Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Turning Struggles into Passions

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Fashion, Music on February 29, 2008 at 4:20 am

My name is Ryan Conrad. I am a Senior at Juanita College. Lisa asked me if I wanted to share my journey with the readers of Entrepreneur The Arts. This is my short story about how I turned my elementary school struggles into my passions. These passions have given me a new outlook on life while setting in motion my entrepreneurial spirit.

In elementary school it was difficult for me to read and write due to a learning disability called dyslexia. Dyslexia in it’s most basic form is a reading and writing disorder. However, I learned that Albert Einstein, Jay Leno, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, and Walt Disney were also dyslexics. Desire to excel have pushed me beyond my limitations. The experience of living with a learning disability has been challenging, but at the same time, has empowered me to become a better person and have a new outlook on life. I know what it feels like to be consider the “other” and feel powerless, but from that experience I have gained the courage to start to question what I have been told and make a positive difference.

Even though I participated in numerous activities during high school, and carried a 3.8 GPA, I felt like the “other” day in and day out. I was told by a band director that I never could make the snare drum line in the marching band because of my disability. Many dyslexic individuals will switch letters around and he believed that I would do the same with the music.

It was suggested to my parents by a variety of people within the school district that it might just be best if I stayed at home and went to a college near my house, because I might not survive on my own without someone there to help me if I struggled learning college material.

I never truly gained confidence in my abilities until the summer before my senior year. In the summer of 2003 I organized a large scale charity 5k as my senior project, which raised close to 2,000 dollars for charity. My race was featured in newspapers, on television, and even in Runner’s World Magazine. For one of the first times in my life I did not feel like the “other.” Rather, I felt as if I had a gift to lead people and organize large events. That fall I made the snare drum line in the marching band and I found out that every college I applied to I was accepted.

Fast Forward to 2008….
I wanted to reflect upon my past experience in order to give everyone an idea of my past. These experiences allowed me to grow as a person and really start to find my passions in life. Looking back now, I find it very interesting that my first passions (music/event planning) in life are now how I hope to make a living. Below is a short overview of my business concept that I have been developing over the last few months.

Direct Fusion Entertainment
There are two necessities for college students that can not be denied. We need clothing and we crave music. Direct Fusion Entertainment is a company that organizes a touring fashion show and professional DJ set party concert series targeted at colleges.

In March of 2007, Direct Fusion Entertainment took the worlds of fashion and music and created the ultimate collaboration! Direct Fusion organized a fashion show at Juniata College that included six clothing companies, a band, DJ, massage therapists, and haircuts, back by corporate sponsorships. As the DJ cranked beats student models walked the run away. After the show a touring band provided the entertainment as students purchased clothing they viewed.

My goal is to implement this same concept nationwide. As the student director of major events at Juniata College, I realized a need which was waiting to be filled. The need for an innovative new type of entertainment not just the regular comedian, hypnotist or band who are competitors in college entertainment.

Hopefully, the background information I supplied will help to provide a context for my blogs in the future. I look forward to sharing my story of how I’ve combined my passions to hopefully create a business concept that will grow in the coming months!

From English Teacher To Publishing Entrepreneur

In Emotional Intelligence, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on February 28, 2008 at 11:19 am

Up until seven years ago the last thing Kim Kleeman wanted was to be an entrepreneur. “I like sane hours. I like routine. I like knowing where my next paycheck is coming from. My father’s been an entrepreneur for 40 years: He’s owned delis, restaurants, and retail businesses. My mother always helped him. It was a hard life, hard on us kids, and not what I wanted for me and my family. So I married my college sweetheart and we both became teachers. It was wonderful.”

But when Kim’s eldest daughter, Casey, was just a few years old she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and everything changed. “Casey has five or six different doctors that she sees regularly, and every three months she goes for blood tests. When this started I thought: How am I going to take time off for all those appointments? Plus, our health insurance sucked. As teachers, my husband, Jay, and I were in an HMO and just managing the referrals was a full-time job.”

In order to care for her family The Kleeman’s decided to become entrepreneurs. In 2003, the couple founded Shakespeare Squared, an educational development company that employs an army of freelancers to write and edit materials such as textbooks, lesson plans, teacher guides, activity workbooks, and test-preparation materials.

Initially Shakespeare Squared was home-based business managed by Kim, while Jay continued his work as a high school teacher. But after her third child was born, Kim found herself trying to shush crying babies while on the phone with clients and waking in the middle of the night to a beeping fax machine. A couple of years ago, she moved to an office to keep her sanity.

It was an intimidating move involving $4,000 in overhead. So beforehand, she e-mailed editors at large publishers to introduce herself. Once she had eight projects lined up, she took the leap. She borrowed $5,500 from her father to cover the first month’s payroll for her two employees and planned to use extra office space as a tutoring center if it came to that. But, as new projects kept pouring in, it didn’t.

“We employ over 400 freelance writers. Most are former teachers but we pull from publishing, journalism, and other fields as well. We developed a writing test that covers everything from copyrighting to educational taboos, and prospective freelancers must earn at least a B plus. A nice plus with our business is the opportunity we can offer teachers for life beyond teaching. I really promote teachers in the classroom, but if the classroom just isn’t your thing and you’re still passionate about education, there is a place for you here.”

Shakespeare Squared, located in Glenview, Illinois now has a full-time staff of 20 and is branching out in new directions, publishing its own materials and offering an educational editing certification process. In five years’ time, the company has grown to over 3.0 million dollars in revenue.

Taking The Classics to The Masses

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 27, 2008 at 9:15 pm


Britain’s top concert violinist, Tasmin Little, released her latest album, The Naked Violin, free on the Internet in an effort to draw more people to classical music, she says.

But the more interesting part of her work, to me, is how Tasmin Little will begin a national concert tour later this year. Tasmin’s national concert tour venues will be factories, airports and shopping malls.

