Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday, saturday, sat ur day!

....working on Saturday! I.T has been down for a few days. Took it as an opportunity to pound the pavement and find my way into a small biz program. No small task, in this age of cut backs and cut backs of those cut backs. So much to and fro. Today I attended a business lecture. A traditional business lecture. A yucky yucky business lecture. During the lecture I wrote a top 10 list of feminist business practises. Does this already exist? I couldn't find it anywhere.. If you know of any feminist biz stuff let me know!!! I can only find personal accounts. These come from practice, education/teachers/mentors/colleagues, my readings, my brilliant and talented friends, those who came before me and those feminist artists I admire and learn from. Here is my very rough not yet edited- free flow of thoughts from my notes today... Top 10 feminist business practices 1. Language/Lingo Barriers From the smallest thing I noticed today- baseball and basketball analogies to unexplained industry jargon when in mixed company- language can create cavernous barriers and when used are brutally elitist and uncomfortable. 2.Acknowledge Traditional Barriers Women’s life experience is respected and regarded as valuable and as a woman’s education, in feminism. Today letters after names, accreditation's and affiliations held more value than actual practice. 3.Awareness of Space How I take up space and how I bring others into the space. How to notice those who are included and those who are excluded and examination of how to encompass everyone. Creation of opportunity that isn’t based on poverty thinking- escaping from the confines of traditional competition and the lack of. 4.Awareness of my Social Location Seriously I still have to say it? Please nothing racist, sexist or attacking marginalized folks. This also includes our occupation of Turtle Island, and amongst many things our role in caring for this land and people. 5. Conduct Feminist Research- embrace transparency Survey, community driven, larger vision, facilitation rather than leading. Being sure people are connected to their stories and opinions. Ensure folks are connected throughout the process, that they drive it and own it. 6. Voice- inclusion and accessibility. A voice can't be heard if the person can't get in the door, access a washroom or be provided for appropriately. I also firsthand understand the economic, structural and geographic barriers around this issue in Toronto. Especially since accessible space is 2-4x the amount of space with a set of stairs or two (or four). 7.Acknowledge My Privilege 8.Acknowledge the Structure and Impact of capitalism on Marginalized People- Good versus bad, strong versus weak, us versus them- that's capitolism! 9.Acknowledge the Impact of Colonialism on People and Systems 10. Create Free and low cost mentoring, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for other women. Look into alternative structures such as generosity based businesses, scholarships, fully subsidized spaces, sliding scale and pay what you can. Don't leave anyone out. Be very aware of the restrcitions and barriers that technology- especially lack of access- can create. 11.Be sure to bring the boys and men along! Happy Saturday, Michelle

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

attack of the blahs

I'm feeling stuck, tired and totally unmotivated. I'm breaking all the rules. I haven't been keeping a structured life, in anyway. My sleep is ridiculous and my work hours are too long. I seem to be tethered to my computer. And I haven't been outside for a long walk in days. No wonder I feel the funk.... Looking for a shift! Michelle

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Where do I go from here?

Last day of market research, not really sure where to go from here. What on earth do I do now? Michelle

Monday, January 25, 2010

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more!

I'm planning a free get together, networking, happening, be in, gathering type thing for women artists in the city. I'm moving this thing off my couch and outta my house, interacting with people rather than my napping cats. It's what I need to keep up my momentum and my enthusiasm and let folks in. I've done my work, sat with the idea and can talk about it with clarity and ease. I know who I am and what I do, different from only a month ago. I did some research to find affordable rentals spaces in my area, if they aren't available there are tons of churches, temples and synagogues with halls in the city that offer free or very reasonable rental rates for such events. Don't let money be a barrier in starting your business.

Is it time to come clean? There's no trust fund here, no rrsp's, no savings, no sock drawer or bra money. No bank loans, no credit cards, just me. Don't let it be a barrier, just think of it as chapters for your book or content for your interview with Barbara or Oprah. Michelle

Friday, January 22, 2010

Survived another week!

In the tradition of dragging myself to work, I took a wee Price is Right detour. My friends and partners are always surprised I love this show since it's so capitalistic and all about brand placement. One partner said it was an hour long commercial (obviously that one didn't work out..)... I get it, but it's something I watched when I was home sick as a child. It has nurturing qualities for me........ Anyway, on TPIR a woman won $16,000 and she ran and hugged the sound and camera people. It made me wonder if it's time I sent out a thank you to all the folks behind the scenes in my little show. I hope today is my last day of MARKET ANALYSIS (it's all caps baby!) for the gallery, next week I start on the community space M.A then hopefully fun stuff, like planning! Although I still hate it, I get it. I understand the pure value of it and I understand why businesses close that haven't done this work, they simply have no idea of the industry or the market, even if they have worked directly in the industry. Seriously it's important stuff. Happy Friday, Michelle P.s. Thanks Caro and D, currently, my two followers. I appreciate you more than you'll ever know. Get out the hair brush microphones and dance around your living room to the musical styling of Tika and Bunny. Silliness is the only true survival tool!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

There's chocolate in my peanut butter!

