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MSLCE Student Gets Advice from Facebook, Pandora on SF Trek

By Robyn Latchford

Our trek began with Michael Holtmann, who spoke of his work for the National Endowment for the Arts and his current work for the Center for the Art of Translation. We all loved his congenial manner and his insightful stories about his career path and finding enjoyment in his work. I especially admired his candid comments about having a job that took him to places such as the White House, but not personally enjoying it himself. (more…)

MSLCE Students Pitch Business Proposals to Experienced Entrepreneurs

By Amy A. Ross

Writing up a project for a class is one thing; pitching a convincing business proposal to a panel of experts is a completely different challenge.

Students from the NUvation: Arts course were able to recreate this real-world experience during their final presentations at the beginning of June. The eight proposals included business startups in a broad array of creative industries, including fashion, music, digital art, and even an education non-profit.For example, the inventors of Voguetrotters pitched a model for a worldwide business that would allow fashion designers to connect and sell their autochthonous creations to people across the globe. (more…)

Student ‘Ready to Pursue My Dreams’ After MSLCE Trip to SF

By Kaitlin Very

The San Francisco trek was truly invaluable to me. While both of the other treks were great learning experiences, what set this last one apart was the unique balance of nonprofit and for-profit industry leaders with whom we met. Our speakers represented a wide variety of industries and roles, and they all shared an awareness of one another as well as a shared sense of excitement about their work. It gave those of us in the program a glimpse of the vibrant cultural ecosystem within the city, which is the reason that it is seen as such a cultural leader in our country. (more…)

MSLCE Student Works to Turn Music Passion Into Industry Career

By Jacob Nelson

Years before Alec Schulman decided to pursue a career in music, he was a high school student touring Florida as a saxophone player in a ska band. Between performing live at concerts throughout the state and then going to Northwestern to major in saxophone, Schulman was on his way to being a professional musician.

Then, his music professor retired, and Schulman did a 180. (more…)

MSLCE Student Hopes to Modernize China’s Fine Arts Market

By Jacob Nelson

Mona Fu wants to modernize China’s fine arts market.

The MSLCE student was inspired to apply to Northwestern after she worked for three years at a Beijing fine arts auction company. During that time, she realized that the auction industry in China is too traditional compared to the industry in the U.S.

“When I was traveling with my general manager in New York, we would visit Sotheby’s and Christie’s and I could compare their operation structures with ours,” Fu said, “and I found their’s were more advanced.” (more…)

Syndio CEO Applies Social Network Analysis to the Music Industry

By Amy A. Ross

Before he had even graduated from college, Northwestern University alum, Zack Johnson, was already cracking the social-media code. Applying network science to the creative industries, Johnson was helping upcoming music pop and hip-hop artists like Mike Posner and Big Sean rapidly grow their fan bases. How? (more…)

Chicago Executive sees the future of media business in the “cottage industries”

By Amy A. Ross

In some ways, Julian Posada’s approach to the media business resembles the old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Rather than targeting the large mass audiences of the twentieth century, his philosophy captures the need to capitalize on the niches. “It all boils down to the secret sauce of no fear and unlocking value in the smallest pieces,” said Posada during a visit to a Northwestern classroom at the beginning of the month.”I don’t see an end to that, but with a reality check: you are not getting $100 million dollar businesses anymore,” he said. “You work with small cottage industries and those can be successful.” (more…)

MSLCE Students Get Insights into the Art of Pitching from a Los Angeles Writer

By Kathryn Lawson

Writer Roger Wolfson recently had a bad day. A few weeks ago, while walking along the beach with his wife and three dogs, Easy, Peaceful, and Miracle, they were approached by a group of teens that tried to mug them, leaving him with a black eye. (more…)

‘Advancing Women Executives’ CEO Shares Advice on Entrepreneurship and Pitching Your Passion

By Jenna Myers

“There needs to be a 30% minority representation for that minority to be heard,” says Meiko Takayama, and the percentage of corporate executives who are women is far lower than that — around 15%. Takayama is the founder and CEO of Advancing Women Executives (AWE), a business service for corporate executives with the mission to increase the number of women in senior management and on boards.

Takayama video-chatted with MSLCE’s marketing/project pitching class last week to share the methods she uses to pitch her company’s mission and services to potential clients. It’s no easy feat, as Takayama and her sales team operate almost entirely by cold calling and emailing leads, and they often schedule upwards of 500 sales calls per year. So does this strategy work? Takayama says that the key is in the follow up.

