As I begin another school year as Director of the Entrepreneurship Center for Music at CU-Boulder, I’ve been thinking about what entrepreneurs can teach students, and particularly arts students, about their professional development. And as I was pondering that I got to thinking about “serial entrepreneurs.”
See, there are two kinds of entrepreneurs. First there are those who have a particular passion or interest they want to express through an entrepreneurial venture, and who have the expectation of sticking with that venture for the long-term. These are the entrepreneurs for whom their venture is their dream: it’s personal, they’re passionate about it, and if they’re lucky it might be the last venture they ever have to start.
Then there are so-called “serial entrepreneurs.” Their vaguely sinister label aside, serial entrepreneurs fascinate me: their main passion is simply starting things. They don’t particularly care what it is as long as it’s new, innovative, and has some promise for success. Once they get their venture up and running, they’re on to the next thing. They simply get a kick out of creating something that didn’t exist before.
In considering the nature of serial entrepreneurs, it occurs to me that they have some qualities that we as artists would do well to emulate. For starters, they are perhaps the most creative of all entrepreneurs: they come at each new project with a fresh outlook and an open mind, assessing each situation on its own merits and devising unique and creative solutions to best tackle the challenges that are presented. Another quality of serial entrepreneurs is that each project is an opportunity for them to experience the joy of discovery and creation: they live in a world of fresh beginnings and continuous new challenges. Lastly, serial entrepreneurs embrace failure. I’ve never met a group of people who wear their failures as proudly on their sleeves as serial entrepreneurs: “Yeah, I’ve started six businesses in my career so far. Four of them tanked, one was a huge success, and one was an unmitigated disaster…” But here’s the thing: for the serial entrepreneur, “failure” is not a bad thing. They see each one of those events as an opportunity to learn, grow, and to improve – not to mention, the opportunity to move on and start something else yet again.
As artists there’s a lot for us to learn from serial entrepreneurs. Imagine if each new practice session, each new project, each new recital or show or commission, is viewed as a fresh start, a new opportunity to exercise your creativity. Imagine if each challenge you face as a artist (or anywhere else in your life for that matter) could be viewed as a chance to exercise your creativity in finding a solution. And imagine if we could change our mindset about “failure” – not as something to be ashamed of or even minimize, but rather to experience joy in the taking of risks and learn from the times those risks go awry. I’d like to maintain that it would not only make us all better artists, but it would also make us a lot more fulfilled and happy overall. It also means that we would become more our authentic selves – and that is an essential ingredient to connecting with our audience and finding success with our art. So as we start a new academic year, I encourage you to consider serial entrepreneurs: what can they teach you about your own artistic development?
About Jeffrey Nytch
Jeffrey Nytch is the Director, Entrepreneurship Center for Music University of Colorado-Boulder