Writing and editing are two different processes.Creating and analyzing are two completely different processes. Writing and editing are two different processes. Creating and analyzing are two completely different processes. I need to write this one thousands times (ala old school catholic education) and follow it. Remind me that I can't do everything in one day! I'm sick of this house, of this computer, of this blog. Time to shake it up............

P.s. Free resource of the day- look under community- then workshops!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Money Money Money

The best way to explain my day is to just let you know what I'm listening to as I write this...... (for the silly 15 year old grrl in me) (for the jaded, worried part of me) (for the capitalist in me) (for the part of me that loves musicals)

Are you seeing a theme? I'm worried about money today. I'm worried about asking for money for my services. As a social worker I always gave them away for free- the greater good kinda thing (bullshit) propagated by the culture of volunteerism, low wages and student practicums that are prevalent in women based industries. How do I make a living working with the marginalized? I hope I'm not building myself and other woman another beautiful lace ghetto..... How do I stay clean, transparent and honorable around money in this society? How do I work with artists, pay them very well, but not take money from them in ways other art orgs do, such as submission fees, pay to displays and others (the stories about how much women have paid and never seen their work shown is shocking). The market research will be done this week. Then I'll probably have more of a feeling of forward momentum. I'm worried about money today, and letting everyone down. Michelle

Monday, January 18, 2010

You so can't get there from here....................

Rather frustrating day, trying to find Self Employment programming provided in the city. At least it was a mild day and I had some great music to pass the time spent waiting, waiting and waiting. I know I could probably go it alone, but I need direction and community to succeed. Also to get me out of my head and out of my own way. Maybe you don't need that and can move forward. That's a real skill! For those who do...... The low down Government programming for Self Employment has stopped taking applications until "spring". to stay on top of the action. is a half day program to see if you are the type of person who would succeed as your own boss. I was advised that a new Self Employment Hotline entitled "Canada-Ontario Self-Employment Hotline" can be reached at 1-888-576-4444 but folks were unclear what type of services were available. I'll let you know more tomorrow,after I've spoken with them. Finally, Microskills offers a wide variety of programs, including SET- Set Employment Training as well as lots of free programming including ECE, Trucker, Driver, IT Specialist and Horticulturalist. Many of their programs are in conjunction with Humber College. Check them out. For those on Ontario Works the YMCA/TBDC has a program called SED Also 1-800-o-Canada and 211 can give you info on other programming. I'm sure by the time I post this blog this info will have changed again. I advise you to find a great employment councilor and stay connected with them! I hope this can cut down on your frustration and travels (mine felt like concentric circles). Good luck! Michelle

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finally Friday!

So I've manged to get through my first week! Today I'm celebrating by actually going outside! I'm going to spend the day wandering around galleries and seeing what's happening in the scene. I hope to chat with some folks and make a few contacts. I'm going to let the fact that I still don't have a business card go, for now....errr.... I'm using Slate Magazine and Now Magazine as my reference points. A day strolling the city, in my Christmas hat and matching scarf, looking at art, chai latte in hand, ipod setting the theme. This is what I wanted working for me to look like!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tips On Doing A Basic Market Analysis

I promise this is the last day I talk about my adventures in market research. I'm going to share with you the little I know so that you won't have to start from scratch. Another business idea for you- doing market analysis with folks in a one week course using simple fill in the blank work sheets, strong coffee and doughnuts. For the folks not interested, I'll give you two beautiful resources and send you on your way! Google alerts- tag yourself or any subject and you'll receive an email update the moment (literally) anything relevant appears on the Internet. it's easy to use, I'm not sure if you need a gmail account though... Tad Hargrave, Marketing For Hippies,, told us about this amazing resource called the Repetitive Strain Injury Guard. It's very cool with a free 45 day trial. It's like having a very kind but stern Massage Therapist monitoring your work day and keeping your spine and wrists all happy and fluid. Great for those of us attached to our computers 10+ hours per day. I like the stretch version. You're going to have to research stats. Embrace that fact now! Look at Stats Canada, call 1-800-O-Canada, research online and visit the Metro Reference Library. Become an expert! I have pieced together a simple resource- sent to me from Enterprise Toronto through the Marketing for Hippies Handbook and found searching online as well as interpreting on my own. 1) Determine your Community Profile
  • The physical community-(location, location)
  • Where in the gentrification process is your hood? How has it changed in the last 2,5 and 10 years. If it's up and coming how long can you wait for the folks to come, for the area to improve?
  • Demographics of the community, you can use Statistics Canada for this. Also surrounding communities.
  • Presence of the industry that you are starting in the neighbourhood
  • Need/wants in the community
I also consider area B.I.A's (Business Associations) crucial.

