When I began my 12 week intensive with E for All, I was asked to keep a blog on their site. This was to record the growth to come in my knowledge of starting a viable glass design business. As many of you well know, I've worked in my own painting and glass sculpture studio for the past 13 years. Never have I been able to exceed my meager means. Each painting and glass piece sold served to pay the rent, feed us, and support my next project.
After the crash of 2008, I knew I had to figure out a way to work smarter. But how? I went to art school- not business school. And the idea of actually getting a business degree... made me feel nauseated....but I knew I needed key information- and a network beyond the gallery scene to be a viable, thriving architectural glass art business.
Then, I heard about E for all through a meeting hosted by the New Bedford Economic Development Council. It seemed too good to be true. This non-profit was coming to my city to help me find ways to achieve my business goals. The only thing they wanted from me was a good idea, and the promise of working hard. E for All has encouraged me from the moment I was introduced to David Parker, E for All's CEO.
After winning 3rd place at The E for All Pitch Contest in November 2015, I was prompted to apply to their first 12 Week Accelerator Program in South Coast, MA. Never did I expect to be recognized at the end of our 12 weeks with a $4000 check for TSB Glass Design LLC !
In honor of the time I've spent growing at E for All, and the many new doors which have opened for me, I'm including my first entries from my E for All Blog here. I hope you enjoy it:
Since I participated in the E for All South Coast Pitch Contest, engagement with this program since that moment has propelled my thinking in a much more positive and action-based way. Working smarter with a material which has inspired me for years is such an exciting prospect! I am honored to be accepted into the first South Coast E for All Accelerator program! My first week of the E for All Accelerator program has been exciting, uplifting, and positive. I'm really benefitting from the group's energy already... and we haven't even really started! We were told the connections we would make among our fellow entrepreneurs in the program might be as valuable as our connections with our mentors. I can already see this to be true. The breathe of people in our group is great. Tech to teaching to food service to health and construction. Not to sound trite, but it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime.
Last night was our first full class. My head is still spinning! -in a good way...It was fantastic. I, personally find all this information amazingly interesting and malleable to my needs as an artist/business person. It is a way of seeing yourself as a real business before you even start. "The Business Model Canvas" is a constructive tool which I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF... and I am now happily acquainted and looking to fill in all those boxes. Until now, the work I have done has never been separate from my personal life. It is all jumbled into one. I like how this canvas outline helps me to organize all those connections for the business side of my life, and understand the core concept of what I am creating. This morning, I met with the last two of my mentors, John and Stan. They are wonderful and are ON BOARD with the "Business Model Generation" route. Turns out, Stan is a brilliant MIT grad who understands my technical needs and is supportive of my idea. John understands legalese already assisting me in copyrighting and privacy law. Mark is my other Mentor I met on Tuesday. He is a manufacturing guy and knows volume,the importance of customer connection, and a sweet dose of local pride. What can I say? I'm the luckiest gal on Earth. I'm calling them, My Three Apostles.
Dread sets in as I'm grilled about EXACTLY what it is my business provides. Setting definite goals and reaching out to professionals in my field has opened my eyes to the competition and to the reality of running an architectural glass business. Am I a manufacturer? Am I a designer? Am I both? My mentors have been wonderful with talking me down off the ledge. They all know how I feel, and help me to concentrate on what I need to do and know NOW.
Tuesday's class at the CIE was another whirlwind of information and exciting questions. The main question in particular is pricing for profit. I believe this has been an conundrum for me in my past 10 years of shaky business in my art studio business. This is a point of sensitivity and fear for me. Our guest speaker, Fred Newman was excellent. I liked his simple presentation using one of my mentors, Mark Pearson, as an example and guest speaker. The excitement with which he spoke about the many formulas for profit which can vary greatly across many businesses. All businesses are different, but what remains the same across all types: cash flow is an important thing so as not to STALL OUT. I know a lot about stalling out in my present art studio situation. I get large sums from a commissioned artwork, but it does not (really) float me through and give me the ability to keep marketing, reaching out, traveling, for my business which will in turn help my business grow. The price of something I make is so tied to "worth" in so many ways. I have been learning the meaning of worth in this program as well as with my mentors. I am now willingly facing the actual cost needs of my business to thrive. Looking at those needs, honestly and harshly, allows me to make larger assesments about the projected needs of my business both during busy times and down times in payment cycles. This is a simple concept, but difficult if you are not shown. Fred made it feel simple to play with the numbers using Excel. It helps me immensely to think of this time as playful. The fear of rejection and failure feels looming...especially around 4:30 in the morning. My fight or flight reflex is being excercised. I'm a fighter.
edit delete I have not written in a while. So much has been going on. I have sat down with quite a few architects in the past two weeks. It has been uplifting to speak to these people. So many are excited and very open to the idea of having more (large and small) glass options available to them. Many never even considered the idea of including something artful into their designs which involve transparency and light transmittal issues. I have also learned a bit about LEED standards of design of which my glass must meet. I have also learned the importance of an architectural structure's Solar Heat Gain Coefficient. Sustainable design is more and more important. Architects consider windows on the South side of a building very important for absorbing heat in the winter. This opens up an angle for marketing my glass panels. Not sure exactly how yet, but I know there is a gem in there somewhere. My mentors continue to be my rocks. They are great. As I get to know them, I feel they have my back in a more solid way. I am sure we will remain friends after this accelerator is over. For that, I'm forever thankful!
edit delete Today is the Mid-Session Pitch. I've decided to go all the way and bring an example of the actual glass I intend to produce. This means a big pedestal, but that seems appropriate since I'm talking about architectural glass. I'm excited and nervous. The part that makes me the most nervous is the timing. Timing our pitches seems like a good way to teach us to keep it short, but it also incurs nervousness and pressure of which I am not exactly sure needs to be there. 2.5 minutes. So strict. That is the part that worries me the most. Not the people, not my speaking ability. I never liked "TIME" and "Being Timed" Alas, this is not the worst thing in the world. Not even close. Actually, this has been a god sent. Concentrating all of my time and energy in this idea has certainly jeapordized my family's income in the past months, but feels like it is insuring a better one to come. My mentors are starting to get tough with me and asking the hard questions which need to be asked. Also, guiding me in the right directions in so many ways. I feel ready. I feel strong. Now... what to wear?
I had a great meeting with my mentors yesterday. Today I am having a conference call with one of them and a colleague of his who has roots in the glass industry. Via my mentors, I've connected with many key partners for my business. My Wise Men are not glass artists, and that is what I like most about having them as my mentors. They are looking at my idea from a fresh perspective. A functional perspective. Mark, being a manufacturer, looks at HOW I'm going to make these panels efficiently. He has possibly found me a perfect manufacturing partner. Stan, the dreamer, is a MIT grad, a brilliant soul, and believes immensely in me and my soul. He is there for me beyond these 12months. I know it. John is the finance guy. He is a quieter mentor, but has solidity and interjects very practical information when I'm speaking about finances. Also, it is his friends and colleagues in the architectural and glass world that I'm interacting with the most. Very exciting. The Excel sheets are not scaring me as much anymore. My mentor, Mark, has some practical experience with them and has helped me to understand them a little better. I'm going to do a YouTube tutorial to help me further. I can't wait to hire someone to do this for me.... but at the same time... putting aside my anxiety about graphs and numbers, when we plugged in my numbers thus far, I have to say... things look pretty good!