Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Employees’ Category

5 Decisions

In Author: Lisa Canning, Employees, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Legal, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk on September 26, 2009 at 11:22 am

buffet-image.jpgJust got back from a wonderful clarinet-buying trip at Buffet-Crampon, the clarinet manufacturer I represent, who is in Jacksonville, Florida. It was an especially pleasant trip. My flights left and returned relatively on time, I was offered a convertible to drive as my rental car, and the B&B I always stay at, The Fig Tree Inn, offered me a new room – the nautical room- which I loved.

AND searching for great clarinets felt particularly easy this time. (I swear the French have good days and bad days drilling those damn holes in grenadilla wood. But this time, the great instruments fell one right after another all in a few serial number rows.)

dreamstime_6275191Anyway, while I was having all this fun, I had a thought that you might enjoy reading about 5 decisions I made this week. So here they are in no particular order:

Five. My ability to have insight into a situation, make a decision and take action quickly– usually a skill set that makes me money, saves me time and I trust to protect my entrepreneurial life, cost me. I was just about to close on a small condo in the city, that I intended to use periodically and also rent out occasionally to clients, when abruptly the mortgage company cancelled their mortgage commitment to me. I had made the mistake of advertising it online at Lisa’s Clarinet Shop that it would soon be available to customers passing through town. This particular mortgage company, as is the case now with so many of them, will not currently write any investment property mortgages. I did not think of this property as an investment property so it never dawned on me they would–my mistake. As a result, the seller became impatient and I lost the property.

Oh well. A bomb blew up in the mine field. It happens. ( It’s just in hindsight you feel pretty dumb. It’s that classically-trained-perfect-artist-syndrome inside of me- got to do it “perfectly” EVERY time. Though, neither my real estate broker or attorney thought to ask the question either… hmmm- they are suppose to be my trusted advisors who guide me to achieve what I am trying to accomplish. That is what I pay them for.)

Four. I made the decision of changing my new Not for Profit ensemble, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble™, to a DBA (“doing business as”) designation, underneath the umbrella of Entrepreneur The Arts®. By doing so, I have turned ETA into a Not-For-Profit. Up until right now, ETA did not have a corporate identity. The reason I decided to do this is because truly the work of ETA is mission based. Changing the way WE ALL think about, and learn to create and act on, the imaginative potency of the arts as a catalyst for change- for us, inside corporations, universities and government too– just like President Obama is trying to do again by utilizing the creativity and artistry inside the NEA to communicate his agenda to the American people- this is a mission that is going to take a village and should be a NFP. (Oh, and if your not sure if you believe me google the equivalent of “The White House in bed with the NEA” and include a few words like propaganda, partisanship and socialism. Is this really what you want to see happen? Are we really going to lie down and just accept letting others lead us towards becoming an extinct breed? Does innovating your artistry matter to you? What if this is truly how you need to learn to leverage your artistry so you can experience change– and see how someone can change how they feel about themselves and the world because of what you do? )

Three. Likewise, I had an inactive LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) set up for the book I wrote. The one that Susan Schulman, (Richard Florida’s agent) agreed to represent on my behalf, Starving Artist Not! (That at Susan’s insistence became Build A Blue Bike) — but the book never sold–

And so this legal entity has been sitting idle.

So this week, I decided to remove the name Starving Artist Not! on the articles of incorporation document and sent a name change to the Secretary of State to replace it with The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™. Since The Institute of Arts Entrepreneurship™ is founded in the concepts of developing an artist into an artistic entrepreneur, the same founding principals in my book, it seemed to make sense. And of equal importance, since the school’s purpose is to help artists create artistic ventures, and not to act as angel investors, we will not, and cannot, assume liability for others actions or businesses.

Equally, this change in our legal status made good sense– we should be an LLC and limit our liability.

