This is what I was really working on during my island escape from the city: an artist business plan.
For artists ‘business’ is a bad dirty word -it’s quite a taboo subject for some. So let’s talk dirty – let’s do something naughty, let’s just do it – we’re going to create the the love child of Art + Business. Oh yeah.
Everyone is a business, whether you like it or not. You earn money you have expenses money comes in and goes out and hopefully at the end of the day there’s a little bit left over for savings and rrsps and ice cream.
I’ve been busy reading the usual creative + entrepreneurial blogs: The 99%, GigaOm, TechCruch, FastCompany, and following up on Toronto + non-Toronto based entertainment + tech entrepreneurs (Kunal Gupta, Gurbhaskh Chahal*, Zark Fatah*, , Uniq Lifestyle’s Nitsa Tsoumaris* – one of the few female entertainment leaders I’ve come across). Amazing people working on very different ideas that all intersect in parallel industries. I’ve been mulling over their accomplishments, and comparing and contrasting their businesses with the smaller non-profits that I have worked for.
For-profit or non-profit organizations start the same way: someone has a great idea and starts gathering people and resources to execute their vision. However the trajectory for the for-profit start-up is very different compared to the non-profit start-up which seems to have a much more difficult time finding partners for growth even if the ideas are sound. Whereas for-profit start-ups seem to be able to gather capital even if the idea is inherently risky.
With a VERY broad brush – here are my thoughts:
The non-profit organization model is somewhat like an older woman with maternal tendencies: steadfast, dependable, self-assured, resourceful and willing to make whatever sacrifices it takes to her own material wealth to ensure the health of the family unit. But this model has inherently been neglected by investors because of the lack of financial return (obviously). Growth becomes difficult without capital.
Whereas the for-profit model is much more like a young man in his prime with an adolescent swagger: well connected, brand-conscious, self interested, status driven, willing to risk whatever it takes to be recognized by his peers as number 1. Investors have always loved these kinds of organizations – venture capitalists salivate at the thought of the financial potential gain – but I wonder if they recognize how many for-profits are inherently neglectful of the very communities that are supporting them.
I want to be both a mom and an alpha male.
The non-profit world does so much amazing work – the people are incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and educated, but overworked and underpaid. In many instances the non-profit worker is without health benefits – which makes them vulnerable. You shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty to help your community. On the other hand, the corporate world has the incredible ability to raise huge amounts of capital in short periods of time; but does so at the expense of common or community goods and values.
Hence my business plan – where I’m trying to manage, or rather mix, both cultures into a third more holistic business culture – the Social Enterprise. Cultural Careers Council Ontario has been a huge help. Many people, including MaRS in Toronto, are working on these ideas and my own works are a small part of this experiment.
If you were going to create a business plan for your own life – which model would you be? For Profit? Non-Profit? Social Enterprise? What kinds of ways would you be comfortable making money? What material assets could you not do without?
Try to build your own basic business plan for your own lively hood – it’s daunting, daring and a surprisingly fun. Here’s a great PDF primer for artists (but it’s useful info for everyone) from the Cultural Human Resources Council: AMYC-Chapter1-en