Posts tagged ‘Toronto Business Development Centre’

July 9, 2012

Psychology of Social Media and Back to Entrepreneuse School

Great article here from on a subject near and dear to my heart.

Thoughts on the Psychology of Social Media

“When you treat people like individuals instead of the “unknown public,” when you present a real person who is passionate about the art form who helps other people to become passionate too, wonderful things can happen.”

I’ve been saying this all along as well – be real. Be a person. Do not be THAT GUY.  Good article.

A reminder that event invites are still flying with summer festivals and parties and whatnot – before you send another reminder, remember this post from a couple weeks ago, remember that everyone is seeing it whether they like it or not and this was overheard on FB this  – “some of these events I actually want to go to until I start getting messages from them every five bloody minutes.”

This afternoon I am off to entrepreneuse school again – I’ve been asked to come and be part of a panel for the next group of entrepreneurial hopefuls to talk  about the success of your business. I am pleased and flattered. I’m also especially pleased because as always, there’s a delight in being the arts and culture person who is viewed as a success from a business standpoint. You know what I mean.

Hanging around the tent today – it’s going to be an excellent tent talk:

Tent Talk: How Indie is Going to Save Theatre
After piloting Toronto’s largest indie theatre institution for 5 years, Fringe Executive Director Gideon Arthurs leads an “Indie Producing 101” discussion, followed by an informal reflection on the indie theatre movement.

Panel: Gideon Arthurs (Fringe), Julie Tepperman (Convergence Theatre), Michael Wheeler (Praxis Theatre)

See you there!

February 8, 2012

Focused Conversations and Tiny Urban City Builders

I was at an interesting workshops yesterday about Focused Conversations using something called the FAIR Conversation Method Flow. Entrepreneuse School may be over but they offer these cool workshops free of charge to grads. Part learning, art networking, it was a great use of a morning.

FAIR stands for: Facts (getting the facts, sensory impressions, information – the objective level); Associations (personal reactions, associations, emotions, images – the reflective level); Interpretation (meaning and values, significance, purpose, implications – the interpretive level) and Resolve (resolution, action, future directions, next steps – the decisional level).

I thought when I first got there it was about general conversations, but really it’s a way to have extremely focused meetings – which to me is even better. I’m not a fan of meetings – to be precise I’m not a fan of bad meetings – where there is no clear objective, when they are hijacked by one person’s ideas or comments, when there are too many people or not the right people in the room the meeting that goes on and on, the “why am I even here??” meeting. Everyone has had their share of these. And everyone I am sure has tried to figure out a way of making meetings better.

The concept I really liked about this workshop was that the method focused on two outcomes at the end of the conversation:

Rational Aim: what the group will KNOW, learn or decide by the end of the conversation; the product of the conversation eg they will explore X, they will identify Y, they will make a decision about Z.

Experiential Aim: how the group will BE different at the end of the conversation; they will be excited by a new idea, they will have experienced helpful struggle; they will trust each other’s perspectives.

I’m not typing out all my handouts, but you get the idea.  And I’ll share the opening sequence example with you. I’d love to be in this meeting!

Set Context: “Today we are having a conversation about the best way to support a new program coordinator. Remember this is not about whether we need one or not – at this point it should be taken as a given. We should have a list of strategies by the end of the conversation.”

Set Parameters: “Let’s start with some working assumptions about our conversation.” (this is the creation of participation guidelines, whether that is that everyone in the room should be there, that all opinions will be heard, that there are no wrong answers, etc).

Clarify Roles: Who is leading the meeting? Who is facilitating? (important – do not let hierarchical systems hijack the facilitator.)

Establish Available Time: “We’ll take about half an hour for this conversation.”  (this is a biggie for me. An open-ended meeting is not an effective one. Once there is a length established, people tend to get to their point more quickly. Do not let this be hijacked. If it “requires further discussion”, move on and have that further discussion at a separate meeting.)

Ground the Conversation: “Let’s start our discussion by looking at the job description of the program coordinator.

An excellent workshop in my opinion – to me an excellent workshop is well run, has handouts (email or otherwise) and contains items and ideas that you are excited to take away with you and begin implementing immediately.


