New Year’s Advice for Entrepreneurial Artists and Creators

1 01 2015

With the New Year beginning today, I thought this would be a good time to share some key points I presented at one of the conferences I attended last year. I believe these are important reminders for entrepreneurs with an artistic or creative business.

J'net Smith meets with Zach Hampton creator of College Dayz online comic and Christiana Bleadsoe of G3EK for a mentoring session at the CEO Conference.

J’net Smith meets with Zach Hampton creator of College Dayz online comic and Christiana Bleadsoe of G3EK for a mentoring session at the CEO Conference.

I was honored to speak at the CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization) Conference in Orlando with other exceptional business owners. I spoke about licensing your concepts, characters and art, and then joined in on a panel, giving our best advice to some very energetic college students about entrepreneurial careers. The CEO Conference was co-hosted by SEA (Self-Employment in the Arts), an outstanding group which focuses on training for college students and those planning to run their own creative business and for whom I am an ‘Ambassador.’

I feel strongly that we need to share our talents and experience with students, young businesspeople, and burgeoning entrepreneurs because while they have more options than ever (a GOOD thing); they also have more options than ever (a TOUGH thing). For certainly, with more options, comes more complexity.

Since it’s part of my job to simplify and make understandable complex business issues, I thoroughly enjoyed being at the CEO Conference. It was a busy event, which made me think a great deal about the days when my career was just beginning to unfold and I had so many important decisions to make. As a young woman, one of these decisions was—‘Do I move to NYC with just a suitcase and a smile?’ I decided ‘yes’ and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I had to learn quickly and thoroughly the in’s and out’s of the global licensing arena in order to succeed in developing creative properties in NYC’s corporate environment and then beyond. Here are a few pieces of advice that I know will help many of you starting your own creative businesses:

(L to R) Ed Wimp, Greta Pope, J'net Smith and Mike Veny -   CEO Conference Panel on: Making a Living in the Arts, Sponsored by Self-Employment in the Arts

(L to R) Ed Wimp, Greta Pope, J’net Smith and Mike Veny – CEO Conference Panel: Making a Living in the Arts, Sponsored by Self-Employment in the Arts

1) Run your art business like a business — Some creators think that learning to be an entrepreneur crushes their creativity. Do NOT let this be you! Learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, about how to make a viable income with your art by creating a viable business. Creating a business is actually much like creating your art. You must envision it, allow it to develop and then do it—bringing it into reality. You need to learn about business models, cash flow, marketing, sales, distribution, strategic alliances, contracts, negotiations, trends and more. You will then be one of the lucky few who actually DOES make a living in a career they love. There is no need to be a starving artist.

2) Find a PROVEN business model — First decide what you want to do and do it! There is nothing as draining as indecision. Find a proven business model that comes closest to what you want your business to be and then follow the example. Whether your creative path is through galleries, art/character licensing, government grants, or something else, you must work within the industries’ parameters and emulate the successful models in order to duplicate their achievements. Once your business is supporting itself, you can then change or expand your business to make things fit you, your dreams and goals more closely.

3) Don’t be afraid of selling yourself & marketing your business — It’s all about finding the right audience for your product (art, characters, designs, skills, services, etc.) and finding ways to profitably get it to the manufacturers, retailers and consumers. If you don’t develop a consistent marketing and sales plan and routine, maintaining it with a strong discipline, you won’t have a business. However, the good news is, if you do develop a serious dedication and continuous motivation, coupled with a strong learning curve and work ethic, you will almost certainly succeed.

4) Do as much as you can on your own — Listen to advice whenever you can. Pay for it if necessary. Attend trade shows, classes, events and conferences with your peers, industry experts and your (B2B and B2C) target audiences, as often as possible. Meet with business associates wherever opportunities present themselves. Then, get as much advice as possible on choosing business partners for all those things you can’t, or don’t want to, do yourself. Remember you have to spend money to make money; but you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a fortune. Learn your strengths and weaknesses, as well as how far you can push yourself. Then build your team by spending your time and energy on your strengths and delegating and investing in those whose strengths are your weaknesses.

I think that continually living outside your comfort zone is exactly why and how growth occurs and is where the brightest and best entrepreneurs are inevitably found. And remember the best advice anyone can ever give you is—‘go for it; you can do it!’

