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Small Business Rocks

Posted by Janet Langsam
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Warren Buffet had it right when he committed to giving away more than half his money to charity. “If you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”  And, indeed, 86% of the $316 billion giving reported in 2012, is by individuals, says Giving USA, an arm of Indiana University. Buffett’s motivation seems to be about social justice, but it is also about social good. He appears to be a guy who believes in creating opportunity for others and in doing so, fuels ideas, innovations, and projects that ultimately have an economic impact on society.

 

In a new book, entitled “Why Philanthropy Matters,” Zoltan J. Acs advocates that the benefit of philanthropy is that it nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship which is essential for prosperity. I thought about this connection between entrepreneurship and philanthropy as I pondered a new national study put out by Americans for the Arts in which some 600 corporations of all sizes were surveyed. Bearing in mind that corporate funds are only 6% of the total giving pie, on the bright side, the survey reports that corporate giving to the arts from 2009 through 2012 is up by 18% – reversing some, but certainly not all, of the losses during the height of the recession. That is heartening.

 

What got my head spinning, however, is that 82% of this support comes from businesses with less that $50 million in revenue. Even more startling is that 47% of that support comes from corporations with less than $1 million in revenue. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but this focus by small business on local markets does seems to underscore the affinity that already exists between the arts and entrepreneurship, based in part upon the fact that training in the arts leads to solving problems creatively. Or, as Warren Buffet said it: “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

 

(This post, originally published on This and That by JL, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)

 

*This article was orginally posted on ARTSblog.

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Coffee Connoisseurs Give a Jolt to Philly Neighborhood

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
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Coffee Connoisseurs Give a Jolt to Philly Neighborhood

Future home of the Coulter Street Supply Co. (Photo credit, coulterstsupply.co.)

 

Germantown, northwest Philadelphia is an area rich in historic sites and beautiful buildings from the colonial era. Yet despite its charming architecture and tree-lined streets, the neighborhood has felt hard-knocks and been in transition for some years. Two small businessmen with a vision (and a strong cup of coffee) aim to be among the pioneers to resurge this community to the height of its glory.

 

Slated to open in mid-July, Coulter Street Supply Co. will be an espresso bar, commercial space and rotating art gallery located in the heart of Germantown. Co-owners Tim Walkiewicz and John Burke designed the space to connect the community through their passions—arts, cycling and coffee. The pair hopes that the space will be a vibrant addition to an area in need of it.

 

The vision is threefold: The former corner store will host a gallery space in front, showcasing young and established artists from Philadelphia and beyond. The front room will also double as a commercial space called “Duffed Out” that will purvey books, art, design and ciclismo, and become a site for a network of connected artists, cyclists, photographers, designers and graffiti writers. The pièce de résistance will be the 8-seat coffee bar area in the back which will feature, as a centerpiece, a high-end La Colombe espresso machine, creating the perfect salon for arts and cycling aficionadi.

 

"We're hoping our love of traditional espresso and coffee, cycling, sign work, art and design can bring new people into our neighborhood," said Walkiewicz, "as well as provide some really good coffee to all our neighbors who live and work here… We want to be that bridge that brings people from other parts of town to our neighborhood. We want to show people who haven't been here that, yeah, this area is rough around the edges, but it's beautiful here—the history, the architecture, the trees, the people. We want to celebrate all of that."


Be sure to check out the progress of the Coulter Supply Co. pARTnership at coulterstsupply.co.


Inspired to connect to your community through your own small business pARTnership? Be sure to download our tool-kit “Creating pARTnerships with Small and Midsize Businesses” to learn how to tap into these opportunities and develop lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships!

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Supporting the Arts in Style

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
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Supporting the Arts in Style

From the outside, Caramel Boutique is one of several other shops, salons and cafes along Washington, DC’s U Street, but inside, Caramel is anything but your average clothing store.  While they stock international, national and local designers, belts, jewelry and ever-changing artwork, the store is also host to art shows for local artists on a monthly basis, free of charge.

