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On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneurs Career Accelerator

I’ve talked to the organizers of a few different entrepreneur accelerator programs in Indianapolis this month, from Launch Indy to gBETA. There’s certainly more support for business owners and creative entrepreneurs than I would have expected in Indiana, and that’s amazing. Still though, most of the programming available for entrepreneurs at large are aimed towards those in the tech industry, or those businesses with wide mainstream appeal and big market opportunities. The Indiana Arts Commision decided to take the traditional accelerator framework and reshape it to fit the needs of all creatives in Indiana, from performers to visual artists to artisans. Thus, the On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneurs Career Accelerator was born.

On-Ramp is a three-day workshop that will take place from May 10-12. Once completed, participants can also apply for the On-Ramp fellowship, where they can request up to $2000 for their business. The next round of applications are being accepted until January 17.

I talked to Anna Tragesser, the artist and community services manager at the Indiana Arts Commission, to hear more about what this program has to offer.

Julia Bluhm: How did On-Ramp start?
Anna Tragesser: Last year was the first year, so we’re going into the second year of On-Ramp. It kind of started out as this research project we went through, looking at the entire creative economy in the state of Indiana (there’s a really long report on our website if you’re interested in knowing more about that). One of the main points of it was that in Indiana folks who are creative are three times more likely to be self employed compared to the rest of the country. That could be for a variety of reasons, but one reason we thought of is that it’s totally possible to be a self-employed creative in Indiana and to make it work for you. We had this idea that we wanted more opportunities for creatives, and especially younger creatives. We wanted to give them more reasons and support to continue living and working in Indiana. We want to retain a workforce– particularly a creative workforce.

We partnered with Elaine Grogan Luttrull, who is a creative business coach, and we put together this weekend workshop: On-Ramp. It focuses on different business skills for entrepreneurs, but it also goes into what it’s like to be really invested in and engaged in your own community in Indiana with your creative skills. The three-day intensive workshop kicks off that conversation, but creatives meet each other and can continue to network and connect long after that.

JB: What did you learn from last year’s accelerator workshop?
AT: What I saw really strongly in the past year is that the 36 creatives involved just loved getting to know each other, and were energized by each other. There were very different people in the room who came from different places in the state and were in very different stages of their career. They also came from a wide variety of creative disciplines, but they were just encouraging each other to do better and are still continuing to collaborate together.

JB: Who were some people who were involved last year?
AT: One example is Chris Acton, she is a fiber artist from Chesterton, Indiana. She’s really active in using a lot of different materials, including recycled materials, for woven products such as scarves and handbags. Another one that comes to mind is Armando Arceo, he’s a muralist from East Chicago, Indiana. He has a lot of works around the Gary area, and whenever I go visit Gary I feel like I see a different one every time. He’s really wanting to get his murals in different parts of the state and the midwest. We also had some musical artists, like LJ Herbert who is a hip hop artist from Muncie. Him and other hip-hop artists who attended are really invested in using music to build community and connect people.

JB: What are some topics covered in the workshop?
AT: Primarily it’s about really knowing and communicating what you do, creatively. That’s the first step. You have to be able to communicate the full impact of what you do – not just “I’m a dancer,” but what that means and who you’re reaching. Elaine also works everybody through their goals helps them understand their career as a portfolio of different roles that they play. She also goes really deep into budgeting, finance, and preparing for your future.

JB: What is the On-Ramp Fellowship?
AT: Folks who participate in On-Ramp, in the intensive workshop, are eligible to request some funds from us. That’s the fellowship. They can request up to $2,000 to put to helping expand their work and their art based on what they learned in the workshop. It’s really wide, and the opportunity for requesting funds is really pretty broad, whether it’s equipment or money to help with networking and marketing, etc. We put some of our support behind you.

JB: Why is a program like this important in Indiana?
AT: It’s certainly not the only one in Indiana, there are other programs and institutions that support artist and entrepreneurs in one way or another. We just want to help Indiana be a place where self-employed artists can stay and work. It seems that there is a lack of business and entrepreneurship training in higher education institutions right now, for artists. This does definitely kick start some of that need. And really what we believe is that it’s totally possible to do your creative work here. You’re probably going to be an entrepreneur and self employed as a creative, but we totally believe in you. This is just an expression and an affirmation that you can go do it, so go do it.

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