It’s all part of her effort to try to get Bach and Mozart out of the cultural ghetto.

Rock on Tasmin.

Read more about Tasmin Little.

Got the Idea- Now What?

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box on February 27, 2008 at 8:51 pm

OK, So you have at lease one great idea. Now what?

Hopefully, unlike many artists, you will actually do something entrepreneurial BEFORE engaging in your next great artistic project.

One of the greatest challenges for artists, when you have a great idea, is to not allow it to blossom into an art project before you understand if it can create financial value for you.

As artists we all love to feel energized by our ideas and creativity. Most of us jump right into a good idea and think later about how to sell it, where to show it, and how to pay for it. And, sadly, often we jump into these projects self consumed with our vision, which we use as our justifications, for not even caring if we ever sell or show the work in the first place.

You can read a beautifully written story, that recently appeared in the New York Times, about an artist named Manny Vaga and his passion for mosaic tiles. It is a lovely story of great ideas and the development of an artist through life experience. But what it does not tell you is does Manny make a really good living doing this? Does his beautiul work pay his mortgage and feed him? Sure his work is being displayed in interesting places and well regarded but like so many artists I know, it is far more likely to not pay his bills.

While the work of filling our soul with our creativity is certainly a huge plus, and likely something that almost seems not possible for us to stop doing, in this life, failing to honor it with achieving for it financial health can lead us to anger, greater despair and artistic and personal hardness.

So, what you need to do FIRST, before acting on your idea, is the necessary research to be able to point your art project in the right direction out of the gate.

Here is your starting list of questions to answer:
#1 What audience(s) will your idea reach? ( be specific)

#2 Is this audience base big enough to support your idea financially?( identify sources that will lead you to statistical information on the demographic size of this audience and where to find them in your backyard.)

#3 How much will you have to charge and how many will you have to reach to benefit? ( you must develop a working budget and understand all your costs to bring your product to market to answer this question.)

#4 What are some of the most economical ways to target this audience and test your idea? ( if you seriously work on this list, you will already be tackling this issue in question #3)

#5 What do you need to begin to do to inexpensively test if you can reach your audience? A website, mailings, sample product or work to show to potential buyers that you set up sales calls to meet- what exactly?

#6 How much money do you need for supplies, mailings, web development etc to start?

While I realize that research, planning and the business side of art is not nearly as fun as jumping in to your idea ad turning immediately into a project, by doing research and writing down these first steps and taking the time to work through each, you will begin to learn how to balance art and commerce and find where creativity meets economic freedom.

While it may seem dull and not nearly as interesting, trust me when I tell you that it takes a lot of creativity to put all the pieces together. You will not only learn how creative the process actually is by building your artistic great idea into a business, but will also learn more about yourself and how best to service your artistic needs by actually meeting your financial goals.

Which Idea Should I Choose?

In The Idea on February 25, 2008 at 12:24 am

If you are like most artists I know, you have a million and one ideas a day. You see the world with a creative set of eyes, and as a result find, often, many things in your daily life that you can see might be opportunities that lead to starting a business.

And if you are in fact like most artists I know, then you also feel overwhelmed, confused and unclear which of the many ideas that float around in you head are worthy candidates to leverage into a focus and ultimately a business.

Let me suggest a few ways to figure out which are worthy:

#1 Pick out ideas that are attached to a passionate mission, cause or are likely to lead to producing a desired outcome for you.

Of those you place in that group, then:

#2 Pick those ideas that, when you think about how much time, effort or money they will take to develop, don’t scare you off, but instead, you are able to easily justify as being really very doable.

#3 Next, write a list of all the skills you have that are needed to execute whichever ideas are left on your list. If you have 80% of them, then again, those ideas that have made it this far, should remain in the mix.

#4 Lastly, don’t judge the idea, at this point. Regardless of if it has never been done and you might question why, or if it is being done in a million different ways, I suggest you remain judgement free. Instead allow yourself to take this short list of ideas and begin to flesh out each into being.

You see, a good business idea is not about judgments or perfection, but about passion and a willingness to act. Once you have a few ideas that fit your skill sets and strike a chord in your heart, that you are willing to act on, it should be relatively easy to take the next step and begin to write down how to take your idea(s) and shape them into a business.

Jazz World Confronting Health Care Concerns

In Interesting Articles on February 22, 2008 at 10:02 am

This article appeared recently in The New York Times and was written by Nate Chinen. It demonstrates well how working as a musician, often for money in a tip jar, does not even offer the kind of minimum wage you can be guaranteed to earn working at McDonald’s flipping burgers, let alone provide the amount of money you need to pay for health care.

The results for all Americans not covered is tragic and especially for high percentages of those extremely talented artists who are subjected to low wages or no paying gigs simply because they chose a profession in the arts.


Not quite a month ago the alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo had a major seizure while driving his elderly landlady to a store in Brooklyn. “I was convulsing all over the place,” he later wrote on his blog, “grabbing onto the steering wheel violently, biting my tongue and basically acting crazy.”

Fortunately, the driver behind him recognized what was happening, and after quite a bit more drama — in the ambulance, Mr. D’Angelo apparently tore through the straps of his gurney and tried to strangle an emergency medical technician — he underwent testing that revealed a large tumor on his brain.

Within days he was scheduled for surgery and had started writing about the experience at He was clear about the fact that he had no health insurance.

The health of jazz, as a topic of conversation, has long inspired a lot of hand wringing among sympathetic parties. (To read the rest of the article click here.)

Dinner in the Sky

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 21, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Thinking out-of-the-box can produce some fantastic entrepreneurial results. For example can you imagine having breakfast, lunch, cocktails or a meeting in the sky?

Belgium’s young marketing entrepreneur, David Ghysels, did and created a very unusual restaurant in the process. “It’s a little surreal, but we realized people were getting bored with just going to the same old restaurants. They wanted to try something different. So we decided to push the boundaries. The sky’s the limit!”

