Entrepreneurs and artists aren’t that different, according to Suki Lee. Both fields require creativity, hard work and an appetite for risk.
Suki Lee is the president and CEO of Inbox Communications.
By Jacob Serebrin
Ms. Lee is the founder, president and CEO of marketing firm Inbox communications, a published author and the keynote speaker at the ARTpreneur conference on Saturday.
The annual event, now in its sixth year, brings the artistic and business communities together to teach artists how to make their artistic endeavours marketable.
It’s a progression Ms. Lee knows well.
After graduating from Concordia University in 2000, with a master’s degree in creative writing, “I wanted to live my dream and be an artist,” Ms. Lee said.
But it was a struggle.
“You can’t do art and survive,” she said, “just by doing art.”
Instead she focused on what she was good at – storytelling – and tried to figure out how she could make her skills useful for making money.
Her Inbox Communications is a full-service marketing and PR agency, with offices in Toronto and Vancouver. The company is opening an Ottawa branch in the near future.
“When I went from being an artist to being a businesswoman, it was easy,” she said. “Business skills can be learned and if you can learn a skill, you can master it.”
Ms. Lee said she worked with a business coach and read books to help develop those skills.
She said she intends to encourage other artists to “take what they do and see how it can be a product or service,” when she speaks at the ARTpreneur conference.
With the Internet, she said, artists now have an “unparalleled opportunity,” to reach potential clients. She plans to talk about “practical ways artist can get clients.”
One thing she suggests is that artists develop a “buyer persona,” a “semi-fictional character” who is the artist’s ideal client. For instance, she said the buyer persona for a landscape painter could be people who live in downtown condos and miss open spaces.
The Internet is also cutting out the middleman.
“It’s easier,” she said. “Artists can go directly to their public.”
Instead of a gallery taking a commission, which can be 40 to 50 per cent of a sale, artists can now keep the entire purchase price of their work.
She said that selling art over the Internet is still in the early stages and that she expects it will only grow.
Ms. Lee said that businesspeople who aren’t artists can also learn from the artistic community. “Creativity is what makes the Internet go round,” she said. “To create new profits and revenue streams, creativity is what does it.”
This year’s edition of the ARTpreneur conference takes place at the Shenkman Arts Centre.