Entrepreneurs on Entrepreneurship: Advice from the field

Our students in the class Developing an Arts Venture Plan, in the program for Arts Entrepreneurship at SMU, conduct a series of
interviews with active creative entrepreneurs. As part of that process, they ask them for three pieces of advice for aspiring arts entrepreneurs and here are the pieces of advice:

“Just go for it.  Put yourself out there.  Ditch the part time job and live uncomfortably for a bit.” — Thomas Hoeber 

“Look at your business, compare it to similar ventures, and understand your market.” —  Thomas Hoeber 

“Separate the creative side from the business.” — Thomas Hoeber 

“Close your eyes and imagine your ideal week.  Keep that vision in mind as you build your business.” — Thomas Hoeber 

“Do what you love, because you have to live with it.  You can fake it, but it will catch up to you.” — Thomas Riccio 

“Do something that no one does, and do it with quality.  Quality is key, and it will sell itself.  You want the user to be a part of the work.” — Thomas Riccio

“Make a genuine human connection.  It creates stronger content.” — Thomas Riccio

“Understand why you are doing what you’re doing.” — Charles Smith II

“You have to wake up every day and be excited because it’s going to get hard, and you can only push through the pain if you love what you do.” — Charles Smith II

“Don’t be afraid to speak your truth and stand behind what you want to get across, but throw pride out the window. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” — Charles Smith II

“I would say think about who you want your audience to be. See if you have something in you that can attract that kind of audience. It’s okay to go out into the world and think about what kind of art you want to create, but…you have to come up with a reason for why [people] should spend the money to be there.”  — Jake Minton, co-founder of The House Theatre

“I would say find something that you’re passionate about. It’s all about supply and demand. In order to start any kind of business, you need to think about something that there’s a demand for, and something that you’re passionate about.” — Sarah Perry, co-founder of Good Local Markets

“I would say really know your product, really know what you want to sell. Be very clear about that…Figure out your brand, figure out what you’re selling and to whom as quickly as you can.” — Jeff Colangelo, co-founder of Prism Co.

“You buy art with your ears. People forget facts, but remember stories” – Aaron Young

“My certainty is greater than your doubt. You have to have passion and you have to have belief.” – Aaron Young

“When you are trying to sell art to somebody, what you have to do is give the purchaser the opportunity to give themselves permission to own it” – Aaron Young

“Don’t try and do too many of the tasks that you’re not trained to do by yourself.” – Vince Greene

“Make sure that you are active in the community.” – Vince Greene

“When you set up your business plan or you set up your philosophy in what you want to do, try as much as possible to stick to it.” – Vince Greene

“Be willing to start at the bottom and learn everything you can, build a foundation.” – Charlene Petersen 

“Make sure that your financial goals are realistic.” – Charlene Petersen

“Live within the means that you have.” – Charlene Petersen

“I guess my first piece of advice, and probably the most important, is to never give up. Because you’re going to want to. And I tell people that not to scare them, but just because I think it’s realistic. It’s not easy, especially with the arts, because it’s so subjective. It’s easy to be hard on yourself. But if you just decide that you’re not going to give up then eventually you’ll reach your goal. The second one would probably be to not compare yourself with others. It’s so easy to look at other photographers and be like “Oh my God, I’ll never  be that good.” With any art it’s easy to do that. But everyone is in a different place. You could be comparing your beginning to someone’s middle or end. It’s not a race. Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s easy to be your biggest critic, especially in the arts field. Just do what speaks to you, be true to yourself, and other people will start coming to you for what’s unique about you. “ — Claire Anderson “Clara Bella Photography”

“To gather up as much information as you can about what you’re doing. Don’t worry about the competition, concentrate on yourself. Be the best you can be. I think if you pay attention to other people too much, then you get sidetracked. But if you’re you and you’re doing your own thing, then there’s no competition.” — Kelly Williams “Kelly Williams Photography”

“The first piece of advice I would give is to really narrow in on your clientele. Who are you going to be servicing? Once you narrow in on that clientele, my second piece of advice would be to figure out what the best way to reach those people is. My last piece of advice is to just go for it and put all of your energy, love, and passion into it.” — Wendy Pennington “Improv Dallas” 

“Don’t be afraid to just go out there and do what you want to do.” — Daniel Yanez

“Educate yourself as much as you possibly can.” — Daniel Yanez

“Surround yourself with the right people.” — Daniel Yanez

“Think of yourself as an entrepreneur.” — Jacob Breeden

“Have an organic, working business plan that changes as your business changes.” — Jacob Breeden

