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SAM: artist or manager or both

I decided to use SAM as a way to show case my artistic side and have art for sale as well as be manager at the event. I think this might have been a bad move on my part, because it changed my perception of what it was to be successful. After thinking about the venture, I now believe that as entrepreneurs and as managers we were successful, despite not breaking exactly even. As a team, we all complimented each other very well, the day of the event went extremely smooth, we gained a lot of buzz and interest in possible future events, and at the end of the day we all still like each other.

I also feel that as an artist I was successful at the event. I sold a descent amount of my photos, talked to a few potential future customers, and was one of the highest grossing artists at the fair.

However, there is still a level of frustration and lack of feeling of total fulfillment. I think this comes from the fact that I always want to do the best that I can every time I am involved with something and the amount of time that I put into each of the areas that I was involved with SAM compared to the outcome was not what I hoped to achieve. I spent way more time creating sample dresses, compared to the amount of orders I brought in for them. I also feel I spent too much time creating a brand for myself that was not necessary, which was wasted time and wasting time feels like a failure to me. On the managerial side, I feel like my work getting the word out was also wasted because it was done too early and there was not as many people at the market as I, in my head, had hoped.

I think the lesson in this project for myself is the life lesson that I have been told many times, but have not been able to grasp: Only do what you can do. In the future, I think it might be best for me to not throw myself into multiple sides of a project, but focus on one aspect whole-heartedly, and if I can do more on the side, great, but it is not essential. In the end, I think this will make me feel more successful.


SAM: a success?

We did it! SAM has come and gone and I’m going to go ahead and say it was a success. Very early on in the semester, the five of us defined what success would mean in this project. We decided our venture would not be a failure if in the end we broke even.

In his UDACITY videos, Steve Blank stresses the point that the founders have got to be the ones getting out of the building, asking questions of potential customers, talking about their ideas. On Saturday, I understood the importance of the founders being very present for the launch, as well. There were so many questions, so many small things to do (some we had planned for and some which were overseen). Sure, we had volunteers, but it was the 5 of us that truly were passionate about standing outside for 6+ hours; making sure the tables looked just right; greeting each artist as they arrived to set up; greeting each customer who walked through the entrances.

The feedback from our audience was GREAT. My job was to man the info table. Geared with my clicker for attendance and clipboard for a mailing list, I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of many excited, kind and complimentary comments about SAM. Most people thought it was a brilliant idea, some assumed we did it every week, many were super impressed it was student artists.

It was interesting to pay attention to which artists were selling a lot of work and assume why. We had a wiiiiiiiide variety of art and craft showcased; from large canvas paintings to $5 crochet hats. Some of the work seemed really underpriced to me (maybe from the artist lacking in confidence for their work? Or perhaps new to the art market scene?), while others priced artwork on the high end (usually it seemed justified, due to size or detail of the work). However, many of our 115+ visitors didn’t appear to be overly wealthy art connoisseurs (I mean, who knows, but the $650 paintings didn’t sell, so I think it is a safe assumption….). Artists with fairly inexpensive work (under $50) sold more, as did the unique gifts, like Molly Schenck’s clay polymer piggy banks (see below and Nathan Smith’s comic books and stickers.


Molly Schenck’s piggy banks

Melody Crispen

Melody Chrispen’s crochet work

Looking forward to debriefing with my fellow entrepreneurs on Wednesday. I’m proud of us as a collective and I think it went as smoothly and as well as we could have hoped, given the planning time and circumstances. And, like I said earlier, we cannot forget that originally we said we’d consider ourselves a success if we broke even. And we broke even!!!!!

Customer segments at the gas station

As part of the SAM project I’ve thought a lot about how to engage particular types of audiences and different kinds of customers segments. This morning I had to stop at the gas station and as I was standing there, pumping my gas, I looked around and noticed the different types of customer segments that were also at the gas station. I began to wonder what it would take for me to market to each different customer segments that was around me. There was a Hispanic family of four individuals, a mom and dad and two young kids. There was also what looked to be three high school or college students in different cars, whom I assumed were friends, and were chatting with each other while they waited for their gas. Last, there was an industrial work/construction truck with two construction/manual labor men drinking coffee and chatting next to their truck while they waited. How could I sell SAM to each of these different customers segments?

