The Jamaica Business Development Centre yesterday staged an Orange Economy Expo on Monetizing the Orange Economy. It moved many areas of cultural and creative industries thought forward in Jamaica. One of them was the encouragement of creative practitioners to take on ‘entrepreneurial thinking’. It started a new round of discussions.
Entrepreneur: a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
So, I am not an entrepreneur. Gasp! There I said it 🙈. I have an interest in business and a couple business interests. I have even been to business school. But I am clear, I do not have the sensibility… and entrepreneurship is a sensibility. I do not have the interest, the inclination or the stomach for financial risk taking…. and I don’t really want to be an entrepreneur… I’ve lived a full, professional life.
I am a creative administrator… I do business every day… and I am a creative… I take risks every day. I am risk averse in some things but then will take risks in others. Like just writing this is a risk. Challenging libertine thinking. That’s a huge risk in this day and age.
My risks involve ideas. They involve advocacy. They involve doing, saying, thinking things that may not be not commercial in nature or even popular. They involve creative services for business and business services for creatives, standing up for creative people, saying the things they want to say but can’t, collecting money on their behalf, fronting for them when they don’t have the words or the voice. I design business processes for creatives and walk them through those processes. I administer their projects; and cultural and creative processes for businesses. I solve the business problems creatives don’t want to solve… while they create. I create efficiencies… make linkages and train creative professionals, helping them to become more business-like, moving many from instinctive to professional. All very complex and risky business.
On the other hand, I design projects that apply culture and creativity to solve problems for businesses. I support executives on projects – and help them to take creative risks. That IS doing business. That is my business, and it involves taking those risks. And I enjoy what I do and believe I do it well. My clients see success and growth. Trouble is, I find I have to engage in ‘entrepreneurship’… seeking investment, finding funding, the indignity of sponsorship solicitation for projects…those things… kicking and screaming. For that I have a business associate, who is an entrepreneur and whose business it is to take on financial risks in the hope of profit.
My banker tells me that there are many other people like me. So, should our ability to make a living be dependent on assuming a sensibility that is not natural for us? Without entrepreneurship it is sink or swim in Jamaica and many people don’t understand exactly why. Since the 1980s we have increasingly adopted neoliberal principles. This means adopting increased individuation, depending less on governments and more on the private sector for growth. It has meant embracing the primacy of the market and focussing on building an entrepreneurial class – focussing on small business development. Great! Well maybe…
So where does that leave us, who, based on this libertine wave are in business to stay alive but are not ‘entrepreneurial’, especially in an era where not to be an entrepreneur is sacrilegious. To be entrepreneurial has become a ‘quality’, and the opposite is tantamount to having no ambition…. or not being a hard worker. Is hard work only ‘taking on financial risks in the hope of profit?’. What about a full day at rehearsal? What about eight hours of writing? What about a day just designing…? Or just having ideas!
Like, in my challenge of libertine thinking…I am, personally and decidedly not a brand. I am a person. I own brands.
Refreshed and updated, Ujamaa Children’s Studio logo
Through the brands I own, I create, position and deliver products and services…through which I do business…. but I am not an entrepreneur. Gosh it is a vicious cycle. And, on the matter of ‘being’ a brand… to each, his or her own.
So, the big question is, how do we create an ecosystem that allows for everyone to do what they are best at and still make a reasonable living? Is it an unreasonable question? So, many more questions: Why, how and when did not being an entrepreneur become so shameful? Can one be in business and not be an entrepreneur? Is that even possible – doing business and not being an entrepreneur – being professional sans entrepreneurship? Is professionalism being equated with entrepreneurship? Can you have one without the other?
I think the important thing for professionals in business for whom the entrepreneurship element – hunting down funding, negotiating sponsorship, taking financial risks etc, is really a chore (and there are more of us than care to admit it), it is very important to have a good team around you. A business manager and consultant, an accountant, and a manager (who may or may not be your business manager). Often, startups have a difficulty of resources to access these services. Therein lies another challenge. This is why in the process of developing an economy based on small business growth support services and bridging are critical. This is the element that requires building out.
Creative industries are contradictory to their core and here is another contradiction that is now quite timely. Was all the buzz at yesterday’s Orange Economy Expo that took the public CCI discussions to a new level. Challenging libertine thinking. Let’s talk this through. Tides are changing. Let’s plan for them. I really welcome comments on this one.