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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Creative United

External guidance can help transform cultural organisations. Lucy Jamieson introduces two business advisors who will be sharing their expertise through the Prosper programme.

Photo of two women talking

At the Arts Marketing Association (AMA), one message we hear loud and clear from our members is just how valuable it is for new businesses to receive expert guidance from those who have done it before.

That’s why the Prosper programme, led by Creative United, is so helpful. It’s purely about getting creative businesses in the best shape they can be, so they can attract audiences, investors, partners and income.

Sometimes an outside eye can spot a great opportunity or highlight a pitfall – something it’s not always easy to do 

Throughout the programme, the AMA will be working with over 30 Prosper business advisors to develop a series of free guides and case studies for CultureHive. As it is limited to 70 participants we wanted to provide a way for the wider cultural sector to access the advisors’ knowledge and skills.

So far, Sarah Thelwall has shared her MyCake data analysis of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations, and Julie Aldridge has written a blog about inspiring new business models for arts organisations.

Drawn from across the creative and cultural sectors, Prosper’s business advisors have led major institutions, started and scaled up their own businesses, earned professional qualifications and accreditations, and supported numerous creative people and organisations to become more resilient, access finance and flourish.

We thought we’d profile two of Prosper’s business advisors here so you can get a sense of the person behind the advice, their priorities and what they have to offer.

Lasting impact and change

Ellen O’Hara wants to see long-lasting impacts. For her, a successful programme would be 70 organisations with well thought-through and clearly articulated growth plans, delivered by enabled teams with the right mix of capabilities to make lasting impact and change – in cultural, social and financial outcome terms.

Having attained her Clore Leadership Fellowship in 2014, Ellen joined Creative United’s Creative Industry Finance business advisor network. She will be one of the advisors and masterclass leaders helping to shape the programme.

She has previously designed and delivered programmes and content for Nesta, Arts Council England, National Arts Council Singapore, Crafts Council, Clore Leadership Programme, Business & Arts South Africa and Innovate UK.

Ellen would like to see the creative and cultural sector leading the conversation on alternative finance offers, shaping and co-creating products and services with investors that are fit for purpose. The industry is booming and there are some interesting players in the space that we could be working more closely with to help bridge the gap between investor and investee.

We’re fortunate to have Access – The Foundation for Social Investment on board as a strategic partner and funder, which will help bring impact investment expertise to the table.

Bridging two worlds

Another of Prosper’s business advisors is James West. Having worked for a number of arts and comedy festivals across England, in 2013 he decided to take the plunge and set up his own creative business consultancy business, West Creative.

James likes being in the middle, between creativity and business. Being able to make connections between where an organisation is and where it wants to be is the perfect place for him. James calls himself a ‘strategic pragmatist’ and, when it comes to business advice, he finds it’s a lot less about areas of expertise and more about an understanding of how creative businesses tick.

James is interested in what motivates an organisation, what success looks like, and what milestones have been hit. He’ll be looking at how organisations are structured, the health of finances, who the competitors are, and opportunities for growth.

Growing organisations

Sometimes an outside eye can spot a great opportunity or highlight a pitfall – something it’s not always easy to do when we’re getting on with the daily challenges of running a business. Especially if our focus is naturally drawn to the creative aspect of the work which, let’s face it, is probably the bit we’re most drawn to. So, with 70 business-focused professionals to keep you on track, Prosper is a real breath of fresh air for the sector.

Lucy Jamieson is Head of Programme at AMA.
Tw @amadigital, #ProsperSupport

Guides and articles featuring advice from Prosper advisors will be available as part of the Prosper editorial collection on CultureHiveThe deadline for Prosper applications is 31 May. Find out more and start your application via the Creative United website

This article, contributed and sponsored by Creative United, is one of a series on making business support work for the arts and culture.

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Photo of Lucy Jamieson