2)Customer Profile

This could be derived by talking to area businesses asking about clients and speaking with those in similar industries about who is buying and who isn't. This could also help you establish your niche market if you could figure who isn't buying and why.

  • Who is already buying or using similar services.

As an artist I think Customer profile is essential in marketing, store design and layout, products and your online presence.

3)Market Estimation- I simply took a walk in the the area I wanted to have my biz in, counted empty store fronts and asked surrounding store owners what type of industries where in those spots. Turns out the area I was looking in had three galleries close in the last year.... hmm that's something to seriously consider! Why did they close? Also I looked at articles online about the economy and how my industry was being hit. I also looked at non profits and businesses that are excelling during the economic downturn and tried to figure out why they are succeeding.

I turned to industry hard hitters like Richard Florida for his work on why culture has value. Research through your industry associations will also help this- I looked to research done by Toronto, Ontario and the Canadian Arts Councils.

4)Market Segmentation- I looked at all the categories that art and community rental spaces fall into.

Art was varied from performance to more traditionally saleable fine art, specifically painting and photography. I also looked at the different types of galleries from high end to affordable. The AGO to Artist Run. What presence did/does the Internet played in it all.

For rental spaces, I looked at different rental options in the city based on location, accessibility and resources in the space IE. chairs, a kitchen area, windows etc. A great website has wonderful worksheets on segment analysis. Check it out! 5)Competition Analysis- I want to think of this of this as a community needs assessment not business against business. Also consider partnerships in this area!
  • What are others in similar industries doing?
  • What are the pet peeves of those in the industry? Of customers, of the workers, of the providers?
  • What is missing, what could be changed, improved?
  • Who is succeeding and why? Also who isn't succeeding and why not?
Industry parties and blogs are great for this. I learned long ago never gossip and never dish, but be damn sure to listen when others are because it has the potential to be valuable inside information.

6) Location- Personally I think this is incorporated into many of the previous categories. Research rental rates online, call when you see a for rent sign, make friends with a great Real estate agent. I have one if you need his info! Make a dream list of what you what in your space then adjust for price, size and location.

Also look for events in the community that support or incorporate your industry.

This is my, more art school then business school (which is none) interpretation of this new, to me, process. If you have any great suggestions, resources,experience or know-how please feel free to share, correct or inform me!

Happy Analyzing!!! Michelle

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

They like me, they really like me!!!!