Studies have shown that children are the quickest to design, to answer, to do stuff. They figure things out quickly because they don’t over-complicate, they don’t attach a huge number of issues to an action, they don’t over-think things to the point of paralysis.

I feel like the above is the type of meeting they’d have. And I bet there will be proof of this on Sunday February 26th, 2:00 pm at Revival –  PSA#8 – Totsapalooze – Mouse City Calling.


January 3, 2012

SWF Seeks Basic Website – must be attractive, clean and open to sharing…

In the past year or so, I’ve been asked a particular question,or had people ask people to ask me a question, or people tell people to ask me a question to ask other people. I hear it  by phone, in person, via Twitter and Facebook:

Does anyone know how much it costs to set up a basic website?

I have yet to answer or hear anyone else answer this question with a figure as end-of-disussion. So I pondered a bit and thought for the New Year it would be a lovely start to answer this  question by turning to colleague and local expert Avery Swartz. The answer is in here, but there’s so much more to think about.

I love working with Avery – she’s responsible for the banner at the top of this page, my business cards, my font choices, my ads in print and online. She’s awesome. So off I went and asked her. read on and be illuminated!

What exactly is a basic website – what does that phrase mean to a designer?
I like to think of websites in terms of functionality.  What do you want your website to DO?  Note: a website’s functionality shouldn’t be confused with its purpose.  The purpose of a website is to sell something, offer information about a company, give directions to an event, etc.  The functionality of a website is HOW you achieve your website’s purpose.  

For me, as a website designer and developer (I both design and build websites), a BASIC website is one that has very very limited functionality.  We’re talking about words and pictures, and that’s it.  Very few webpages (under 5), and nothing changes often (i.e. – no updates needed).  That kind of website is sometimes referred to as a “brochure website”, since its main purpose is to offer information.  There will probably be an “about” page, a “contact” page, and maybe one or two more webpages.

Also, if a client comes to me asking for a “basic website”, it means that all the content for the website (the text, the images, the client’s logo or any other graphic elements needed) will be supplied.  If I need to design a logo, any special graphics, do any photoshop work on your pictures, or help you with your copy, then it’s not “basic” any more.

So how much does a basic website cost? 

If you work with me, it’s going to be about $1000 (or less for arts groups and charities).  You can also find a student or a web designer who is just starting out, and they might charge you $300-$500.

What in your experience does that mean to a client?
Usually, a client thinks the same thing as me for a “basic website”.  Text, images, and just a few webpages.

But, if a client does have a different idea of what a “basic website” is, then it’s usually because they think a “basic website” includes more functionality.  Any time you want something beyond text, pictures, and a handful of webpages (that all have the same layout), then you’ve stepped outside the realm of “basic”.

Extra functionality can include: more than just a few webpages, the ability to update the website yourself, blog integration, e-commerce or online shopping, photo galleries, video, any kind of user interaction (forums, the ability to comment, membership areas), anything that requires enhanced security and encryption, websites that look great on mobile devices as well as desktop computers, social media integration, etc etc etc.

More often than not, when a client comes to me asking for a “basic website”, I help them understand that they probably want more than just the basics.  Most of the fun stuff on the internet can be found in the extra functionality I listed above.  And of course, all that can drive the price up.  But, I’m guessing that your company/business/show probably isn’t “basic”, so you probably don’t really want your website to be either.

If a client is just starting out and is working on a shoestring, are there free or inexpensive ways for them to create their own site?
Absolutely.  But don’t necessarily expect it to be painless.  There’s a reason why people like me are in business.  The DIY options for websites have come a long way in the last 10 years, but there is always at least a small technical hurdle or two.  If you’re not internet savvy, you might find you’re in over your head.  But, there’s no reason not to try, and you might find you can make something pretty good-looking just by rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.

You can definitely set up your own website through  You can even have your own domain name.  My suggestion with WordPress though – keep it simple.  Choose a really clean theme (aka template), and exercise restraint.  Wordpress is pretty powerful, and I’ve seen people go nuts trying to “enhance” their website, and it ends up looking like a giant mess.

