There is a lot to running a business beyond having a certain background and skills.
Before going into business for myself, I had a strong background in marketing and public relations. Having worked at the Library of Congress and Johns Hopkins University in the Baltimore-Washington metro area before moving to Maine, and at Sweetser and Geiger after moving here, I was confident in those skills. However, I did not have experience managing my own business and turned to New Ventures Maine to learn about business operations and self-employment.
For me, learning about budgeting, financial tools, legal aspects, planning, and pricing was invaluable. I took classes and worked one-on-one with staff because I needed guidance in some areas more than others. New Ventures Maine helped me be confident about my own ability to manage and operate my business, The Write Approach, which I’ve been doing for almost twenty years now. I still conduct marketing and media relations, but in recent years my business has evolved to include a lot of grant writing.
My biggest challenge was managing the emotional and financial impact of the inevitable lulls in business activity. Over time, I learned that there were seasonal aspects to my business, such as getting very few new projects between mid-November and mid-January. If I planned well, I could avoid cash-flow problems and take advantage of those lulls to market my business.
It can take a long time to achieve financial viability and it can be lonely at times. But I have also experienced great joy and satisfaction. My greatest joys have been getting meaningful results for my clients, such as creating greater awareness of issues Mainers are facing; getting infusions of funding that stimulate optimism for communities and projects; and improving recognition of great organizations and resources in the state.
Alongside running my business, I also work in creative placemaking, which is community and economic development through the arts and culture. I recently gave a presentation with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at the Radically Rural Summit in Keene, New Hampshire. We spoke about the NEA Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD). CIRD promotes creative placemaking, arts, culture, and design strategies as drivers of economic development for rural communities. Along with my client, Snow Pond Center for the Arts, based in Sidney, Maine, I participated in the CIRD Learning Cohort. My plans and goals going forward are to become more involved in getting funding for and conducting creative placemaking.