When Bernadette “Bernie” Lee could no longer lift a case of wine because of a shoulder injury, she left the wine industry after 30 years and turned her painting hobby into a successful business.

With Art From Architecture, Lee paints and sells renderings of iconic Kansas City landscapes, college stadiums, sorority houses and custom portraits of clients’ homes. She markets her prints, notecards and a limited selection of flags of her illustrations online at Art From Architecture, in retail stores and at pop-up sales events.

“The benefit of my previous career was learning how to cold call on potential retail customers and sell my prints and note cards to them,” Lee said. “The difference between other artists and me, is that I am a salesperson first, and an artist second. I am fortunate to have a God-given talent for drawing, and am able to make the most of it through my sales ability.”

Lee’s most notable recent landscape is a full-color rendering of the Meyer Circle Fountain that she painted as a fundraiser for the fountain restoration. When Lee learned about community efforts to restore the historic fountain on Ward Parkway Boulevard, she offered to paint a rendition. The original sold for $2,000, which she donated to the restoration project.

While starting her business in 2015, Lee sought assistance from the UMKC Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC). She received a Dislocated Worker Scholarship for a FastTrac® NewVenture™ class that helped her turn a hobby into a business. That’s also where she met fellow student Nicola Nichols, who was in the class preparing to start B2BC Mobile Tax & Solutions.  Lee is now Nichols’ client.

“My biggest challenge as a new business owner is keeping up with the bookkeeping during my busy holiday season. Due to the fact that I sell in many different tax jurisdictions, all of my sales must be broken down accordingly,” Lee said. “Now at the end of the year, I enter the addresses and amount of each Missouri sale onto a spread sheet, and Nicola does the rest. After that, all I need to do is sign my name and write a check.”

Lee also learned targeted business strategies from several SBTDC classes, including: Social Media Secrets and Strategies, Reading and Understanding Financial Statements and Cash Flow Management.

All along she has received business advice from Rebecca Gubbels and from Jill Hathaway, who is her SBTDC advisor.

“My advisor, Jill Hathaway, is just a phone call away whenever I have a question. Whether it is a new product idea, a pricing question or retail strategy, I can always count on Jill,” said Lee. “She helped me at my holiday booth without me even asking for her assistance!”


Art from Architecture

Bernadette “Bernie” Lee




Posted: January 2018