“Hang on tightly.” — Jacob Breeden

“Build an online resume of everything you love and are interested in.” — Nancy Cleary

“Donate your time.” — Nancy Cleary

“Exchange your time and skills for publicity and connections.” — Nancy Cleary

“We did everything with the very little bit of money that we had, and we don’t even have a credit card. It’s good to start small.” — Shannon Driscoll, with Kayli House-Cusik at Oil and Cotton

“Our Full Service Model sits on our wall, it’s printed 3 meters wide, and we use it almost every day… it’s very much a living and breathing document.” — Laura Fisher, TreePress

You want to position yourself so that when opportunities present themselves, you’re ready. — Thea Temple, The Writer’s Garret

“Have a good ear.” — Chris Guilfoyle

“Have a good sense of perspective.  Don’t get too caught up in the small problems that pop up in everyday life.” — Chris Guilfoyle

“Put yourself last.  Don’t put your personal agenda first- it’s not about you.  If you’re an entrepreneur of the arts, you’re capitalizing on the business of others, not yourself.  Find the best way to bring the art enthusiast to the artist.  You want to be as invisible as possible to make that connection.” — Chris Guilfoyle

“Be prepared, musically and professionally: Know what is required of you, everything from what equipment you need, to what color clothes you need to wear.” — Connor Kent

“Be personable and pleasant to be around: People don’t want to play with or hire people that are a drag. If you’re a good hang, people will want to have you around.” — Connor Kent

“Be open-minded: Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. I’m a jazz studies major, but that doesn’t mean I’m only ever going to play straight ahead jazz and turn my head to everything else. Often times being successful means being versatile- I play with top 40 cover bands, Motown bands, funk bands, punk bands, jazz big bands, and even… on occasion… country bands (if the money is right…). To sum that advice up: just be cool!” — Connor Kent

“Master the arts of evolution, adaption, and innovation.  Business plans are constantly changing, so you must be able to adapt with change as needed.” — Elizabeth Baker

“Find the right people for your team. I regularly remind the individuals I mentor that as an artist ‘you are your brand’ and you need to be careful about who you choose to bring into your circle.  People with bad attitudes and poor people skills on your team are just as detrimental to the growth of your business and bad press or inactivity.  You need to find people who believe in your dream, who are passionate about your cause, and who are respectful of your authority as captain of your ship.  Your staff, board of directors, and volunteers are the faces of your company in the community; always remember that you want the most positive people-friendly folks interfacing on your behalf.”— Elizabeth Baker

“Be a genuine friend and willing collaborator. The music industry is an unusual animal.  Your best business relationships are very likely to be with your friends.  Keep your intentions pure and collaborate with others because you genuinely want to see them succeed.  People feel your sincerity, which causes them to be equally sincere in wanting to help you thrive.  Maintaining a great attitude when collaborating with others causes your name to rise to the top of the list for future projects, which is essential in an industry so heavily based in networking.” — Elizabeth Baker

“Don’t start a business. Start a solution to a problem.” —Geoff Garber

“Connect with as many people that can help you as possible.” —Geoff Garber

“Work hard and never give up.” —Geoff Garber

“Work with a team of dedicated individuals who share your business goals. It is extremely difficult running a business on your own, no matter how small or large the company.” —Reid Glaze

“Do not throw in the towel when things go south. Every bad business decision I have made has provided me with insight and knowledge.” —Reid Glaze 

“If you plan to sell merchandise, do your research on all of the tax laws and requirements of businesses in the state you do business in.” —Reid Glae

“Be unique. I know it sounds cliche but you have to separate yourself from your competition.” —Radu Cernat

“Always work on improving your craft. Sometimes people get comfortable and feel like they have made it but you have to always work to maintain and sharpen your skills.” — Radu Cernat

“Never give up on yourself.” — Radu Cernat

The following students conducted these interviews: Danielle Deraleau, Dorian Drislane, Samuel Ligon, Trevor Meagher, Mandy Milliot, Rebecca Rothstein, Kali Ruppert, Chris Sendejas, Cheyenne Tilford, Kellam Witherington. In the following weeks, the students’ full interviews will be posted on this blog. Developing an Arts Venture Plan is conducted by Jim Hart, Director of Arts Entrepreneurship Program at SMU, Meadows School of the Arts

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