Dinner in the Sky, launched as a joint venture with The Benji-Fun Company in 2006, and also ranked by Forbes magazine as among the world’s top ten most unusual restaurants the same year, takes place at a table suspended at a height of 165 feet by a team of professionals. Available for a session of eight hours at the cost of around $11,400, not including catering, Dinner in the Sky seats twenty-two people around the table at every session and three in the middle (chef, waiter, entertainer…). While clients book in eight hour blocks, rarely does the restaurant stay airborne for more than two hours at a time, allowing for refreshment refills and bathroom breaks.

Although the venture has attracted a lot of publicity – few journalists have been able to resist the notion of ‘haute cuisine’ – Dinner in the Sky has actually very little to do with food. “We are selling an experience, not gastronomy,” admits Ghysels. “We can prepare anything on the ground or in the air. We’ve been asked for everything from a champagne reception to sushi platters for Japanese TV but we’re really selling the concept. It is very popular with corporate clients for product launches, a new car, whatever. It’s incredibly strong.”

Ghysels sees all sorts of expansion possibilities in the U.S. for the dangling restaurant, including air space over the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and golf courses. “I think human beings always like to see what’s happening from the air,” he says. “And there are so many wonderful natural spots in the U.S. Dinner in the Sky could go anywhere.” However, one of the reason we have not seen more about this concept being launched here, yet, is because of the astronomical price of insurance required for each event.

Businesses that have used the service overseas include Coca-Cola, Les Vins du Val de Loire, San Pellegrino – which suspended a piano – and the Irish Dairy Board, which, disappointingly, resisted dangling a cow. For one publicity stunt in Holland, Bavaria Beer created a four-sided wooden beach bar, complete with hammocks and palm trees “with roots trailing” for maximum effect.

The concept of Dinner in the Sky, as an event, allows it to be organized anywhere: on a golf course, at the race track, oceanside, in a vineyard or a historical site. As long as there is a surface of approximately 1600 feet that can be secured, with, of course, the authorization by the owner.

Considering Ghysels is selling, basically, a customised platform, he appears to have done very well with thinking out-of-the-box. So far, the company has raised the platform in Belgium, Holland, Portugal and the UK. Slovakia, Germany and South Africa are imminent and Ghysels says he is in talks with a client in Dubai, where cranes are even more plentiful than moneyed thrill-seekers. He is also fielding requests from New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong.

Dinner in the Sky’s existing insurance is limited to cancellation “in case of bad weather”. There is, he emphasises, “always one security guy below, who is in radio contact with the crane driver and another stationed on the platform alongside the entertainers and chefs.”

In fact, the cost of the annual German security certification – “the strictest of all of them and the one we wanted” – is the reason that Dinner in the Sky has not as yet recorded a profit. “At the end of this year we should break even,” predicts Ghysels who is confident that the company will really take off in 2008.

“Media interest is crazy, there are lots of new corporate clients clamouring to come on board and we’re hoping to hit the wedding circuit soon.”

Check out their website.


Am I insane?

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on February 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

The last few weeks I have been working very hard on really pulling together the core members of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is a performance oriented entrepreneurial incubator, the first of its kind, in Chicago. I will be helping each member in it, over the next four to six weeks, develop a business plan that will in a key way be reflected in the context of their performance with The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble.

The results of these performances will lead to test marketing each artists services through a variety of for profit mediums through Entrepreneur The Arts. My goal is to build a not for profit organization that leads to a for profit business for artists.

We are looking at theater space now for fundraisers at the end of May early June and performance starting across Chicago-land every other week after that.

Needless to say, there have been a lot of in depth conversations being had with all these various individuals. Many exciting conversations, and yet as I begin to get into the lives of some of the artists I have selected, I realize I have bit off a lot to chew.

Everyone I am working with is in their 30’s and 40’s. All of them have never planned their future on paper, feel they know very little about money management, and have not as many ideas as they would like about how best to market their skills. And yet all of these artists, unlike so many who have given up and taken day jobs, have found ways of at least surviving in the arts for a living.

Am I insane to try and help simultaneously ten or more individuals like this? What am I thinking?

I come at this with both the enthusiasm of a child -because this truly is my life’s work to help artists- and the fear of an adult. Will each one of them really let me help them? Will each one be willing to invest enough time and energy into developing their own marketing plan with me? No matter how many times we need to adjust their marketing plan, based on feedback and test marketing, will they all hang in their and keep the faith? Will we get enough of an audience at all our performances and enough interest in each artists services to really test how well each artist’s services can sell?

While I have worked with many many artists in this way over twenty years, I have never tried to do this with my direct involvement in a common project. The hardest thing about entrepreneurship in the arts is allowing room for mistakes, trial and error and correction. To most artists this is a foreign concept and hard to do because we are all so use to being told we have to get it right the first time. But for those of you who have been reading the evolution of my concept of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, it should be clear to you what I am talking about- because I have gone through lots of shifts and changes with where it is headed only to arrive at this point right now.

I am beginning to feel the chaos of trying to get this all pulled together not to mention the work that still needs to be done to secure the theater spaces and fundraise.

I am a sucker for a big challenge. But when it comes to helping the arts I feel like an addict: I am desperate to find something concrete, that I can produce using my entrepreneurial and artistic skills, to effectuate real substantive changes in the arts, or at least starting with the little sliver of it I see. I have spent my entire life looking for a real way to create safety, an appropriate pay scale, health insurance and a retirement account for those who are creatively our most talented. I built a business for twenty years trying to help artists to flourish and I simply cannot stop trying now.

Yet I know I cannot do this alone- which makes me worry about how I will find more helping hands. Hands to spread the word about my work. Hands to encourage me to keep going when I am overwhelmed. Hands to clap at our performances. Hands to write checks to donate funds and hire artists and hands to cheer me on.

