Plans and Planning? Vogel Inquires

Dann Zinn

Please describe art or creative business venture you developed.

My name is my business, Dann Zinn is how I’m known in the professional world and I am my own brand. I teach at four colleges around the bay area, and I do private teaching. I have two of my own groups that I’m currently playing with. I write the music and book the gigs. It varies from three gigs to no gigs, so that’s sort of up and down. I also made money by writing 6 saxophone technique books. I just try to be diverse, a lot of different income streams.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

Ideally, of course, I should have had a business plan. But when I started out as a kid, it was much more about just being an artist, and not sort of planning out the whole career like someone who went to business school. So, no, I never had a plan. I just wanted to do my music and stay really focused on getting better at my craft and writing tunes, which I think that’s how most artists are. Now there are exceptions, like Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. He did go to business school and there’s just no way that guy didn’t have an idea exactly of where he was going to go, but it’s hard to have a plan because every band and artist that makes it kind of has to find their own way. If you try to model yourself off of the way somebody else did, it could fall on its face anyway.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

They’re not necessary, but I would venture to guess that in the long run it would be super helpful. It would be the smart move for sure because it would give you direction. Most artists and musicians just care about their music and hope people like it, so it’s almost like luck. For every famous band, some business guy or manager, or someone that understood that side of it, took them under their wing – because the two talents are amazingly different.

What pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

I think the best advice I can give is be absolutely relentless. I think you have to understand that this business is amazingly difficult. It’s more difficult now than when I was younger even, at least on the music side of it, because the supply outweighs the demand like crazy. You have to figure out how to create a demand, find any niches you can, have as many streams as possible. You have to be super flexible in your thinking and find a wide stream to draw from. And you can’t give up and don’t take no for an answer because you will get lots of “no’s.”

Janice Howard

Please describe an art or creative business venture you developed.

I started an architectural firm back in 1983, and it was very successful. We had weathered two recessions during those 25 years. In 2008, when the big recession hit, we both said, “you know let’s sit this one out.” We figured, “what do we have to lose.” So, Ann continued to run the architectural firm and serviced our bread and butter clients, and I started off on the venture with the tuxedo shirt company. My first cold call was to Sax Fifth Avenue and I guess I was a good sales person because out of that first cold call, we got our first order. They had plenty of shirts in the sports shirt category. What they didn’t have, and what they wanted more of, were formal shirts. Even though they knew we wouldn’t have a huge market share, they still wanted us because it rounded out an inventory they didn’t have.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

Yes, but it was loosely created. For our business plan we looked at two divisions: one was the luxury men’s shirt division, and the second was our collegiate division. Through our business plan, we quickly found out that the collegiate division, even though the concept was fantastic, would have required us to purchase the rights to use those logos. So, we decided to focus on the luxury brand.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

Yes, absolutely. I think it’s always good to put down on paper what your goals are and what your projections are, to make sure you have all of the economics of the proposed business in place. You don’t just jump into it thinking, “this sounds like a great idea.” It’s like building a house: you can’t just start building a house by going to Home Depot and buying a bunch of studs and plywood. The business plan is like the foundation. Some people wing it, but I think you have a greater chance of success if you are very detailed and pragmatic in your plan – but never so much so that you can’t be flexible with the execution of that plan.

What pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Perseverance. It may start off easy with your first cold call becoming a customer, an instant ego boosting success. But if the second and third don’t jump on board instantly, give it some time.  Stay calm and, if you have a valid product and a solid business plan, you need to stick to it. Stay true to your business plan, but don’t be so inflexible that you don’t respond to market trends or flaws in your initial hypothesis.

Katherine Winston

Please describe an art or creative business venture you developed.

