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Doing $5 Million A Year With Three Employees: FineArtAmerica CEO Sean Broihier (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Mar 22nd 2012

Sean Broihier is the CEO and founder of FineArtAmerica.com. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked at an engineering firm for 10 years. He started his first business, LocalAutomation.com, as an online marketplace for engineers in 2005. In 2007 he launched FineArtAmerica as an online marketplace for artist and photographers.

Sramana: Sean, let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from? What is your background?

Sean Broihier: I am from a small town just outside Chicago. I was born and raised in the same house my entire life. My parents, two older brothers, and a younger sister lived there with me. My brothers are seven and eight years older than me. There were an old Commodore 64 and a Tandy TRS-80 lying around the house when I was a kid. I picked up a little book that taught me how to program BASIC, and I learned how to program as a seven-year-old on that Tandy.

I don’t know why, but I took to it and loved it. I considered myself a normal kid. I played sports like soccer, baseball, and basketball all the way through high school. There is something about learning a skill at a very young age that sticks with you. I think you are better off learning a certain skill very young than trying to learn it later in life.

Sramana: What about college?

Sean Broihier: I went to the University of Illinois. I studied mechanical engineering. I programmed on and off through high school and took a big chunk of time off at college. I was in college from 1996 to 2000, and the Internet exploded. That is right when Netscape came out. I just became fascinated with programming for the Internet around that time. I graduated from college and took a job as an engineer in New Jersey. I worked there for 10 years, but I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

I attempted to quit that job multiple times. At one point I was trading stocks in Manhattan. Another time I was in Chicago trying to start my own engineering firm. Around 2005 I had my first good web business idea. I built a marketplace for engineering firms that allowed them to advertise their products on the Internet. They could advertise products, advertise upcoming events, and issue press releases. I built it, and it is called LocalAutomation.com. It still exists today, and for simplicity’s sake you can describe it as Facebook and an online marketplace for engineers. I built that at nights and on weekends while working a regular job. It was moderately successful.

My brother was working for an art gallery in Chicago. About a year later I was doing a basic website for the gallery he was working at. Every time an artist put out a new piece, was going to do an in-store appearance, or was changing a price on something, he was calling me to update his website. I realized there were artists and photographers all over the world who wanted an easy way to get their artwork online to sell.

I had an entire infrastructure in place from my engineering website that allowed engineers to upload items to the Internet. Back in the pre-Facebook and MySpace days, that was still a novel idea. I had that entire platform that had much better potential in the art space. I re-purposed the code from the engineering site and launched it as FineArtAmerica.com in early 2007. It just took off from there.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Doing $5 Million A Year With Three Employees: FineArtAmerica CEO Sean Broihier
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Childhood fascinations tend to live with us forever.

Necessity is the mother of invention…this site is exactly what I needed as an artist. =)

Fine art america is a great accomplishment Sean.

Angelina Vick Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 2:25 PM PT

Congratulations, Sean. Looks like the two, your engineering site, and then the art site, just dovetailed nicely for you to make the shift. Nice work.

Kip DeVore Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 3:13 PM PT

Great interview Sean,,,, as artists in this era of the internet we really need a talented mind such as your own to help and guide us through this mind boggling online world. :>) Thank you.

Diane Daigle Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 3:35 PM PT

Congratulations Sean, I Love FAA. Great idea and even though it's not geared toward sculptures, it's a great place to interface with others within the Art world.

Dan Daugherty Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 3:51 PM PT

Fine Art America opened up a whole new world for the established artist. It takes so much of the business out of my day to free me up to create.
Thanks, Sean!

marlene burns Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 4:03 PM PT

FAA provides the finest in customer and technical assistance. It provides the greatest print back up service for artists and photographers. This leaves them ( artist / photographer ) free to do what they love doing most and inspires them to continue not just in creating their work/s but also in promoting. In my own case, the Serenity Scenes collection of paintings now numbers 150 plus, and continues. These works have been viewed and commented on all over the world through some fifteen different connections, some of which have become a part of a permanent online gallery. ALL of this has been accomplished in just one year, … through FAA.
I am indeed VERY VERY grateful.

shasta eone Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM PT

Really interesting article, Sean. I knew you had to have a special talent and love for programming, because FAA is so incredibly user-friendly. It seems you also have great respect for artists, providing such an effective as well as nurturing environment. I absolutely love being a part of and selling my art on FAA. Thanks for creating and running such a great site!

Carol Cavalaris Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 6:50 PM PT

Congratulations, Sean! By building a successful business model for yourself, you've also provided an on-line marketplace that is so user-friendly for artists to both connect with each other and market their creations! It's not surprising that FAA is the best artists' website in the world! Wishing you (& all the artists you support) continued success!

Therese Alcorn Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:20 PM PT

Congratulations Sean…interesting article and much success for the future…

Jolanta A. Karolska Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:38 PM PT

Sean has created and maintained a great website and business platform for artists. Plus he keeps making it better and better with new improvements and products for our customers.

Thanks for all you do Sean from another very satisfied member!

Mel Steinhauer Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:55 PM PT

Thanks for allowing all of us to share your dream Sean! Each time a new work is posted to Fine Art America, your dream expands. Congratulations on your successful business! Your foresight and generosity have helped so many people.

Anne V. Norskog Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 9:05 PM PT

Congratulations, Sean. As another very happy member of FineArtAmerica I am very impressed with the way you followed a dream and created a place where artists can be proud to show their works. I thank you as an artists, and congratulate you as a businessman!

Zeana Romanovna Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:20 PM PT

Great article! So glad you followed your instincts, and created Fine Art America! As a happy member of the FAA community, I'm grateful for all you do to help all of us be successful!

Cricket Hackmann Friday, March 23, 2012 at 8:41 AM PT

I pray that Fine Art America prospers equivalent with the care, consideration and concern that you have for the artists that provide you the resources in which you have built the business. You have some wonderful artists that also need saluting they are truly the backbone of your business!

An Old Flame! Friday, June 1, 2012 at 6:16 PM PT

Congratulations Sean…………………….. I liked your interview.. Keep it up.

Art Oyster Monday, August 13, 2012 at 12:03 AM PT
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