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Business Bootcamp for Arts.

WHEN YOU MIX YOUTH, enthusiasm and a little funding, anything is possible. Culture PEI can attest to this. The team created an incubator for youth-owned, arts-based businesses on Prince Edward Island.

Young people often find it hard to launch careers in the arts. Many emerge from their professional training unprepared to face the reality of self-employment. Seventy percent of PEI's arts and culture workers are self-employed. Under these circumstances, it is not enough to be excellent at your discipline. Young artists need to be entrepreneurs.

Information technology (IT) has always embraced entrepreneurship. Every city in Canada now sports start-up incubators for tech entrepreneurs chasing the next big thing. PEI is no different. In 2013, the Innovation Technology Association of PEI (ITAP) launched "IT Garage". Their program supported cohorts of young IT students and graduates to work in teams developing new products such as video games and apps with the intention of launching new tech businesses.

Recognizing the opportunity to adapt this model to the needs of young arts and culture graduates, Culture PEI hired their first intern through the SYnC program in the spring of 2014. Nathan Gill was then a rising star in PEI's rock music scene with his band, the North Lakes. In his internship he researched IT Garage and other incubator models and designed a program for artists. Gill named it HIVE.

HIVE operates in cohorts of seven people, aged 15 to 30, one of whom is designated the co-ordinator. Applicants compete by submitting a resume, a portfolio and a short business pitch. A panel interviews the short-listed candidates and selects those with the potential to get the most out of the program. Once hired, the participants have one task--to spend 12 weeks discovering how to make a living and create their best work at the same time.

The program makes heavy use of group wisdom. There is no outside supervision. Each Monday starts with participants stating their goals to the group. Every Friday ends with participants reporting how they met those goals. The group has access to a space in a PEI government business incubator. They set up their desks side-by-side in a rectangle with everyone facing the centre. Tuesdays and Thursdays are "studio days," where participants go back to their own workspaces to practice their art. On Wednesdays, they attend a formal Business of Art Bootcamp series (funded separately) where they learn business and entrepreneurship skills. Each cohort also finds other ways of making the program more valuable. They seek out free business workshops, arrange studio visits with working arts professionals, seek mentors and share online resources. In the end, each cohort hosts an open house a pop-up trade show and celebration where they meet the public and demonstrate their businesses. HIVE open houses are always well-attended and attract leaders in business, government and the arts community.

HIVE has had six cohorts, and all 40 participants are still in business, are employed in the arts or have gone back to school to raise their skill level. Interestingly, very few of the participants end up doing the business idea they originally pitched to get in. Somewhere along the way they discover that the best business is not the one that chases a market opportunity, but the one that reflects their deep values and intentions as artists. It is always a journey of discovery.

Mark Sandiford is executive director of Culture PEI.
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Title Annotation:IN BRIEF
Author:Sandiford, Mark
Publication:Alternatives Journal
Geographic Code:1CPRI
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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