This ensemble, and all of you reading this blog- your interest in improving the state of the arts must continue to grow. I simply am not able to do it all even if I have a heart of desire that wants me to believe I could. Nor am I able to alone convince anyone and everyone that the arts need all of our hands of help to change its future into something far brighter.

Music Biz Sings the Blues

In Interesting Articles on February 19, 2008 at 7:15 am

Two friends of mine recently were on two separate flights, one on American and the other on Northwest. On each of their flights, in each of their flight magazines, were articles about the plight of the music industry which they both sent my direction to read.

The first is an American Way article on the uncertain future of the music business. The second is from NEA World Travler on how former artists are taking their personal experience into the evolving music business world.

Both worthy reads. Thanks Kathy and Bruce for sending these to me.

Ron Cooper-Great Lost Talent

In Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, The Idea on February 16, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Ron Cooper’s story is very sad and yet many parts of his story are all too familiar. (How many creative artistic talents do you know who have a similiar tale of self destruction?) But regardless, here is how Ron’s story goes:

Ron had such a huge heart, a great voice and a bad alcohol problem. He never could pull it together. Most nights you could find Ron asleep riding on the EL train in Chicago. He was homeless.

Along the way, he gave impromptu coachings to any who wanted tips on singing. On the street. At the EL station. In the alley. Ron simply loved to sing.

A friend of mine told me she heard him sing several times and gave him money on occasion, when she had it to give. Many artists around Chicago knew Ron and often invited him on stage to sing with them during their own gigs.

Ron’s goal was to make it to New York City to sing. He died before he ever got there. Chicago Filmmaker Dustin Grove has made a documentary about Ron that is soon to be released. Here is an excerpt from it:

What if we as artists could harness the power of the free market to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and inequality?

To some, it sounds impossible. But Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is doing exactly that. As founder of Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered microcredit, the innovative banking program that provides poor people––mainly women––with small loans they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty.

In the past thirty years, microcredit has spread to every continent and benefited over 100 million families. But Yunus remaines unsatisfied. Much more can be done, he believes, if the dynamics of capitalism could be applied to humanity’s greatest challenges.

As artists we need to find ways to change our own futures and the futures of those we know who suffer. Become passionate about helping others by finding your way to financially benefit and change the state of the arts.

I am on my own mission to do exactly this through offering information, insight and support through this blog, my workshops, speaking, book and also through The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. This ensemble will serve as a Chicago performing artistic entrepreneurial incubator for the benefit of artists, by assisting corporations, leaders and those needing inspiration learn what participating in the arts can do to help them thrive.

What can you do?

RISE Austin

In Current Events on February 15, 2008 at 7:28 am

Let your skill sets RISE by attending a conference run by volunteer entrepreneurs for the benefit of developing entrepreneurs in Austin Texas March 4-6, 2008.

There is no better place on earth than Austin, Texas for an entrepreneur to gather the tools they need for success. As a unique intersection of the academic, public and private sectors, Austin has proven itself to be an environment for entrepreneurs to succeed. Austin is home to household names such as Dell Inc, Whole Foods Market, GSD&M-Idea City, Keller Williams, Silicon Labs, SFX Broadcasting, Amy’s Ice Cream and Sweet Leaf Tea, among many others. Austin continues to be a leader in developing top level entrepreneurs who transform their vision into successful businesses that greatly contribute to our local, national and global economy.

Through RISE — A Relationship and Information Series for Entrepreneurs — expertise is exchanged as entrepreneurs from multiple industries and backgrounds connect with each other as well as members of the academic, financial, non-profit, and government sectors to share their experience, challenges and resources.

From March 4-6, aspiring entrepreneurs may attend free RISE Sessions led by successful members of the Austin business community. Unlike a traditional conference, RISE Sessions are limited to 20 participants and take place all over the city in areas where entrepreneurs naturally congregate. From board rooms to coffee shops, from office parks to Zilker Park, entrepreneurs gather to learn, share and recharge.

RISE began in the Spring of 2007, when more than 500 entrepreneurs participated in 40 sessions across the city.

Join the RISE community in 2008 by participating in a RISE Session, attending a RISE event, or telling others you know about the opportunity to connect with expert experience and expertise. This year I am hosting a session for RISE.

Check out this vibrant organization and their mission to help others to excel.

When to listen

In Emotional Intelligence on February 14, 2008 at 9:19 am

If according to Barry Moltz it isn’t necessarily success or failure that should guide us to learn or evolve, then what should?

Frankly, I think coincidence and irony, or their absence, are a far better indicator of places in life to pause and listen. I agree with Barry that success and failure can simply be just that. We don’t have to always learn a big lesson or believe that this success has moved us to a new level of accomplishment. Sometimes our success or failure is an isolated event. Period.

Instead, I like to think that when things are working, bending, moving in a direction that serves our artistic core, feeds our families and nourishes our souls, that the place we can most likely learn from comes from our friends, Coincidence and Irony, who spring up around us, when things are working, like weeds in our lives.

Do you remember the last time Coincidence and Irony popped up and paid you a visit? What happened? I bet if you think about it something positive, true to your core and meaningful was happening just about then.

I also find the further we get from ourselves and our true needs that Coincidence and Irony have skipped off to visit elsewhere and have gone missing.

Last week I spent most of the week at The University of Texas in Austin giving three days of workshops on creative career development to fine arts students and alumni. I had mostly success there. I have at least six brave souls willing to work on developing their artistic careers asking for a piece of my time to help them on their journey. Ah, how my heart beats peacefully with the thought of helping them. I also had many positive comments from staff and students about my workshops.

But I also had a failure in that I was not successful at getting through to everyone I spoke to on the value of self esteem building in the arts, and the reasons why we must build vibrant career paths in new ways to destroy the notion that for another two hundred plus years we must continued to be labeled starving artists.

Not everyone was compelled to act enthusiastically from my work there.. but six brave souls were.