Two. I decided to hire, part-time, an actor, Shawn Bowers, who has this amazing gift for social media. After careful consideration I decided if social media was good enough as the primary PR engine for President Obama’s campaign to be elected as President, its plenty good enough to serve as the platform for my PR to promote ETA and IAE. Shawn wrote the press release titled “Chicago Arts Incubator at Flourish Studios” in two hours beautifully, didn’t he? On his first week on the job he set up a Facebook page, Twitter account and identified over 50 blogs and websites to send press to about ETA, Flourish Studios and The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™. He is off to an A+ start.

One. I managed to decide I would submit an mp3 of my recording of “Shiva” to the folks at UT- Austin who are in charge of organizing the The International Clarinet Association Conference for 2010. I asked to play and I think they might just let me– but I’m NOT advertising they are here. (That already cost me once. I hope the lesson is now learned.) Bless their hearts- really. They get SO MANY requests and everyone comes with their agenda’s jockeying for position– I hate to add one more to their load.. it seems always so political to me. Most of these conferences feature the same twenty-five GREAT artists year after year. No imagination required. Hope this one in Austin steps outside the ICA’s comfort zone a little bit and extends far into the great musical list of creative imaginative and freelancing less-well-known clarinetists.

Box? What Box?

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Employees on June 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Allow me to play the devils advocate for a moment and ask “What’s wrong with thinking inside the box”? It’s dull, certainly, and not very rewarding, and usually quite a tedious process, but other than that, what is the harm? When did “thinking inside the box” become such a social stigma? When did it become something to scorn and malign instead of something to build upon? It occured to me today, as I was trying to describe what qualities I found most valuable when I was looking to hire someone, that the qualities I prize the most highly in someone that I plan to work with are very much “inside the box” qualities. They are as follows: – Show up. (On time). -Meet your deadlines. – Don’t complain too much in between. They sound obvious because they are. They are quintessential “inside the box” qualities that require no skill or special training to achieve. They are dull, tedious, and unrewarding to the extreme; surely they are worthy of our scorn and ridicule? Or are they? I happen to think that these are invaluable qualities, whether they’re boring or not. In fact I might even go so far as to say that the ability to show up, to get things done, and to do it with a pleasant disposition are the key elements to success. Showing Up Don’t you hate it when you’re sitting at home minding your own business and someone knocks at the door and offers you a job with full benefits and a nice plump starting salary with flexible hours and a company car and a generous annual bonus? What’s that you say? You say this has never happened to you? Oh, right. This is reality. The expression “opportunity knocking” I think is very misleading. Opportunity never knocks. It walks in without asking and if no one is around when it gets there then it walks out again. Showing up may sound like a stupid piece of advice, but sometimes that’s all it takes. It is the easiest way to get noticed. For example, I was casting a short film a few years ago and a gentleman showed up for the audition. Since the film was silent, and since he was a voice actor, he decided that it probably wasn’t the right role for him but he left a headshot and resume and I added him to my mailing list. Several weeks later we had a fundraising event and I sent out email announcements to my mailing list. He came to the event and reintroduced himself and I was very pleased and impressed that he had chosen to take the time to come all the way out for an event to fund a film that he wasn’t even a part of. When it came time to cast our second film I made sure to send him an email to invite him to the audition and when it came down to the final three actors and I was trying to decide