 

Caramel displays work by local artists throughout its space, featuring a new artist approximately every one to two months. The store is also a long-time business supporter of the Mid City Artists, a diverse group of professional artists who promote their artwork and the Dupont/Logan neighborhoods of Washington, DC that they call home. Caramel has collaborated with members of the Mid City Artists to display their work during their twice-yearly Open Studios weekends.

 

Sarah Watkins, owner of Caramel Boutique, drew inspiration from her grandparents who owned and operated independent grocery stores for 40 years. (Incidentally, the store is named after Sarah’s grandfather’s favorite candy.) Growing up in a family business environment, Watkins always hoped to open her own business one day. Most of her professional career has been spent managing educational programs and fundraising for nonprofit organizations, and she continues to work as a part-time professional fundraiser while she manages the store.

 

When asked why she chose to integrate the arts into her business, Watkins stated, “Featuring local artwork at Caramel was part of my initial business plan. When we first opened, we had a number of artists represented in the store. Roughly one year into operation, we began featuring just one artist at a time (sometimes two if artists wished to have a joint show) and organizing opening receptions for each exhibit… One of my goals was to become an active part of the community. I felt working with local artists and displaying their work was a nice way to include more people from the neighborhood and encourage individuals to come into the store not only to shop but also to appreciate the featured artwork.”

 

Hosting art exhibits and opening receptions has sparked interest in other types of events at Caramel, such as fundraisers for local nonprofits, book readings, trunk shows with local designers, meet-up groups, and styling events. Additionally, other local businesses in the neighborhood have begun to feature local artists, and are supporting the Mid City Artists as well. Caramel has collaborated with the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Galley, just across the street, to cross-promote openings that are scheduled for the same evening.

 

For more information on Caramel Boutique, visit www.caramelfashion.com.

 

 

The BCA 10: Nominate Your Favorite Business with Outstanding Arts Partnerships Today!

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
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The BCA 10: Nominate Your Favorite Business with Outstanding Arts Partnerships Today!

Nominations for the BCA 10: Best Companies Supporting Arts in America close Friday, February 15.

 

The BCA 10 recognizes businesses of all sizes for their exceptional involvement with the arts that enrich the workplace, education, and the community.  Know of a business with exemplary support of the arts in your local community?  Work for one?  Nominate them now for The BCA 10: Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America

 

Past winners include Alltech, a leading animal health care company who partnered with the University of Kentucky’s Opera Theatre department to create the largest vocal scholarship competition in the world, First Community Bank who developed the annual South Texas Photo Contest and commissioned artwork for their local branches, and Earl Swensson Associates, Inc., an architectural firm who provided pro-bono design services within their community and sponsored a mentorship program for low-income and at-risk middle and high school students.  For more outstanding examples and to nominate, visit www.americansforthearts.org/go/BCA10.

 

Winning businesses will be honored at the BCA 10 Gala in New York City on October 3, 2013

 

For more information, visit www.AmericansForTheArts.org/go/BCA10 or contact Patrick O’Herron at poherron@artsusa.org.

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Local Business Woman Makes Dreams Come True

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
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Debbie Blais, founder, owner and operator of Debbie Blais Real Estate and Blais Builders, is giving the gift of the arts to a few lucky students.  Inspired by one of her favorite Henry David Thoreau quotes, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined,” she has created The Dream Scholarship, offering local arts students $1,000 annually in scholarship funds. 

 

After visiting the Burt Wood School of the Performing Arts for a craft fair, Blais reached out to school owner Lorna Brunelle, pledging $1,000 in scholarship funds to help children experience the joy of the arts.  Brunelle accepted letters of interest from families in the Middleboro area who felt that their artistic dreams had been halted due to lack of access to arts funding.  Two local children were hand selected for the 2013 award—Alannah Henault of Berkley, Mass. and Emily Travers of Taunton, Mass.  Both students used their scholarship winnings to support a class at The Burt Wood School inspired by the hit television show Glee.    

 

Blais, a Middleboro, Mass. mogul, maintains a successful empire in real estate, development and construction.  A lifelong resident of Middleboro and a business woman for over 25 years, Ms. Blais has been active in many community projects and events.  As a local business leader, she continues to play an important role in the artistic evolution and education of today’s youth. 