Did I succeed or did I fail?

Frankly, I am not sure I really care. What was far more interesting to me was watching Coincidence and Irony surface around Roxana, The Blue Angel, who was brave enough to come and tell her story.

When we arrived she shared with me that her hotel room number was 211, the numbers that signified the street address of the job she just left. And after the presentation she participated in, someone Roxana had not seen in years, but who’s name she had ironically mentioned to me out of the blue the day before and was quite fond of, just happened to appear from the audience to greet her enthusiastically.

So, the next time you focus on your success or on your failure, instead, I would encourage you to look for your friends Coincidence and Irony. As long as they are close to you or someone you know, pay attention.

While their absence can sometimes be worrisome in our life, it simply means we need to remember who we are and focus on what our heart is calling us to do. It can be the hardest thing in life or the simplest- it just all depends on how much you are willing to listen to what you need to do, instead of focus on the outcome.

Do we learn from failures or success?

In Author: Lisa Canning, BOOKS: Learn and Grow on February 14, 2008 at 6:10 am

I am not sure there is a concrete lesson to be had from either unless you can learn to objectively look at both and accept that failure just might stink and that a success may not offer a whole lot more than a few moments of glory. By letting go of the idea that something to learn comes from failure, or that you can always duplicate your success, you have the opportunity to let go of the shame of losing or the enlarged ego that comes with a big win. Perhaps a far more valuable lesson!

According to Barry Moltz, author of a new book titled Bounce, “if we let go of whatever the last result was — we can actually Bounce! We can learn what — if any thing — from the last success or failure and get ready by bouncing to the next decision that we have to make.”

Barry claims that any success or failure is just a part of the entire business lifecycle. Individually, a particular result or outcome actually means nothing. No event will guarantee the same result in the future. By learning to bounce through this repetitive process of “success and failure, failure and success”, you will develop a resiliency that will lead to the true business confidence that ultimately determines which ones of us succeed.

More importantly, it allows each of us to have passion and enthusiasm regardless of where we are in the cycle. It allows us to get ready for our next great success!

I consider Barry Motlz both a friend and mentor. I met Barry for the first time over lunch. As a result of our initial meeting he convinced me to write a book. Barry lead me to my next success and I would encourage you to buy and read his book to help you get to yours.

Bounce is just about to be released and can be ordered on Amazon. Here is an excerpt from Barry’s new book, Bounce.

Too Much To Do Makes For a Bottomless List

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on February 12, 2008 at 10:03 am

Ever since the first of the new year, I don’t know where my time has gone– it simply has vaporized before my eyes. I know I have accomplished a great deal, yet my To DO List has a number of big projects on it that have been patiently waiting their turn to be done:

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble recently had an excellent artistic meeting, but the website remains unfinished. I have most everyone’s head shots, bios and most of the material for the site ready to go, but now need to carve out a few days and simply finish it.

In my life I have bought and sold a number of pieces of commercial real estate and have held a salesperson’s license for a number of years. Last year I completed all the course work to finally get my real estate brokers license, but I still have not carved out the time I need to take the state licensing exam.

And of course, this time of year, I have accounting work to complete to finish the financial statements I must have to do my corporate tax returns for year end 2007.

But the clock is ticking and it is time to get some of this stuff done:

The website has to be up in the next sixty days as we are hoping to open our first Bite-Size production in The City of Chicago in May/June.

My real estate brokers license state exam must be taken before the end of May or I will have to complete my coursework all over again.

Oh and taxes? Well, they are due by March 15th which is just around the corner….

Where does the time go? I have been working hard and yet there is still too much left on my list to do. Being an entrepreneur sure does produce a to do list that keeps on giving…

The $25,000 Love Song

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 11, 2008 at 6:46 pm

This article was written by Kevin Sites and appeared on Yahoo. It illustrates well the power of niching in the arts as well as the importance of taking a risk to develop what perhaps only you see as an opportunity, which each of us can find in our own experiences.

When musician Brian Alex played his first professional gig, he thought he wasn’t going to make it out alive.”It was a biker bar. The place was a mess,” Alex recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, I’m going to get killed.'”

He’s made a living as a musician ever since. But it wasn’t always a steady living until he came up with the idea for a new business: custom love songs.

He was working as a wedding singer at the time. “I had written a song, performing it at the wedding, and I’m thinking to myself, I see a lot of men crying. And I thought, Wow! This is a big impact.”

Brian Alex.jpeg
Brian Alex charges anywhere from
$2,000 to $25,000 for his custom love songs.

Knowing that many men have difficulty expressing their emotions, he decided he could help them by writing love songs specifically for their relationships.

One was for a man who wanted to propose to a woman he had once dated, but who was now just a friend. “Now, we’re here, two years later, I’m thankful we’re still friends,” go the lyrics. “But I’d like to know if you’d consider giving me your heart again.”

Alex’s career has included gigs with well-known names like The Missing Persons and Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead. He has recorded with Donna Summer and once even played for President Clinton at a private gathering. So his love songs don’t come cheap.

A custom love song can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 depending on whether he performs it live or not. Usually he’ll record it with studio musicians and deliver two copies of the CD, one framed, the other ready to be played.

He writes songs in any style requested. And he says he still sweats out every one of them, sometimes taking two to three weeks to write and record. He can also turn songs around more quickly, if needed, by working with other musicians.

“I get nervous with each song that I’m doing,” he says. “You’re taking these people’s story, and at the end of the day it has to have a massive impact.”

The songs don’t always have the desired effect. One man was hoping a custom love song would keep his wife from filing for divorce. She was touched by the gesture, says Alex, but still followed through with the divorce.

Ironically, while Alex plays cupid for other men, he’s still single himself – still trying to come up with the right notes for a song about his own love life.

For more about Brian Alex and his business, Custom Love Songs, click here.

