How to Assist Design Entrepreneurs of Canada in Starting Creative Businesses?

The focus of this research is in the area of entrepreneurship within the creative industries. The aim was to investigate ways to assist design entrepreneurs of Canada in starting their creative businesses. This dissertation met the research aim through an extensive study of relevant literature on Canadian and British creative industries and economies, the concept of creative entrepreneurship, and innovation and business design within small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). 

Role

Institution

My Responsibilities

Sole Investigator,

Researcher
(18-months)

London College of Communication (LCC), University of the Arts London (UAL)

- Research (qualitative & quantitative)

- User research & concept development

- Service and business design

- Illustrations

- Graphic design & print

- Photography

Degree

MA Design Management & Cultures, 2018 with Distinction

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Research Journey

With the entrepreneurial mindset mentioned earlier, and the creative industries identified as one of the leaders of the future, the goal was to understand 'how to start a creative startup?' The ideas were more inclined towards design consultancies and investigating the rapidly growing creative market within the industries with the expectation of finding gaps in specific areas. The proposal of such a broad and unclear topic was due to the struggle of narrowing down a cluster of ideas. The preliminary research at the time had specified that it is wiser to grow an idea than to focus on setting up a startup urgently. This proved to be a sensible choice because as the research progressed, the need for launching a consultancy to assist designers in Toronto became evident. 

The entire thesis journey has been illustrated in this diagram 

PRIMARY RESEARCH

Research Methodology

Primary research was conducted through expert interviews, a focus group, and detailed questionnaires with 32 individuals within various design disciplines and positions in Toronto.

The research produced several key findings: 59% of the questionnaire participants claimed to be aspiring to start their own creative business in the future. The obstacles preventing them from achieving this goal were identified as unavailability of financial resources, lack of business skills, unfamiliarity with legal, economic, marketing matters, business valuation, and experience. 

Expert Interviews

Throughout the research journey, 13 professionals in various sectors in both Toronto and London were approached with the hopes of conducting interviews and gaining expert insight. Seven were glad to take part and provided valuable information with perspectives of the government and private sector enterprises alongside giving technical advice. The experts were determined based on the kind of help and information needed.

Expert Voice

… it is not so much the kind of research that is carried out as it is the designer’s ability to spot the value in their research and have the confidence to react to it.

INSIGHT 1

Business Models and Communication

As the research progressed, the aim of conducting expert interviews slightly changed. The insights gained from the first two interviews were very tactical and practical. The principles Creative Research and Development Ltd., David Cuesta, and Citydesigner Ltd. Richard Coleman, (the consultant behind Foster + Partners’ Gherkin explained how the companies and the business models have evolved over the years based on political, economic and technological changes and provided information on communicating with clients and outsourcing additional help. 

INSIGHT 2

Finance and Lack of Government Funding

Had the great pleasure of Skyping with Susan Langdon, who is a well-known fashion personality in Canada. She is the Executive Director and Mentor of the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI). The main challenge of the incubator mentioned by Susan was ‘finance’ because there are very few angel investors and venture capitalists available for fashion designers and minimal government funds available for arts and culture industries in general. Accessing markets’ is another significant issue for the fashion industry.

INSIGHT 3

Business Model and Strategy

Joanne Trotta, the Managing Partner of a business consultancy called the Leaders Edge Inc. and Marine Mograbyan, an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ph.D. researcher at Imperial College London, were great help in developing a business plan and strategizing the business model.

Surveys

Approached 45 designers and creatives through a snowball sampling and personal networking to conduct interviews and questionnaires. 32 creatives participated in this phase of the research, mainly from Toronto, with a couple of exceptions from Vancouver and San Francisco.

The questionnaire's primary objectives:
 

  • How many hope to start their own business? 

  • What kind of resources do they believe they would benefit from? 

  • If they already have succeeded in establishing their business, what resources wished they had accessed at the time? 

  • What kind of services could we design for potential clientele? 
     

During this process, I took the opportunity to ask the participants about the creative industries. As stakeholders within these industries, how much do they know about their professions' impact on the Canadian economy? 

SURVEY INSIGHTS 1

Main Challenges Results 

SURVEY INSIGHTS 2

Preferred Methods

Results

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Focus Group

Three participants were chosen from the survey process, which had expressed their excitement about the project as focus group participants. They returned the questionnaires with such exhilarating support and encouragement! They told me to turn this study into reality and expressed their interest in becoming my future clients. I took the opportunity to find out what these prospective clients might need from the service during a discussion session.

FRAMEWORK FOR DATA ANALYSIS

The Solution

The information gained from the literature review was assessed based on the results of primary research of questionnaires (that led to unstructured interviews), focus group, and expert interviews. During this process, inaccessibility to finance, the absence of business, legal, marketing, and accounting proficiencies and the need for a support and mentorship system, and networking opportunities for designers became clear. 
Both the primary and the secondary research were conducted simultaneously, and the outcomes gained were influenced by one another until a reasonable result was obtained. Based on these discoveries, starting a company with a strong online platform was decided. 

Framework Data Analysis

The Services

The following services will be offered by the company to assist the design entrepreneurs in establishing a business.

The Outcome

This business aim was to make design entrepreneurs of Canada feel supported by a community of designers, mentors, and professionals who are there to assist, educate, motivate one another, and cultivate talent. This business will first serve the design entrepreneurs by giving them access to complementary resources online while providing group classes or nominal fees. As it was also discovered during the research, the free resources are often helpful as a starting point but not enough to establish a business successfully. Therefore, the mentorship programs, networking and counselling sessions, and meet-up and group-classes would be offered to add to the value proposition. 

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