Friday, 27 November 2009

Creative and Social Business Planning

My mentor has sensibly suggested I write a 3 year plan forthe studios. Three years may seem like a long time, but we all know how quickly time slips away. The end of the year is a fabulous time to go review progress and plan direction, so as part of my List of Small Things, I'm making this plan a top priority.

I've just been sent this very helpful resource from my tutor at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, which cleverly outlines everything you need to do to grow a charity or social enterprise. There's a lot of waffle in it. Lots of jargon. But it's helpful in clarifying the importance of objectives and goals and creating a tangible plan. Positiveworld Studios has a very broad aim 'to inspire positive change in the world through creative culture - providing a hub, network, workspace, support and platform for peoples creative expression'. But what does this actually mean? In real life?

When I promoted clubnights up in Sheffield, our objectives were totally clear - everything we did led up to a huge fundraising party. All roads led to a celebration of underground electronica and art, raising vital funds and awareness for Free Tibet and The Tibet Foundation. To help us get there, we wrote a 6 month plan with felt tips and a massive bit of paper. We didn't fully stick to it, but it helped. That covered the little parties in between, the decor, the fliering, the artist-booking, the meetings, the creation of a student Free Tibet Society, even writing about electronica parties for my student newspaper and interviewing artists and DJs. Everything led to one objective.

Whittling down creative ideals to objectives can be tough. But if you want to get anything done - it's essential. To help us do this I'm talking with all our artists to gain feedback on the project, and to help decide where we should go next. It's the artists, after all, that make the project. I'm talking with people who have done similar things, who run successful art spaces and studios, and am inspired by how willing they are to give their time. It's a really rewarding thing to do.

For resources to help you as creative entrepreneurs write a business plan check The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam, and also The Right Brain Business Plan (my fave) by Jennifer Lee.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Fairy Godmothers and Helping Hands

While studying at the London School for Social Entrepreneurs I've been given a mentor to help me grow Positiveworld Studios. My mentor is lovely. She is a fan of contemporary art, a whizz at tax, and organisational change. She's humorous. Nice. Just talking things through with her has helped enormously. She's helping me on the structural side of things, and the slightly more business-focused side of the studios through simply talking with me once or twice a month on the issues my project is facing.

Then I have another mentor, coaching me on leadership - an uncle, who (lucky for me) works as a coach and trainer with clients such as Google, and used to be a Chief Exec at Ghetty Images. Apart from being my uncle, he's warm-hearted, insightful and empathetic. And really supportive.

I am looking for more - to help with the different areas of the project. I know from my own experiences coaching people what spending just a few hours a month can do for people. Having a mentor can shine a light on tricky situations, provide business acumen, technical expertise and knowledge that would otherwise cost thousands.

I'll never forget the mentoring I received from Lynne Franks' SEED network - the first ever female entrepreneur to give me one to one support for my work. Or the award winning entrepreneur from the Princes Trust, who told me (aged 25, living on a boat with erratic running water, no fridge and a dribbling shower) that my business plan was the best he had ever seen.

Not all mentors have to be illustrious celebrity-types - when choosing a mentor think about the people in your community you already know, who could help you. These are often the people who could know your project best, by already working with the people you want to reach out to, or help.

Fairy godmothering is always magical. As good as it is to receive help, it's also good to help in return. How can you support those in your community? Are their people you know you could help? Are you an expert in something that you could share?

Check for more resources on mentoring.

The Joy of Small Things

2009 has been a truly busy year for me. I decided to focus energy on Positiveworld Studios while studying at the School for Social Entrepreneurs in London - the reason I became an 'entrepreneur' in the first place, so have spent less time working on my Hip Girl's Guide to Being an Entrepreneur. This means have taken part in, or organised nearly 15 art exhibitions and creative events this year. That's a lot. A hell of a lot. But it's been worth it.

Balancing private creative practice with more social, shared work - like putting on shows, teaching or serving your community is a juggling act most creative entrepreneurs, writers and artists face. But I cannot stress more, just how gratifying it has been seeing our Positiveworld Studios grow from what was simply an idea, a couple of artists, a few empty rooms in a building, and a clutch of ideas for shows - to what is now a working creative hub with members as far away as Peuorto Rico.

What is exciting and rewarding is seeing the creatives we nurture flourish. We as artists or creatives often work in isolation - but as one of our artists commented to me: 'what is art without the people? It's the people that bring it to life'.

I interviewed Yoko Ono for a show we did for Peace One Day in Septemeber this year. Can art really change the world? I asked her. Yes! Yoko replied. Yes. Art can change the world - in sometimes small ways. Personal transformations, moments and private inspirations are the stuff that much larger 'art revolutions' are built upon. Our first major group show - Transforming Space, helped us create another creative space for the community in Cambridge. Our artists also sold around £1500 worth of work to the public. But it would never have happened without all the small things people did to help.

It's important to share in each others' successes. It's also important to stop and work on the small things that lead to bigger things. Dreaming of big things and doing small things every day is a discipline. Keeping your head down and paying attention to detail is an art. I'm spending the rest of this year doing exactly that - enjoying the small things that make projects work. Thinking of the future.

On the wall in Positiveworld Studios are two lists: A List of Small Things, which spans 3 sides of A4, and A List of Even Smaller Things. It has two things on it. One of those things is organising a Christmas get together at Positiveworld Studios. There will be a Christmas tree. That's one small thing I am sure of. And mince pies: small bundles of joy ...