If you’re a visual artist, you really need to have a account.  If you put in the time to make it really nice, you can even have that as your website.  Consider getting a Behance Pro account.  It will make your Behance profile into a portfolio website, without the logos and branding from Behance.  No one will be the wiser, and it looks great.  Check out these examples:

You can do the same thing with Cargo:

If you make something handmade, there’s no excuse for you to not be on Etsy.  Even if you have your own website, you should still be on Etsy.  There are people who are actively looking for handmade goods, searching on that website, who would never find you otherwise.  It’s worth the slight fee it costs to put your products up.

And finally, more and more people are making Facebook pages for their businesses, and skipping a professional website altogether.  I don’t recommend this, mostly because Facebook business pages aren’t search engine-optimized (i.e. – it’s going to be harder to find your Facebook page on Google than it is to find your business website), but I don’t think there’s any harm in doing both (a website plus a Facebook page for your business).

Oh, one more note.  Don’t try and build a website using some silly program on your computer.  Microsoft Word is for writing a letter or a grant application – it’s not for building a website.  Even iWeb, the program on your Mac, is a mess.  It writes bad code that isn’t cross–browser compatible (i.e. It’s not going to look good in every web browser that people use).  If you’re going to try the DIY route, go with something mainstream, contemporary, and web-based.

is there anything a client forgets or might not think about including in their basic website that are essential?
The basics are the basics.  Good, clean layout. Readability.  Easy to navigate. Contact information up front (no one wants to search for your phone number or your address).  When in doubt, keep things simple.

So for the sake of comparison – is my website basic?
Nope! You have lots of fun extra functionality. Blogging (and everything that goes with that, including comments), the ability to update the site yourself, social media integration, contact form, and a flexible mobile version.

 I know WordPress did most of that for you. So there are DIY options for people that want even more than a “basic” website.

Any other thoughts?
Whether you’re using a DIY website option, or working with a web designer, make sure your website accurately reflects your business and your level of professionalism.  Just like it’s simply unacceptable in this day and age to not have a website for your business, it’s also unacceptable for that website to look like junk.  Think of how you behave when you’re online.  If you check out a website for a shop, or a restaurant, or a newspaper, do you judge the business by the way their website looks or behaves?  Of course you do.  We all do.  So just remember that people are judging you too.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.

I think people often confuse the idea of a “basic website” with a “clean website”. Basic = very little functionally. Clean = good design. Clean does not necessarily mean basic. There are oodles of very attractive (and very complex) websites out there that are clean, but definitely not basic.
Think of Twitter. Google. Apple. All very clean (design), but definitely not basic (functionality).
Somehow people have a kooky idea that clean design is easy, so it should be cheap. Clean design is NOT easy. It’s often the most difficult thing to do, because it requires great vision, clarity, and restraint. If clean design was easy, there wouldn’t be so much crap out there.
What are you up to next?
I’m returning to work after 9 months of maternity leave, so I’m ready to take on new clients and new projects.  I’m always working on professional development, and studying up on the latest web trends.  Right now I’m kind of obsessed with “responsive web design”, which is a technique for making websites look fantastic on mobile devices AND desktop computers (without sacrificing one for the other)

Thanks Avery! I repeat – you are awesome.

About Avery – Avery Swartz is a Toronto-based award-winning web designer.  A self-described design geek, she helps to demystify the web for small business owners, charities, and arts organizations.  Avery believes that designing websites should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.  She offers a friendly, casual approach and promises to use as little technical mumbo-jumbo as possible.  You can contact Avery and view her portfolio online at

When she’s not making websites, Avery writes the blog Stuff Avery Likes, featuring news and info on design, travel, internet trends, and living in Leslieville with her husband, dog, and baby girl.  Check it out at

December 11, 2011

Sunday Roundup – December 11

Graduation and Deputation were the highlights of my week. Read on for what else happened…

Graduation! – some thoughts and thank yous on graduating from Entrepreneuse School

Deputation and Graduation – Talk about Hump Day – full text of my deputation at City Hall on the 7th

You’re Charging HOW much, and a call for Submissions – why handmade art costs money, and Kensington Murals.

Together Toronto has a great section on their site devoted to the arts – and a way to directly email your Councillor from the page.

Have a lovely Sunday – I have Christmas cards to do and strategy to create  – in that order.