between them I said to myself: “These three actors are all very talented, but I know that THIS one will show up.” And that was the deciding factor. Meet Your Deadlines Henry Ford invented the assembly line to speed up the manufacturing process; a team of individuals each with a specific task that needed to be completed before the item being built could pass to the next person. One worker would tighten a bolt, the next would pull a lever, the next would add a spring and so on until a Model T rolled off at the far end. Now imagine if the first worker didn’t tighten his bolt. The next worker couldn’t pull his lever, the fellow after him couldn’t add his spring, and no cars would roll off the end of the line. The entire team would be held up waiting for one person to do their damn job, and in the end nothing would be accomplished. This is an exaggeration of the importance of deadlines but only a small one. Filmmaking is, like many activities, a team effort. It takes an incredible amount of effort to get a production rolling and only one small grain of sand in the works to bring it to a standstill. If a costumer doesn’t have a costume ready in time then the actors, the cameraman, the gaffer (that’s the lighting guy), the director, the sound engineer and so on all have to wait for it to be finished and production grinds to a halt. I’m unfairly picking on costumers here, but really it could be any member of the team holding up production; an actor without lines memorized, a sound engineer without the proper equipment, the cameraman with dirty lenses, etc. The point is, if you’re part of a team (and we all are, in some way or another) other people depend on you to get your work DONE before they can do their part. I’ve worked with some people who were innovative, creative, masterful, geniuses in their field, but who couldn’t get a single thing finished in time. I always think twice about working with them a second time- is the quality of their work worth the time and expense of having to wait for them to finish it? Sadly, the answer is often “no”. I’d rather have a functional Model T roll off the end of the line than to hire a virtuoso bolt-tightener who is going to hold up the line. Don’t Complain Too Much There are two schools of thought on this: One is “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” and the other is “The squeaky wheel gets replaced”. At times, it is appropriate to bellyache a little bit about any job. The hours are long. The pay is bad. The expectations are unreasonable. I worked one summer in a Summerstock repertory theatre in the costume department. Summerstock theatre is incredibly intensive. We would work twelve hour days, in the basement of a theatre, six days a week, for three weeks until the main show went up. I would see the sun for 15 minutes in the morning and for a few minutes at lunch and dinner breaks. Complaining was something we all did exceptionally well and with great abundance to blow off steam and to comiserate. The point is that even though we whined a lot, we still did the work and put in the hours. Complaining is natural when things suck, but when complaining becomes more important than getting the work done it becomes a problem. I intensely dislike working with the kind of person who complains about the work they have while doing nothing. It takes a supreme effort to motivate them to do anything which invariably leads to the rest of the team needing to do more work to compensate. The more the rest of the team has to work the more dissatisfied they get and the less they want to work and the more motivation it takes to get them going. Give me someone who will work in spite of their complaints any day. So maybe the point of all this is that we should think of The Box as a toolbox, instead of as a trap. The tools we keep in it are pretty basic: a hammer, a screwdriver, a tape measure, etc but we wouldn’t try to build our dream house without them. Why would we try to build our dream job without basic tools like showing up, meeting deadlines, and not complaining too much? And who knows, The Box could be handy as a step ladder for reaching those lofty goals or as an ballast when we need to steady ourselves in troubled economic tides. Maybe The Box iteslf is our most important tool whether we’re thinking inside it or thinking outside of it.