Employee Evolution

In WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 8, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Like many tech-savvy twentysomethings, Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh (a friend from college) wanted to be heard and build a community, so they started a blog.

Since February 2007, Employee Evolution has been a forum for them and their peers to share advice and experiences as they make the challenging shift from college to the workplace. While it has been just about a year since they started Employee Evolution, it appears that these two young recent Penn State graduates have a very bright entreprenurial future giving advice to twenty to thirtysomething year olds.

While most start-ups in the first year can only dream of receiving some- usually local- media recognition, both Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh in their first year were being quoted nationally as career experts by Chattanooga Times Free Press, 60 Minutes, Human Resource Executive magazine, The Millennial Mind-Set, The New York Times,, The Courier-Journal, The Houston Chronicle,, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The Boston Globe, and Yahoo! Finance. Rather an impressive list of media interest and quite the vote of confidence for any start-up, let alone one being run by two recent graduates from college as of May of 2006.

In August 2007, Healy moved to Madison, Wisconsin and teamed with Paugh and Penelope Trunk to found the start up company, Brazen Careerist. The site will launch in the near future as an online career resource for young professionals.

In the meantime, check out Employee Evolution.

Reinventing Classical Music

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on February 7, 2008 at 5:58 am

A really good friend of mine, Diana Haskell, plays assistant principal clarinet in The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. She left her position as principal second in The Milwaukee Symphony in 2003, for what most musicians would hope would be a better playing position. Yet this orchestra, like so many others, is financially under ever mounting pressure, leaving a question mark for Diana, and others in The St. Louis Symphony and beyond what their futures hold.

I posted an article that appeared in Wired about the transformation of the music business, but what about the state of symphony orchestras which continue to sputter with many coming to a close? Sadly, lots has been written on this topic. I did a quick search and came up with an article that appeared in the New York Times in 1987 that discusses some of the financial troubles of a number of orchestras back then. I found another on the same subject in the NYT in 2003: Music; How to Kill Orchestras And of course now, over twenty years later, what has changed?

But my question about the state of orchestra financial health actually has less to do with the music itself and more to do with the way we are experiencing classical music.

Why does a night of orchestral music need to be so unapproachable, have such formal seating for their audiences and seem so high brow? Why do we need all the pomp and circumstance of a big hall? Why can’t dinner be served in between large scale musical works or instead dessert and coffee and wine with appropriate breaks take to invite the orchestral musicians to interact freely with the audience? How about a lot more chamber music- truly small works-written by more living composers who talk about where they live, their families and how they write music? Or how about mixing classical music with rock, folk, jazz, story telling and theater on a regular basis?

Things need to change, or better yet expand and evolve. Of course there are some orchestras out there trying to create a more intimate experience of mixing the old and the new, but most of these groups are seen less as typical orchestras and more like bands. For example check out the clasically influenced music of The 17 Hippies. A number of the musicians in this ensemble were classically trained. Or how about one of the hottest contemporary music ensembles Alarm Will Sound? What about some funky jazz influences like The Model Citizens Big Band?

While I realize my musical examples are drifting away from 100% pure classical music, what is wrong with classical music becoming part of something more diverse?

If you are looking for a more of a traditional twist, then check out Austin Pops. While I think the idea of a young pop orchestra could be interesting, I wish this group had more panache- more soul with an attitude like the 17 Hippies. Why can’t classical orchestras have more of that?

I think we would be better musicians if this happens. Why? Because we might learn to play a bigger range of styles and in doing so find a deeper voice of expression. How many times have you heard that classical musicians are “stiff”? Maybe that is part, or even most, of our problem attracting audiences?

I think it’s time to wake up- Alarm Will Sound sure seems to have figured that out. For decades now our audiences are dwindling and financially we are suffering. It’s time to open our eyes and find a new way forward.

Maybe 17 hippies can teach all of us refined classical music lovers a few new tricks…

11 Hours A Day or 2/3 of Your Waking Hours

In Emotional Intelligence, Risk on February 6, 2008 at 8:46 am

Many artists have day jobs they take because they say they need the money. Most often, from those who do, I hear about how unhappy and miserable they are in those jobs and how they wish they could earn a living doing something they love.

Most who take these jobs need an hour to get ready before leaving for their job, work eight hours a day, take an hour for lunch and breaks, and need a minimum of an hour to commute to and from home. That’s eleven hours a day focused on a job that checks your soul at the door, you can barely stand, or perhaps even hate, for the money.

I usually tell people who tell me this story that they need to quit their job and find one they at least like or preferably love. I am often told this is completely impractical advice immediately followed by ” I have bills to pay- I can’t do that.” Other comments include “I need a roof over my head and food in my belly, I can’t do that.” I also have heard that single parents, anyone living paycheck to paycheck, or those of us who have debt, cannot use this advice either.

Frankly- I think any of you out there thinking like this are in denial, and I am not talking about the river. Of course there are exceptions, but usually these people are really saying that I would rather be unhappy and keep everything the same then be happy in my job and life.

That’s fine. But don’t complain that the advice doesn’t apply to you. It does. You are choosing to have the lifestyle you are complaining about instead.

If you want to have the ability to change careers and quit jobs you don’t like and try out new things, like becoming a full time artistic entrepreneur, then you might need to make huge life decisions to accommodate that. You might have to get a roommate or find a less expensive place to live, sell your condo or home and use part of the proceeds for start up expenses (of course with a plan in place before you start) or downgrade your lifestyle.

In a heartbeat I would do all of this again if I find myself unhappy and in need of inspiration and happiness. Why? Because I am not going to spend 2/3 my waking hours miserable. I am willing to sacrifice, and make whatever changes are or would be required, to ensure that does not happen. It is possible to be 80-90% happy with your life. None of us lead perfect lives, but happiness is something each one of us can have if we are willing to do whatever it takes and make it a priority.

