When “Working for the Man” Means Working for Yourself
Considering the possibility of starting your own business? Learn from the advice of classmates who have already begun their own entrepreneurial enterprises.
In 2001, Brandon Garcia started the Pickle Compan , a 14,000 square-foot multi-disciplinary arts center in Salt Lake Cit , Utah (www.thepicklecompany. org). He had just moved from San Francisco, where he worked for Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco’s oldest alternative arts space.
in-Residence program designed to support local artists in experimenting, taking risks, and ultimately seeing how far they can take their work.
“One of the mistakes I made early on was trying to impose what I had learned in San Francisco onto Salt Lake, rather than listening to the needs of the people
here.” wrote Brandon. “The Residency program is driven entirely by what our residents need, and what they want to share with the community. It’s actually turning out to be our most successful program.” After five years, if he were to do it again, Brandon would have spent more time building the framework for the organization while collecting a paycheck from someone else. “It seems inevitable that things are going to be harder that you think, so I would recommend making the process as easy as possible on yourself,” Brandon notes. “Intersection really opened my eyes to the power that art has to affect change in a community.” Brandon wrote. “I worked intimately with some of the most well-known artist/ activists of our time: people like Alice Walker, June Jordan, and bell hooks. Actually getting to know them as real people—to understand why they did what they did—definitely shaped my idea of what’s important.” Pickle Company resident artists /the New Orleans Proj- ect/ helping with and documenting post-Katrina cleanup. More info at thepicklecompany.org/neworleans. After moving to Salt Lake Cit , Brandon met his partner Kristina Robb, a doctoral student in human behavioral ecology at the University of Utah who was looking to apply her work in the public sphere. “We realized quickly that we shared a vision of using art as a tool for bringing people together and sparking dialogue about the critical issues affecting our communit ,” Brandon wrote. “I never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur,” he adds. “I basically created a job because the job I wanted didn’t exist. There are definitely times that I would rather get a regular paycheck and not constantly feel that there’s more I could be doing. But it would be hard to trade in the freedom to shape my work, the compan , and the direction that we’re heading at any particular moment.” Within two months, they had purchased a building (a pickle factory built in the 1890s) and founded a non- profit organization to administer and support the space. Initially focused on performances and gallery exhibits, the Pickle Company now also provides exhibition space, technical support, administrative assistance, and financial counseling to a growing list of emerging artists and social service organizations. For Brandon, an added benefit of the job is the diversity of tasks at hand. “With any small compan , you end up doing a little of everything, often because you don’t have the money to hire someone else. So you’re working all the time, but you’re also constantly learning and growing both personally and professionally.” “We are constantly trying to figure out ne , concrete ways to help our community. Art can get so removed from the world around it, but that’s not where its true potential lies. We’re trying to use art to inspire people to continually challenge their world views, take an active role in shaping their lives, and to form real connections with each other,” Brandon writes. Brandon offers one final word of advice for those who are considering starting their own business venture: “If you don’t like the majority of the job you’re creating for yourself, there’s no reason to do it. Go work for someone else, and do the things you love in your free time. In my
The Pickle Company is also developing an Artist-
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