Oh dear, I’m going to talk about dirty, dirty money now!
I caught myself having a little shudder earlier as Bik and I were discussing the quiet week we had at The Art House last week. Sunny weather always means fewer people want to come in and enjoy what we offer, although this year we’re creating lots of summery goodness and even takeaways which is helping.
It’s something we know about and plan for, so it’s not a train smash, but it does bash the bank account every year and, as we get bigger, so does the shortfall each week on our ideal target.
So, anyhoo….we were discussing some other local, independent businesses in the area and coming up with ways in which they are successful and saying that we feel The Art House, being as awesome as it is, given the hard work that goes into it, should be more prosperous financially. We are successful beyond our wildest dreams in terms of people knowing about us, how many people engage with us and our reputation in the city. It feels like time to translate that into shiny coins to spend on wonderful dreams.
The extra money we could be making would build roof gardens, expand into the derelict space next to us, help other small creative start ups, and much more besides. It would also mean we could pay people to do the nitty gritty stuff, leaving more time for us to have a real vision for where we’re going, to focus on our real reasons for being here (whilst creating fabulous jobs for people as well!).
Thing is, we know that we’re less likely to make a huge profit (well, in our case it’s actually called a surplus as we are nonprofit) because we spend out more on ingredients, choose ethical (and often more expensive) suppliers and do things that aren’t making much, or any cash.
The art exhibitions and crafts, for instance, actually make a loss!
In a normal commercial business, we’d knock the crafts and possibly even the art on the head (though of course, the art makes the walls look nice and brings people in!). Many of the groups we run, also, don’t make enough on their own – this evening we had a composers group in, paying donations to use the space.
However, if we want to be sustainable long term and thrive, we’re going to have to get a bit of wiggle room between the costs and the income. Right now there is a little, but it’s a tight squeeze and it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re six really hot, sunny weeks away from disaster.
Now see here, like many ethical, arty types, I shudder at the thought of money. Somewhere along the line, I’ve embedded the belief that financial success always equals sellout, greed, and lots of other bad things besides.
Unsurprisingly enough, this belief means I’ve never been particularly prosperous (at least not in the money department).
Over the past few years at The Art House, however, I’ve felt my perception shifting. The money we earn isn’t for buying useless stuff, or having power, or being greedy. It’s quite simply the vehicle that carries us along. It’s not the reason we are here, but we can’t be here without it, and that’s the reality.
So, I’m not quite ready to aim for that Porche or the holiday in Barbados, but I do feel a shift, an opening up to the possibility of financial security and success, not just for The Art House but for me as well (see, if I’m struggling, worrying about money and can’t even afford a short break away, I’m less capable of taking our little project to new heights!). This is quite a big deal for me and will be done in little steps, to ensure the sellout road is never taken.
But I guess what I am saying is: we work hard, we’ve created an amazing space people love. There needs to be enough in the bank account to make it more amazing, and to reflect the work that’s gone in.