After all, I traded in my first business- my passionate twenty year venture- for greater happiness. My soon to be ex-husband thought I had lost my mind. He thought so little of my need for happiness. I knew, despite how much financial and emotional turmoil getting out of my marriage and heartache it would all temporarily bring, it was a far better choice and would produce far more significant results to my bottom line- my happiness- for doing so.

All I am really saying is that there is a reason why we are called adults. Adults make big decisions. Things don’t just happen to you. You have the power to decide what your life will be like. You are in the drivers seat and in control of your destiny. Right now you can choose what to do to make 2/3rd’s your waking hours the very best they can be.

Life Changing Blues

In Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution on February 5, 2008 at 1:00 am


For those of you who read Lisa’s post titled The Blue Angel back in December 2007, then you already know some of my story.

My name is Roxana. I am the Blue Angel.

It took me a long time to find the courage to write this blog post. Not because I don’t want to share with you my journey, or because I know intellectually that sharing my story can possibly help some of you, but because I did not realize what a huge impact my low self-esteem had on my life until now. And, frankly, that all by itself is very hard for me to face.

I’m sure you are wondering, how did my life unravel?

Well, like most artists, I am a very sensitive and intuitive person. I was born this way. And so when my sister became abusive with me at a young age, instead of verbalizing my pain to my parents, I withdrew. I withdrew and denied myself my feelings. You see that is how low-self esteem begins, I am learning. One little denial leads to another and then another and pretty soon I found myself with a lot of denied feelings and needs.

About Me
I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. It wasn’t the experience I had hoped for. Some of my professors were verbally abusive to me repeatedly about my artistic work. I also experienced many classmates who were into drugs, sex and negativity more than they were into finding their creative path in life.

My friends and I were so uninspired at school we use to joke that when we entered the conservatory we checked our souls at the door. But I was use to living in denial and so I allowed it to continue. I expected nothing but negativity from the world. Once the pattern of denial starts, like a ball running down a hill, it is hard to stop. After all, it is hard to stop neglecting your feelings when you are surrounded with negative influences.

After school, eventually, after a couple of attempts to move to places where I could pursue making music, I moved to Chicago to pursue music. Well, that ís what I told myself I was doing, but that is not really what happened. I needed health care. I have to have it because I have narcolepsy and other health concerns. So, I thought the responsible thing to do was to take a day job, just like most of the other artists I know.

I worked long hours for low wages. I had to start saying “no’ to gigs because I was simply too exhausted to travel to the rehearsal or to the gig. The day job began to swallow me whole. I was forced to work through my lunches and work long hours. My superiors were very disrespectful to me. I would barely stick up for myself out of fear of conflict and fear of losing my job.

But hunger is a great motivator. I was so terrified of losing my apartment and being out on the street that I did whatever it took to keep my apartment. I was barely able to pay for rent, groceries, and my medicines. Being stuck in survival mode took away my time to be creative and to do what I love. I was a slave due to my inability to honor my needs and act on them. My denial was filled to the brim.

So of course I fought to keep a day job even though I could not physically handle it. I was barely getting by. Any leftover time was taken up by sleeping. I had hardly any time left of for my music. It was killing me.

One day last year, things got so bad that I took out a payday loan. One month later, I took another one. I was sliding out of control financially. I didn’t have money to eat. I had no money for clarinet reeds. At my work, I would look forward to our luncheon meetings where food was provided for us. I would eat just a little and then portion it out to take home. I would stretch one meal into three. One of my co-workers would periodically buy very large boxes of instant oatmeal packs. When no one was looking, I would stash a few of them away in my desk so that I could eat and get through my day. I hid all of this from my co-workers. I tried very hard to appear professional and calm despite my constant hunger and worry. I got really good at pretending to be awake and nourished.

I do not smoke, drink, or do drugs. I was astounded at how my life was crumbling before my very eyes. I was full of anguish, horror, and anger at myself for not being able to manage my life better. I kept beating myself up with negative self-talk. I was horribly depressed. My self-esteem, like my life, was at rock- bottom. I didn’t know how to change my life or where to turn because it was so wrecked. I never wanted to be seen as a burden on anyone. I fiercely told myself that “it was my idea to move to Chicago and I take full responsibility for myself. I refuse to drag anyone into my situation.” I didn’t want to ask for help. Negativity had a hold of my life my life and began to strangle me and this time, I could feel its hands around my neck.

I was one step away from the street.

Intelligence Does Not Matter
I am very intelligent person, I test well and always got good grades, but my life slid out of control despite my intellect. If you don’t choose what in life you need, life chooses for you, and that ís how it all begins. I see this same thing happening to so many artists friends of mine in their late 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond who are trapped in day jobs, or just barely getting by on low-paying gigs and not fighting to find a new way forward to honor themselves and their artistic work.

But we have no one but ourselves to blame. We, as artists, have created our own third world country by checking our souls at the door one little compromise at a time. A day job, a low-paying gig, a no-paying gig, the list goes on and on reinforcing a negative cycle.

It took me to be figuratively “down on my knees in the gutter” to finally ask for the help I desperately needed. It was only when I finally admitted I had lost my way and turned my hands up to God and asked for help, admitting that I was no longer willing to accept a life as a walking dead person, that my life dramatically and swiftly changed.

The very moment I decided to choose life, and to honor my talents and needs, everything changed from grey to technicolor. Immediately after deciding to let go and to ask for help and trust it would come, I met the writer Tama Keives and Lisa Canning, the very next day. The next morning I saw a single sheet of paper lying on the floor of the bus in front of me that caught my eye. It said ” Trust in God’s Creative Abundance”. The coincidence and irony of a life working were starting to appear before my eyes.

Life Changing Steps
Lisa and I decided to meet once a week at a location that was a halfway point between where we both live. The only place in that area of town that was open for that meeting was an oldrestaurant/diner by the name of “The Blue Angel”, and so now you know how I got my name.

