Month: July 2014

Art of the Start – Advice from Artistic Entrepreneurs

Aspiring artists are essentially aspiring entrepreneurs – both are passionate about their art or idea, ambitious dreamers, and dedicated to their work. However, artists tend to think of themselves as anti-business, but to be a successful artist, focusing on the business side is just as important. TrendVenture gave a group of aspiring self-employed artists the opportunity to meet and learn directly from founders and business owners to hear the reality of being an entrepreneur in the arts first hand.

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During the 14th Annual Self-Employment in the Arts Conference, TrendVenture took a group of college students and entrepreneurs to explore arts in entrepreneurship in the local community of Naperville, Illinois. The tour took the students on a two-hour hands-on experiential opportunity to speak directly with business owners and artists about the realities of owning a business, learning how they can pursue their passion by finding creative ideas and opportunities in unexpected places.

Self-Employment in Arts is a non-profit organization housed at North Central College and brings together emerging student artists from across the nation to provide resources and connections to make them successfully self-employed. TrendVenture connected a group of their conference attendees with a variety of artistic entrepreneurs in Naperville, ranging from culinary arts and photography to fashion and design.

Here are the top 3 tips for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs shared from the generous insight of the business owners during this event.

1) “You are a professional as soon as you get paid, so act like it.” Megan Drane, Founder of Firefly Nights Photography

Megan Drane is an internationally award winning photographer and owner of Firefly Nights Photography. She found herself as an entrepreneur by surprise and has learned a lot along the way, especially the importance of valuing your art, services and yourself. Megan advised on treating your art or service as a business from day one. She said, “You’re [considered] a professional as soon as you get paid [for it], so act like it.” Focusing on your target market and valuing the worth of your work from the start by treating yourself like a professional artist is important to the long-term success of your business.

2) “Keep your costs low.” Kellyn Machacek, Founder of Baubles by Maclyn

Kellyn Machacek built her business, Baubles by Maclyn, on over 25 years of expertise in the jewelry industry. With a background in psychology, she also started her business unintentionally. Kellyn shared how a strong understanding of the competition is important, from business models to branding. She explained the importance of standing out from the competition and protecting yourself and your business. This includes the cost it takes to produce your products or services. As a business owner, you need to keep your costs as low as possible to ensure that you can price your products or art at a level that will support you and your business. Although this does not mean sacrificing quality, it does demonstrate the significance of sourcing and wholesaling to make sure you can stay competitive.

3) “You’re your own boss.” Terrell Cole, Founder of Dark Horse Pastries

After years leading kitchens across the nation, Terrell Cole followed his passion and launched Dark Horse Pastries. As the Executive Chef, Terrell not only heads up all of the baking and catering orders, but he also runs all aspects of his business, from marketing and promotions to managing staff. There are pros and cons to running your own business, and as he said, both sides come down to the fact that “You’re your own boss.” Entrepreneurs have the luxury of deciding their own schedule and doing what they love every day, and not having a boss tell them what to do. Yet as an entrepreneur, your fate is left totally up to you – you instead have to wear all hats and do more work in all areas of your business to bring in customers and pay employees. Terrell advises that good leaders “always ask for help” and to hold themselves responsible for failures, while they “praise the audience” and their team for successes.

The road to becoming a successful artist requires persistence, dedication and passion, just like traditional entrepreneurship. Artists are entrepreneurs and should view themselves as such to achieve their desired success.

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“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”    – Keith Ferrazzi

Networking goes beyond meeting people and collecting business cards. It’s more than meetings and getting coffee. Networking is making friends and building real relationships. It can happen in unexpected places and doesn’t always involved “business.” At the heart of it must be your willingness to help others and expect nothing in return.

The Pressure of the Pitch

How to Maintain Your Composure and Pitch Under PressureKeep Calm and Pitch

Giving an elevator pitch can be a terrifying experience. Whether you’re pitching in a competition in front of hundreds of people, pitching to wealthy and successful investors, or trying to land that much needed new client or job, it can seem like your entire future is dependent on those few seconds you have to pitch. The words that come out of your mouth can make or break the deal. And what if stage fright sets in and you forget everything? It could be your worst nightmare coming to life. Yikes! Who would ever want to pitch?