For the Hispanic family of four, I would approach them by highlighting the fact that there would be pieces for under $30, great for people of all ages. For the high school/college students, I thought it would be more important to indicate the fact that the art pieces would be unique, like nothing that anyone else has, and they would be supporting other fellow students. Since I did not know the exact age of these what I assume to be students, I might first check to see how old they are to see if they’re actually college students. If they were, I would also spotlight the fact that it is at Casey Moore’s next to ASU, which might be enticing for college students. Finally, for the construction/labor workers, I would focus on the fact that there was going to be unique pieces of art but also the fact that it would be the perfect place to get holiday shopping done for their families way before the holidays. That way they would not have to deal with the madness that is Christmas shopping or holiday shopping during the end of November and December. As well as the fact that these types of gifts can not be found anywhere else and purchasing them would show they actually thought about what they were purchasing for their families, not the traditional things that they may always purchase.

From this experience, I thought it was interesting that just by looking at various customer segments the same one product could be marketed in very different ways and still have the potential to be effective.

Seeking student artists!

This week I:

  • Posted 8 ½ x 11 Artist Submission flyers around campus, all over the art building on ASU’s campus and at Cartel, the coffee shop next door to Casey Moore’s (the location of the market).
  • Emailed theatre professors and graduate students asking them to spread the word about artist submissions to their undergraduate students.
  • Emailed my circles of friends, fellow graduate students and student artists whom I had met previously to encourage them to submit their work.
  • Passed out 20 art submission small flyers and about 25 general SAM flyers to First Friday attendees in downtown Phoenix.
  • Left a pile of small SAM flyers at my yoga studio for fellow yogis to pick up.
  • Posted several Facebook statuses on the business page and invited every single Arizona contact I have to ‘like’ us.
  • Directly emailed the presidents and vice presidents of two campus art clubs to encourage them to submit art.
  • Spoke directly to approximately 10 potential student artists.

Guess which garnered the most interest?

You guessed it: talking directly to people is what hooks them. While walking around downtown Phoenix’s First Friday with Emily this weekend, artists really seemed interested as they heard more and more about SAM. Many of them weren’t students but had student children, student friends, student partners, etc., so I gave out a lot of flyers. Artists also perked up once they heard that we would set everything up for them and all they needed to bring was themselves and their art.

I also had the chance to talk to about 5 ASU student artists. Three of them are in one of my classes and I’ve been bugging them about SAM for weeks, but one of them happened serendipitously. I complimented her on her cool iPhone case, which, she informed me, she made herself.

I used to make these all the time and sell them on Etsy.

             A lightbulb goes on in Ashley’s head.

HEY! I’m in an Arts Entrepreneurship class and we are organizing an art market on November 22! You should totally sell these!

She told me to send her the info and she would definitely consider it AND pass it along to her friends.

Though emailing and social media takes time (oh so much time), ultimately, standing or walking around outside and talking to people takes even more time; time that graduate students don’t have much of. Nevertheless, if we really want a minimum of 15 artists to sell their work on the 22nd, we’ve got to keep talking to people directly.

Next week I will:

    • ASU Art building
    • In classes
    • At Cartel and Casey Moore’s

Have you heard of SAM?

It’s funny how momentum can pick up on an endeavor like this.

After weeks of discussion about getting out of the building, and how to define our audience, we made some huge decisions over the last two weeks.

Our team came to a consensus to name our event SAM (Student Art Market), and by the end of one night of furious emailing, had launched a web site, a Facebook business page, and created an array of PR teasers to help promote our event. This is critical, because the event is soon, only a little over two weeks away.

This creates some real challenges with the process of developing customer relationships. Our goal, to get, keep, and grow customers is being pushed into an tight timeline, and we have to work our hardest to strike up meaningful conversations and connections that will translate to attendance at our event. This time crunch has also created the necessity for additional meeting times outside of class. We’re establishing a marketing plan, determining the logistics of the event, and beginning to map out our 3 year projections.

It’s exciting, to put it simply. We’re beginning to see these ideas snowball into a real event. It’s taking shape, and we’re the ones who are doing the shaping.


