As many of you know, I have been active in the business and arts arena in Atlantic Canada for the past fifteen years. In that time I have initiated business courses for artists at NSCAD and StFX universities, delivered hundreds of workshops throughout the Maritimes, visited your studios, worked with you on trade missions, written dozens of business plans and way back in the late 90’s some of you acquired apprentices through the Heritage Skills Apprenticeship program that I initiated at StFX during my tenure there as director of the Enterprise Centre. Way back then and still today, I am an evangelist promoting the importance of business skills for artists in all fields. I’m sure we share a frustration with the lack of consistency in programming, funding and availability of resources to help you advance in your arts based businesses. To date you have had to search and navigate your way through a plethora of programs that can be helpful but are often led by individuals who aren’t trained or qualified to meet your needs. A whopping 53% who were surveyed agreed with this statement. It’s true that artists think differently and often are not familiar with conventional business vernacular of practices and their training has left them with little business foundation on which to build business skills. But when presented in terms that we understand, the whole notion of business is de-mystified and accessible. My lack of small business skills (I knew the corporate world) led me to a colossal business failure back in the mid 80’s – which I managed to self correct – but not before losing my life savings. It was this experience that has turned me into the evangelist I have become.
Today many of your needs are still unmet. We have wildly talented artists in Atlantic Canada but a large number are still living under the poverty line – this, despite the fact that they work around the clock and manage to sell most of what they make. And we all know some of the casualties – extraordinary artists who have just given up and gone into unrelated jobs they despise, or they have just left the region for greener pastures elsewhere – like Alberta. I won’t say that an education in business skills will cure all, but it sure will help create a more level playing field for artists in the business world.
Many of you, 35 out of 90 to be exact or 39%, took the time to complete the survey that I initiated back in early November. A big thanks to all of you! I have tallied the results and now here they are for your viewing pleasure. But it doesn’t all stop here. Stay tuned for my next blog where I will tell you about my dream plan which I want all of you to be part of should you want to be. In the meantime, happy reading with the survey results.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
QUESTIONNAIRE TO SUPPORT A PROPOSAL FOR FUNDING FOR
ATLANTIC ARTS ENTERPRISE ALLIANCE
A total of 90 surveys were sent out commencing November 7, 2009. A total of 34 artists (37%) completed the survey. I would like to thank all of those listed below for their valuable input.
- Marylin Rand
- Alan Syliboy
- Colin Cameron
- Deborah Nicholson
- Donna Hiebert
- Ellen Agger
- Janet Doble
- Jay LeBlanc
- Joan Bruneau
- Joanne Schmidt
- Julie Balish
- Justine Kerr
- Kate Church
- Margot Metcalfe
- Dawn McNutt
- Susan Malmstrom
- Tim Wilson
- Tim Worthington
- Ann Rogal
- Christie Chaplin Saunders
- Damien Lidgard
- Deb Kuzyk
- Dorothee Rosen
- Mindy Gallant Zwicker
- Pam Frail
- Rob Buckland Nicks
- Larry Goldstein/Laurie Swim
- Carol Kennedy
- Flora Doehler
- Pia Skaarer Nielsen
- Valerie Hearder
- Michique: Michelle Newcombe and Monique Delisle
- Ann Camozzi
- Pamela Swainson
- Marion Thompson
Type of Business/Practice:
56% of the respondents work in fine craft, 38% are visual artists and 6% are in the “other” category. It breaks out as follows”
Date business/practice was established:
Of the 25 responses we have established the following:
1975 – 1990…………………………….36%
1991 - 2000……………………………32%
2000 – 2009…………………………….32%
Of the 14 who responded the results are as follows:
$10,000 – 15,000………………..14%
$15,000 – 20,000………………..29%
$21,000 – 50,000…………………7%
$51,000 – 100,000……………..21%
Do you want to expand your business/practice?
90% – Yes 10% – No
What services do you need to help you expand?
