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An interview with Medeia Cohan of School for Creative Startups...
by Startacus Admin
Passion. Honesty. Hunger.
Medeia Cohan is the Creative Director for the School of Creative Startups, an offshoot of Doug Richard's original School for Startups; borne with the mindset that entrepreneurship can be taught or at least nurtured...
School for Startups as the name suggests, is just that - a school that teaches the business basics; so someone is taught to at least practice as a successful business. Now, with the ‘Creative’ offshoot, you don’t get the impression from Medeia, that each of their students are being taught how to be the next big thing or millionaire (and nor should they all want to be). After all, we all get taught at school to play football, but that doesn’t make us all the next potential Pele or Best. However, what Medeia and the School for Creative Startups team aims to do is to give their students the coaching, skills and knowledge, to at least make a damn good go of it.
Apologies for the ‘swear’ word above, but from speaking to Medeia, I can confirm that she doesn’t mind the odd swear word - of course all in the right context and place! The thing is with Medeia, the first thing that comes across is passion, and that after all is not a bad place to start...
Passion for doing things better. I asked Medeia why the need for the ‘Creative’ arm of School for Startups - after all don’t we all need to learn the same business basics and skills?
“Creative people are inherently entrepreneurial, but they need to be taught differently to people who have come from typical business backgrounds” responds Medeia, getting immediately passionate. “Parts of the School for Startups program that are taught in a day, we may take a little more time over and teach over three days.”
“Being commercial within the art scene is often seen as a dirty word” Medeia goes on. I get the point. In reality you can be as creative as you like, but unless you combine your creativity with an understanding on how to sell to the general public, all you have is a hobby.
Medeia understands this point only too well having joined the School for Creative Startups after working as the Head Curator at University of the Arts London, Europe’s largest Higher Education arts institution. I get the impression that Medeia is passionate about saving talent from being so underground that no one ever hears of them and with School for Creative Startups she has a platform that helps talent sell themselves more as a business.
Medeia tells it how it is and in an industry that is often self proclaimed and very insular, this honesty is very refreshing. She recently went to the MADE entrepreneurs Festival in Sheffield and openly admits she felt rather out of place.
Ultimately, although she is teaching the same business skills and business models as other enterprise academies, guest speakers and TV-made-famous entrepreneurs she realises that creative types just need it bottled a little differently. “Creatives often feel left out of the startup scene”. Left out so much so, that Medeia has plans for her own Creatives Festival, that appears more inclusive of the creative scene. “More substance and less self promotion” Medeia suggests.
The thing is, when Medeia speaks, it is the combination of this honesty and passion that makes you appreciate that she is not being overly critical, but is instead simply just saying what lots of us already think and know. You can appreciate why an illustrator, fresh from Art School isn’t going to dig a motivational speech from some young entrepreneur with slicked back hair wearing a Del Boy style suit. Ultimately, both the Illustrator and the motivational speaker, want the same thing, however they just need it packaged in a completely different way.
“Universities, Art Schools - they should be doing, what we do - being commercial is not being taught and entrepreneurship itself should be embedded into the curriculum of all courses”.
Medeia does not pretend to be a leading entrepreneur, and have all the answers, citing instead Doug Richard himself as being her mentor. “My deal with Doug is that if he can teach me, I can teach them!” She is however hungry to make a difference and keen that creatives, universities, in fact the Government itself start preparing students to “ask meaningful questions” about how they can take their passions and make them into successful businesses.
“It’s not a funding issue” she argues. “Even at business school they are not being taught business skills and the business of selling your art or design is real. Degree courses should include pricing - you are after all, your own gallery”. A great point well made.
Medeia is confident that the funding for enterprise is available if you know where to look, however if she had one opportunity to sway Government policy to improve the uptake of self employment, it would be to “embed teaching business basics into the curriculum, or at least give programs like ours more chance to make more of a difference.”
Medeia is indeed hungry to make a difference and ending the interview she talks of her aspiration to develop the School for Creative Startups brand elsewhere; creating creative hubs in creative cities across the globe - a rather impressive target and an impressive end to a passionate chat.
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