Friday, February 26, 2016

An Interview with Taliea Strohmeyer: "Color Guam"

TGalleria Explore, Learn, and Color Guam Launch.
Taliea Strohmeyer, a local artist trained in graphic design and painting, shared her story on how she fell in love with art and took us through her journey in how she started her business involving one of her greatest passions.

Please tell us about yourself and your family.
I’ve been an artist for over 30 years. Art is who I am, from the day I picked up a paintbrush I knew my calling. I was exposed to the medium at a very young age and count the late Sister Kathleen Sarmiento as a driving influence along with my musical family.

I learned a great deal of discipline and relentless practice in art school. This allowed me the opportunity to train in Europe & Asia.

Being a fine artist & graphic designer is a unique combination of skills. I had to merge both these skills when we created our first interactive historical book, “Explore, Learn & Color Guam” and reproduce my original works of art. Both these products are now sold online at our website and at various retail locations on Guam —Two Lovers Point, the GUMA Gallery, NEX and other retail outlets on island.

I also love teaching painting. I love to see how people go from “I don’t know” to “Now I know” when they complete a session. I have instilled a love of art in my children and count them along with my business partner and husband, Tom as my core inspiration today.

Why did you decide to start your own business?
I had spent over 20 years working in the field of advertising creating print campaigns, booklets, logos, packaging, basically any type of visual art that would communicate to the masses.  I had climbed the corporate ladder and found myself as a Creative Manager, managing several incredibly talented people, but I had always wanted to branch out on my own doing something art related and spend more time with my children.

GUMA Gallery in Hagatna.
In early 2014, I embarked on that journey. I picked up the phone and made an appointment with Denise Mendiola. We went over an entire list I had in mind. She said, “Go out there and see what’s in the market and then we could talk again.” I did the research and became frustrated – all my ideas were already on the shelves.  I felt discouraged but met with her again. She told me to think of something that hadn’t been made yet and said, “You have a talent, use it, spend some time thinking about it, and do more research.”

A couple of weeks went by and out of curiosity I went to my first FestPac meeting conducted by Monica Guzman. I was asked to introduce myself and what group I was from. I found myself surrounded by Guam’s cultural gatekeepers. It was a very profound moment for me because they were all in one room and had so much knowledge on our culture and our people and they were determined to educate our youth. Sitting there I felt a bit ashamed because I was raised on this island, I am Chamorro and what have I done to educate our people about our past, our culture & traditions in my art?  I also thought about my children and the type of legacy I want to leave behind. That day I made a promise to myself that whatever my product would be, it would educate our children and those who know very little about Guam and our cultural heritage.

As the weeks passed, I struggled to come up with a product with a historical focus. Until one day my husband and I decided to take our kids to the Plaza de EspaƱa. Being curious little kids they took off running. When they finally caught their breath we took them on a tour. They just loved the park and had so many questions. My daughter took a certain admiration with Chocolate House. She was only five years old at the time, but wanted to know who built it and why. She loved listening to the story. That was when a light went off on my head and the possibility of creating a historical book for kids and adults. That’s how “Explore, Learn & Color Guam” was born.

GUMA survey at TGalleria, Tumon.
What experience do you have in this type of business?

The only thing I had under my belt was my graphic and fine arts experience, managing employees and working with people, but the whole business aspect was something I had to learn.

How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you?
The guidance I received from my advisor, Denise Mendiola was truly one of the keys in creating our first product. I became organized, I did my homework, and I listened to her ideas and her professional advice and took the necessary steps I needed to make our idea into a reality.
What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business?
The start-up process was challenging. It took a year for us to complete the coloring book. We kept an eye on our financial resources, what we had already spent on the book and art prints and what we were going to spend in the future. We looked at all the equipment that was needed, the amount of time it would take and had to compare costs and quality of each vendor.
We decided to use some of our funds in our savings to print the English/Chamorro version of the coloring book. Our Japanese/Chamorro book was funded by the Guam Unique Art & Merchandise (GUMA) grant money we were awarded. We were working with both the Guam Unique Art & Merchandise and SBDC to create our business plan.
Visiting family at TGalleria coloring Guam. 
What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process?
The market research, the financials and the marketing aspect of promoting our products. We had to present to the Board of Directors of GUMA. I can say looking back, we definitely had the jitters, but that nervousness wore off as we plunged into all the research and planning in our business plan. It was exciting and at the same time very emotional for me because of the enormous time and energy we spent on our business plan.
What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process?
Handing our first printed book in English & Chamorro to our advisor, Denise Mendiola, completing our business plan and being awarded the Guam Unique Art & Merchandise (GUMA) grant a month after our presentation to translate out book in Japanese.
What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business?
Our short term plan is to build exposure with our products going into FestPac. Our long-term plan is be sustainable and to diversify our product line. We are currently working with Guam tour agents to purchase our books as they not only educate visitors, but could be used as a tour guide to get around Guam and it would be wonderful for visiting families to color together. We are also working with the public and private schools to carry our books and are adding more downloadable educational art on Guam on our website. We have another business idea brewing that we are very excited about, but that will all come in due time and we will definitely work with SBDC again.
What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?
Find something you are passionate about. That passion and burning desire is one of the biggest keys. Learn from the experts, find an advisor at the SBDC who will help you through the process. Finish your business plan, it’s your roadmap. I read a lot of material on how some of the most successful businesses have started and the struggles these owners had to endure and the lessons they had to learn. Whatever you do keep moving forward.
For more information on how the Guam SBDC can assist you, visit our website at and “Request for Counseling” to receive free, confidential, one-on-one business advisement.