|Industry:||Arts, Entertainment and Recreation|
|City:||Vancouver, British Columbia|
|Amounts:||various Find what funding programs you qualify for|
In balancing art and commerce, artists often let the commerce slide. It's too hard to take care of marketing, promoting, licensing and all the day-to-day nitty gritty of business when you're busy making your product – art. So, unless you've attracted an agent or employed a business manager, the business can suffer, and you don't achieve your full potential. But artists fortunate enough to have someone to run the business end of things soon discover how business can really take off – and how your income can soar. An effective business plan can certainly help with managing an art business.
Case in point: Camilla d'Errico. The Ottawa-born, B.C.-based artist has built a strong reputation in numerous fields. She's a comic book illustrator (the creator of the Tanpopo and Helmetgirls characters); a well-known painter in the urban contemporary art scene; and a freelance illustrator for major companies. A few years ago, she found the volume of work made it tough to manage her various contracts and the accounting required. So she called on her big sister, AdaPia, who worked for a hedge fund in Italy. "Having the background that I have with finance and business administration, I said, 'I'll give you a hand. I'll find you a lawyer and talk to an accountant,'" says AdaPia from her office in Como, Italy. "I started off as just helping her."
At the time, AdaPia only saw her sister every few months, and she wasn't that aware of the industry and the following Camilla had attracted. "I knew she was a comic book illustrator, but I didn't know to what extent she was working," says AdaPia. "So I started doing a bunch of research about the comic book industry, and learned about this nascent pop surrealism scene, and it took off from there." She advised Camilla to get a blog and began advising her on marketing. "It just grew from there. It just felt right. It's one of those things where you go Wow. You just feel that it's such a great thing." That was in 2007. Within a year and a half, AdaPia had left her job to work full time as d'Errico Studios' marketing specialist/branding strategist/social media expert/publicist… and "creative schemer navigating the licensing seas", as her Twitter profile has it. "I totally shifted gears," she says with a laugh. "It was a huge change but it was definitely well worth it."
Camilla already had a natural sense for marketing her products (and herself). "She's intuitively really good at these things," says AdaPia. Camilla has built a strong bond with fans by connecting with them, spending time with them at comic book conventions, and giving them little gifts. "She's got a core of really loyal fans. There are some girls that have created costumes based on her characters, and they parade around conventions that way. Her relationship with her fans is just amazing."
AdaPia's focus has been to harness the potential in Camilla's fan base by exploring licensing and merchandising opportunities. As well, she positions her effectively within the pop surrealism scene; and keep her top of mind for corporate contracts, so Camilla can focus on the art. "Camilla's one of the few traditional painters in the urban scene," says AdaPia. "In the more contemporary pop culture scene a lot of people are painting digitally, and she's one of the few that is really talented with traditional paint." The sisters work together on product development and have introduced or licensed a variety of items, including prints, t-shirts, dolls, toys, iPhone skins, purses, and fashion accessories.
On the freelance side, Camilla has been commissioned by major corporations, including Sanyo, Disney, Hasbro, and Chapman Entertainment. But while these contracts are well-paid and welcome, they're not predictable. Working from contract to contract can be scary. Camilla's career has definitely achieved a higher profile since AdaPia took over the management. "I can barely stay on top of it," says AdaPia with a laugh. And as the business has grown, so has the need to take it to the next level with a significant financial investment.
With the merchandise and Camilla's popularity, comic book conventions have become a good source of income, and they need someone to manage the convention end of things and the retail business there. "There's a huge amount of organization to do that," says AdaPia. "And merchandising is a stable source of income." Financing would also boost marketing efforts. "I've been pursuing low-cost or no-cost marketing, but at a certain point, you actually have to spend some time on proper advertising and maybe take on a publicist." Finally, there's the actual merchandise: buying power will bring down costs.
"I've been wanting to do a business plan for a couple of years, but I was never really able to do it," says AdaPia, but she says waiting till now was probably worthwhile in the long run – since she now has a clear idea of where she'd like to take the business and what she wants funding for. She found working with the professionals at the Centre for Business Plan Development helped sharpen her vision. "I'm not a very concise person, so I really needed help to take away the extra fat. My writer could condense my 200 pages down to the 60 it became and really captured the reader's attention."
She's using the plan to seek funding in the form of grants and loans. And almost immediately, her business plan helped her arrange a $25,000 line of credit. "It's not bad; we were happy with that," says AdaPia. "We've been running with a credit card, and it didn't make sense to be running it on a high rate credit card." AdaPia knows the benefits of planning. "But it's also good to just do it sometimes. You have to have a plan in your mind, but until you take even those first baby steps, you don't really know where it's going. If I had stopped myself and thought that I needed to think about a million little things before starting, I may not of started. It's a mix of just taking that leap of faith – and then planning."
Imagine how a professionally prepared business plan could help get financing for your business. For a free consultation, call 1-855-892-2506.Please note our Centre is not affiliated to programs profiled in the above article and no claim is made that funding is due to our Centre unless stated.