Arts Entrepreneur Course, part 2

This post is part two of a series on my participation in the Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course, specifically the first two days of workshops.

AEBDC 2016 Regina Participants (left to right) Back row: Adam M., Brad C., David G., Tania N. Wendy B., Carrie G. Middle row: Mark S., Susan J-G. Front row: Richard G., Mike, and Krysta I.

AEBDC 2016 Regina Participants (left to right) Back row: Adam M., Brad C., David G., Tania N. Wendy B., Carrie G. Middle row: Mark S., Susan J-G. Front row: Richard G., Mike, and Krysta I.











Day 1 of the first workshop started with facilitator introductions, XX from XXX and XX from XX*, and of our fellow participants by way of turning parts of the pre-workshop activities into an elevator pitch. It was interesting to compare XX and XX’s comfortable, experienced introductions with our awkward, second-guessing as we spoke. (But as the course progressed over the weeks we would get plenty of practice with our pitches as we introduced ourselves to presenters and special guests.)

But the second activity was a real eye-opener. “The Marshmallow Challenge is a design exercise that encourages you and your team to let loose your collaboration, innovation, and creativity skills.” We were put into random groups, provided a meager handful of supplies that included a marshmallow, uncooked spaghetti, and 18 minutes on a timer. The team with the tallest free-standing structure topped by the marshmallow won glory and bragging rights. No spoilers, although one team’s structure was successful, none of the teams started the activity with the end in mind. Which provided the segue into the next activity: goal setting.

We discussed why setting goals is so powerful, goal setting strategies, and SMART goals. We were asked to consider how what we learned about ourselves in the entrepreneurial self-assessment fit into our long-term goals. But I think the most important thing we learned about goals was how to use our long-term goals to walk ourselves backward to set mid and short-term goals and then use those to create a calendar of activities.

But the biggest revelation of the day was the introduction to business model generation via the business model canvas:

The Business Model Canvas "allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model"

The Business Model Canvas “allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model”











The Business Model Canvas was developed by Alexander Osterwalder,  Yves Pigneur, and a team of 470 co-creators and because it uses a visual template seems particularly well-suited for use by visual artists. The Business Model Canvas is divided into nine building blocks:

  1. Customer Segments: Who are your customers?
  2. Value Propositions: Why do people buy your art?
  3. Channels: How do you communicate with, distribute and sell to your customers?
  4. Customer Relationships: How do you establish and maintain a relationship with your customers? How do you serve them?
  5. Revenue Streams: How do your customers support/pay you?
  6. Key Resources: What physical, financial, intellectual, and human assets are required to create, offer, deliver, and sell your art?
  7. Key Activities: What do you need to do to sell your art? (production, marketing, sales)
  8. Key Partners: Who else do you need to involve to accomplish all the activities related to your art?
  9. Cost Structure: What do all the activities to your art (production, marketing, sales) cost?

We were encouraged to use sticky notes to quickly map out what we knew, not overthink, simply get down as much information as we could. A classic over-thinker, I’ll admit to struggling with this, but I was reminded that we were using sticky notes to make changes easy. It was during this process that I came to the realisation that I continued to include my work in scratchboard not as a sustainable art form – but as a life-preserver – something I could cling to in the hope that it would keep me relevant as an artist. In subsequent drafts of my canvas I decided to remove references to scratchboard. Does this mean I’ll never work in scratchboard again? Of course not. But what it does mean is that I can’t rely on it as my primary means of expression.

On Day 2 we continued to work on our business models, focusing on our value propositions  and customer segments, particularly on the fit between our how what we offer matches our customer’s needs. I initially bristled at being asked how my art “fit” my customer’s needs but I quickly realised that we were talking about how art meets emotional or social needs (not that I was limited to making work that would match someone’s sofa). We were also asked to consider how we meet customer needs before, during, and after the sales process? What could we do to make our work and sales process more exciting, easier to do, or a better experience?

At the end of the day we discussed (a) how to take all the work from both days and weave it into a narrative, to “tell our story”, to describe:

  1. our company
  2. each value proposition as it relates to each customer segment as well as each customer channel
  3. our customer relations strategy
  4. the activities we undertake to operate our business
  5. our partnerships
  6. key resources
  7. revenue streams and price structures

and (b) how to test the assumptions we made in our business model. The “tell our story” activity became our homework assignment and testing our assumptions became an ongoing task we would do as our business models evolved over time.

*Please note: The Arts Entrepreneurship and Business Development Course was offered by two provincial programs that are in a media blackout (ncluding “goodwill marketing”) until after the Saskatchewan provincial election (on April 4th), therefore I can’t include the names of the organizations or facilitators at this time. However, after the provincial election is over I will edit this and the other AEBDC posts to include this information.

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