At the very core of their being, performing artists are entrepreneurs. This was our premise in designing the Creative Entrepreneur Project, a new program launching this summer at the Actors Fund Career Center that Local 802 members are invited to explore.
Our Career Center is a comprehensive suite of programs and services that assists artists in finding meaningful secondary work that complements their primary discipline. We accomplish this goal by working with artists to: 1) identify professional options; 2) increase skills; 3) boost marketability; 4) broaden independence; and 5) expand their professional reach. The Creative Entrepreneur Project seeks to further these efforts by helping artists learn business skills to promote their art better or even to develop a parallel business.
For artists who chose a parallel career, work satisfaction is key. We know all too well the damage of a soul-crushing part-time gig. At the Career Center, we steer participants clear of work that does not speak to their core values and skill sets. Instead, we encourage art makers to seek out work that supports their primary discipline and inspires them to action. For many artists, entrepreneurship might well be that calling.
BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR
Coming up with an inspiring entrepreneurial idea is the easiest part. During our research phase, we learned that the most difficult aspect of entrepreneurship is weathering the highs, lows, failures, in-betweens and uncertainties that evolve and persist throughout the entrepreneurial process – especially during the early incubation period of developing a new business. In fact, studies report nearly 80 percent of businesses fail in the first 18 months.
Dr. Tora Brown, an organizational psychologist and entrepreneur who helped shape our research, told us, “The determining factors for many businesses failing aren’t external or economic, but are internal and emotional. The unexpected and terrifying emotional roller coaster an entrepreneur experiences is the greatest factor in why most quit and ultimately fail.”
Our Creative Entrepreneur Project consists of three courses and nine workshops. The first one, Becoming An Entrepreneur, helps develop the mindset, habits and acumen of successful entrepreneurs. Participants explore and establish short-term and long-term goals and learn the skills necessary to realize their goals. The course meets twice a week for four weeks and culminates in a project. Participants report on their progress 90 days after the program, and every 45 days thereafter.
One participant in the pilot program offered the following:
The course has been incredible on so many levels. Creating your own business can be overwhelming, but the time spent in this workshop broke everything down into bite-sized pieces while creating a bond with other idea makers. The Actors Fund is so supportive of the artistic business owner and understands that the needs of these out-of-the-box thinkers may be a little less linear. Conversely, the artists in the room are given a road map for success that structures their business thought process with clarity and common sense. It was a win-win for everyone inside of the room, and outside of the room. None of us wanted it to end.
Another participant shared this:
I always felt a part of a team while working on my project. We were equipped and cheered on while working on our goals but the actions and steps were ours. For me the workshop was invaluable for getting absolute clarity on my project and executing it. My project was a huge stretch for me, but one I knew I was ready to take.
Two tracks, one goal
After completing the Becoming an Entrepreneur course, participants are ready to build on their theoretical knowledge with tactical, practical courses along two unique training tracks. One track is Artist as Entrepreneur and the other is Artist as Small Business Owner.
The Artist as Entrepreneur track is for artists who want to produce original works for a live audience. The goal is to get artists to view their art as a creative process, from cultivation to execution. Participants learn how to identify their product, develop partner strategies, increase audiences for their work, learn the art of “storytelling” as a promotional tool, and get to know basic fundraising principles.
The Artist as Small Business Owner track is for artists who are interested in developing their own businesses that are not necessarily directly related to their art. Participants learn how to plan and operate a business, including the basics of accounting, financing, marketing, technology and growth.
Artists in both tracks will then take courses in branding, business plan creation, mastering a digital presence, attracting more customers and the value of prioritizing.
The Creative Entrepreneurial Project is competitive. You can’t just sign up and be accepted on the spot. Candidates who effectively outline a clear business idea, have taken steps to actualize an idea and can demonstrate evidence of their commitment have a higher chance of acceptance.
- The first step to enrolling is to attend a weekly Career Center orientation, which occurs every Monday (except holidays) at 12 noon at 729 Seventh Avenue on the 10th floor. For more information on attending, see www.actorsfund.org/workshops/career-center-orientation-ny. This orientation is not specifically about the Creative Entrepreneur Project, but it is a prerequisite to getting into the program.
- Following orientation, candidates are required to complete two additional workshops: Career Toolkit and Introduction to Financial Wellness. Dates and times of these courses will be provided.
- Finally, candidates will be invited to attend an information session specifically about the Creative Entrepreneur Project. We’ll walk candidates through the program and help them identify key factors likely to boost their application.
- At this point, candidates may apply to the program.
If you believe you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur, or want to learn more about the programs and services of the Actors Fund, start by attending an upcoming orientation to explore how we support the artist community.
Christopher D. Bloodworth is the national director of the Actors Fund Career Center. For more information, see www.actorsfund.org/services-and-programs/creative-entrepreneur-project