Tash Moore: So, tell us how you got started. What led you to found Embrace Creatives?
Andrea Bogart: As a professional artist with over ten years experience as a business consultant for the art and design industry I know, first hand that artists need small business training to profit from their creative passion and an easy way to connect with commercial art buyers to open up wholesale opportunities. We artists have plenty of ways to find personal buyers, those that will purchase a bracelet for a friend or a painting for their living room wall, but the avenues to gallery directors, retail buyers, sales reps, interior designers, and so forth are slim to none.
My ah-ha moment came about a year after moving back to Detroit from New York/New Jersey where I lived and raised my children. Volunteering for a Detroit gallery, the exhibition director asked me to “get artists’ cards while at the art fair” that weekend so they could bulk up their new talent prospect list. His request hit me hard… buyers don’t have the time to search for new talent themselves and artists don’t know how to engage in due-diligence when searching for good fit buyers. Even though the problem was in front of me for years it took his words to bring the concept of Embrace Creatives into the forefront of my mind.
After two years of brainstorming, user discovery and beta testing, I’ve developed a professional network that easily unites artists with commercial art buyers, and offers them a one-stop-shop for their creative business! Oh, we’re marking our one year birthday on June 5th and our comunity now boasts over 500 Members and counting!
TM: How do you develop your method while teaching others the business of art?
AB: It’s all about listening. I know retail and wholesale, small business strategies, especially with my background as an executive in the New York fashion industry and successfully building a jewelry firm on the east coast but as I teach and coach, I ask my students and clients… What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What else do you need to succeed?
I’ll never forget my first teaching stint in Detroit. The Detroit Artist Market offered me their gallery for four workshops. I was overjoyed but I was SO nervous. I’m an introvert (like many artists) and getting up in front of a large group of people, all staring at me waiting with bated breath for my words was very intimidating and because it’s important that I give as much education as possible, I read my notes. Verbatim. My head down, reading to the group. I didn’t realize how that would come across because I was too focused on giving them the most value as possible, and one of the participants wrote in his survey that it seemed as if I didn’t know what I was doing because I read the entire workshop.
His perspective devastated me but after I wallowed for a bit, I knew the healthier thing to do was to own up to my mistake (and fear) and do better next time. Since then, I’ve presented, wow, over 30 times in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio and my presentation method had changed to include banter, questioning the audience, personal experiences, client experiences, and storytelling. His comment forced me to look at myself with new eyes and revamp my methods so I’m offering even more than my education; I’m giving my guests what I tell them THEY should offer to THEIR prospective clients, connection and engagement.
TM: How do you see Detroit’s creative or cultural economy evolving over the next few years?
AB: That’s a big question for me because I have my hand in so many aspects of our creative ecosystem; fine art, design, fashion, non-profits, economic development, wholesale and retail. And of course, throw the problem of gentrification into the mix and this answer could go on for pages. Suffice it to say that there are many, many organizations, municipalities, companies, associations, galleries and artists who are doing their share to activate and excite metro Detroit with programming and with the uptick in development, new jobs and visitors to Detroit, we’ll see more interest in our creative offerings.
My mission is to ignite an empowerment movement for artists through education, connections and opportunities so for me, a healthy and strong cultural economy comes down to a few things, this being one; “Are creative businesses strengthening themselves through professional development education so that when opportunities knock (and they will in this fertile environment) they are in a position to succeed?” I see so many artists and organizations jump into opportunities without preparation by either researching the opportunity thoroughly or crafting healthy goals (beyond how much money they’ll make — that can’t be one’s only goal). Fear of “lack” tends to spur many people to blind action which more often than not brings resentment, frustration and lack of confidence.
For our creative community to evolve and sit atop a strong foundation, we need to coalesce and work together, building a supportive and connective ecosystem for artists, non-profits and our communities. One way I see other entrepreneurs do this, and I do this too, is to build big initiatives with a diverse group of collaborators. An example is the Portfolio Review that Embrace Creatives’ is putting together for this October and the Handmade to the Trade, Wholesale show for 2020. I’m not doing them alone, no way… I already have commitments and interest from a local University, a gallery owner or two, a state agency, a local wholesale show event planner, and a fashion non-profit plus I’ll be reaching out to a museum next. It’s like crafting a mini-ecosystem around each and every professional development initiative, and that’s fun for me! How exciting it is to hear what others in our community are doing and getting other’s insight and expertise. I teach that business (and life) are all about the relationships you build and I would never have gotten as far as I have without the amazing relationships gifted to me over my life.
TM: What drew you to entrepreneurship?
AB: Artists are the original entrepreneurs so I think being an artist and Leo, I’m not content unless I’m creating. Whether it’s creating in my studio or creating ways to support others through my businesses, I need to be moving forward building something, every minute of the day and that’s very difficult to do when you work for someone else.
That being said, I also need to make money and that’s difficult working in the arts industry so recently I took an amazing position as the Manager of the Lawrence Technological University’s Detroit Center of Design + Technology and I also curate our two galleries through Embrace Creatives. Working with Christopher Stefani, the Associate Director (and my friend) is a dream come true. He trusts me to take charge of important initiatives allowing me to create possibilities for the Center and also respects my own businesses that I tend to before and after work. I get the best of two worlds, working for a brilliant person in a world-class University in the Detroit campus of their College of Architecture and Design AND paving my own way as an entrepreneur.
Of course, being an entrepreneur should never be a solitary job and I’m grateful for my Embrace Creatives’ Ambassadors who volunteer their superpowers to move our empowerment mission forward and for my West Michigan partner, Heather Meyer for working with me to bring Detroit Art & Business Institute’s creative business education to different parts of our state.
TM: I first saw you speak at Startup Week in 2017. What is your favorite memory from [Detroit] Startup Weeks past?
AB: Oh, the people…absolutely the people who attended my many events. They were so very kind, interested and excited for the various ways to learn and connect during Startup Week. In addition, bringing my creative professional development ideas to light through this large and supportive initiative was exciting and promoting them was much easier than if I were to put them on all by myself.
Andrea Bogart is a mixed media, figurative artist who loves to experiment with different materials and techniques. Her background is varied — from University of Michigan School of Art & Design to Fashion Institute of Technology/Fashion Design in New York, before diving into fashion merchandising with Perry Ellis Portfolio Menswear and serving as the Director of Merchandising and Operations for Isaac Mizrahi, Ltd. Afterward, she combined her business and art brain to ignite an empowerment movement for artists through Detroit Art & Business Institute, private coaching and business education. She teaches Mind Your Art Business workshops and a training course in Southeastern Michigan and online. More info about her latest venture, Embrace Creatives, can be found here.
In celebration of Detroit Startup Week, 5 day conference for Detroit’s entrepreneurs, we’re speaking with leading creators and founders in our community. Meet local leaders in person at the conference June 17th-22nd. RSVP here: http://detroitstartupweek.com/