Winston Baker is a conference production company and we produce conferences for the entertainment industry on subjects of finance, innovation, and growth. On a day to day basis, we’re talking to people a lot, researching the trends looking for the latest thought leaders to get them on board as speakers. We’re setting up meetings with sponsors to help raise money so that we can afford the next conference, and of course, to help pay for the business. We’re promoting the event one way or another. Whether it’s designing the next email announcement, print add, social media post, every day is pretty busy.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

[My business plan] was shorter and concise, it was like 15 pages long. I had certain things that that business plan needed to accomplish. First of all, I needed to define my goals and figure out what I wanted to do with the business, and, of course, how I planned to accomplish those goals. And sort of outline the type of people I’ll be needing in order to work with us, including my business partner. So between us, who would cover all of the various tasks ahead? Also, it’s important in aligning your business model. How do you plan to make money? In our case, we make money through registrations, sponsorships, and for-hire projects. We also use it for competitive analysis. This helps figure out why you’re different, and why you’re needed in the marketplace. The whole point of the business plan, too, is to be able to communicate with potential financiers and then also to have as a communication guide for when you’re reaching out to potential customers. We’ve stuck to most of our plans – if anything, we’ve gotten more focused.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

Of course. Any business who’s starting out needs to have a business plan in order to execute your vision. It’s sort of like a roadmap that you’re creating for yourself. Without that roadmap, you’ll get lost fast.

What pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Definitely stay focused on your business plan. Believe in your product or your service. Surround yourself with the best people that can help execute your plan. And never let anybody’s discouraging words ever let you down, you have to keep your head up and keep believing in yourself.

Analysis by Kate Vogel:

The main theme that my interviews skewed towards was the importance of having a business plan. While Katherine Winston and Janice Howard think the presence of a business plan is imperative, Dann Zinn has a more flexible approach to running his business. As he pointed out, most artists and musicians just want to focus on their music. Historically, artists put the task of running their brand in the hands of others. Bands have managers and agents who negotiate for them. However, in order to be able to have someone run your business, you need money, a very important resource that many developing entrepreneurs lack. For me, this illustrated the importance of arts entrepreneurship. So many people try to go out into the world and wing it, but few people find success. As Howard states, the business plan is like the foundation of a house. You need to have a strong foundation or else the house is going to fall apart. Therefore, developing some level of entrepreneurial skill is extremely important. Despite not having a business plan, Zinn agrees that it would extremely helpful.

My interviewees also differ in how they first created their business. Katherine Winston collaborated with Amy Baker to co-found the conference production company, Winston Baker. With their combined business and marketing skills, they’ve turned Winston Baker into a success. Howard, on the other hand, had the vision for her tuxedo shirt company, Horace Hugh, for quite some time before pursuing it. When she had nothing left to lose after the 2008 market crash, Howard put her ideas in motion. Zinn’s private instrumental instructing business came about initially as just another one of his many revenue streams. Now it’s a growing success. These stories highlighted the fact that businesses can form in various ways. You don’t have to think of an idea, create a business plan, and pursue it right away. Sometimes it may take another person to put a business visualization in action. Sometimes you may have to wait some period of time before working towards an idea. And sometimes a success may come from something that seems like nothing at first. There’s always a story behind how you created your business idea. In class, we’ve discussed the significance of your story, and how important it is to use that story to your advantage.

Everyone I interviewed stressed the importance of being relentless. People are going to say no a lot, but if you truly believe in your idea and know you can make it a success, you cannot let those discouraging words let you down. As Zinn mentioned, in order to keep being persistent you have to create a demand for yourself. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to capture the whole market. Howard is a good example of this: Sax Fifth Avenue knew that her brand wouldn’t have a big market, but she filled the demand for formal shirts so they bought her product. This is one concept we’ve also discussed in class. In order to do make a demand for yourself, you have to find a niche that you fit into, especially niches that other people haven’t found.

Overall, the interview process has benefited me a lot. Not only do I now have mentors in various industries, but I also learned a lot of valuable information. Additionally, many of the key concepts we discussed in class have been validated by these people’s real-life experiences.

Kate Vogel is an Arts Entrepreneurship student at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU. For an assignment in Developing an Arts Venture Plan class, Vogel was tasked with identifying whether or not creative entrepreneurs find business plans to be necessary and to learn if those entrepreneurs started with a plan.

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