The What, Why & How of Tangent’s Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship Postgraduate Certificate
If you have creative or cultural talents that you’d love to turn into a future business opportunity, our postgraduate certificate could be for you. We recently spoke with Dr Karl Thomas and Noelle Brown about the course, what’s covered and what it’s like to participate. Karl is the academic lead for innovation creativity in Trinity College and the lead facilitator on this course. Noelle Brown is an actor, writer and director and owner of NB Theatre Production Company who recently completed the course.
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This course is designed for individuals looking to uncover their creative value and seeking to create a sustainable career for themselves. Can you tell us about the kind of individuals who have completed the course over the past year?
Karl: We have had a great mix of participants in the previous course. People who already had an idea, talent or passion but possibly lacked the business knowledge to make it a reality with real return. We had a portrait painter, a digital media professional, a literary professional, yoga teachers, a radio DJ, graphic designers, content writers, musicians, puppeteers, stop-motion photographer and filmmakers….
There’s an incredible scope of people so individuals will probably find others at the total opposite end of the spectrum as well as people who are probably quite similar to them. This really serves to facilitate the networking. It can even open new opportunities. For instance, there are ceramicists from last year who've now come together and are sharing their networking pool and finding really interesting success out of that.
Karl, can you offer a short overview of the course and how it differs to other postgraduate courses that deal in that creativity innovation entrepreneurship - what people should expect from a course like this?
Karl: I think probably one of the first things we do on the course is we challenge a lot of assumptions around what a creative is, the kind of opportunities that are available to creatives. I have a fine arts background as well as a business background so I’m quite conscious of some of the elements that we adopt as part of our creative persona and sometimes that creates obstacles for us accessing the business environment. So, one of the early stages is to deconstruct some of that. We do a lot of work around reflection and personal growth at the outset to help people to recognize their perception of value and financial remuneration for the work that they're producing.
Noelle: For me, the personal growth element was a huge part of it. I’ve been years working in the arts and what I was seeking was clarity. I didn’t really know what that meant but I knew I was struggling. I previously had other businesspeople advise me, but I didn’t understand them. I didn’t see myself as a businessperson or that I had any of the necessary skills even though I had been running my theatre production company for 8 years. There were gaps I needed to know. With this course, you get to track your progress through the reflections, and you get a sense of where you're going. We were led all the way through into finding our skill sets, developing business skills, tracking our own personal growth and being nurtured along the way.
How exactly does the course help individuals to see their potential business value?
Karl: There is a thread of the design thinking model through the course, so we'd be looking at elements like empathy defined ideation, prototyping and testing and how to apply them as a creative. We look at elements like customer discovery and customer validation getting a real sense of what the product is that you're producing. Often this requires a shift in perceptions to recognize that what we're producing sometimes is a product. If we think about it as a product then we can start to think about it within the context of a product ecosystem - where does it fit with our clients wants and needs and what problems does our product solve?
That’s an interesting starting point for many I am sure. Does it often lead to students expanding their horizons or seeing themselves in a new light?
Karl: Absolutely. I think one of the best examples of this that came out of the last course was a ceramicist who is now designing stunningly beautiful urns and has set up a business and website. She no longer sees herself only as a creative ceramicist but as a ceramicist who's also a businessperson and is finding ways to capitalize on that skill set in a way that has definable value. Many creatives find it difficult to put an actual price on their work rather than an esoteric creative value. But just because you haven't done it and dealt with financial aspects of your work before, doesn't mean you're not capable of doing it. It’s often more about being comfortable with. These are the kind of elements that we look at.
How can people develop those types of skills that require a shift in ways of thinking more than ways of doing?
Karl: One key feature is the networking element and the peer-to-peer learning that builds confidence. We encourage people to become proactive as entrepreneurs and create visibility for themselves. But it’s about identifying goals and setting the journey in place. Students are hugely supported not just by me and the team but by their peers in the group. With students from a diverse range of backgrounds, there is really great peer-to-peer learning.
Noelle: I agree completely. It was a great place to be surrounded by other creatives and to feel that – for example, money - wasn't a dirty word and that we could debate things like that. It was very different to how I imagined it would be as I thought I would just be taking notes and given papers. It was so interactive and was a great way to build up that confidence.
Do people need to have a solid idea or opportunity before they begin the course?
Karl: Absolutely not. In fact, one strong element of entrepreneurship is the pivot that can happen. Some people will arrive in with an idea and start to test it in the space. When they apply the design thinking approach and business model canvases, they can discover that actually that idea doesn't necessarily have financial viability in a business context but that there's a way to tweak and pivot with it and find another way to position it. Others arrive in with absolutely no idea, but they have a certain skill set and want to turn that into a business. Those blank slates can be very exciting!
What type of course work is there?
Karl: It’s much more of an experiential adult learning environment than classroom-style with workshops, master classes, group projects, presentations. Students work on teams on industry projects hosted by private or public enterprise partners. For this course those industries will be based more or less around the Dublin & Galway regions. There are no exams as such. Instead, there will be reports, presentations, case studies some written reflection work.
Noelle, you have just recently come to the end of your course completion. Have you been able to implement some of the skills that you've acquired from doing this course yet?
Noelle: I now have a better response to things and how to approach problems. It has given me the organisational skills I need to help me plan. I was a very hard worker but now I work smarter. It has also taken away the fear I had around a lot of things – including budgets like Karl mentioned earlier. I'm not afraid about conversations around money. I know my worth and I feel more empowered. I'm more proactive. But mostly it has changed my perception around my creativity and what I have as a commodity and what I have as a business idea and it's given me the confidence to talk about it. That’s something I couldn't have gained without doing the course. I feel much more capable in terms of balancing business and my creativity rather than seeing the two are separate worlds.
Particularly in the present climate, little did we know what was going to happen. The art sector is obviously in disarray at the moment to say the least but I’m coming back into that world now with a whole new skill set. It's given me a sense of empowerment and confidence that I actually didn't have as a creative which I wasn't really aware of.
What would you say to others who are thinking about this course?
Noelle: When I first heard about the course, I was just too frightened at first to even consider it but then a friend encouraged me to reach out and apply. It was the best decision I could have made on so many levels. I thought it would be all academia that I would get lost in it that I would be out of my depth. I was also worried that I would be the oldest in the class but its such a range of people and ages from diverse backgrounds.
So, what I would say to others is this: Do it and commit to it. The sense of achievement is so worth it, and you get to meet & collaborate with some extraordinary people - from tutors to other creatives from so many different disciplines knowing that you're in it together. You won’t regret it.
Published 31st July 2020