Well, pitching doesn’t have to be scary. It can actually be fun! If you’re enjoying yourself while you’re pitching, that energy is going to translate to your audience and they’re going to enjoy it more. And a happy and engaged audience is what we want!

So how can you get to that point where you are excited to pitch and are not nervously psyching yourself out? Here are 3 tips to help you maintain your composure and pull off a successful pitch in a high pressure situation.

1) Practice Makes Perfect
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and it’s true. The more practice you have saying your pitch, the more comfortable you will feel with it, and the more comfortable you are, the more conversational and natural it will sound. With enough practice, anything can become second nature and the goal is to be able to say your pitch so easily that you don’t even have to think about it. If you’ve practiced your pitch enough, even when the nerves set it, you will be mentally prepared and your pitch will come to you. Be sure to practice the different key elements of your pitch individually, so you are confident with every section and can pick it up no matter where you leave off. This will also help you avoid sounding too overly rehearsed, which can come across as insincere to the audience.

2) Say It And Forget It
Have you ever heard someone give a presentation, realized they missed a point, and then try to go back and touch upon it or add in some extra words? Up until that point, you probably didn’t know that they messed up or forgot anything. But as soon as they tried to add it in or repeat themselves, it became obvious. This is what you DON’T want to do. When you are giving your pitch, if you pass a section and miss a point, move on. To have a cohesive, smooth pitch, the best thing you can do is to continue the pitch and save any part you missed for later, whether as a follow up or as an answer to a question. Trying to add pieces back into your pitch can become confusing to the audience and distracts them into concentrating on what part you messed up. Remember, YOU know YOUR pitch. THEY don’t! That’s the whole reason you are telling them! So if you forget something, don’t try to overanalyze it and throw yourself off track because of this mishap; simply move forward. Chances are they won’t even know that anything was off.

3) You Are The Expert
One thing that tends to make most people nervous is thinking about what others will think. Whatever you are pitching – your product, service, company, or even yourself – remember that YOU are the expert! Others will be looking to you for the answers, so don’t second guess yourself. Treat your pitch as simply a conversation in which you are telling someone else about something that you know more about. Getting lost in the idea that someone else is judging you on your pitch can be nerve-racking and may cause you to lose sight of the end goal. Have confidence in yourself and in your pitch, and remember that when it comes to your pitch, you are the expert!

Remember that you are probably your own worst critic. However bad you think your pitch went, chances are it went much better than that. To help you get over some of the mental torture that you’ll inevitably place on yourself, remember to use these pitch tips to help you avoid some of the nervous pitfalls and remain cool, calm, and collected.

The Employee Pitch

Why Employees Should Pitch for Your Company

Elevator pitches are typically considered something that entrepreneurs or founders do to attract the attention of investors or potential partners. However, pitches are just as important and vital to the ongoing success of existing companies.

Companies spend an average of $1,202 per employee on training, or as much as $156 billion spent on employee learning by U.S. firms in 2011. Meanwhile, companies spent 10.4% of their annual 2012 revenue on overall marketing activities.

With all of this money going towards employee training and marketing, why isn’t more attention being given to viewing employees as a marketing tool?

Especially when we realize that word of mouth is still viewed as the most trusted source of information. According to Nielsen’s 2012 Global Trust in Advertising report, 92% of consumers said they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.

This means that employees are the most valuable marketing tools a company has, and they represent the greatest return on investment potential.

But this doesn’t just apply to top management, execs, or sales. Employees at all levels should be equipped with the company pitch. Just imagine the power of your entire workforce being able to verbally represent your brand in the boardroom, when interacting with customers, or when hanging out with friends on the weekend!

So how can your company empower your employees to be brand ambassadors in and outside of work? Teach them to pitch! Make sure that employees go through training to master the skills of your company’s pitch. You may know what your company’s mission and what it does better than the competition, but do all employees know this? Can they relate it in a simple and understandable way? If not, it’s time to teach them to pitch.

Companies like PitchJam can teach these pitching skills in personalized group sessions to employees at all levels. Learn the pitching basics as it relates to your company to ensure that everyone not only knows but can professionally speak about your company in a branded and consistent manner. Contact Info@PitchJam.com for more information.