Creative small business: ART's Candy Elsmore

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Candy Elsmore, project director of the Arts Regional Trust Te Taumata Toi-a-iwi. Photo / Supplied
Candy Elsmore, project director of the Arts Regional Trust Te Taumata Toi-a-iwi. Photo / Supplied

Candy Elsmore, Project Director, Arts Regional Trust Te Taumata Toi-a-iwi (ART). Every year ART looks for creative, entrepreneurial people working in the arts, cultural and creative sectors whose work impacts on the wider community, creating positive change and influence for its Creative Entrepreneur award.

What challenges do artists (musicians, writers, artists) have in running a sustainable, profitable business?

Through the ART programmes, we've worked with many creative people who are following their passion and using their talents, while at the same time creating a sustainable business. In many ways they face challenges that anyone in business does; 'lumpy' income and cashflow, finding new audiences /customers/ markets; dealing with compliance/admin and structure / governance issues, time management and business growth challenges etc.

As the creative force of their business, however, artists also have a unique business challenge. They need to have the time and space to create the work and continue to develop as artists. It's a crucial balancing act and getting this right is key to creating a long term sustainable business model for artists.

Successful creatives in business understand and recognise this balance, and structure what they do and how they do it accordingly.

Are artists businesses more collaborative than other small businesses?

Yes, they often are, and perhaps that's because the act of creating is often collaborative in itself. For example, the performing arts are and have always been highly collaborative in nature. We also live in a time now where collaboration and co-creation on a local and global scale is so much easier - for example musicians can record and send their work to other musicians to add their tracks via the web to create a work.

Artists often contribute as businesses owners to larger creative enterprises - designers, musicians, visual artists will contribute to and collaborate on film projects for example.

In the ART Venture programme a key part of the programme is the peer to peer learning that takes place over the year long programme between participants. As such as we see a lot of organic collaboration; a theatre producer may collaborate on a performance or event with a musician, a visual artist/designer, and an arts publicist all of whom are co-participants on the programme.

Many times these collaborations reach beyond the life of the programme, and people have become co-creators and collaborators on many enterprises. In any business, the building of trusted networks and professional relationships is a cornerstone of business success and sustainability, as it is often where your work comes from.

Are there any other differences between the business aspirations of artists and other small business owners?

All business owners, creative and otherwise, strive for a sustainable business that 'puts food on the table'. Creative business owners are also very driven to make a living out of doing something that they love and are passionate about.

Many creative businesses and creative, entrepreneurial people are motivated by their desire to create great work, but have aspirations beyond their own personal, creative fulfilment.

ART sees the desire for many creative businesses, both for and not-for-personal profit, to create something that has a benefit for the sector they are working in and/or the wider community.

Composer and ART Venture participant Marshall Smith is growing his business The Sound Room to be a leading supplier of the work of New Zealand composers to the global film and television market.


Small businesses are often at the end of the queue when it comes to payment for services and products.

We talk to some of the expert advisors about how to limit the risk of slow paying customers and want to hear your stories about how you cope with powerful customers who put you under pressure in the way they pay their bills.

Email me, Gill South at the link below:

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