Calligraphy as an Art and a Business?
Updated: Jan 8
Let's pretend there's a welcome mat here and it's swept clean, and it's cheerful, so you'll feel comfortable coming into my virtual world. You've most likely found me via two ways. The first is from a PR link from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, SOURCE Entrepreneurship Center, BOI (Business Ownership Initiative), or IU KELLEY School of Business. The second option is that you are a wonderfully supportive friend or family member without one of those big impressive all caps titles listed in the first group, but equally important and ever so lovely. Whatever the reason, I'm grateful to have this introduction!
I'm ecstatic to be the first place winner in the virtual Fall 2020 Pitch Competition held for graduates of the SOURCE Entrepreneurship Center “Dream It. Start It. Grow It. – Business Accelerator” course in partnership with BOI. The virtual pitch was held via ZOOM and FB live in December 2020. There were gracious hosts, judges, sponsors, teachers, and an amazing panel of nine entrepreneurs. We're nearly a year into the Covid-19 Pandemic and I'd like to think we're moving out of the awkward teenage years of the home teleconference. However, to eliminate the most hiccups as possible, the panelists were asked to pre-record a 2-5 minute business pitch and submit them prior to the event. This virtual event was a combination of graduation and a course-long project presentation for us. Beginning last summer, the participating entrepreneurs joined ZOOM screens and met virtually on Thursdays evenings. Steve Thrash from the SOURCE Entrepreneurship Center and Sarah MacInnis, the Director of Business Coaching Services of the Indy Chamber guided us through ten weeks of business development materials.
My approach is always thorough. I like to digest details before making decisions. Transforming my calligraphy into a business was no different matter. I needed actual business advice and guidance. And spreadsheets. I needed spreadsheets! The course covered customer and market research, business structure, pricing, marketing, cash flow, and finally, how to pitch. We had very helpful guest speakers along the way: Karen Young of Gutwein Law, Hye Jin Kalgaonkar of Hot Room Yoga, and Sara Norris of When You Leave The Room. Sarah and Steve were great co-teachers helping all of us entrepreneurs examine our ideas with the goal of helping us formulate solid market-ready business plans. So, calligraphy as an art and a business?
Here's how I opened my five minute pre-recorded pitch...
"I’m Rachael Cieslak, of RC Calligraphy, and I make art out of words. There is an unmistakable feeling of delight during December when you sift through your delivered mail and find a cheerful red envelope, where your name was handwritten by someone you love. You immediately feel noticed, you feel special, you feel important. Because of the recent toll of isolation, that feeling is more crucial now than ever. I want to create that feeling for bridal clients through wedding envelope calligraphy."
I go on to discuss the 72 billion dollar wedding industry and how things have pivoted due to covid, but not collapsed. I identified my customer segments, competition, product offerings, marketing, channels, my background and expertise, key resources and partners, financials, and finally what I would do with the pitch winnings.
On presentation night, we were introduced by Sarah and then our pre-recorded pitches were played. She brought us up onto a virtual stage and we went live for a q & a session with the three judges: Barb Cutillo from the KELLEY School, Patricia Gamble-Moore from PNC, and Mark Harsley from Kite. Nine unique and worthy business ideas and plans were presented by passionate people with such varied and valuable ideas. I was in awe listening to the recorded pitches and seeing everyone rise up for what they wanted to bring to the business market of Indianapolis and beyond. My Mom texted her support before and after my pitch, and during judges' deliberation, watching the full 2 1/2 hours on Facebook Live. My eleven-year-old son joined me to hear the results and then proudly shouted to my family as soon as the win was announced. God gets the glory in this one, I trusted in His timing and the gifts He gave me.
The other winner of the evening was Natalie Pipkin, who won $1,000 for her business. Please check her out on Instagram at black_world_schoolers. She has an online and mobile bookstore celebrating Black stories, Black culture, and Black joy around the world.
And so here we are! I'm grateful and excited and ready to run with the momentum of this award. I get to turn this dream into a reality with the financial assistance of $2,000 and business preparation from the “Dream It. Start It. Grow It. – Business Accelerator” course. I'll use this online platform to help my business grow but also to share my experience of starting my own business. Please find a way to connect with me in one of the many ways you can find on this site and let's get to work together!