For Make Believers Friday – Handle Your Business

“Every artist is an entrepreneur.” ~ Dr. Elliot McCuken, Visiting Professor, Pepperdine University

A few years ago, my mom asked me a question I wasn’t expecting.

“Monie,” she posed during one of our daily phone calls, “how did  you become an entrepreneur?”

I could have taken offense by the way my mom stressed the “you” in her sentence, but I let it slide. One, I’m her creative child. And two, I hail from a tribe of Motor City auto workers.

Running around the D, penning stories for church and school was cute and all. It even made my momma and dem stick their chests out when I was a kid. But the moment I turned my back on three newspaper job offers after graduating from Wayne State University and decided to attend Columbia College’s film school instead, my mother said I “had some ‘splainin’ to do.

“How are you going to take care of yourself?,” she demanded. “Writing don’t pay the bills.”

She was right. At that point in my life, I had been blessed to land a number of summer journalism internships that paid pretty well. And every now and again, my benevolent mother accepted pocket change from me to help out with this or that. But even I knew wages from my seasonal employment couldn’t run a household.

Still, I had a plan — To temporarily live off of my savings and college loans (Yeah, this worked out sooo well. I still owe money on those damn things. LOL!) And get a part-time and/or freelance job writing for local Chicago newspapers.

I’m not sure if my mother bought it. But I suspect after doing a lot of praying, she agreed to drive me to Chicago to move me into my first apartment and begin my new life.

That was 18 years ago.

And life for me as an artist has been a bumpy ride. Unlike my artistry, where I garnered training from a plethora of sources, classrooms, workshops, jobs and people, I’ve learned (am learning) how to be an entrepreneur by tripping, falling and bumping my head. Repeatedly.

Dyslexic and allergic to numbers, I wish, however, Columbia had required I take business classes along with my screenwriting, filmmaking and producing courses.

Of course, Monice, the 20-something die hard, I -Ain’t-Selling-Out artist, would have pitched a hellified fit being forced to learn about supply, demand and business plans. But Monice, the grown I-Need-To-Keep-A-Roof-Over-My-Head-And-Eat artistpreneur, could have reaped the benefits of that valuable knowledge.

Fellow artistpreneur Mark McGuinness explored a similar line of reasoning in his lateral action blog post, Can Business Be as Creative as the Arts? And Jim Hart, the founder and Rektor of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN) – a full-time accredited conservatory for entrepreneurial theatre training, in Oslo, Norway – also stretches the discussion even further by posing this question in his tcg circle blog post – What If…Artists Were Trained As Entrepreneurs?

Each make valid points that I enthusiastically shout “Yes Suh” to like a Baptist deacon. But don’t take my word for it. Click on the links and read for yourself.

And in the meantime, if enrolling in Jim’s academy or signing up for a business class isn’t in the cards, find an entrepreneur mentor or pick up a book on the intimidating subject we, artists, have spent our collective lifetimes avoiding.

Play time is over, Fam. Handle your business.

P.S. Next Friday, I’ll be profiling Oba William King, a true artistpreneur and friend of mine who has made a 20-year-career out of handling his business as a spoken word artist and storyteller. Stay tuned!


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