This was the first time I attended the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference, which took place last Saturday. I should have gone before.
Around 275 people attended. That number included many students who got scholarships to attend for a mere 5 bucks (and also enjoyed the free breakfast, potato bar lunch, and evening reception with adult drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet – quite a deal!) The Coleman Foundation helped fund the scholarships. About half of the students in my small research class attended; one of them was a panelist (see below).
The conference schedule included lots of time for networking. Big sheets of paper were hung up all over for doodling and other conference-inspired artwork and musings. The Twitter tag was #seac2015. The pictures below are from our entrepreneurship center’s twitter feed.
The opening, lunchtime, and concluding keynotes are listed first on the speakers’ page. The opening speaker, Stephen Levitin aka Apple Juice Kid, discussed his work creating the Beat Making Lab for PBS Digital Studios as an international social entrepreneurship project.
Next up was a discussion with Intellectual Property lawyer David Sar on types of legal incorporation, patents, and copyright (we ran out of time for trademarks, given the many questions asked by the audience). Certainly vital concerns for artists. I contributed something regarding copyright v. licensing, as the token librarian in the room (and at the conference).
The lunch speaker was Heather Allen, Raleigh-based author on arts entrepreneurship and motivational speaker. Heather asserted that artists always have value to offer and just need to plug that value into a business model that can generates revenue. (Her phrasing and uses of dramatic pauses were excellent. I had to leave lunch early to set up my 1pm program and regretted having to do so).
My program was “Business Models for Artists”. Originally this was going to be another installment of the “Dianne & Steve” show, as Professor Dianne Welsh puts it when we present together. (Dianne is the founder of this conference – she brought it up to Greensboro from Florida when she moved here – and is co-chair this year.) However, a few days before the conference, Dianne’s daughter up in Minnesota was about to make Dianne a grandmother for the first time. So Dianne was up north and I was on my own.
Except that my buddy and fellow Coleman Fellow Bill Johnson, the UNCG “Dream Dean,” was attending the conference and without too much arm-twisting joined me at the last minute in leading the discussion. We began with a Bill-led discussion of identifying our purpose, and then how to turn that purpose into value creation that could anchor a business model.
I introduced the idea of the business model (using some of Dianne’s slides) in contrast to the feasibility analysis and business plan; we then discussed typical sections of a detailed, 3-page business model (which some of our lower-level entrepreneurs classes use), and looked at several one-page versions like from the popular Business Model Generation book. I tried to come up with artsy metaphors for business models:
- A Calder study of his proposed Grand Rapids, Michigan big sculpture and the finished work;
- A storyboard from “Psycho”
To conclude the workshop, we had the participants identify some of their own business model elements on post-it notes and place the notes strategically on the walls of the room. It was fun and folks who approached us afterwards said that it was a useful and interesting experience. Big props to Bill for helping me out there. The program would have been much less interesting without him. We never got into the research needs of business plans – not enough time. Not a big deal, though. Many of the participants were still in the idea formation stage.
One of my ENT 530 students, Lisa Frank, spoke on the student entrepreneur panel in the next program slot. Lisa is a graphic designer who has designed posters for our 100%-student-run store the Spartan Trader. She is also working on an interesting entrepreneurial idea that I can’t divulge.
The final keynote featured motivational speaker and artist Monique Johnson. (She also has a law degree from Elon University.) Powerful words and some funny stories too.
It was fun sampling some Natty Greene’s with students at the closing reception and joking around with them. The event had sort of a graduation feel to it.