Jump Start Your Life- I have the spark plug

In Accounting, Art, BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Customer Service, Employees, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on January 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm

dreamstime_3139037One of the reasons I want to write books is because books, art, poetry and film, as examples, all intrinsically are built to last. Their very form offers easy “spark-creating-experience” access, like a hand full of nourishment going right into our mouth. Love that rush of energy that follows, don’t you? You know, the part before you get tired?

While it is impossible for a memory to replace the actual real time experience of ephoria, or intense joy, anger or sadness– only the kind a work of art can deliver, it can be waiting eagerly for you on a shelf, if it’s a book, or hanging on your wall.

What a basic concept entrepreneurship is for artistry, and yet without this simple “must have”, generations upon generations have defined who we are and what we are capable of creating for others in life, through a very narrow, confining, and as I see it, rather destructive single lens.

In honor of the power of the written word to enlighten and transform, here is my recommended reading list to jump start your very best you in 2009.


Do You Want to Become More Entrepreneurial?

* Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, by Bo Burlingham

* The Art of The Start by Guy Kawasaki

* Awakening the Entrepreneur Within: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies,
by Michael Gerber

* Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, by Richard Florida

*The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live, by
Scott A. Shane

*Bounce!: Failure, Resiliency, and Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success, by Barry J. Moltz

*Birthing the Elephant: A Woman’s Go-For-It Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business, by Karen Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman

Marketing Maven
* Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin

* The New Marketing Manifesto: The 12 Rules for Building Successful Brands in the 21st Century (Business Essentials) by John Grant

* The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

* Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say by Douglas Rushkoff

* Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

* The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing by Emanuel Rosen

* The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott

Organizational Development
* The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market by Michael Treacy

* Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

* The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky

*First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham

* Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

* Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

* The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Financial Health Check
*The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical & Spiritual Steps So you Can Stop Worrying by Suze Orman

* Finance Your New or Growing Business: How to Find and Raise Capital for Your Venture by Ralph Alterowitz and Jon Zonderman

*Conscious Finance: Uncover Your Hidden Money Beliefs and Transform the Role of Money in Your Life by Rick Kahle

*The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life by George Kinder

*The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life by Lynne Twist

Reaching for Greatness
* The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

* This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love by Tama Kieves

* Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland

* The Everyday Work of Art by Eric Booth

* The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer

6 Tips for Using Free On-line Business Tools

In Accounting, Art, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Customer Service, Employees, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on January 6, 2009 at 1:33 am

January’s Entrepreneur Magazine offered these six tips on using free on-line tools:

#1
Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it. “Because there’s so much out there, businesses have a tendency to be like a kid in a candy store,” says Drew McLellan. “Start with the strategy of what you want to accomplish, and then find the tool that will allow you to do that.”

Adds Mike Whaling, “It’s a matter of figuring out which tools are right for your business. Know your audience, and then go to where they are already having conversations.”

#2
You don’t have to figure it all out by yourself. McLellan suggests doing a simple Google search on a tool or task you want to accomplish. “You’ll find people talking about it,” he says. “And people are incredibly quick to share what they know.”

#3
Don’t lose your company’s brand. Using a variety of tools can lead to an inconsistent company image and voice. Says McLellan, “Run it through the litmus test of ‘Is this right for my business? Does it portray my business the way I want?'” Whaling also emphasizes thinking about what your business’s name will be associated with because many free tools are ad-supported.

#4
Push your preconceived notions aside. MySpace and Facebook aren’t just for the kiddies anymore. Says McLellan, “There are a lot of people conducting business on [these sites].”

#5
Does the tool have staying power? For every successful blog, video website or social network, there are dozens that won’t make it. So, again, talk with people online and discuss their experiences with the tool to gauge its stability and reliability.

#6
It may be free, but you still need to invest. Just creating a profile won’t cut it. Making the most of these tools requires time and effort, says Whaling. “There’s an investment in reading other people’s blogs, commenting on posts, getting involved in the community and building relationships.”

Can you get someplace in life for nothing?

In Accounting, Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Customer Service, Employees, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, Theater/Film, Writing on January 5, 2009 at 1:25 am

Is it ever possible in life to get somewhere for nothing and have it be somewhere really good? Over the decades, we certainly have heard that “there is no such thing as a free ride” and that “if it’s too good to be true, it likely is”.

But these days, thanks to the internet, there is lots of FREE stuff online, much of which supports the entrepreneur and a start-up venture.

According to an article which appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine this month, Gary Vaynerchuck, co-founder of Wine Library, has been taking advantage of free business tools for nearly three years to grow his 11 year-old wine retail business. Using a combination of web-based tools, such as social networking, blogging and video, he’s taken his company to annual sales of $50 million. One way Wine Library uses these tools, is to notify his friends of daily specials by using MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, in place of email. His success with these tools has even landed him two book deals and regular speaking engagements across the country. “Building brand equity and connecting with your consumers through these social tools has a global impact on your business and your brand,” says Vaynerchuck, 33.

Alison Boris, 38, and Kathi Chandler, 31, have also been capitalizing on free tools since nearly the beginning of their LA based hand bag boutique, called AllyKatStyle. Besides a MySpace page, they also have profies on Digg and StumbleUpon, which are community content sharing sites, to grow their business.

All these free tools also mean that for even a small business, the “little guy” can look a whole lot bigger, not to mention more sophisticated. With a price tag of FREE, it’s hard not to want to take advantage and get on the ride to somewhere great.

