Business Boot Camp With Flare

By John Swartz

Some of the area artists who just completed the Artrepreneur course offered by Orillia’s Park Recreation and Culture department held an exposition at the Opera House Thursday evening.

The course was 13 weeks long and featured lecturers from the business world passing on knowledge of how to set up and run a business. The course was developed by the York Region Arts Council and funded by the County of Simcoe and others.

“It was great. I started off with one idea, but it kept evolving and then I came up with the idea that was sitting right in front of my face. Go with what you know” said Lynn Fisher. She has a beekeeping operation, Cedar Creek Ridge Farm, in Oro-Medonte she is considering expanding, but she also makes barn quilts, which are made using a method of painting cloth on wood or metal. The course was more than learning how to make a plan and social media, and marketing works.

“A lot of people get kind of funny about selling their own stuff sometimes, so it was getting more confidence in asking for what you want,” said Fisher.

While many baby boomers have turned to creative passions in retirement, often having worked in the business world, many others are artists because they weren’t business oriented to begin with. Those soon find out money makes the art go around, and a lack of cash flow makes it difficult. Starving artist isn’t a stereotype for nothing.

For many artists learning about business is like learning about quadratic equations, it can be done, but it isn’t natural, or as easily learned as how to draw a straight line without a ruler, or how exposure works in photography. The course examined how to take an idea and develop it into a business model, how to create a business plan, how to create a financial model, legalities, using social media, and how to promote a business.

The course is also as much about finding out who you are in relationship to what you want to do.

Christina Marie Petsinis
Christina Marie Petsinis, Christina Marie Art

“Something that really resonated is how important my core values in my personal life were so tied to my business values and my entrepreneurial values,” said Christina Marie Petsinis who named her business Christina Marie Art.

She calls herself an interdisciplinary maker, combining talents in photography, writing and event planning with work experience as an administrative assistant.

“I’m really focusing and honing in on my passion for community economic development,” she said.

Some, like Laura Hinsberger, found out they don’t want to make a business of their idea. She is part of a Facebook group with thousands of members around the world who make art and trade with each other. Swiss artist Vanci Stirnemann created Artist Trading Cards, but would only trade his creations for art from others, rather than sell. Hinsberger has accumulated a large collection of work by others, which means she has created as much. Turning the art itself into a money maker is not her intent.

“I took this course thinking I might become an art instructor,” she said. “I came to realize, (with) this course, I’ve got a lot of general knowledge, but I want to remain a hobbiest that will teach others and bring more people into this hobby.” She will soon have her first class at the Orillia Public Library.

Danielle Skentzos is on leave from teaching at Notre Dame Catholic School. Her side gig has been as a potter, Shiralee Pottery, and she wants to be able to turn that into a better financial proposition. Aside from learning the basics standard to most business operations, there’s always something people learn which makes too much sense hiding in plain sight. Skentzos had one of those uh-huh moments.

“In the financial area, (it was) to track different sources of revenue, where your business may be more financially viable and what you should let go of,” she said. In other words don’t spend 90% of your time on 10% of your income.

Assistance with the course was provided by the Community Development Corporation and students met at Lakehead University’s downtown campus.

Danielle Skentzos , Shiralee Pottery

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(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main – Nicolina Goncalves of Art By Nico speaks with the CDC’s Carol Benedetti at the Artrepreneur exhibit at the Opera House Thursday evening.


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