Small Business Resources to Help Your Creative Business
Small Business Resources to Help Your Creative Business
By Teena M. Stewart
Most of us creative types don’t particularly like having to deal with the business side of what we do but if we are going to pursue it as anything more than a hobby, it’s a necessary evil. I faced this reality a little over a year or ago when I became more serious about what I was doing. If I wanted to move my arts and crafts business, Serendipitini, from adolescence where I played with making pretty things and brought in a little income, to generate enough money to support me, it was time to put on my big girl pants and grow up.
Part of this decision came after I left my nine to five job at a non-profit because it was spinning out of control. The area where I live in North Carolina is particularly hard hit economically. Jobs are scarce. When people can’t find jobs they may go to college to learn new skills or get a degree. The problem is there’s no guarantee a job will be waiting for them when they finish. Entrepreneurship is being touted as a way for to survive, especially in our area. Even so, if you do choose to go the entrepreneurial route, experts say it’s difficult to make a living in the arts and crafts industry.
Now that I’ve dampened your spirits, let me say this. Don’t be discouraged. There are artists and crafts people supporting themselves through their work. Etsy is one place where they are doing it. Some have figured it out. How? By learning what they didn’t know and then using that knowledge to build a successful arts or crafts business.
- Free knowledge. You might be surprised to learn there are some excellent free resources available in most cities. I have lived in several states and have benefited by using the local small business development centers there. Many colleges house small business development centers and their services are often free, paid either by the college or by government or state funding. So, say for instance, you already have your business up and running and you need to find a better way to manage your bookkeeping, or you need to determine how to home in on your target audience, your small business development center can provide insight. Their employees have the schooling and experience from running their own business or working for others to share.
While meeting with a counselor in the small business development center of my local community college I learned more about free courses they were offering on entrepreneurship.
That’s the next thing you might want to check into.
Free courses. Because North Carolina has lost so much industry, we have received federal grants for entrepreneurship classes. Classes are free and cover the a-z of starting and managing a small business. I enrolled in these, and though I knew some of what they are teaching, I’ve been reminded of important matters I need to tend to and have learned additional info along the way. The big lesson I’ve taken away thus far is I need to make sure I have a marketable product, that I define my brand and target audience well. Check with your local chamber of commerce or colleges to see if there are any such courses in your area.
Free mentors. Another free resource which I have used in the past and that you might consider is an organization called SCORE. Score is a nationwide non-profit with different chapters. Members are made up of former business executives who lend their expertise to help small businesses launch or grow through education and mentorship. Here is their website http://www.score.org. You can also get in touch with them through your local small business association. Often participants have big business knowledge but can adapt what they know to help you. For instance, they might be able to help you work through creating a business plan.
Free or paid networking. It’s difficult to run a business on your own. Associating with other business owners can be very valuable. Your local chamber of commerce can be a hotspot for getting connected. Though I have heard some locals in my town say our chamber of commerce seems more geared for industry, there are still benefits to belonging. First, it adds credibility to your business. Consumers are more likely to purchase goods or services from business that are members of a chamber of commerce. Second, if you are an active member you’ll network and rub shoulders with other business owners . This could lead to more sales. You’ll also learn valuable knowledge and as other members get to know you, they may spread the word to those they know about your business. Third, you might form alliances and even have opportunity to collaborate and fourth, you may have the opportunity to participate in chamber-related events or joint advertising which means more exposure at a reduced cost. Membership in the chamber is not free, but it can be well worth the investment. Talk with some other small business people in your area before joining to see if it might benefit you.
Small businesses that succeed rarely do so by accident. The owners have done their homework. We live in a country where many resources are at our fingertips for free or minimal cost. Don’t overlook these opportunities as you work to make your enterprise a success.
Teena Stewart is a published author and artist. www.serendipitini.com features her art, http://serendipitini.blogspot.com/, her work and work of others incorporating creative reuse, www.teenastewart.com spotlights her writing, http://nearly-brilliant.blogspot.com/, writing and slice of life.