December 6, 2011


Entrepreneuse School ends tomorrow – ten weeks, two days a week of business boot camp and I am leaving with a fifty page document (11 pt Arial font, single spaced) that is the official blueprint of Sue Edworthy Arts Planning.  From Company Profile to fighting with Excel for financials, I have enjoyed every exhausting minute of it. It was worth it – combining this type of course – in class, weekly milestones, research, planning planning and more planning along with working with  clients and my regularly scheduled programming already in progress is a definite challenge. Many thanks to those I had to disappear on due to unfinished homework, meetings scheduled around class time, who smiled at my ever-present notebook and helped in oh, so many ways. It’s not many who have such a great support network, and I’m glad I do.

I am very proud of myself and my amazing classmates, all of whom took the road less travelled, proud of our efforts and our courage – which of course leads to:

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” -JFK

We now have all four.

Congratulations, TBDC Group 123! We did it!

PS – No, there is no rest for the wicked or weary  – tomorrow is not only Graduation, but Deputation at City Hall. More on that later.
November 8, 2011

halfway through entrepreneuse school – and some jewellry!

Time has been flying by and I realized yesterday we are at the halfway mark for entrepreneuse school. I can’t believe how much we’ve accomplished in five weeks – we all have company profiles, operations plans, value propositions and marketing plans (with tons of analysis on our customers). It’s exhausting hard work and well worth it in the end I think. A lot of us have our websites and blogs running merrily and not a day goes by where there isn’t activity in our Facebook group about the assignments, discussion about websites, accounting, where to get business cards, who will you bank with etc. It’s a good group of people with some great ideas and I’m enjoying being in class with them.

Thought I’d take a second to let you know about some of the folks I’m spending my Mondays and Wednesdays with.

Michael is the proprietor of Vams Kombucha,  a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with a ‘scoby’, which stands for ‘ Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts’. The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns it into a beverage full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids. It’s good, I’ve tried it.

Stephanie runs Coeur de Lion Textiles  – her designs mix shibori, an ancient Japanese resist dyeing technique, immersion and removal dyeing with contemporary practices of silk screening to create striking and lasting designs.  Coeur De Lion Textiles offers wholesale and retail products as well as custom design services.

Helen owns Sunrise Editing –  her tagline is Editing, Proofreading, and Copywriting Services … with heart.  I believe it.

That’s only three – as we get going, I’ll post more sites when they become available.

Also of note in the small business Category – Control over Destiny jewellery Design is having its annual Holiday Show and Sale on November 19th at Tarragon Theatre (Far Studio). 30 Bridgman Avenue – see you there – photos below of some of the work!

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October 16, 2011

Sunday Roundup – October 16

There’s been something big and good almost every day this week. Just sayin’.

New webpage went up – Grants+Things with links to start you off in finding funding, and links to grants I can help you with.

Buy A Theatre task force and hopefully solutions for the three downtown theatres the city is looking to sell.

Your Passion, Your Vision – a great day at Entrepreneuse School, where visions became clearer and articulate.

Nearly Everyone Has Taken a Dance break at Least Once  – finding on how communities engage with the Arts courtesy the Ontario Arts Council .

Occupy Toronto began yesterday – two of my favourite people were there and took some amazing pictures – I have permission to post them all here and will do that tomorrow but here’s one in the meantime. Photo by Colette Stevenson.


October 12, 2011

Your Passion, Your Vision

Yesterday’s episode of Entrepreneuse School was absolutely amazing. We spent the afternoon working on our vision and mission statements, and did a great exercise called No Brain, All Heart. It was sort of like that scene in Dead Poets Society where the instructor fired questions at us about why we wanted to open our own business and we answered them. He continues to “shoot down” our answers until we began to react on an emotional level as to why we wanted, needed to open this business. And then when we hit that point, asked us, “in the year 3011, a six-year-old boy stands in front of a two storey tall statue made of gold. That statue is of you. And the six-year-old boy asks, ‘what did this person do to have such a statue created?'”

And the simple answer he gets, the sentence that a six-year-old can understand – is your vision statement.

“I help people make their art.”