Wow, I’m speechless. 100 women have completed my online survey ( )! The comments are amazing and such a great resource for directing my work. What’s that saying.. from the mouths of babes… women are interested and my email box is overflowing! Two weeks ago I was worried no one would be interested, and now here I am with the market research I have been struggling with sitting and waiting for me to peruse. Yesterday, I thought I was going to the Toronto Business Development Centre lecture at Y.E.S ( )and ended up in a Transitions to Employment workshop instead ( When I realized that it was the wrong workshop I wanted to dash home, back to work. But there were only two of us and a really energetic lady there named Anita, to deliver the workshop. I have a past riddled with presenting to two people (or less) at workshops, I decided to stay in a sisterhood kinda way. Turns out Anita was a super star with great resources (including a workbook entitled “VALUABLE INFORMATION BOOKLET” of about 45 pages of pure gold- I’m a resource junkie)and more importantly a positive attitude and grassroots approach to accessing what few programs where still out there and taking new folks. Refreshing! She also gave us the inside scoop on how to apply for programs and how to seek out the best resources for each individual person. Big ups to Anita! My evening was spent at the Centre for Social Innovation CSI ( If you don’t know about them look them up asap, amazing low cost events and affordable meeting spaces and work spaces are just the beginning! The speakers, Maria Moriarty of Alpha Plus and Justin Kozuch of Refresh Events were great! Maria’s presentation and resources were worth so much more than my $5.00 entrance. She gave a step by step break down of her journey from newbie to podcaster, 7 episodes, ( ) using witty humor and honest personal accounts. The best thing was that coming from a literacy organization she was bare bones in her approach, free software resources and a realistic approach to technology. Tech Soup sponsor of the Net Tuesday event at CSI ( ) offers super discounted software and some hardware to non profits. Such as Adobe Dreamweaver software for $41.00, crazy deal! They have an entire catalogue of donated products, if you’re starting a nonprofit this could save you thousands of dollars. Today I’m going to work on my old school traditional market trend analysis, knowing I have the survey results takes so much pressure off. I’m actually starting to look forward to seeing the results, I’m realizing it’s crucial to know these tidbits of info in order to build a strong foundation and survive, the failure rate of new businesses is a sure fire incentive to do my homework. Michelle N.B. On a side note check out ), is there anything the Toronto Public Library can’t do? I have no problem publicly announcing my long time love affair with TPL.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Dragging myself out of bed today was no small task. Today’s focus, Market Analysis. Of which I know nothing except that it has the word anal in it, that can’t be good…. I’m airy, artsy, creative, and a renegade against form, function and rules. How the hell do I sit down (1), long enough to do this (2) and actually understand what I am to do(3)? I went to the local library branch in my area; they had one book on Market Trends its 376 pages with statistics in 6 point font, page after page. My eyes HATE it, and keep blurring in protest! These were not designed to actually be read, now I want to read it to find out what they are hiding! I thought I'd use a small font so you can feel like you are here! I called Enterprise Toronto and they sent me tons of great research, now I just need to wade through. So you might be thinking, you want to start a women’s art gallery and community meeting space why all the trouble? Seems that this stuff is ultra important in establishing what the “competition” is doing (such an un-feminist, sister working against sister term, but all the market and money stuff is so male in approach and terminology) who the “target” is, and how much money the industry has in it. Every single you go gettem girl make your own career rah rah book I’ve read, I’ve been eating them up like brownies, has said this stuff is important. So I’m listening and with no aptitude or tolerance for math, science or statistics I’m diving in, the deep end. Now mind you I’ve been around the block, I know how to network and tap into the resources of my community. None of my close friends have any idea. (There’s a business idea for you, I have tons, no worries if this one doesn’t excite you). Okay so I could easily write 50 pages of rambling to keep me from this work, so enough. Lost in pages of tiny numbers, Michelle P.s. Don’t feel too bad for me, I’m attending the Toronto Business Development Talk at YES- employment services this afternoon, and a Making your own Podcast seminar at the Centre for Social Innovation this evening.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Monday

The first Monday morning of the new business in this new year, of a new decade. Not too much pressure or optimism..The first day of taking the business start up seriously, as my fulltime job. Woke up late (probably didn’t help that I didn’t set an alarm- I’m sure I’ll figure out this independent structure thing somehow). Plunked myself down here without the morning meditation, walk in the park or organic breakfast that I was going to have before my 9am start time, it’s 11:05. Spent a fair bit of my morning work time looking for a theme song or sound track that would motivate me, got lost in you tube. Maybe no you tube during work hours? Wow I guess I’ll have to get in touch with reality pretty quickly and let this perfectionism go if I’m going to keep with this. I got here and for today that’s going to be perfect, as my darling friend Caro would say! Cup of coffee and I’m off to work at my kitchen table in my fluffy slippers. The urge to tidy up the house (read somewhere to use morning energy- the best time for most- and to bypass cleaning and other household stuff. Wow I didn’t realize I woke up every morning and cleaned.. WTF, what is that about and when did that start!) Also resisting every urge I have to start right away with email and facebook, that’s the old me- the social worker, today I start with my work then later I look at the work others are trying to give me…. I can’t believe I almost turned on the very loud dishwasher and then was going to try to work with it on so that the dishes would be done? Now I understand why starting a business for women can be such a challenge. So much conditioning I thought I had kicked in the ass…What’s that phrase zen and then the laundry, where does small business fit, inbetween them, before zen?I need a calendar app for zen.. I find myself randomly getting up and wandering away then realize I’m folding laundry, weather stripping (seriously!), chatting with friends on the phone or watching games shows. Who knew how many walk-abouts I have in my day to day life? Focus- Today is all about getting my virtual realestate. For now I’m going to go free, I’ll buy space later when I’m sure that I’m happy with my name and all that…. I’ve created a free survey at, I’m using my social work background as best I can, all that time and money should be used, but never mind that. In social work we called it a needs assessment, speaking directly with the community or clients to determine the need, than try to meet it. There are also a few participatory research models I like but that’s too academic for this early in the morning. 1. Free blog- 2. Free website- (It has ads so I’ll use it for now in the meantime I’ll see..) 3. Adding both of this to my email signature in my free gmail account Okay so now I’m going to go and do it….. Happy Monday, Michelle P.s. So work oriented I forgot to talk about my biz... tuesday I promise!