Would-be business owners can decide whether to be discouraged or educated by crash and burn stories about other entrepreneurs. What do you do when you suffer a major business flameout – like when your name, a fashion business you've built over 24 years, and the ability to do something you love are all taken away from you – at least until your non-compete agreement expires in 2010? This morning I felt myself cringe as I read about the entrepreneur and fashion designer Sigrid Olsen's business demise. All I know about this situation is what I read in this NYT article “Forced Retirement,” but it seems like both a cautionary tale and an uplifting example of restructuring and optimism. I can't imagine how stressful it must be for her. But Ms. Olsen appears to be picking herself up and choosing new business directions.
In restructuring her career, Ms. Olsen serves as an example to would-be business owners and the self-employed. Be tough, optimistic, and keep going. Even experienced, talented artists like Ms. Olsen must make a living and how best to exercise your creativity than by being your own boss? In deciding whether or not to start a business and become self-employed, it's helpful to read others' stories and consider how they relate to the industry they are in.
Artists, like Ms. Olsen, are mostly (62%) self-employed. In fact, you'll find many artists, like my late grandfather Julian Wehr, who do not like others' limits on their creativity. Mr. Wehr was a sculptor and “father of the American moveable book,” a self-employed artist and paper engineer whose children's books were popular in the 1940s and highly collectible today. While his passion was sculpture, he designed these books as a way of supporting his family. A disdain for commercial art, and by extension working/designing for others, was embedded in his NYC alma mater Art Students League's education in the 1920s. And looking at the Department of Labor's numbers, this artistic view of one's employer is still alive and well.
So if you're considering self-employment, include in your decision-making process the cautionary tales of others' experiences, like Ms. Olsen's, while researching the industry you may enter. With the right industry, you may find a home for yourself with like-minded people with a similar personality – and an ability to face adversity and continue their success. Artists are more resilient than you may think.