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‘Artrepreneurship’ — 3 Tips for Turning Your Creative Endeavor into a Business

Artistic endeavors can be big business or a fulfilling creative side hustle to a steady day job — and either approach is fine, a group of Baton Rouge entrepreneurs said during a recent panel discussion.

Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week brought together six entrepreneurs — three husband-and-wife teams — for a talk on how they’ve turned their creative pursuits into successful businesses.

The panel included Madeline and Dawson Ellis of jewelry-makers Mimosa Handcrafted, Donney and Leslie Rose of the Black Out Loud Conference, and Lance and Christy Faucheux of Avec Tous Spice Co. It was moderated by Renee Chatelain, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

Here’s a look at what they shared.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New

Several panel members say that if you have the drive to create something and release it in the marketplace, don’t worry about perfecting it before you take the leap.

Donney Rose, who has a long history as an artist, writer and community activist, says he decided to launch the Black Out Loud Conference from a book project that had garnered national attention. The conference, which drew more than 200 people during its inaugural weekend in August, is a three-day event dedicated to celebrating black visibility in the realm of arts, media and activism. His wife, Leslie, who works as a freelance photographer and writer, handled publicity for the event.

Madeline Ellis, who has a degree in landscape architecture, says she began making jewelry at a young age. By 2008 she started selling her creations at the Baton Rouge Arts Market and on Etsy. Later, a four-month unpaid maternity leave gave her the time and perspective to take her business full time, and it has grown steadily since. “Once I was able to focus full time on this, it just took off from there,” she says.

The Faucheuxes say they met in the restaurant industry, where Lance Faucheux had long produced his own spices in the kitchen because off-the-shelf items didn’t meet his standards. After the couple decided to start grinding their own spices and selling them around the area, the health-focused products caught the attention of several athletes, including at LSU. “From there it kind of grew organically, from accident,” he says.

As orders grew, the couple moved their dining room table into their living room and made up to 1,000 bottles of spice at a time with a small grinder — blending, bottling and labeling everything by hand.

Christy Faucheux works as a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling the couple’s children, while Lance Faucheux works in the marketing industry during the day. They say they are poised to grow the business but are taking their time to ensure it develops in a healthy way.

“There are all these different ways people tell you that you can become an entrepreneur and grow your business, but ours has been very unorthodox and all over the place,” Lance Faucheux says.

Don’t Rush To Quit Your Day Job

Leslie Rose, who holds a full-time job while also pursuing creative side projects and working on the Black Out Loud Conference, says she encourages entrepreneurs to not immediately put pressure on their art to support their lives.

“Keep your full-time job as long as you can,” she says. “Have your benefits, save your money, go and network and meet people from your full-time job.”

Madeline Ellis offers similar advice, encouraging artistic entrepreneurs to build their craft and grow their business gradually in their free time. “If you have a steady income, it relaxes you to go and put out good work,” she says.

Donney Rose says that when the time comes to decide whether to step out and pursue your entrepreneurial dream full time, it’s important to first step back and take stock of your personal and professional momentum to see whether your idea truly resonates with people.

“Assess where you are,” he says. “Assess how the public is or is not responding to you as an entrepreneur and make your move accordingly.”

Formalize Your Business

Dawson Ellis says entrepreneurs often are tempted to take on friends and family members to help out with the operation, but that could be a mistake. “Get someone that fits what you need done,” he says.

Donney Rose says that if you do opt to work with a spouse or a close friend, it’s vitally important to have candid conversations upfront about goals and expectations to make sure you’re both on the same page. “It can create real turmoil if you have different goals and objectives and things go sour,” he says. “You still have to see that person every day.”

Dawson Ellis says that if the business starts growing, he strongly recommends hiring an accountant to help with financial operations, particularly sales tax issues from online sales. “That takes a lot of pressure off,” he says. For any type of partnership, he also recommends creating a formal exit plan early in the process.

“Hire a lawyer, have an exit strategy figured out … so you’re not trying to figure it out when emotions are not where they should be,” he says.

Stephen Loy