As an artist in business for the last 35 years I will freely admit that I proceeded blindly with my crazy ideas: first as an outdoor mural painter, then as a product designer (the inflatable Scream and 150 other oddities); more recently I have connected with mentors to help in my transition as an author (’Selling the Scream’) and motivational speaker on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. My alma mater, Antioch College, encouraged us, no shoved us off the ledges of familiarity and comfort to sink or swim with our crazy ideas.
Whenever my partner (aka, my wife) and I came upon a new opportunity that we felt passionate about, we would just remember our lessons from college, then look at each other and say “Hey, we can do that!”. We would then marshall the resources, make a teeny, tiny plan and proceed. Looking back, I can see that unfortunately neither of us had much traditional business sense, and I know I reinvented steps that were already well established; I could have found them out if I had asked more experienced people for help, like other business owners. But, as an artist running a business, I treated my venture a little too personally, and way too creatively, too much like making an art piece or composing a musical score. Yup, it’s been a roller coaster ride, learning the business ropes one mistake after another; the results have been a combination of wonderful success and near catastrophes.
As a speaker, one of my target audiences is colleges and universities. I recently spoke to an entrepreneurship class at George Washington University. To grab their attention I have written songs about being in business and accompany them with plenty of real life stories of mine and others’ forays into creating a start-up. I find that students are inspired by unconventional approaches to entrepreneurship, by odd businesses, and trust me more when I admit my mistakes and failures: they thus see that there are many ways to birth a business, none of them easy. Their questions after my talks and the glow in their faces show me that they really want to jump onto the entrepreneurship express.
But rest assured, after the excitement and fun of the presentation, I also stress the value of making a plan, getting informed help, doing market research including looking at niche marketing opportunities especially through the web, planning for success as well as failure, having a great web site, and networking as much as possible. What I don’t do is tell them that their idea won’t work. What I do tell them is, “Don’t let the craziness of your crazy idea stop you…let it inspire you!” Far be it from me to dampen their enthusiasm.