It’s not about ‘go big or go home’ – we just want everyone to feel that they’re reaching their potential on the business side,” explained Carolyn Dailey in a recent interview with Creative Review’s Rachael Steven. The former Managing Director of Time Warner International left the company back in 2011 to set up a branding consultancy, and quickly discovered that business support for creatives was sorely lacking. So in 2016 she founded Creative Entrepreneurs to help others facing the same challenges, and which has since grown from a side project into an essential epicentre of learning, mentoring and networking for creative entrepreneurs – and which is now advising the UK government.
“There were all these things – from making a three-year plan to filing VAT returns – that I knew nothing about because I’d always been an employee,” explained Dailey, who recalled how unlike tech founders, who seemed to have access to a wealth of information and support, creative entrepreneurs who had launched fashion brands, design studios or production companies didn’t know where to turn when they were starting out. Initially an online only resource, bringing together advice and information from across the web, Creative Entrepreneurs now also hosts networking events and training courses to provide a much-needed support system for creative individuals, and has also been called upon by the UK government to advise how it can better support creative businesses.
It was in response to emails from fellow creatives that Dailey set up the company’s Founder Files series, an ongoing program of networking events that offer them the chance to hear first hand from successful founders and CEOs. In conversation with Dailey, each guest speaker explains how they set up their business, the challenges they faced and mistakes they made along the way. Past speakers have included AKQA’s Ajaz Ahmed, makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury and architect Amanda Levete, and each event has sold out, which Dailey believes has demonstrated a clear need for a program that offers people the chance to hear from creative role models. “The press don’t [often] talk about the entrepreneurial side of creative businesses which makes sense because they want to talk about the creative output – but that means that entrepreneurial journey and the role model story often gets lost,” she said.
The chance to meet and compare notes with other creatives was also one of the factors behind the launch of the Creative Entrepreneurs’ training program, launched last year in partnership with London’s Design Museum. Offering participants introductory courses in networking, law and finance, as well as branding, social media and PR, Dailey hopes that the industry expert-led sessions will ensure creatives come away with a grasp of the fundamentals before setting up a business, but perhaps more importantly change the way they think about the commercial side. “If you get on top of the business side … and if you can have a sustainable business, then you’re not worried about paying the rent or living hand to mouth or not doing what you really want to do because you’re having to earn some side money or whatever,” she explained to Rachael Steven.
Long-term, Dailey’s aim is to establish a community, and to this end the company has set up an annual membership scheme. This will also help fund additional training programs and events to help continue to inspire creative entrepreneurs and show that creativity can be a serious business – challenging the perception of the creative industries as something that’s “a little bit frivolous”.
And as she went on to explain in her interview, Dailey would like to see the UK government backing a campaign to promote creative entrepreneurship, and believes that schools should play a part in promoting creative careers. “Right now there’s a big emphasis on STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] and that’s fantastic,” she said, but she cautions that if this is to the exclusion of creativity and creative subjects it sends a message that creativity isn’t to be valued. “I would say emphasising creativity in the curriculum – not as a fun and fluffy thing but as a core skill and something that can lead to great economic success – is really important.”
Learn more about Creative Entrepreneurs here.
Photos: Creative Review