Have I gotten your attention? Good, then let’s get you started:

Communication/Email
Dimdim ( dimdim.com)- open source web conferencing application; free basic service
Jott (jott.com)-voice-to-text service for creating notes, lists, e-mails and text messages; free basic service
Oovoo ( oovoo.com) -video messaging, chatting and conferencing
Paltalk ( paltalk.com) – Group IM, chat and video call application
Plugoo ( plugoo.com) -direct chatting with any blog or site visitor
YouSendIt (yousendit.com)- send files up to 2GB; free basic service

Content, Media, Video
Audacity (audacity-sourceforge.net) Open source software for cross-platform audio recording
Blip.tv: (blip.tv)- Video blogging, podcasting and video sharing service; free basic service
BlogTalkRadio (blogtalkradio.com) radio network for users to host their own shows
DropShots ( dropshots.com)- Video hosting and photo sharing
Feedburner ( feedburner.com)- media distribution services for blogs and RSS feeds
Fix My Movie ( fixmymovie.com)- Video enhancement service; free basic service
Paint.NET ( getpaint.net)- image and photo editing software
Phixr (phixr.com)- picture and photo editor
Seesmic (seesmic.com)- Video conversation platform
SlideShare ( slideshare.net)- Share and embeded slideshows. Powerpoints and PDF’s into web pages
VideoSpin ( videospin.com)- video-editing software

Financial
BizEquity ( bizequity.com) – company valuations
Mint ( mint.com) – personal finance, money mangement, budget planning and financial planning software
MyBizHomepage (mybizhomepage.com) – financial dashboard for small business Quick Book users
QuickBooks (quickbooks.com) small-business accounting software; free simple start 2009 download)
Wesabe (wesabe.com)- Financial advice, analysis and planning

Marketing, Networking, PR
Wordpress (wordpress.com)- Blog publishing tool
Craigslist ( craigslist.org)- Online classified and job posting network
CollectiveX ( collectivex.com)-Create social networking and collaboration sites for groups
Digg (digg.com)- content sharing site
Linkedin ( linkedin.com)- Business social networking site
Pligg ( pligg.com)-Open-source, community-centric site for discovering, rating and sharing content
PolicyMap( Policymap.com) -Geographic and demographic information system for creating custom maps, tables and chartes; basic free service
YouNoodle ( younoodle.com)-Netowrking for startups and valuation with Startup Predictor
YourPitchSucks (yourpitchsucks.com) PR pitch reviewing and advising
Stumble Upon ( stumbleupon.com)- Content sharing site

Office Productivity, and Organization
Adobe Buzzword (adobe.com)- Collaborative word processor application
CutePDF Write (Cutepdf.com)- PDF creator; free basic service
Dabble DB ( dabbledb.com)- Create, manage and share online databases; free basic service
Doodle (doodle.com)- Schedule, and coordinate meetings and other appointments
FreshBooks ( freshbooks.com)-Invoicing, time-tracking and expense service; free basic service
SurveyMonkey ( surveymonkey.com)-Create and publish custom online surveys; free basic service
ThinkFree Office ( thinkfree.com)-Office productivity suite; free basic service
WuFoo (wufoo.com)-HTML form builder for creating interactive forms;free basic service

Project Management, Collaboration
Remember the Milk (rememberthemilk.com)-Task management solution and to-do lists
Socialtext (socialtext.com)- Wiki and website collaboration; free basic service
Team Task ( teamtask.com)-Collaborative project management and community website builder
Yugma (yugma.com)-Web meeting and collaboration service

Web
Google Alerts ( google.com/alerts)- E-mail updates on choice of query or topic
KickApps ( kickapps.com)- platform of applications to integrates social features into a website
Microsoft Office Live Small Business (smallbusiness.officelive.com)- Create a company website, domain and email; free basic service
Synthasite ( synthasite.com)- Web hosting and building
Weebly ( weebly.com)-Website and blog creator
Widgetbox (widgetbox.com)-web widgets for various applications
Woopra ( woopra.com) -Web tracking and analysis application; free basic service

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

In Accounting, Art, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Current Events, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Artist Contest Contestants, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Clarinet Shop, The Entrepreneurial Artist Competition, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on December 23, 2008 at 3:04 am

f91ddde14399af3663324567dfa4My wish for you, ON CHRISTMAS DAY,
will be for you TOO, to keep the GRINCH at bay!