With her help, and the help of a support team of positive people and influences in my life, I worked on a plan to dramatically improve my life. For starters, I quit my job. However before I did we came up with a plan to make my life and financial needs small enough so that I could have enough space and time to think and regroup. I need time and space to realize my own worth.

I also decided I had to cut all the reinforcing negativity and chaos out of my life. That means contact with my sister has stopped as well as relationships that do not support my efforts to flourish. While all of these changes are very positive, they also have been very scary.

But Lisa, along with others on my “A team” of positive influences and support, are helping me to realize my worth and are showing me by example that I too can flourish with my talents. It is amazing how clearly you can see when you start to honor your needs. I am realizing that my low self-esteem was at the root of my problems. So simple and yet so complicated to accept and begin to deal with.

We check our souls at the door by denying who we really are. Low self-esteem grows from blaming others for our unhappiness and by allowing others to shape us in ways we do not wish to bend.

I gave myself permission to enter hell a very long time ago. Very recently, I gave myself permission to be plucked from it. No matter how extreme your situation is, or how deep in denial you are or are not, don’t let a moment pass without choosing life over walking dead. Don’t let a moment pass without choosing nourishment for your soul over both literal and figurative starvation. Don’t ever turn away a helping hand when you really need one. Swallow your pride and take it.

I am embarking on a huge journey-a journey to Self. I am finally allowing myself to be who I truly am, and I am finally beginning to feel true peace. I hope you will walk this road with me.

Navigating The Quarterlife Crisis

In Creative Support, Interesting Articles, Risk on February 4, 2008 at 2:08 am

Generation X and Y have certainly plenty of unique attributes. Are you part of either generation? According to Penelope Trunk, career columnist at the Boston Globe, you just might be. Penelope says that these generations are far less about age and more about attitude. Click here and take her test and find out exactly what generation you fit into.

Penelope writes a syndicated column which runs in more than 200 publications offering frank- even brazen-career advice. Earlier in life, Penelope was a software executive, and then she founded two companies. She has been through an IPO, an acquisition and a bankruptcy. Before that she played professional beach volleyball. She has a new book out called the Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (Warner, May 2007) which is a worthy read.

Here is a post from Penelope’s blog titled Navigating The Quarterlife Crisis. For all you Gen X and Yer’s, or those who want to know about you, read on. Navigating the quarterlife crisis offers great insights and valuable advice.


Scott Newberg flew into Logan airport in the middle of the night. He went straight home to his office, and in the dark room the blue light of his computer glared – a screen full of unfinished work that piled up while he was gone. He sat down at the keyboard, and that’s when he had the revelation. He gave notice. He has no other job lined up. He has no real plan for how he will make money. But the career he had was not fulfilling.

One of the contributions Generations X and Y have made to the workplace is the quarterlife crisis. It’s not the midlife crisis, typified by a baby boomer in a Porsche obsessively speeding. The quarterlife crisis happens in one’s twenties and more likely involves takeout pizza and obsessive IMing.

The journey toward crisis begins at college graduation, when the typical student has about ten thousand dollars in loans and no skills to land a decent job. Frank Furstenberg, professor of sociology at University of Pennsylvania, says the transition to adulthood is “more arduous today than it was fifty years ago.” Employers are not hiring people in their early 20s for staff jobs. “Employers hire temps for positions that don’t require experience. Society can incorporate people only when they get some experience working and there is a better match between employee and employer.”

With little to lose, most twentysomethings use their post-college time as an opportunity for finding oneself, seeing what’s available, and trying a lot on for size. (Which translates to more than eight jobs before turning 32.) The new behavior, which looks remarkably like flailing, is appropriate for the new workplace. Jeffrey Arnett, psychologist at Clark University and author of Emerging Adulthood says, “People have different personal time tables and it’s nice that people can make choices that are right for them.”

Yet this new phase in one’s career is unnerving in light of the stability of previous generations of people in their 20s. And if the job-hopping doesn’t stop by age thirty, the stress intensifies to crisis.

Emerging adults “have high expectations for work. It is not just a way to make a living,” says Arnett. They want work to be fulfilling and to be an expression of their identities.”

This is true for Alexandra Robbins. She took the first job offered to her after college because she was “seduced by the trappings: Short commute, friends at the company, office with a door. The pay was fine, but the work was not rewarding.”

She realized that in the post-college world, people are judged by their answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” And she knew she needed to do something that could define her.

Typical of her generation, she does not claim to have extravagant dreams: “I never had a big dream. I wanted to make a living writing. Dreams that are too specific lead to missed opportunities.” As a writer she has become a sort of spokesperson for the generation of lost college graduates. Her recent book, Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis, chronicles the ups and downs of people like her, who finally found their way.

Like Furstenberg, Robbins sees that previous generations were more equipped to make the transition to adulthood. “We cannot gain a foothold in society until age thirty. But our parents’ generation has twenty in their head. The crisis is a clash of generations.” Fifty years ago, people expected to find a job for life right after college and be married with kids by 24. But for the current generation, Robbins declares, “Thirty is the new twenty.”

Sure, GenXers and Ys have high expectations for work, and maybe they’re unreasonable, “but the only way to find out is to try,” says Arnett. “Most people will fail. But by the time people are in their late twenties most have made peace with their dreams. Psychologically people tend to accommodate themselves to whatever they have.”

The problems start around age 27 or 28, when most people find a career. For people who do not feel settled, there is panic and what Arnett calls “desperate and dangerous” measures in order to reach their goals.

Which brings us back to Newberg, whose wife is about to give birth. His plan is to stay home with the baby while she supports the family. And he will write music for commercials, though he has scant experience in the trade. And he will “write some novels and shop them around.” He wants to support his family in five years but has not figured out how many novels or musical compositions he would need to sell to do that. Those people who are not turning thirty might bristle at Newberg’s plan. But he says, speaking for many in his generation, “I don’t want to be eighty and regret not taking this risk.”