THE FUNDAMENTALS OF ARTISAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Achieving success as a maker or as an artisan business seems easy at first, until you are actually doing it. Then questions abound:
· Who will like my work?
· Who will pay for it?
· Where and how can I sell?
· At which price should I offer it?
· How do I make my passion for creating with my hands profitable?
· Can I do this full time and make a living?
And on goes the list. As humans, we are programmed to ask these questions. Our brain has been hard-wired over hundreds of thousands of years to focus on our survival. Studies show that - by default – we place more importance on what we might lose than on what we might gain. The fear of failure is a greater motivator than the prospect of success.
So how can makers overcome that? The first step is to throw away the “starving artist” concept of personal sacrifice and hardship. Becoming or being a successful maker does not mean you are compromising your integrity or the authenticity of your work in exchange for the almighty dollar. It does not imply you have betrayed friends, family, or some kind of maker creed.
Quite a few famous artists, for example Gauguin or Rembrandt remained poor, their work undervalued or under-appreciated during most of their life and often beyond. However, that was probably not their intention.
Few makers easily accept when the value of their work is not recognized. The great majority of artisans do seek approval and validation as compensation for their effort, even when they perceive the desire to create as a hobby and are not expressly working for financial benefits. Makers know all too well how much it hurts when they proudly present their product and find that the eyes of the beholder glaze over in benign bewilderment or hear in the voice of a friend or customer the strain of a forced “oh how nice”. It’s time to leave the starving artist concept behind and focus on having the value of handmade recognized.
This leads us to the second step which is about embracing the more modern and rewarding concept of entrepreneurship. Let’s consider becoming a creative independent or a Small Business Artisan, which means nothing more than showing people the merit of your work.
Artisans have the ability of making things that are truly unique. Many consumers today seek the unique and the different as well as a connection to the items they wear, use or bring into their lives. They fully embrace that handmade is created by people who put their heart and soul into their work and business, not by a numb ‘n dumb machine that mindlessly spits out mundane thingamajigs at a rate of 50 or 100 per hour.
The consumers’ desire to connect with (some of) the items they add to their lives is not new. It has become stronger and more prevalent in recent years. Many consumers are transitioning away from generic, mass-produced merchandise. Commodity is being replaced by the genuine, personal, and thoughtful. What was only an undercurrent in consumer spending 10 years ago has become the makers’ revolution. People want handmade.
Today Creative Independents and ‘Small’ Business Artisans have a massive opportunity to have the value of their work recognized and build a business around what they offer – be it a part-time venture or a full-size, full-time maker operation. So, how does one do that and exorcise the demons of self-doubt? How do you determine what to do, when to do it, how to do it? The answer is surprisingly simple and leads us to the third step. You make a written plan for accomplishing your goals. It should describe at least 6 components:
· Your business goals
· Why people should buy your product
· Who you expect to buy your product
· How you will convince them to do so
· What your pricing is
· Where you will sell your product
Planning per se is nothing new. We all plan – sometimes it is called a wedding plan, or a grocery list, or a to-do list. Still, some makers are skeptical about creating a written plan; it takes time and effort away from other, perhaps more pleasant, activities. But let’s pause for a moment. Michelangelo did not simply find a block of Carrara marble and chiselled randomly until the David emerged. Weddings rarely go well without detailed preparation. The concert that wowed you did not just happen by the performer showing up and wandering onto the stage. The places we live in are not built by going to a home improvement store, buying a bunch of material and throwing it together indiscriminately at the construction site.
If you wish to demonstrate the value of your creations, if you want to gain approval and recognition from the world around you and if you seek fair financial benefit for the time and effort you have put into your work, you need a plan.
Here is what the experts from Nasdaq say about business planning:
“The value of a business plan simply cannot be overstated. Putting ideas and concepts down on paper is invaluable and the act of researching and compiling data about your competitors and the market will prove to be very useful in the years to come.”