Growing Your Arts Based Business
by Karine Maynard
Our journey may not be the same as yours. Many of us have similar stories, but most successful artists and small business owners take their own paths. We want to share our story and in doing so show how funding for the arts not can not only grow an artists work, but grow a community.
Growing/ expanding your arts-based business is as important as making the work itself, and often it's case that you find yourself fighting for the time to make both happen. In our case, we knew our products would be highly sought after if exposed to a specific market, but we also knew we were not prepared to scale up our business alone.
The entire time that we were learning and creating, we were also developing as business owners in the Creative Industry. For starters Maynard Studios needed to find a way to connect with the Arts Community, so in 2008 we entered in the Kentucky Arts Councils' emerging artist program and received an Individual Artist Fellowship Award and later in 2010 Matthew was awarded the Al Smith Fellowship.
Our new “professional appearance” and validation had an almost domino's effect. Maynard Studios started making more contacts, started getting featured in newspapers, magazines, and galleries. Which ultimately lead to business piling up in the office! At this point, we now were looking to expand, but to do this, requires money and collateral.
We inquired at our local Small Business Development Center.
“Access to capital is still the biggest hurdle for small-business owners. That hasn't changed”- Shirie Hawkins, director of the Bluegrass Development Center.
Through our income, sales and installations we had an idea on basic accounting but were not “polished” enough to head to a bank. After much work with the SBDC, we had a business plan written, we had our first monetary based inventory of our tools, we had projections of future sales for years to come, etc. All of a sudden, we were becoming accountable, and ready to ask for assistance with funding for an expansion.
At first, we asked the bank for a loan to buy updated equipment and to build the new building we needed. As small businesses owners who had just incorporated, we didn't have enough collateral to secure a large building loan. However, the bank was able to point us in another direction, which was to the State. The Economic Development Cabinet (EDC) visited with us to review plans and eventually we were provided with the collateral we needed, via a secondary guarantee loan from the EDC, to get financing from the bank.
Like a goldfish in a bowl, a bigger art studio space meant we could do bigger work and more of it! As a result of the loan, and subsequent increased studio space, in 2012 to 2013, we doubled our gross sales, just as projected in our business plan. However, the surprise came in 2014 when we nearly doubled our that again.
So in a summary, by the Economic Development Cabinet for the Commonwealth of Kentucky helping us get our first loan, it quadrupled our commissions in two years time. We were able to help support other small businesses as well, by buying our materials from local vendors and we've been able to create jobs! Our studio maintains 6-8 employees at any time, sometimes more for specific jobs. All of this, in return, has allowed us to apply for more grants and support (including support from the Kentucky Arts Council and from Workforce Development) to help us train our employees and to educate and help certify employees in our creative trade. This has also led to us increasing our taxes paid to state and federal government (by 700%!) which includes a percentage that helps fund organizations that provide small businesses with advice and access to the same kind of loan assistance that was provided to help us.
There are many other details and experiences I'd like to share with you, but what I've written about here are the main points I share when I lecture in our local community and across the state. Just this past November I gave a lecture entitled, “Forging Relationships to Expand your Arts Based Business: Tools of the Trade”, at the Creative Industries Summit in Owensboro, Kentucky.
I should mention, beyond the growing "creative industry" business trends in Kentucky, findings of two United Nations reports, published in 2008 and 2010, affirm that the Creative Economy, globally speaking, is “not only one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy, but also a highly transformative one, in terms of income-generation, job creation and export earnings.” Additional data published in May 2013 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed that the global creative economy more than doubled between 2002 and 2011. Its average annual growth rate during that period was 8.8 percent. Creative Industry Report; http://artscouncil.ky.gov/Resources/Publications/2014CreativeIndustryReport.pdf
Remember, to expand your business will be hard work no matter what, but each of the groups that assisted us in our growth (mentioned above) exist to help YOU and your creative business succeed. When you succeed at growing, you will make more money. More money= proportionately more taxes to fund those same programs that help small businesses. And funding small businesses mean (for us at least) more jobs and more people with pay checks to spend in our state and local economies. Growth of a community!
Lastly, I want to emphatically congratulate the Kentucky Arts Council. If you are an artist and not a member, you should apply. You will not find a better advocate for Artists anywhere in the state, and I'd argue anywhere in the nation. Trust them. They benefit only from making you look good. They are also the organization working to quantify the economic benefit of Arts-based businesses and they report that directly to the legislature (who plays a big part in deciding where funding is and is not applied.) The Kentucky Arts Council's model is working so well that other states are catching on to the movement. Just this year in March, New Mexico has introduced the “Create Act” to support art businesses, and jobs in the creative economy. (Read more at http://krwg.org/post/udall-introduces-create-act-support-arts-businesses-jobs-creative-economy)
Small is BEAUTIFUL, keep it simple, and focus on each step, just one at a time. Support is out there. We can do this!
Karine Maynard can be engaged for public speaking opoortunities, by emailing Katie Trimpe at : email@example.com