But if by chance, you simply cannot,
Band mighty together, as a great big Who-Ville lot!

WWHHYY????? Smarty-Arty, I hear you say?

BECAUSE, with all your JOY stirring together,
the grinch who came to visit, just might feel a WEE bit better.

Merry Christmas, my dears, what’s your ETA,
to ENTREPRENEUR The Arts, in a new innovative way.
PLEASE COME WITH ME, lets ride far, far and away!

signed your friend, an artistic missionIST, a student of Dr. Suess-a-visionIST, gliding, and sent with love.

The story of Righteous Babe

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Risk, The Idea on October 31, 2008 at 7:04 pm

The story of Ani DiFranco and how she and her partner Scot Fisher built Righteous Babe is a wonderful story about building artistry through a sense of community, the creativity to do so, falling in love, breaking up and the re-birth of relationships and the company. This story appeared in INC magazine and was written by Bo Burlingham, editor at large for Inc Magazine, who also wrote a book about companies that choose to be great instead of big called Small Giants. Righteous Babe fits right into this category!

Ani DiFranco is sitting in her dressing room at the Chicago Theater, six hours before a performance, and she wants to set the record straight. Money, she says, had nothing to do with her decision to reject all those offers from major record labels and start her own business. Nor did she turn down the offers out of fear of losing her artistic freedom. So what was it, then? “I didn’t want to participate in what big corporations are doing to society,” she says. “My decision not to work with a major label was not about me. It was about something bigger than me.”

There are, in fact, quite a few things bigger than Ani (pronounced ah-nee) DiFranco. She is, well, diminutive, although she hardly seems that way when she comes charging onto the stage at the start of a performance, her brown dreadlocks flying, her guitar blazing, her body twisting and turning in a blast of energy. Legions of fans can’t get enough of that energy and the music that goes with it. And yet, for all her artistic success, it’s often her commercial ventures that get attention — much to her chagrin. When Ms. focused on her business prowess in citing her as one of “21 feminists for the 21st century,” she fired off a letter of protest to the magazine’s editor: “Imagine how strange it must be for a girl who has spent 10 years fighting as hard as she could against the lure of the corporate carrot and the almighty forces of capital, only to be recognized by the power structure as a business pioneer.”

It is, however, a designation she can’t escape. Her record company, Righteous Babe Records, is one of the few successful artist-created labels around, having sold more than 4 million of DiFranco’s records and put out CDs by more than a dozen other performers. And it’s no ordinary company. In an industry dominated by giant corporations, Righteous Babe has the look, feel, and smell of a small hometown business. Staff members, for example, respond with handwritten notes to the thousands of letters the company gets from its customers, DiFranco’s fans. In return, the company elicits a level of devotion seldom seen in business. Customers go out of their way to protect it, patrolling the Internet and reporting on websites that try to sell unauthorized recordings of DiFranco’s music. Some fans are so passionate about the business that they come from as far away as Australia and Switzerland, not to see DiFranco perform, but to visit the company headquarters in Buffalo. “I’m standing here in total awe,” wrote one visitor from Los Angeles in the guest book.

And it’s not just the fans. Talk to the company’s record distributors, its printers, the manufacturers of its CDs, the concert promoters, not to mention its employees, and you realize that DiFranco and partner Scot Fisher have tapped into one of the most underappreciated forces in business, namely, the power of community. To do that while maintaining great margins is quite an accomplishment — especially for a company whose CEO believes, as DiFranco sang on a recent album, that “capitalism is the devil’s wet dream.”