Access to capital – 38%
Business planning – 56%
Product pricing: ___Understanding profit margins – 38%
___Calculating labour costs – 15%
___Calculating materials costs – 15%
___Preparing price lists – 26%
___Wholesale vs. retail pricing – 24%
____Reading and preparing financial statements – 35%
____Creating cash flow statements – 24%
____Budgeting – 32%
____Accounting – 35%
____Taxation: i.e. HST, tax returns – 24%
____Internet promotions – 50%
____Trade shows – 24%
____Development of marketing materials – 38%
____Public relations – 18%
____Developing new markets – 56%
____Advertising and promotion – 38%
____Finding sales agents/showrooms – 38%
____Establishing terms of sale i.e.consignment, payment terms, shipping costs etc. – 24%
____Contracts and agreements – 41%
____Controlling labour costs – 15%
____Sub-contracting – 15%
____Hiring staff – 12%
____Managing high volume orders – 18%
____Creating a line – 26%
____Expanding product offering i.e. Visual art and reproductions – 21%
____Trade Missions – 32%
____Border crossing – 35%
____Shipping – 29%
____Cash flow for large orders – 26%
____Assessing markets – 35%
_____Setting up a retail operation – 15%
_____Business taxes – 15%
_____Merchandising and display – 12%
_____Retail trade shows – 9%
- To know these things is pertinent to any business at an affordable price. Knowledge is power.
- Unfruitful trade missions to Boston, Scotland
- Would like to have an agent arrange for new galleries and locations for sales.
Have you ever received business assistance from a government funded agency? 71% Yes 26% No
If yes which agency (agencies)?
33% – ACOA
25%- Community Business Development Corp. CBDC
58% – NS Tourism, Heritage and Culture
13% – NS Business Inc.
21% – Canada Council
17% – Other: Please describe:
Ont. Arts Council, ECBC, Nfd. Culture
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements. Leave blank if you have no comment:
I have difficulty locating services that can help my business. 50% 21%
Business counselors don’t understand my type of business. 53% 9%
I am overwhelmed when I research government programs. 56% 9%
I am intimidated by export trade missions. 47% 9%
Government assistance programs available
are not pertinent to my arts based business 44% 9%
Based on the premise that free services are often not valued and that funders would want to see some level of support from the constituents, we are proposing that the Arts Enterprise Alliance is a member based organization with an annual fee of $25 – $50. Members will have access to business counseling services at a rate of $5.00 per hour. The organization would be subsidized through government economic development channels. The Alliance would set up an online presence that consists of a library of reference materials and a blog function enabling members to dialogue with each other. In addition, regular business building workshops would be held around the province and regular email notices would be sent to members apprising them of current opportunities for business expansion i.e. trade missions, shows and exhibits etc. Do you agree with this model?
82% – Yes 0 – No Not Sure or unanswered – 18%
- Sounds fabulous! Sign me up!
- I THINK ONLINE COMMUNICATION REALLY NEEDS TO BE THOUGHT OUT SO THAT A NETWORK CAN REALLY BEGIN TO DEVELOP
- We keep finding that we seem to be “outside the box” with our work; not allowed to sell in many venues because we’re not the artisans, yet the work is handcrafted by skilled artisans in other countries. Always looking for new ways to find markets. Not successful on the internet yet, although we put tons of time into that.
- I learn what I need as I go along….The idea of a councilor when I require help, at a price I can afford, is much to my liking. I hope to be using some of the services proposed. I really cannot be more specific at this point – I am hopefully at an expansion phase, but need to breath before deciding in which direction-It is already helpful to have the model proposed NO MORE REGULAR E-MAILS PLEASE – BETTER A WEB SITE TO CHECK INTO. THANKS, AND ALL THE BEST IN YOUR ENDEAVOUR.
- It sounds like a great service. Could it become a branch of the NSCCD or NSDCC so the NSDCC membership would include the service?
- I believe that everyone needs assistance at some point in the business. An extra set of eyes looking at financials, or marketing, or helping to access programs that are out there. Often we are too busy doing our own craft to look and see what else is out there.
- For me, business counseling would work best if I were dealing with a person rather than a website
- I am benefitting now from investment of time, money and energy for the past 30 years, I feel.
