Entrepreneur’s Experience

Half way through SSE Start Up Course and I feel we have reached a pivotal point in our journey.

Back in October when I started the course, I set myself the target of tidying up our business plan, tightening our governance arrangements, developing a vibrant website to share what we are up to and thereby getting on with growing our venture, building on our pilot programme.

To some extent things are progressing along these lines with this website shaping up thanks to Jodee Peevor of Jigsaw Web Design Ltd, a great team of directors, growing tribe, and an evolving programme.

However what I learnt was that we have a great product to market, in the form of high quality participatory creative arts to enable wellbeing and resilience, but our original business model was not sustainable. This is because those most in need are not able to pay in full themselves; health, care and educational organisations are enthusiastic but again financially strapped so limited in what they can fund; and other sources of funding e.g. trusts ,grants , foundations are in such high demand in our current economic climate that winning bids is an uphill struggle.

In the meantime I was beginning to recognise that we are doing more than simply putting on performances. We are connecting a variety of like-minded people and organisations who are equally frustrated that we do not so more in our community so enable wellbeing and resilience in what are increasingly tough times for many. We were being contacted by people interested in other approaches, eg heritage, museums, ecology, being active. There appeared to be an appetite for public sector organisations, charities and businesses ( profit making and non- for profit) to talk about how to make more of a difference through collaboration).

It therefore became clear that what we can offer is to be hub in our community to CONNECT, INSPIRE AND ENABLE people to thrive and communities to flourish. In this way we can trade more widely, further our collective mission and raise funds to support our social mission of GROWING INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE WELLBEING AND RESILIENCE THROUGH CREATIVE ARTS.

Another breakthrough moment was in designing a recent workshop we held with partners to evolve our evaluation framework. Anna Martin, an experienced community artist and arts for health practitioner kindly volunteered her services to design and facilitate the session with me. The day was helped along considerably by Concord College kindly offering their facilities free of charge and giving us a most delicious school lunch!

The lightbulb moment was in discovering that rather than trying to design a clever strategic approach to our mission Creative Inspiration Shropshire is spiral in nature. We start at the centre exploring a need and grow the seed of an approach which we can try out, evaluate and build on. This ensure we are always working in line with our values and with the need of the participants and customers at the heart of what we do. We are a grass roots organisation, engaging upwards through organisations in the community to deliver what the most needy and vulnerable in our community need and at the same time enabling partner organisations to themselves benefit in a range of ways in being involved. What is clear is that community matters not only to individuals but to the range of public sector, 3rd sector organisations and businesses.

I therefore feel that with our new business model of establishing ourselves as Creative Inspiration Shropshire Community with a like mined tribe and proactive approach to knitting together approaches to wellbeing and resilience we can be the antidote to some of the doom and gloom it is often easy to get sucked into as we see public resources increasingly cut back. Someone recently said we were engaging people in getting some of the warmth back in our community which I thought was a lovely way of putting it.