The Arts and Entrepreneurship

How do you define an Entrepreneur?

If you refer back to 18th century France, you might define an entrepreneur as “a maker.” In fact, many believe that the term comes from the phrase “celui qui entreprend” or “one who gets things done”. Others say that entrepreneurs are people who fall in love with problems and ways to solve them.

If both these definitions are true –and we at the Morris L. Hayhurst Launchlab believe they are—then artists are the quintessential entrepreneurs. From linear perspective to cubism and the drum to the synthesizer, artists have been solving problems and getting things done since the beginning of history.

Art Entrepreneurship in action!

This perspective is alive at WVU where the second annual April Arts festival and pitch competition showcased artists, problem solvers and creators. These arts entrepreneurs presented their creations and were judged by industry professionals from around the state.

The format of this event was a performance piece in itself. Collaborating with New South Media the Morris L. Hayhurst LaunchLab created an online festival with each creator telling their story in a short video pitch. The April Arts participants received nearly 2,000 votes in total with the top six presenting their ideas live in front of four creative professionals.

This online format expanded the reach of the event far beyond Morgantown and even beyond the state. Doctoral student Sandra Morales-Corrales received a professional booking offer based on the video about her Mariachi band.

Emmy Severs, owner of Lemon Milk Paper Co., one of the artist entrepreneurs, stated this about the competition, “Collaboration is vital for any start-up business and the creative community understands this well.” Sarah Giles, creator of “Album Art Galleries” expressed this directly in her presentation saying “What if, as creators, we focused on elevating each other’s work through collaborations? As a recording artist, I am exploring the possibilities of commercial exposure for artists through collaborative release strategies.”

During The April Arts pitch competition, it was evident that the tapestry of art and innovation is unmistakably woven. Even though the competition was host to various genres of artistic innovation, all had several things in common — artistic unity advancement, inclusivity, and cultural appreciation. Art transcends language barriers. Through this, we learn to embrace diversity and open our hearts and minds through storytelling and music. These artists are redefining the stereotypical perception of what it means to be an innovator or entrepreneur.

How can you support Artist Entrepreneurs?

As educators or supporters, we can help creators to understand the value around their art and how that translates to a business model. As “makers” and those who “get things done”, they are already the risk takers. Value creation is all about finding the group of people who will give up their time and/or money for the creation. It is about talking to people, showing them your work, getting feedback and asking questions. As with any other entrepreneurial endeavor, doing that customer discovery is critical in value creation. Whether it is fine arts, performances, music or other creation, turning artistic passion into a business endeavor can be very rewarding.

Arts Entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow Clair Chase states, “I am an artist and a business person. Do these two things come into conflict with each other? Yes, but without conflict nothing interesting happens – in life or in art”.

We have many arts entrepreneurs in our state. Think of the ones that you know, or maybe you are one! Be sure to support those artists – or become one. Through art, storytelling, music, design and more, innovators and entrepreneurs solve problems, take risks and strengthen the future and the quality of life for all West Virginians

About the Authors

Dr. Carrie White is the Executive Director of the WVU Launchlab Network. She is also a Teaching Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Chambers College of Business and Economics. Carrie is responsible for the WVU IDEA Hub which consists of multidisciplinary collaboration in Innovation across the campus. This includes coordination of the IDEA Faculty Fellows, under the office of Academic Affairs.  She helps provide resources and networking support for students engaged in idea generation and development through the commercialization process. She also develops and coordinates the programming and events hosted by the Morris L. Hayhurst Launchlab.

Dr. White received her BS and MBA degrees in business administration from Franciscan University, J.D from Duquesne University Law School, and Ed.D. from West Virginia University. She has worked in entrepreneurship education since 2004 as a professor of business law and entrepreneurship. She has developed and taught entrepreneurship curriculum both for the classroom and online. Prior to working in higher education, she started, owned, and operated businesses specialization in sport and fitness in the Pittsburgh, PA region.


Anne Jones is a Director at StartUp West Virginia and the Business Advisor for the Morris L. Hayhurst LaunchLab. As an Advisor, Anne identifies and builds connections between entrepreneurs, communities, WVU resources and best practices. As a business coach she has coached students and faculty to win state and national pitch competitions as well as financing from investors. She has a BA from St. Lawrence University, MA from University of Massachusetts, and MBA from Cranfield School of Management, UK.