business acumen for artists

Creative Entrepreneurship – Going Beyond the Business Plan

This is a post written for my Business Acumen for Artists students at UCT GSB.


Much of the criticism levelled against the use of a business plan for artists has been that many wanting to start a business have neither a need of venture capital nor a bank loan. Traditionally, business plans have been viewed as useful for these kinds of endeavours. I have changed the nature of this session to be focused on Creative Entrepreneurship because I do think there is a difference in how you should approach your business plan but am also in agreement that this kind of conceptualisation and planning are needed to start something which has validity and durability in the market - notwithstanding that it helps you build credibility with potential suppliers and customers.  Thinking hard about what your business is really going to be about more clearly defines your offering and helps you notice the blindspots.

A business plan has been described as a roadmap – a way to plan how you get to your destination. Inherent in this thinking is the understanding that there is more than a singular way to get someplace. What are the resources, maps, means of transport you would need to get to where you need to?

Although a roadmap is important there are certain other things which I found to be as important. Firstly it is to understand the fundaments of what you are going to build. If your foundation is not strong enough, no manner of effort and determination will make it lasting. So the key question you need to ask yourself before you plan your journey is WHY?

What is the PURPOSE of what you want to build?

Next relates to the VALUES you will drive in your business.

What are the non negotiable in terms of what you want to build?

What are you going to stand for – what is the MANIFESTO behind what you are building?

What would make your business not worth doing?


What makes your product/service special and different to other people operating in the same markets?

Define what you and WHAT YOU WON"T DO – by not being all things to all people, you generate a manageable lens for others to understand what your offering is and make it easier for them to choose you. don’t do everything.

What resources do you have?

Critical is the understanding of what your cashflow will look like. No matter how phenomenal your business is, without cash it will collapse.

What is your BURN RATE – how much does it cost to keep your business going?  Daily, weekly, monthly and annually.

As this business plan is an EVOLVING document, it is important to revisit it monthly and ask yourself:

Where are we?

Are we on track – what do we need to do differently?

What have I learnt – what assumptions am I holding to be true which aren’t anymore?

Thanks to Dave Duarte for helping me formulate the questions for you!