She herself gets hundreds of cold emails per day and remembers receiving only a handful of follow up calls, so she tries to make AWE stand out. Follow up starts in the subject line of AWE’s emails, where she will often use a phrase like “Scheduling time on April 22 or April 29” rather than a more generic phrase. Even so, the team will sometimes send a client more than a dozen emails before the client agrees to a call. “We are totally relentless,” she says. Once a call is scheduled, it is kept brief and tightly organized from start to finish, while still remaining conversational.

The tenacity of AWE’s methods is typical of Takayama, who also shared lessons she has learned as a female entrepreneur, which is a role many MSLCE students wish to take on after graduating. Takayama believes that women in particular can often have trouble letting go of the reins once they step into a management or entrepreneurial role. She joked that she made an intentional choice not to call her company, “Meiko Takayama and Associates,” and has had to coach herself to remember that her job is to be the best manager that she can be and to serve her team and the company’s mission.

She also shared general advice for women in the workplace, a sensitive topic that is receiving increasing attention in the media. Takayama said that women sometimes become angry at the team at AWE, asking why they are promoting the idea that women should act more like men. Takayama refutes this idea but remains grounded in reality when talking about different the expectations for men and women leaders. “Since 85% of executives are men, we need to think about what society expects in a leader… [Women] need to be very competent, but warm…Unfortunately, that’s not the case for men. Men just need to be competent.” Stay current with all things MSLCE, click here to join our mailing list!

Threadless Founder Describes Starting Company as a Hobby at MSLCE Event

By Amy A. Ross

It took Threadless six years of success to persuade its founder and CEO, Jake Nickell, that it was capable of becoming something more than side-project.

Although the rapid growth of his business venture had provided proof that he did in fact “know how to build e-commerce websites,” it took a little more convincing for Nickell to finally believe that Threadless was “the business,” he explained at Wednesday’s MSLCE Speaker Series event. Fifteen years after its conception, the successful Chicago-based company employs 70 people and brings together a thriving community of artists with millions ofpotential customers around the globe. Threadless operates as a virtual platform for artists to display their creative work to potential customers.

An online community of close to 4 million people votes on the designs and the most popular are printed and sold by Threadless on shirts, wall-art and phone cases. The volume of sales has grown exponentially: the most successful t-shirt has been purchased by over 150,000 people. However, before earning the undivided attention of Nickell and his founding partner, Jacob DeHart, Threadless was little more than a hobby for their lunch-hour.

The young men invested the bulk of their time on a freelance web-design company for larger clients. “One year we were looking at a balance sheet and we realized that Threadless was making more money than our client work, so we fired all our clients,” said Nickell, who remembers his company’s origins with humor. Rather than turning to Threadless full time, they spent two more years trying to launch six other web-based businesses ranging from bumper-sticker sales for people with poor parking skills to a drink-recipe website.  After struggling unsuccessfully with those projects, Nickell was ready to focus on his hobby full-time.

“I’m a slow learner! It’s funny because I tended to over-complicate things, rather than focusing on the one thing that made us unique,” Nickell said.

Once he did, the business took off. It now serves more than 10 million people around the world. Nickell shared advice and anecdotes from his 15-year experience launching and maintaining Threadless, during the talk. Kellogg professor and chair in Information Technology Shane Greenstein, moderated the discussion. During the event, Nickell told students, faculty and visitors about the company’s origins in a defunct online art forum called Dreamless, where he spent much of his free-time as a young college student. “I started a thread where I suggested a physical forum to show for the art work. I asked them (the artists) to post their artwork on the thread and I would make t-shirts and posters for the best ones,” said Nickell. He would then pack the orders in his apartment and ship them during his lunch hour. Because of his deep respect for creative work, Nickell was pleased to discuss the recent increase in artist earnings on Threadless.

He also announced the upcoming launch of a Threadless project called Artist Shops, which will enable artists to create and customize their own e-commerce websites on a joint platform, while taking care of logistics. Nickell highlighted that at the core of Threadless lays a strong and authentic relationship with the artists, which has been organically developed over many years. “Our artist community is our absolute number-one asset. Without that the company would be dead,” he said. “We still run the bus like a non-profit, trying to make as much money as we can for artists. If I were just trying to hawk shirts all day long, I don’t think I’d still want to be doing this.”