Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in training and education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Paul Field, Founder, and CEO of Artshine-Arts4all, located in Kitchener, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a mobile art school & subscription box for kids with a vision of participation in the arts being available to people of all levels of income, ability, or life circumstances. At Artshine/Arts4all, we're building hope, confidence & self-esteem through the arts.
Tell us about yourself
I started on this journey with my first job creating a mural at a Youth Centre working with the youth there. There I saw firsthand the positive impact that art programs can have. One of my mural painters had an amazing talent but had never had the opportunity to show it. The pride this young person felt whenever visitors praised the mural was life-changing. I saw him grow and succeed, getting his high school diploma and a job. This convinced me to bring art education to all my social work roles, using it to create a safe healing space for my clients; what frustrated me, though, was the lack of consistent funding for art supplies and education in social programs.
I learned early in life and in social work that money goes to essentials, and there is rarely any left for art supplies or lessons. Still, I persevered and found the resources to make my art programs happen. What finally broke my resolve was a federally funded gang prevention program for youth. I worked with the at-risk youth in the program, helping them break the cycle of addiction and make better choices. I helped them open their own art studio and run their own art shows. These young people were able to create art while meeting with their counselors, building confidence and healing through expression. Some were able to sell their art. The program predictably lost its funding, and the studio had to be shut down. I was so frustrated with the system at this point that I stepped away from social work. I changed my focus to finding a way to raise money for arts programs by starting a business.
Determined to solve this money problem, I established a consistent funding model by selling after-school programs and workshops through Artshine. Then I took the profits from Artshine and put them into the Arts4All foundation. Through Arts4All, my team and I provide scholarships and free art programs at community centers, schools, shelters, care homes, and prisons. Though I am now an entrepreneur, I still support social services. Still, give people the opportunity to heal through a creative outlet and to build confidence by learning new skills. I just expanded access to my art programs to more people, giving everyone the opportunity to participate and take their minds off their struggles and take a much-needed break from their screens.
When COVID shut us down, we focused on virtual programs and the subscription box model. Artshine in a Box now sells across North America. I also run that as a Social Enterprise; for every box that sells, we give an art lesson away.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Ensuring my company survived the difficult "COVID years" without going insane!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
This definitely isn't a secure 9-5 job. It can be very difficult to live a balanced life as a business owner. I have to be very intentional and make sure that quality family and personal time are just as important as focusing on the business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- If you are thinking of starting a business, don't wait until the "right time." Do it now! Start small.
- Be open to change and pivot as needed. Think outside the box.
- Be generous, and care about your team and customers.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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