If any of you have questions about art and character licensing, business and brand development, please come and ask your questions during our next free Ask J’net Q&A.

NEW CLASSES FOR 2015 – SIGN UP TODAY
FREE ‘Ask J’net Q&A’
Tuesday, January 6, 2015 – 12 noon – 1 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. – 4 p.m. EDT

Start the New Year off right by getting your art, design and character licensing questions answered by J’net during this free one-hour ‘live’ phone event. You just sign-up here for the class. When registering, there is a place at the bottom of the form to write your questions. J’net will answer as many questions as possible during the hour, all you need to do is call in at the specific time to get the answers to your questions and learn from others’ questions. Please note: You will receive your Dial-in number and Access Code for the class the night before the event from All Art Licensing.

‘Launching and Leveraging Your Annual Marketing Plan’
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 — 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT
Price: $60

The New Year is traditionally the perfect time to launch your annual plan. If you don’t already have a plan or need new ideas to increase your licensing sales success in 2015, then I have created this course for you. The class will cover how to develop a marketing calendar for the year, including portfolio development, trade shows, sales timing and techniques, public relations, and social media. You will learn how to organize all of this into a comprehensive plan of action that you can manage and execute to improve your licensing sales results. The major emphasis of the class will be leveraging what you have in your current business to the next, more profitable level. Please note: This is a live audio event, which will also be video recorded. It will include a full PDF presentation booklet, as a part of the course. Any registered attendees who wish to apply to be included in our live stream video beta test, please contact me directly after registering. Included in the purchase price, all registered attendees will receive audio of the class for their personal review.

With the New Year here, it’s such a great time to take inventory of yourself, your habits, your business and goals so you can move to a new level! I look forward to connecting with you in 2015!





Interview With a Stationery Manufacturer – Inspiration is Still a Big Market

17 06 2014

Here at the Licensing Expo it’s been a busy first day. The lifeblood of the show is two-fold, the creators who spend endless amounts of time creating and dreaming about getting their message, characters or brand out into the marketplace and the producers, manufacturers and retailers who produce and distribute the media and products.

Andy Meehan, owner of Christian Inspirations, a manufacturer of stationery products shares some insights and misconceptions about his business with us today.

Creative Minds Design Studio

In its first show last year, Creative Minds made serious tracks with an international licensee for children’s footwear for its emodoki, cute character mood faces, property. Now the company is back, all the way from The Netherlands, to add more licensees to its emodoki line as well as launch its new characters, Minky & Chuwie, and Fulgar the Puppy. Antoine Aarts, said, “I came all the way from Holland for this show.  I was here last year and we did very well for emodoki, that we developed a couple more properties and have a much bigger booth.”

Creative Minds Design Studio

Creative Minds Design Studio

emodoki shoes





More Trade Show Tips – Presentations & Key Questions

8 05 2014

With Surtex just a couple of weeks away, followed by Book Expo and then Licensing Expo—it’s the peak of trade show season and time to get out and sell yourself, art, brand or characters.

Whether you are in a booth or walking the shows, my best advice is to spend the time preparing.  When you are getting organized, think about making presentations that are very short.  Have your quick 15 and 30 second descriptions of your business and goals well-rehearsed so it’s top-of-mind.  Then expand on them to create a more comprehensive 2-3 minute presentation for those who are interested.

Remember that anyone attending a trade show will be talking to 50, 100 or more people in a day and, in general, you shouldn’t expect long initial meetings. If you try to force them into a 10-20 minute presentation, there is a good chance you will kill the lead.

For art licensing presentations, if possible allow the prospect to turn the pages or click the images on your iPad, so they can pace the presentation themselves.  When presenting a character or story, it’s more important to quickly go through a sequential explanation to set the stage and then give the prospect some concepts to flip through.

Please be courteous if you are an artist walking any of the shows, especially where other artists and brands are exhibiting in the booths.  Agents in the booths are, of course, always interested in learning about new talent. But whether you’re meeting an artist representing themselves or an agent, they have invested a great deal to exhibit. Every year, after the shows, we read about insensitive people who try to usurp the time and energy of those in booths to learn about the industry, while the exhibitors get frustrated and are potentially missing out on viable leads with licensees. Don’t let that be you.

