”Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business. They’d say ‘money is bad’ and ‘working is bad’. But making money is art, and working is art – and good business is the best art.” -Andy Warhol
I started my college career as a teenager, intending to transfer to an art program. I dropped out due to financial concerns, and entered the job market.
I lost my full-time employment after the end of the Great Recession. I started a business, Barely Salvageable Press, and published my first novel. It became clear to me that what was missing in the arts curriculum that I’d engaged with was an understanding of business. All artists, I realized, will end up working for themselves at some point and in some capacity, and I found myself woefully unequipped for that.
I came to understand that our stark cultural divide between the artist and the businessperson is not only false, but it serves primarily to beggar the artist. The idea that we must eschew business in order to maintain the purity of our work is absurd.
I entered the Business Administration program at Western Washington University with a focus in Marketing. My peers in the arts viewed this decision with suspicion. As I went through the program, I discovered the ways in which my background in both writing and the visual arts dovetail with marketing in particular, and this was my path of entry into the business curriculum. After this discovery my love of the subject matter fell into place.
I found a quiet beauty in marketing, and a fascination with it as a system that touches nearly every other aspect of business.
At the same time, I learned through my studies that business need not be sterile and soulless. I saw, largely through my professors’ approaches to the material, that there’s room for heart and messiness in business.
I published my second novel under the Barely Salvageable imprint, and contributed to, edited, and published three short story collections under the Hot Mess brand.
I co-hosted a podcast about writing with another author.
In school, I gained skills in digital marketing. I worked with teams of my peers to create three different marketing plans. I came to understand the psychology behind marketing, both from the point of view of the customer and the marketer. I learned to develop a brand.
These new skills created a powerful mix with my existing writing and art skills, and with my deep familiarity with computers and the internet.
We are in a time of great economic change, driven primarily by the ubiquity of the internet in our lives. We are seeing wide networks of increasingly small markets spreading across the world, and it is in these networks that we find space for the humanity in business. This is my greatest interest in business; to find human spaces, to investigate the ways in which we can use markets to better serve consumers.
This change will come with a cost. Parts of our old economy will be lost or changed beyond recognition. The best way to steel ourselves for this change is to bolster small businesses. As market niches become smaller and more specific, driven by the fragmentation of identity and the consumer’s search for individuality and authenticity, it will become more and more expensive for large businesses to fill these needs. Small businesses can serve these markets more efficiently and more effectively, and according to the United States Small Business Administration, small businesses are driving the greatest job growth in the country, accounting for 1.9 million net jobs added in 2018.
With continued study of business administration, I hope not only to grow my own small business, but to help other people start and grow their businesses, preparing workers, communities, and owners for the realities that this change will bring.