A truly exhausting marvelous day of learning. I was the volunteer who had the questions fired at her of course I volunteered, I went to theatre school – I have a degree in standing in front of the class and weeping.

I rarely take notes in class. I have pages from yesterday. I’m excited to go through them again.

“Elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness”

“To put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces”

“To make people happy”

What is YOUR BIG, BOLD, BRAVE vision? What will your statue’s plaque say about you?

Couple other things – the Off Bathurst Theatre District Marathon is happening again this year. Check it out.

Nestlé Purina is trying to bypass the pet owner altogether with a direct pitch to dogs —making a television commercial that includes high-frequency sounds only audible to them. I need someone with a dog to tell me if this works in two ways – one, does your dog react positively, and second, would that reaction push you to buy the product? I’m torn between good marketing and clever marketing and a stunt.


Here we go.

October 4, 2011

Back to School and a Schedule

So yesterday was my first day at what I’m calling Entrepreneuse School. I’m going to like it a lot, I think. It’s boot camp on opening your own business.

For those who have been asking – it’s a program called  the Ontario Self Employment Benefits Program, administered by the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities and run out of the Toronto Business Development Centre,

It’s tough to get in. And it takes time, and teaches you patience (something I don’t have much of). In June I went to JobStarts which is where your paperwork begins, as you need to be recommended to this program.

Then I went to an info session in July. A week later I sent in my business proposal (your proposal must demonstrate not only a viable business idea, but need for the program).

Then I waited.

In August I heard back that my proposal was indeed successful and I had been invited to the next stage which was a full on presentation of said proposal, which required me to expand upon my previous proposal. (Years of grant writing certainly came in handy!) So I expanded upon my previous proposal. And went and made a presentation of my viable business idea.

Then I waited.

Two weeks ago I got a call that I had been accepted and went to sign my contract. What have I committed to?

Essentially, a ten week boot camp on opening establishing and running a business from the ground up. We started yesterday with the most basic things like your business name, will you register for HST, where is your office, what is your fax number, you name it. I attend school two days a week from 9:00 – 4:00 and then do my homework – a milestone a week ( sales analysis, the marketing plan, your ops plan,  setting up your books – everything). And at the end of ten weeks – you have a completely solid business plan, and another 32 week s of support from the Ministry while you work on your business. It’s a great program. And a serious commitment.

There are 30 of us in the class (over 120 attended that first info session) and we run the range from dog walkers to video surveillance to scarf designers to relationship coaches. I[‘m looking forward to working with my new colleagues – I think we’ll learn a lot from each other, and I think it’s going to be an excellent ten weeks. We’re already in this together a few people mentioned yesterday they didn’t register the wad of stress they’d been feeling about this endeavor until yesterday when it was gone. I agree. Two months feels like a long time when it’s about your future.

Which brings it to the schedule part – I’m a Virgo – I do love schedules.  So I’m enjoying the fact that I can now have a schedule that puts me in school two days a week, and leaves three days a week at CSI to work with my current clients and do my homework.  My google calendar is full again and I spent last night getting very, very organized.

I’ll keep you posted when we’re doing interesting stuff.

One of the better Mondays in the world.

October 3, 2011

Sunday Roundup on Monday

Sorry for the delay folks, I was at a wedding this weekend – two of my favourite people say I do in front of all of us and a grand old celebration was had by all.

So what went on this week?

Everything Stops For Tea – started the week with a terrible cold that’s going around and seems to have left me.

New Day New Digs New Info – spent the day at the Centre Social Innovation at 215 Spadina, setting up me new workspace and attending a great workshop.

Information Overload/Information Detox – great article on how to undertake a detox from all the info that seems to be coming at us these days

A Weekend of Culture – Culture Days, Nuit Blanche and what turned out to be a very successful fundraiser for the newly forme Stratirical Theatre.

A busy week ahead of getting into aq new schedule, new work and new school. I mentioned last week that I am starting a business entrepreneur course through the Toronto Business Development Centre, and later today I’m a guest speaker at the UofT Scarborough campus. The 3rd year Arts Management undergrads are working on a project where they are researching the arts issues for the provincial election  prior to working on “doorstep questions” to ask candidates. I’m looking very much forward to school and guest speaking. Will keep you posted.

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