized, and they did it.”

The Web site’s address is www.freewebs.com/texaslouvre

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