From Friday, October 20th to Sunday, October 22nd, 2023, Mount Allison University held its biennial Business of the Arts workshop and competition. Ten students from across the Maple League participated in a weekend-long workshop, culminating in a pitch competition for new entrepreneurial ventures.
The Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies at Mount Allison University has helped alternating Business of the Arts and Business of the Sciences since 2016 to help students develop their entrepreneurial skills. The weekend was full of workshops, discussion panels, networking, and friendly competition. Designed to be interdisciplinary, the competition welcomes students from all academic disciplines.
Charline Kelly, a coordinator for Ron Joyce who helped organize this year’s event, thought the weekend was a huge success. “The students who showed up really enjoyed it and learned a lot,” says Kelly. “And you could tell by Sunday when they were pitching their product that they had learned a lot and that the weekend was worthwhile.” The skills students learn throughout the weekend, such as branding, marketing, and budgeting, are skills Kelly believes anyone can benefit from and encourages all students, regardless of discipline, to consider the competition in the future. “These events are open to anybody in the arts or the sciences that has even a vague idea that they would like to create a business someday,” says Kelly. “We can run the gamut from very, very new beginners to pretty seasoned business owners with this workshop. And they’re all more than welcome to attend.”
The weekend culminated in the pitch competition in which one team and two individuals competed in the final round. The winners were a group of students from the Arts Administration program at Bishop’s University with their pitch to create an avant-garde community space called the “Art-Quarium,” where musicians would rehearse and perform in glass studios encircling a coffee shop at the heart of the melodious action, allowing artists and clients to mingle and witness the creative process as it emerged in an agora-like setting while sipping on their favourite drinks. Oriana Buchszer Sanchez, Matéo Cambolive, Jamie Pagé, and Michael Rousseau’s idea to create a hub for the exchange of impactful ideas revolutionizing the way all facets of music, art, and culture are done in Sherbrooke and the Eastern Townships of Québec wowed the judges and helped them take home the winning title. Esther Charron, a Professor in Arts Administration at Bishop’s, and Bassam Chiblak, a Bishop’s Experiential Learning Coordinator in Arts, accompanied the four students to the competition.
The four Bishop’s students only have good things to say about the weekend, praising the skills they gained from the workshops. “I’m still on cloud nine from this experience. I enjoyed the brainstorming sessions and the valuable insights gained from every individual at the event,” says Buschszner Sanchez. “Each person was truly inspiring and broadened my perspective on the possibilities of starting a business in the arts industry.” Rousseau and Cambolive both appreciated the opportunity to work collaboratively and network throughout the weekend, while Pagé found the entire experience to be a huge confidence boost. “I wouldn’t trade what I learned during this quick weekend for anything,” says Pagé. “I am grateful to have participated in this unique competition, and I am grateful for the connections I made along the way.”
Next year's competition will focus on entrepreneurial ventures in the sciences, but Kelly assures that the business acumen students can gain by attending will stay largely the same. “There are not a lot of differences between the competitions as far as we’re concerned,” says Kelly. “We are trying to give students the skills to develop their own business: budgeting, marketing, branding, how to find potential funding sources, things like that. So most of it is the same. The only thing that will change is the speakers. This year, we had a fabric artist and a playwright. Next year, with the sciences, we might try to find somebody who is developing a medical product or different things like that.”