 

“The Debbie Blais Dream Scholarship is earmarked for students, who because of financial limitations, would not be able to attend,” states Blais.  “I believe in pursuing your dream, regardless of the obstacles; in this case it is money to pay for the courses. As a business woman, I believe that art has a profound effect on the quality of our lives; how we view and interact in the world around us.”

 

For more information on The Dream Scholarship, visit www.debbieblais.com.

Brewing Up Great Partnerships in Eugene, Oregon

Posted by Emily Peck
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The Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene (ABAE) celebrated great local partnerships at their BRAVA awards breakfast. Watch the video to learn why Ninkasi Brewery partners with local musicians.


 

Check out videos of more great partnerships in Eugene, Oregon and learn more about how these partnerships drive economic development, strengthen the ability of businesses to recruit talented individuals into the workforce and stimulate creativity and innovation throughout the community.

Buying Local is the Tipping Point in Small Towns

Posted by Tracy Graziani
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Buying Local is the Tipping Point in Small Towns

At the recent Americans for the Arts Annual Convention the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV research was released to the public and the media. One of the trends noted in the presentation is the increasing urbanization of America. More and more people are moving to cities. This reality is posing unique challenges for small and medium-sized cities and towns.

 

In the 90s the big box stores descended upon Middle America with pervasive force, edging out “mom and pop shops” left and right. Some bemoaned the change, others viewed it as progress, and ultimately the “boxes” took over.

 

In the recent economic downturn many of those big box stores have left small towns, or significantly reduced their inventory. Now the residents can’t buy what they need at the big box or the “mom and pop,” so they turn to the internet or drive to a larger town. Of course the problem with this is that the commerce is then benefiting another community either where the online business resides or simply a bigger city in another county nearby.

The decreased tax revenue as well as the loss of commerce has a direct negative impact on the livability of these communities. Either the taxes have to go up or public services like nonprofits, schools, police, fire, and roads suffer. At least in our small town, the latter is what we have faced.

 

This leads us back to where we started—the research. When the livability of a community is subpar, educated and affluent people are more likely to leave, hence the migration to larger cities and towns. Some people even refer to this migration as “brain drain.”

 

Mansfield, OH, is a town that typifies this scenario. The arts organizations, nonprofits, and public services are all struggling to find their way in an economy that is increasingly unfriendly to small towns. The people of Mansfield, like the people in countless small towns across America, love their community and have high hopes for reviving their hometown. They have come together in some interesting ways as we adapt to the tougher times.

 

Our community development group, Richland Community Development Group (RCDG) has very active sector groups including the “Be Focal Buy Local” action team.  This group in particular has been pivotal in helping my organization, the Mansfield Art Center, develop business partnerships in creative ways.

 

A key theme at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention was the value of creating corporate partnerships. In the traditional sense, that is nearly impossible in small cities and towns. Nearly all corporate presence in Mansfield is at best tertiary to the main office of a given corporation and none of the decision makers who affect philanthropy are in our town. As you can imagine, that means very little corporate sponsorship is available for the arts and other nonprofits.

 

One notable exception is the model used at Aetna. They have a long tradition of corporate philanthropy that is very friendly to the arts, in fact last year Americans for the Arts awarded them a spot on their BCA 10: Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America.

This company utilizes a large work-from-home employee base. These employees can volunteer at local nonprofits while being paid their regular Aetna wage. In fact, Aetna has even taken an active role in leveraging some of that work from home staff at the Mansfield Art Center. That’s a really great contribution they’re making. It’s not a check, but I need volunteers as well.

 

Another trend, also discussed at length during the convention is the local movement. There is increasing focus on shopping, dining, and sourcing locally. Whether through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or a simple focus on shopping at local and independent merchants, the local trend is becoming popular in big cities like Detroit, where they just celebrated “8 weeks under 8 Mile”, or small towns like Mansfield, with our active “Be Focal Buy Local” group. At least for my organization, this is our tipping point where we are seeing the greatest impact on sponsorships and corporate membership.