Scot Fisher is a tall, quiet, somewhat diffident man who works out of a cluttered office at Righteous Babe’s headquarters. At 43, he still dresses like the construction guy he was when he first met DiFranco. Although he is usually referred to as her manager, the term does not do justice to the role he plays in her business life. Besides looking out for her career, he is the chief architect, co-owner, and operating head of Righteous Babe and its six component businesses, including a touring company, a retail operation, a music publisher, a real estate developer, and a foundation, as well as the record label. Together they do about $5 million in sales, mostly from DiFranco’s CDs and her touring. (Profits are harder to figure but probably run a bit less than $1 million a year.) Yet another venture, a concert venue, will open next spring in a restored church down the block, which will also house a jazz club, an art gallery, and the headquarters of Righteous Babe. In addition to complementing the other businesses, the concert hall represents a hedge against the uncertain future that Righteous Babe and all record companies face these days. “I’m in the buggy business, and it’s 1905,” says Fisher. “It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”

“I’m in the buggy business and it’s 1905. It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”
He wound up in the business almost by accident. Back in 1988, he was the co-owner of a small construction and housepainting company, and he’d recently moved into an apartment that the girlfriend of one of his partners was sharing with a woman she’d gone to art school with, an 18-year-old folksinger. One evening, he went to see his new housemate perform at a local bar. “It was sort of obligatory,” he says. “Then she started to play.” Nine years her senior, Fisher soon became DiFranco’s confidant and mentor. Along the way, they fell in love. At some point, Righteous Babe entered the picture. “In the beginning, it was more of a joke than a real business,” DiFranco says. “You know, ‘Yeah, uh-huh, I got a record company. You’re looking at it.'”

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that she would gravitate toward entrepreneurship. She’d been figuring out how to make her own way in the world from an early age. At nine, she was spending Saturdays busking at the local farmers’ market. At 12, she was making and selling cards of pressed flowers to earn money for horse camp. At 15, when her parents divorced, she moved out and lived on her own, largely supporting herself. Only once, in 1991, did she come close to signing with an established label, backing out as soon as she read the terms of the contract.

And yet, even without a contract, her fame spread. By the end of 1993, she had released five albums under the Righteous Babe label, and they were setting sales records at the folk festivals where she performed. Thanks to her constant touring, she was developing a loyal following, especially among young women, many of them lesbians who identified with her feminist lyrics and considered her one of their own. But Righteous Babe existed pretty much in name only. It had no structure, no organization, no full-time employees, and no office. DiFranco’s albums were getting very little radio airplay and couldn’t be found in most record stores. On top of that, she’d had a major falling-out with her business manager.

Into the breach stepped Fisher, who had been studying law while DiFranco was working on her music career. “I figured I could always be a lawyer,” he says. “When would I get another chance to manage Ani DiFranco?” DiFranco, for her part, had doubts about having her lover take charge of her business affairs. “In the end,” she says, “he just sort of declared himself my business manager.” Fisher says they had an understanding that he’d step aside if it turned out he was wrong for the job.

There was, in fact, little reason to believe he was right for the job. He lacked experience, credentials, and credibility in the music business. “It took [Ani’s agent] Jim Fleming a couple of years to tell me that the first time I called, he thought, ‘Omigod, it’s the boyfriend.'” Fisher says. “But I knew where I stood. I knew people didn’t respect me. I’m from Buffalo. I’m used to it.”

