Pittsburgh Technical Council

The Creative Entrepreneur: A Key to Cultural and Economic Transformation

The Creative Entrepreneur: A Key to Cultural and Economic Transformation

Article Published: May 4, 2017

Creativity and Innovation -- these two concepts, once seemingly polarized, are now clearly unified  in a singular process of cultural and economic reinvention. The artist is now an entrepreneur; and the innovator must be creative. Together, the forces of ingenuity and prosperity begin to define a new generation of the workforce: the Creative Entrepreneur.

“The time has come for us to empower creatives of all kinds to succeed in establishing and growing creative companies,” says Kim Chestney, Director of Creative Industries Acceleration at the Pittsburgh Technology Council. “Yet, still, there is a disparity between the artistic and business mindset. Rectifying this is the secret to both prosperous creative expression of the individual, and cultural-economic prosperity of our communities. “ Recognizing this gap, Chestney, launched the Co-CREATE program, as part of the Council’s Creative  Industries Network,  a dedicated program for supporting the creative entrepreneur.  

What is a creative entrepreneur?

A creative entrepreneur is someone working in the creative sector who has or is successfully running a business. In a classic sense, that means they have experienced business growth (profit, market share, employees) and/or grew their reputation (creativity, quality, and aesthetic amongst their peers).

Where did the creative entrepreneur come from?

To fully appreciate where the creative entrepreneur came from, we have to go back to the 17th century. During that time, people thought that artisans were the geniuses of society. The 18th/19th centuries were associated with Romanticism, and that changed people’s mindsets. During Romanticism, artists were the ones considered genius instead of the artisans. Once we entered the time of World War II, art became institutionalized, meaning  professionals were above all and crowned as the geniuses of the era. The creative entrepreneur takes all of these thoughts and ideas and puts them together. To put it simply, the creative entrepreneur is an artisan, artist, and professional all in one.

Why are creative entrepreneurs important?

In the past, cluster theory was used as a way to attract creativity to major cities. This theory focuses on business and industry as drivers of innovation, and doesn’t look at individuals. This strategy makes it easier to put plans into action and to measure results. Governments and economic development agencies  thought they could go out and attract major creative companies to show that they were welcoming creativity and innovation. However, this doesn’t work well in practice even if it makes  sense in theory.

In contrast to the cluster theory, more recent studies have shown that creative people actually drive innovation, not creative industries.  This means that even non-creative companies are attracting creative people, and with those creative minds comes innovation. Creative workers possess qualities that the creative business does not automatically inherit. Cities with a good mix of creative and non-creative businesses can still harbor a major sense of creativity. They don’t have to go out and fill their buildings with as many creative companies as possible to achieve innovation.

Why are creative entrepreneurs important to cities?

Cities and creative entrepreneurs have a special relationship. Cities play an important role in providing innovative opportunities for creative workers, while creative workers introduce innovative new processes. Creative workers move between companies and share best practices and innovative processes to their new workplaces before/while/after becoming a creative entrepreneur.

What does that mean for the Pittsburgh region?

The idea that Pittsburgh’s prosperity relies on attracting creative individuals, not just creative companies, is at the heart of the Creative Industries Network. In an effort to accelerate the pace of innovation in the city, the Network’s community and programs attract creative types by fostering environments where they can thrive.

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