business lessons from creative Vancouver entrepreneurship

Alexandra Dodds Jewelry Vancouver

Alexandra Dodds Jewelry Vancouver

It's only when you look back that you can connect the dots and make sense of what grabs you, what interests you, what piques your curiosity. I can do the brainstorming and the thinking and the analyzing and the planning ahead but it's often only after the fact that I see the connections and understand.

Imagine a Venn diagram - you know, two intersecting circles. Label one "entrepreneurs". Label the other one "creative". That middle part where they overlap? That's the spot, the place where I just want to know more. The why. The how. Why DO you do what you do? And how do you do it? I want to know how it works. I want to know why it works. I want to know the decisions made. Why this and not that?

Throw on a third circle that overlaps the "entrepreneur" and the "creative" circles. Let's call that one "values". Now THIS is what really excites me - creatives who have an idea, who build a business out of it (that's the entrepreneurial part) yet who also take the time to make explicit their values in how they earn a living.

The trifecta. Creative, business, and values. 

And then. No we aren't done yet! Then take their stories, their insights, their passion and create the images and words to share it with others. 

That, my friends, is one of the things that I've been busying myself with over the past number of months. I love it.

Earnest Ice Cream Vancouver

Earnest Ice Cream Vancouver

East Van Jam Vancouver

East Van Jam Vancouver

I've been meeting with creative entrepreneurs in Vancouver, Canada and having conversations about passions. About business.

About decisions taken. Successes and failures. Challenges. 

And about values. About not only building a business, but building it on your own terms. Listening to your heart and doing what matters. Not just doing what you can to make a buck but earning that living in a way that is meaningful. Demonstrating that you can be financially successful AND do it in a way that reflects your values.

This isn't an "either/or". You don't have to sell your soul to earn a living. 

These creative entrepreneurs are savvy business people AND they are living their values.

Studio126YVR Vancouver

Studio126YVR Vancouver

Walrus Home Vancouver

Walrus Home Vancouver

I've discovered some common themes during my interviews. Lessons that we can all learn.

One of the strongest lessons is that it's all about the relationships. With your business partners, your customers (retail and wholesale), with your suppliers (local and overseas). Tranparency. Honesty. Fairness. Taking into account your bottom-line but also thinking beyond it.

Making a difference in your local community. Those with brick & mortar locations use their spaces to host events (Kinfolk dinners, art shows, and workshops). Others teach canning or coffee roasting or print-making. They partner with other local entrepreneurs to make products.

When you speak with these creative entrepreneurs they make explicit this community value and the importance of relationship to their business. It's not just by accident, it's by design.

The Cross Design Vancouver

The Cross Design Vancouver

Much and little vancouver

Much and little vancouver

Another lesson is doing it on your own terms. Most if not all have taken a decision to limit the growth of their business. Not due to lack of opportunity but because they know that if they get too large, they'll lose the ability to run it their way. 

Those relationships that I mentioned above? Those would be the first to go if they jumped on every chance to expand. And it would become a business different from what they started. These are all creative businesses that you can get your arms around. You walk in and you feel the influence of the owner(s). You see the results of the decisions they have taken. None of it's cookie cutter. Each is unique.

Their definition of success combines financial and non-financial measures. Lest you think I'm getting all foofy on you, they all are committed to a healthy bottom-line, None of these are vanity businesses supported by other income streams. 

They are living proof that you CAN have it both ways - you don't have to sacrifice your values as a creative entrepreneur to make a living. 

Old Faithful Shop Vancouver

Old Faithful Shop Vancouver

Matchstick Coffee Vancouver

Matchstick Coffee Vancouver

So when you are growing your own creative business, think about your own values. What is important to you? And how will you make that explicit in the day-to-day running of your business? How will you make a difference in your local community? 

Some of the articles I've written about these creative entrepreneurs (two are pending) are at Life in Sketch and at Trouve Magazine.

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