To read the rest of the article click here

Words of Wisdom from 5 Top Entrepreneurs

In Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, Money, Risk on October 22, 2008 at 6:51 pm


You’ve got the artistic part down pat, Let us help with the rest*

“Sixteen years ago, we were cold calling and struggling to land our first client, The Port Authority of New York. New Jersey called us by mistake, attempting to contact a company whose name was silmilar to (ours). We kept them on the phone and discussed their IT (informational technology) infrastructure and project needs at length. Needless to say, they became our first client. We still laugh at this.”
Ranjini Poddar, Artech Information Systems LLC, Cedar Knolls, New Jersey
Began:1992 Initial Investment: $200,000 2003 Sales: 2.2 million 2007 Sales: 182.2 million

“The biggest mistake we ever made was undervaluing ourselves. When we started, we were young and hungry and we didn’t give ourselves credit for the amount of value we brought to our clients and strategies. So the lesson learned is: Don’t undervalue yourself and your expertise, and don’t let you size dictate your value.”
Shenan Reed, Morpheus Media, New York City, New York
Began: 2001 Initial Investment: $0 2003 Sales: 2.0 million 2007 Sales: 35 million

“It is important to take an inventory of your strengths and what you like to do. Focus on those things and get help for the others as soon as you can.”
Amy Langer, Salo LLC, Minneapolis, MN
Began: 2002 Initial Investment: $150,000 2003 Sales: 3.4 million 2007 Sales: 42 million

“Be a great juggler. As a woman in business, you will always have lots of balls in the air, including activities of running your business and being strategic in your decisions to grow your business. In many cases, ( you also have) the role of being a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister. The same traits that make us great in all of these roles are the ones that you will rely on to excel in business.”
Leslie O’Connor, Search Wizards, Atlanta, Georgia
Began: 2000 Initial Investment: $0 2003 Sales: 359,600 2007 Sales: 12.2 million

“Build an atmosphere of trust and respect. You must always respect the (employees and clients) you work with. Believe in your people. Make your word count. In addition, never lose focus on your next challenge.”
Jeni Bogdan, The Saxon Group, Sugar Hill, Georgia
Began: 1995 Initial Investment: $100,000 2003 Sales: 13.4 million 2007 Sales: 81.8 million

*The image at the top of this post is an advertisement for The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), a nonprofit arts and culture service agency dedicated to Northeast Ohio’s success by preserving and advancing its arts and culture sector.

A Sophomore’s Summer Building a Business

In Employees, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Health & Wellness, Marketing, Risk on September 30, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Kelly Penick has written a few articles on this blog. Here is another post about her progress building a business as a sophomore in college. I began working with Kelly, as one of her advisors, last year. Here are links to some of Kelly’s other posts to learn more about her journey.
My First Try at Buying a Business
Jumping Off a Cliff Daily Towards My Future
Her Passion: From a Freshman at Appalachian State, Boone, NC

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By Kelly Penick

Oh the click of the time clock on Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 to 10am. This moment was my 600th hour of education at Artistic Academy—and my moment declaring my completion. What a wonderful feeling to turn my timecard in for the last time.

I have to say that my leaving the Artistic Academy was bittersweet. I had grown close to one of the instructors and adopted her as one of my grandparents. Her hugs and loving words meant the most as we did our final toast with diet squirt cola and I hit the road for Raleigh. My mom and I were on our way their to take one of my state board exams.

As I rode along I reflected on the last few months. One of the goals that I can fondly look back on is one of the instructors saying that the Esthetician course takes 4-4 ½ months to complete and I was able to beat the clock and make it all happen in 3 ½ months. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Things Entrepreneurs Do and Know

In Accounting, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Money, Risk on November 30, 2006 at 2:36 am

#10 Know when to stop and cut your losses and know when to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

#9 When you have been hit hard, and knocked down, stand right back up.

#8 Know success is part financial, part emotional and part about a healthy lifestyle.

#7 Givers gain. Always go out of your way to be the first to help someone regardless of if there is something in it for you. It’s all about karma.

#6 Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.

#5 Hire people who are not like you, but bring different strengths to the table, that compliment your skill set.

#4 Cash flow is king. WIthout cash your out of business.

#3 Develop your instincts and trust them.

#2 Have a minimum of three and preferably a five year plan on paper including profits & loss and balance sheet projections. Remember: they are there as a “work in progress”, so you can change them as you progress along the way!

#1 Love the path you choose and passionately pursue it.