I recently learned that 85% of the impression you will make with potential licensees at a trade show is based on booth staffers.  So remember how critical your role is, as the owner or part of the supporting team.  Make sure you have a list of questions clear in your mind and ready to ask potential prospects. I presented these questions last year in my blog, but they are worth repeating for those of you who are now ready to attend a show or exhibit this year:

  • What does your company do?
  • What exactly do you do at your company?
  • What are you hoping to find at the show?
  • What are you interested in, or caught your eye, in my booth?
  • What products do you produce?
  • Where do you distribute your products?
  • What consumers are you interested in targeting most?
  • How can I help you?

smiley faceAlso, remember not to get discouraged by negative responses. At a trade show, as in life, a general rule is that you “must go through 10 to find the one.” So don’t give up.

Lastly—keep an optimistic attitude; don’t burn bridges; show interest in them; and keep smiling!





4 Informational (& Motivational) Online Classes—with Special Guest Speaker

20 03 2014

Many times I have noticed that people (including myself sometimes) say and want to learn and increase their knowledge about a given subject, such as art licensing. Yet often it does not happen. The problem is that often there is no action or follow through to that desire, and therefore, no increased learning or movement forward.

The reason for this, I think, can be lack of continuous motivation. A daily habit of creating a motivation focused on your goals has to be developed. So you will remain motivated until you achieve your desire. This is one of the reasons, I continuously refine and present such detailed classes and blogs, month after month. I want you to succeed!

I have scheduled 4 new classes this spring, including two FREE Q&A’s, as well as two affordable, comprehensive courses.  All classes are designed to inspire and stimulate your desire to succeed in your goals, by providing practical and immediately useful information.

Join our Free Ask J’net Q&A on March 26th and May 14th for some ‘hot’ answers to your most pressing art marketing and licensing questions.

Below is our spring schedule of classes, part of the Worldwide Creators’ Intensive series.

Meanwhile, share this with your friends and colleagues; peruse the courses and register ASAP to get your questions answered!

Ask J’net Q&A’s

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 – 12 noon to 1 p.m. PST/3 p.m. – 4 p.m. EST

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 – 12 noon to 1 p.m. PST/3 p.m. – 4 p.m. EST

Price: FREE Register: HERE

These one-hour classes are a ‘live’ phone event, where you provide the questions about art, design & character licensing and J’net provides the answers. When registering online, just write your question at the bottom of the form. J’net will answer as many questions as possible during the hour, all you need to do is call in at the specific time to get answers to your questions and learn from others’ questions.

Please note: You will receive your Dial-in number and Access Code for the class the night before the event from All Art Licensing. This is not an 800 number, so your standard long distance fees will apply.

NEW–Today’s PR and Promotion Essentials for Art Licensors

I’m excited to announce that I will be joined by Guest Presenter, Greg Walsh of Walsh PR, who will discuss Social Media’s role, mistakes to avoid and hot tips and trends in PR today!!

Date: Wednesday April 9, 2014

Time: 12 noon – 2 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. – 5 p.m. EDT

Duration: 2 hours including Q&A

Price: $60 Register: HERE

This class is for the emerging and intermediate level art licensor, those who both have agents and are working solo.  Join me for a comprehensive course that moves you from wondering how to get the word out about your business to managing your own press and promotions (or understanding how to manage your PR agency or agent, if they handle your press).

The class will teach you how to:

·        develop your goals and create your own press plan

·        create targeted press lists

·        write effective press releases

·        build a press kit (and your brand)

·        determine priorities within Social Media, press and promotions

·        PR mistakes to avoid

·        plus 15 HOT press tips to turn up the HEAT!

The goal is for you to understand the PR tactics that will gain you exposure and build your brand and business.  This course will include more than 50 slides with guidelines and visual examples that relate to the licensing industry.