Empathy mapping in the performing arts

Empathy mapping can be a very valuable tool, especially in the performing arts business. It is something I tried for years to apply at the performing arts venue I used to work at. There were two main things I was always advocating for, cheaper student tickets for shows that we knew were not going to sell out and bringing in shows that were geared towards people under 40.

Every time I asked, I was told that the reason we never brought in shows geared towards people under 40, aside from the occasional kids show, was because this age group does not pay to come to see shows. Being a concert goer under 40 who knows lots of other people my age who pay to go see shows, I always was a little offended by this statement. I also knew no research had been done to back up the claim. Even though I suggested that I would be happy to do the surveying, I was never taken seriously and therefore, it was never implemented.

To collect the information, I would have surveyed a few different customer segments. The first group would be those who already came to the theatre, but were younger attendees, aiming for those patrons who are under 40. The second group would be those who go to shows at other venues downtown, the same area that our theatre was in, again under 40. Third, I would survey those who went to the coffee houses and cafes downtown, of the same age range, assuming they are of the customer segment that has money to spend.

Here is a list of questions that could prove to be very helpful when assessing if a younger audience is willing to go to see a show:

  • Age
  • List 5 shows you would like to see at this theatre.
  • How many shows have you seen in the past year, where did you see them?
  • How much do you normally spend on shows?
  • What is the most you would spend to see a show?
  • If there was a cheaper ticket available, would this entice to you come see a show at the theatre?

After doing an initial round of surveying, I would assess the information and come up with another set of questions. Some examples of questions for round two are as follows:

  • Rank the following shows according to your interest, indicating if you have no interest (Do some research and find 5 shows that are within the price range the theatre is willing to spend, were of interest in the first round of questions and the theatre is interested in bringing in)
  • Who much would you spend to see these shows?
  • Are you likely to bring other friends of your age range with you to see one of these shows?

Talking to Strangers

As part of the process for the business venture I am creating with my arts entrepreneurship class, I am required to go out and talk to random people one on one about what they thing of our venture-in-development. Ok, not so much a random people but a sampling of people who we believe to be our customer base. This means, depending on who we believe our target market is, the kinds of people with vary. Thus, I must talk to a wide range of people, at least in the beginning, until we narrow down what our venture will be.

This has not been an easy process for me. I am not a person who can walk up to a perfect stranger and just begin a conversation. At bars, concerts, or theatre performances that I end up going to by myself, I am the person who scans the room for some one I know and if I don’t know anyone, I find a comforting corner and people watch during intermission. Then, I beeline to the car after the show, even if a friend is in the performance, and opt for meeting up with them later to talk about it. I just don’t like putting myself in awkward situations. I envy those like my brother or my boyfriend who can talk to and make new friends in almost any situation. Therefore, it has been a learning experience to figure out how to go about talking to strangers.

Through my experience this past two weeks, I have begun to notice that I have a natural process I perform, which is non-intentional, however, is turning out to be affective. First, I look for people who do not look to be otherwise engaged in something. For instance, if I am at a coffee house, I do not go up to those people who are rapidly typing on their computers or have headphones on, seeming to be immersed in whatever they are doing. I also do not go up to a couple or a group of people who are immersed in intense conversation. I look for a person on their own, or a couple people who to me look as though I would not be intruding and would not mind if I begin a conversation with them. Second, I look for people who have something that stands out to me that I can use as a jump starter to talk to them. I look at what a person is is wearing or jewelry if it is a woman, or a person’s hairstyle, something I can comment her on to start talking to them about. Then, I chat for about 30 seconds on something off topic, like the music that is playing in the background, before I ease my venture questions into the conversation. So far, this process has been a big success. Not one person has turned me away.

I have also noticed that in doing this for two weeks for this project, I have starting doing this in real life. I am more likely to make comments to random strangers and spark up conversations with people I have never met, whether it is at the grocery store, or in the common area waiting to go to class. I am beginning to see the confidence level in myself get a little higher when it comes to talking with strangers. Who knew that a class project would begin to help me get over my fear of talking to strangers? Let’s just hope it continues, even after my first rejection.