 

Our active involvement in the “Be Focal Buy Local” action team has led to some less traditional sponsorships. A local auto dealership, Mansfield Motor Group, like many businesses, places philanthropy in the hands of their marketing department. They were interested in supporting the arts, in large part because our patrons are a key demographic they hope to reach for their business. The dealership’s owner and I created a customized sponsorship that met his marketing needs and provided us with the sponsorship we needed for our summer arts festival, Mansfield Art Explosion. He wanted to do something that would show off his cars, and an outdoor arts festival is a great location.

 

The resulting idea is fun and fits the needs of both organizations. We will have five white cars on our lawn that day, which will be painted with water-soluble paints by local artists. Thanks to their financial support we have the money to more aggressively market the festival with billboards and radio ads, something we couldn’t afford to do in the past. Of course Mansfield Motor Group will receive credit in all of our marketing.

 

Another interesting opportunity that has emerged as a result of our involvement in the business community is our new text marketing campaign and sweepstakes. Another member of the “Be Focal Buy Local” group owns a text marketing business, MOcoopinz.com. He offered the Mansfield Art Center a special reduced rate on his services since we are a nonprofit and he wishes to support the arts.

 

Text marketing could help us better reach that coveted 24–35 demographic that we hope to expand within our membership, so we were excited to start the campaign. One of the best ways to build up a good cache of “opt-ins” for text marketing is to offer a sweepstakes.  This is where another interesting sponsorship opportunity emerged.  It is even more impactful to offer a small reward for every opt-in in addition to the grand prize.  We really couldn’t afford to buy prizes to pass out for the opt-ins, but a local wine shop and wine bar, The Happy Grape, made a very generous offer. Not only would they give a $50 gift certificate toward the grand prize, they would also give a free piece of chocolate cake to every person who opted in. Let’s face it that is a pretty sweet deal, who doesn’t like cake?

 

In Middle America’s small towns we have much to be concerned about. There is a fear that our way of life may be fading away in the shift toward all things urban and corporate, but there are glimmers of hope that a new future will emerge for towns like Mansfield.

 

The Mansfield Art Center has experienced over 30 percent growth in memberships this year and things just keep getting better. All of this is thanks to our willingness to adapt to our changing economy. Are times tough? Absolutely, but the staff at the Mansfield Art Center is innovating in exceedingly creative ways as we find our place in a shifting economy.

 

*This post was originally posted on ARTSblog.

 

*Photo courtesy of vitorhirota.

Perserverance Pays Off: Reaching out to Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Posted by Suzan Jenkins
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Perserverance Pays Off: Reaching out to Your Local Chamber of Commerce

After several years of trying, I was happy to finally snag a meeting with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Chamber of Commerce to make a presentation called Innovative Ways to Attract/Retain Top Talent: Innovative Arts & Humanities Community Strategies. How did I do it? Sheer perseverance!!

 

Why did it take me nearly two years to convince the president and CEO of the chamber of commerce that arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy?

 

Because like many corporate professionals, she was skeptical that we could demonstrate that partnering with our sector can build market share; heighten awareness of member company products and services; attract employees; increase job satisfaction; and, enhance relationships with existing and new customers.

 

Like so many of her peers, she was unaware of that arts-centric businesses spend money locally, attract talented young professionals, generate government revenue at a high rate of return, and serve as a cornerstone of tourism and economic development

So I kept at it. And finally, she shared that her members’ most pressing concern was employee retention. She asked whether the arts and humanities community could offer strategies that would help corporate employers attract and retain top talent.

 

When I emphatically assured her that we could, she eagerly invited me to make a presentation to a joint meeting of the Economic Development and Small Business Committees. I was thrilled! So, of course I asked former Montgomery County Arts and Humanities Council Board Member Mara Walker (also the chief operating officer of Americans for the Arts) to join me and bring her pARTnership Movement slides. I knew our dynamic duo would hit a home run!

 

Mara prepared a stellar presentation draft and we edited it together. She also prepared a captivating narrative that demonstrated how harnessing the creative community has helped specific multinational companies gain a competitive advantage and advance their business strategies. From the first slide, our audience was hooked!