- I am well acquainted with existing online services and professional associations dedicated to serving digital media producers. But online advice can only go so far. The part of this AEA business model that is most interesting to me is the personal and specific business counseling service, but even that would only make sense if the counselor is completely up to speed on current developments in the staggeringly fast-changing world of digital content delivery, e.g. producing movies for iPhone, where physical product — a DVD — is rapidly being replaced by “vapour,” i.e. intangible, ware.
- Hope the project goes well for you.
- This seems like a good model, though I think I might find the expense even at $5/hr difficult to find. I can see that it would most likely be money well spent, though I think that there is a problem with being able to define well enough what the issue is, to be able to bring it to a business counselor effectively. I really like the concept of enabling members to connect through a blog or forum function.
- Is the proposal for a regional or provincial organization? Is this related to the recent formation of the Craft Aliance organization?
- My business needs to grow up. It’s as if I had a beautiful painting but no hammer or nail to hang it up with! This is a fantastic idea!! I would definitely take advantage of such a thing, especially the $5/hr business counseling services! The concerns mentioned above on this page are EXACTLY what I need help with. I am often so busy making work that I don’t have time to even research where to get help … if I had ONE PLACE to go to, which is specific to my location and my type of business (which is unlike the majority of small businesses out there), it would be wonderful. It is almost impossible to find accounting software which works for artists, especially on a Mac-based platform, which is what most artists use!! And it’s even more impossible to find a book keeper who can deal with it. I have been trying to work this out for years now, and am still struggling.
- I would use this service if it were available.
- VANS , NSDCC, CWB, have all been very helpful over the years. Government is accessible if I ask. A specific councilling service for business finance and marketing would be very useful. Local online or community business groups to encourage and be accountable to would be very positive reinforcements.
- I need to dialogue with a professional from the specific area of Business and Artistic Endeavors. How as a cohesive group we might negotiate special arrangements ,say for example, shipping and insurance or perhaps Printing
- A workshop about government funding would be great. Although this has been done in the past by VANS, the workshops themselves are not online and the information is not diseminated as effectively as it could be. I’d like to see online workshops or podcasts of workshops that we artists in the nether-regions could access.
- I think this is a useful, fantastic idea that is not only much needed, but can help Atlantic based artists compete in the local and global markets. I would certainly support and join such a group. These services can only help artists become more effective business persons too.
- Networking with other artists can have spin off effects that are impossible to predict. Internet communities help all kinds of people to share information, expertise and to garner inspiration and support and this feature would be a wonderful way to bring the Atlantic artists closer together. Perhaps this could be a partnership with ARCAC and NSADC and NSCAD?
- I took the time to read over your attachments and it all looks very exciting and interesting.
- I’d be willing to pay membership fee on the lower side and a higher hourly counseling fee. $5 fee per hour is a token, really. I’d like advice on how to expand and grow my business. I need advice on pricing and how to position my products in the market place. I need to expand and develop my on-line sales with a strong gallery retail presence. I really like the idea of being able to access counseling at various stages of my business. I like the idea of meeting with other business on a quarterly basis to share information and contacts and leads. The Crafts community is traditionally very sharing and supportive.
- To know these things is pertinent to any business at an affordable price. Knowledge is Power. All these things are what our business needs.
- I am disabled and have been struggling because I need to create, ship, sell etc. and this adds a totally different cost to everything I do. I have not been able to access any help through disability networks. It’s easy to be overwhelmed.
- My current challenge is to expand my market both in my near geographical area and beyond. I do not currently have gallery representation but am not sure it is the route to go. I am interested in accessing “arts related” funding and support. My concern is the Internet base. Many of us still do not have access to broadband internet which makes it basically inaccessible now. Support groups where we meet face to face – may be mall 2 – 4 people? With similar goals to “check in” with. Accountability etc.
- This would be one more organization to join that in some respects duplicates the services of other groups. I do realize that it is art and craft oriented , but I have found quite a bit of help from existinggroups. That is not to say that I wouldn’t join in the future if I could seesome benefit to my business. I currently belong to 5 arts organizations.
Thank you. Your contribution is valuable for proposing a new path to support arts and business.