I’m James Szuch and I help artists, designers, and creative makers unlock the business potential of their creative passions.
I started my professional career in technology. I wrote software. Then I went off to graduate school. Twice. Armed with a law degree and an MBA I started consulting. I worked for large global professional services companies. I worked for smaller boutique firms. I consulted for Fortune 100 companies; middle market companies; small businesses; non-profits. I spent some time working inside some of those companies. I spent some time working in and helping build startups. I solved technology problems, I solved strategy problems, I solved operational problems. I like solving problems.
As I rose in my professional career, I started teaching. That had always been a goal of mine and I was excited to start sharing what I had learned. I taught a variety of courses in technology and business, both undergraduate and graduate. My focus quickly became the messy subject of entrepreneurship. I wasn’t interested as much in entrepreneurship with a capital E — technology and venture capital. I focused on the world of small businesses — Main Street businesses. My students didn’t write killer apps or disrupt industries. They opened restaurants and daycare centers and started non-profits. But they loved what they did and they had an impact.
Throughout this time there was also art. Art and the arts had been a part of my life since I was a child. There was the art that I did — photography. And there was the art that I loved — music and theater and dance and literature and visual arts. And there were the friends that I made who were artists and who shared that connection to art.
Business paid the bills. Teaching let me help people. Art satisfied the soul.
A few years ago, those three areas starting coming together and I started talking to artists about their businesses. I started exploring the challenges faced by people who create and make and try to make a living.
And I learned some things.
I learned that the challenges that they face are the same challenges that every other business I’ve worked with has faced. They needed to understand their customers. They needed to make compelling products that satisfied the needs of those customers in those markets. They needed to create businesses that could satisfy those needs and that could grow and scale. They need to make a living doing it.
And I learned that while the challenges were fundamentally the same, they were different in ways that made them very difficult to solve. The customers weren’t necessarily defined by demographics but by attitudes and behaviors. The needs weren’t about what the product does but how it made those customers feel. Building a business involved not one businesses but juggling a portfolio of related ventures that fit into a single cohesive vision. Making a living doing it was a challenge in a world that appreciated art but didn’t necessarily value it.
I also learned some things about myself. I learned that I was good at solving those problems. The sum of my education and experience and interests had come together in a way that let me view the problems of the creative through the lens of the business consultant and the business problem through the lens of the creative.
And I learned that I loved solving those problems. They challenged me in ways that solving problems for businesses or even non-profits didn’t. I learned that I loved solving those problems because of the people who I could help. People who made what they made not because it was a better mousetrap but because it was their passion to create the things that they created and to share their vision of the world.
In his seminal book on the creative economy, John Howkins observed that “creativity is not necessarily an economic activity but may become so when it produces an idea with economic implications or a tradeable product.”1Howkins, John, “The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas”, p92
I believe that any creative can, with the right knowledge and skills, unlock the tradeable product that lives in their creativity. Through my coaching, workshops, and classes, I help them unlock those products and create businesses that meet their financial, personal, and creative goals.
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If you are ready to unlock the business potential of your creativity, leave your contact information and let me know what you want to be doing.