Greg Walsh of Walsh Public Relations, out of Fairfield, CT, will join J’net in presenting a part of this course.  A public relations veteran of 20+ years, Greg has extensive experience in creating PR campaigns through both the consumer and trade media. The brands, properties,and products he has successfully represented include: ZIGGY, U-Haul, Honeywell, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, National Geographic, Wild Republic Retail Stores, Barbie®, Hot Wheels®, Lalaloopsy, Batman®, Chicken Soup for the Soul®, MTV Game, Slylock Fox & Comics For Kids.

NEW–Character Licensing (Emerging Artist/Beginner Level)–This course has been totally updated and expanded.

Date: Wednesday May 21st, 2014

Time: 12 noon – 2 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. – 5 p.m. EDT

Duration: 2 hours including Q&A

Price: $60 Register: HERE

This course is an introduction to character licensing for cartoonists, animators and illustrators. A lot of creators ask: “What can I do with my characters?” This class will show you some very practical and useful answers to this question.

In this course, we will explore character licensing from the beginning first steps to the first signed contract. This class will teach you how to design characters to enhance their licensing potential, create exposure, leverage business opportunities, know when you are ready to license products and choose the product categories which are best for your characters. We will also cover the most important things to watch for and avoid.

If you are more inclined to create characters, than designs, then this is the right class for you. Your characters make sense to you…now let me help you make sure they will appeal to the broadest possible audience.  With the right industry knowledge and strategic thinking, you can learn how to share them with the world.

Remember, that if you want to attend a class, but have a scheduling conflict, the 2-hour courses always include a PowerPoint presentation & full audio, which will be provided the day after the live event. So sign up, save a few bucks by registering for the live event, but listen to them whenever you like!





Protect Your Art With a ‘Shopping Doc’

14 02 2014

red heart sheildMany years ago I remember the first time I heard a manufacturer say, “I’d like to ‘shop’ your art around and see if we can get some interest from retailers.” Since then I’ve heard it 1000’s of times, as it’s become a very common practice in the art licensing industry.

As the economy hit below the belt, manufacturers needed a way to hedge their bets.  They no longer wanted to create volumes of inventory that might not sell quickly. This saves them up-front manufacturing costs, warehousing space, time, and of course, prevents them from having to ‘eat’ the cost of goods that don’t sell.

On the artist side, it poses some problems.  Manufacturers are now asking for high-resolution art to create sophisticated mock-ups, and to often produce a very small quantity of product in order to make their retail presentations.  If the retailer ‘buys in,’ then you could have yourself a licensing deal, but if not, the art is already in the hands of the manufacturer and you have no deal and few recourses to ever get digital art destroyed.

So without so much as an agreement, how can you be sure that manufacturers are not utilizing your exclusive art to sell larger quantities of products?  Well, I think there are many (and mostly) reputable manufacturers, who wouldn’t consider taking your art without paying for it.  But there is always someone willing to take advantage of the situation.  And it would make you would feel very vulnerable to send final art to someone when you don’t have a formal agreement.

With my lawyer, I created what I call a ‘Shopping Doc.’ It’s a short document that I can use when this type of circumstance occurs.  It all boils down to keeping track of what the manufacturer said they will do, and what you said you will do, just as with any contractual arrangement.  This is just a short letter, in which you give the manufacturer permission to ‘Shop’ your art to retailers with specific restrictions. It is very clear, in that, a manufacturer has only the right to shop

a) specific pieces of art,

b) for a certain amount of time, and

c) to listed retailers.

It also specifies that you retain the rights to your art AND it allows you to choose between whether or not you will continue to show the art to other manufacturers, during that same time period.  For the manufacturer, it does not obligate them in any way to concluding a deal with you.  So if things do go well, then you just move to a deal memo or straight to a licensing contract.

I believe that whether you use this form, or make up your own, it’s the best way to keep track of your art and what the manufacturer is doing.  It also gives you a detailed time frame in which to follow-up and determine how things are going and what the next steps should be. I find that, in general, keeping everyone accountable is really important. Also, deals are more likely to get signed.

Feel free to click here and get your copy of my ‘Shop Doc’ and to adapt it to your own situations.  No legal document is fool-proof, but it does help provide guidelines in which the manufacturer has set responsibilities with your art during the ‘shopping’ period. It also gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing there is an end to their ‘shopping’ process, which would be enforceable in court if required.

I hope it makes your heart feel a bit more protected today, too.








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