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Start Your Business Success Stories

Small Business Snapshot: One River School of Art + Design

Credit: Agnes Zabawa

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Matt Ross, founder & CEO, One River School of Art + Design, explains how this image represents his business.

As a parent, art enthusiast and former CEO of a nationwide music school, I've seen first-hand how much happier and more productive people are when they are in touch with their creative sides. There is something about feeding your soul when you make things, and creative education is the support structure to learn to do it and to have fun along the way.

But to society's detriment, many schools are cutting back on arts education programs, as the focus on STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math) has become their primary mission. And because most top-notch art schools are located in our city centers, great programs are inaccessible to so many people who live and work in the suburbs.

I spearheaded the development of a new approach that has made learning and creating art more accessible, fun and cool for adults, teens and kids. One River School of Art + Design brings together our proprietary teaching methods, interactive processes, and a focus on current concepts, provided in spaces designed to stimulate creativity.

We launched the first One River School in Englewood, New Jersey in 2012 and named it "one river" to signify the physical and cultural gap that existed between the suburbs and New York City, the hub of the art world. With subsequent launches into more New Jersey suburbs and expansion into Texas and Illinois, we've seen how the lives of thousands of students are being positively changed. We've also seen each One River School enhance its community, providing meaningful jobs in the arts as well as gallery space for the work of our students and other emerging artists, as seen in this photo of me with student Sarah Connor at a student exhibition in our Englewood school gallery.

For these reasons, we believe One River School of Art + Design can transform art education in the U.S., and that's why we are using the franchise business model to grow it into the first national network of contemporary art schools. Our biggest challenge is finding people with a passion for the arts as well as the skillset to build and lead a great business in their hometowns. We recently announced expansion into the Chicago area, and our goal is to have 100 U.S. school locations within five years.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.