 

Our presentation went smoothly, so much so that one of the members immediately invited us to make another presentation for their company within the month. And we will!

We must continue to give practical examples of how the business community can consider the arts and humanities as a resource for creative problem-solving and that our sector can help to build market share.

 

As we further develop our relationships within the business community, we can help them heighten awareness of their company’s products and services, attract new employees, and provide them ways to increase job satisfaction and enhance relationships with existing and new customers.

 

It’s not often that we can see and feel a win-win, but in this case it worked!

 

(Editor’s Note: Join Suzan at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio for the Private-Sector Funding in the New Normal session to hear more.)

 

*This post was originally posted on ARTSblog.  Photo: Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County (right) and Mara Walker, COO Americans for the Arts address the Economic Development and Small Business Committees.

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Getting Big Results from pARTnerships with Small and Midsize Businesses

Posted by Emily Peck
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Did you know that in 2009, 69 percent of business support for the arts came from businesses with annual revenues of less than $1 million dollars and that another 24 percent came from businesses with less than $50 million in annual revenue? And that 56 percent of the surveyed companies reported that they’d never been asked to support an arts organization?

The BCA Report: 2010 National Survey of Business Support for the Arts

 

Small and midsize businesses and arts organizations know these partnerships advance the arts, business and communities.

 

“Some of our best partners are the small and midsized companies in our community. These are the creative firms and family-owned businesses that are absolutely committed to supporting a high quality of life for their employees and families, and they understand that arts education and arts organizations are critical for a strong economic future.”

-Jeff Hawthorne, Director of Community Affairs, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Portland, Oregon

 

“Printing Partners understands that a strong and vibrant arts community is good for business. Our arts organizations, through performances and educational outreach, promote a creative environment that attracts business, creates jobs, and promotes life long learning.”

-Michael O’Brien, President, Printing Partners, Indianapolis, Indiana

 

Want to learn more?  Read tips on partnering with small and midsize business in our newest tool-kit.

When Working Together is as Important as the Work

Posted by Wayne Andrews
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When Working Together is as Important as the Work

Where we live is important to each of us. It is a key part of our identity. It’s a source of pride, even if our hometown is the punch line to a joke.

 

Is it really the good schools, parks, and access to shopping centers that make us live where we live? Many people find a fulfilling sense of community in smaller towns and rural regions that do not have all the advantages of larger communities.

 

Maybe it is not the measurable elements that give a place a sense of community but rather those intangible qualities that create the feeling. Could it be that working with your neighbors to build a park is more important to the sense of community than the actual park? The arts have always been one of the focal points around that help to build a sense of community.

 

Town festivals, cultural events, and celebrations are often the most visible signs of a community working together. Each pumpkin festival, summer concert series on the town square, or art sale pulls together diverse elements of the community.

An example of this can be seen in Oxford, MS, which has worked to define itself as an arts community. Numerous programs have been launched in partnership between various segments of the community.

 

Last year working with local business owners, artists, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, a monthly art crawl was launched to highlight the visual artists in the region.

 

Business owners opened their shops to one night-only art exhibits to encourage residents to spend the early evening downtown, walking and looking at art, hoping they would purchase items from their stores or enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, impacting the local economy.

 

The success was measurable and visible. Business owners experienced growing crowds, walking through art exhibits, sidewalks full of visitors from other communities, and retail shops drawing new customers during the art crawl.

 

Read the entire post on ARTSblog.

More News

A Drama Graduate and a Philosopher Start a Business...
Feb 13, 2012 0 Comments
Rebecca Lewis Smith, co-founder of Fountain Partnership explains why employers should not give up on the arts.   "Between a drama graduate and a philosopher, you wouldn’t necessarily expect enterprise and job creation – and...
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Finding a Local Business Partner to Support the Arts
Dec 09, 2011 0 Comments
By Wayne Andrews, Executive Director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC) based in Lafayette County, Mississippi   The arts have always been a reflection of community — creating from the cultural fiber of their environment...
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