Creative Business Wrap – May 2023

Feeling the chill of an early winter? I definitely felt it over a couple of days in the Southern Highlands with the crew from Architects Edmiston Jones. A long term client of mine, EJ takes all its staff away for an annual retreat, which is low on work talk and more focused on connection with each other. This year’s activities included bush walks, wine tasting, gallery visits and plenty of tall tales by the fire. Plus a game of Cards Against Humanity which will live long in my memory! Thanks to EJ for the opportunity to join in. And if you’ve never packed up your team and headed off for some collective R&R… maybe it’s time to get planning?

Jewellery doing good

I’m inspired when I hear about creative companies committing to a cause they are passionate about in a genuine way. Another long term client, jewellery designers Sarah & Sebastian have pledged to donate 1 million dollars to marine conservation in the next decade via product sales and donations and they are well on their way to reaching that ambitious target. On their website, you can watch their beautiful short film “Now You See Me, Sharks and Rays” directed by photographer and filmmaker Alice Wesley-Smith, and also read about the four marine conservation organisations that Sarah & Sebastian partners with. They also collaborated with filmmaker and legendary conservationist and ocean photographer Valerie Taylor AM to spread the message about protecting sharks and rays. This nine-minute film could change your mind about these creatures that we love to fear – definitely worth watching.

Architecture doing good

Humanitarian architecture is an emerging trend focusing on the built environment as a tool for social change. I recently came across two interesting articles about the intersection of architecture and social good.

Architects without Frontiers was founded by Esther Charlesworth in the aftermath of the 1990s Balkans conflict. Her new book, Design for Fragility, contains 13 case studies that bring philanthropy and architecture together, such as the Dien Ban Disability Centre in Vietnam, which caters for around 100 kids who live with profound intellectual and physical disabilities from the effects of Agent Orange used in the Vietnam war. It’s not all about pro bono work but the organisation receives funds from architectural and building firms and is now looking to government and other philanthropic supporters to help expand its work.

Also, Architecture Australia has announced the shortlist for its inaugural award for social impact which recognizes projects that make a difference through considering social cohesion, racial justice, inclusive housing, accessibility, equity, and social sustainability. The 39 shortlisted projects range from a women’s prison to Aboriginal medical services to the Budj Bim cultural landscape. That led me to the Budj Bim website, to find out more about this UNESCO World Heritage site. The design references elements of Gnditimara culture, such as domed huts and complex systems of aquaculture. I’m putting it on the bucket list.

Barefoot business tips

Many of you will know of Scott Pape, the Barefoot Investor, who has sold over 2 million books about personal finance. But in his latest newsletter, he gives some tips on managing small business finance. His style is direct and conservative and he concentrates on avoiding the common ways that small businesses go broke. He puts away 35% of his income in a separate account to cover his company tax and GST. He has never taken on a business partner because of the risk of a costly breakup and operates his business without debt. He keeps his “burn number” front of mind (it’s the monthly cost of overheads, his own wages, and his super). Not having a business partner or debt is not achievable for many businesses but putting aside tax liabilities and understanding your operating costs are sound strategies.

As well as knowing a lot about finance he’s learned a lot about the publishing business. In an interview with The Garrett podcast he revealed how he disrupted the traditional publishing business by putting his second book out to tender and how he has built a direct relationship with his audience through his weekly email that he has been sending out for 14 years. Sign up for it here.


I’ve never seriously considered how pop music fandom could be a stepping stone to a creative or cultural career. Kate Pattison in The Conversation challenges assumptions that fandom is a trivial phase that young people grow out of. She sees communities of fans like the Harries (fans of Harry Styles) as a supportive, peer-to-peer learning environment where expertise is distributed and a sense of belonging makes a safe environment for fans to experiment and gain skills that are transferable to the workplace. The Harries are active on Tik Tok showing off their creative works from cookie designs to ceramics to concert outfits. Patterson’s surveys for her PhD research revealed some of the skills acquired by fans were writing fiction, graphic design, coding and website design, video editing, sewing, and digital literacy. Patterson believes that as many of the dedicated fans are girls, their creative work is often undervalued. Could be a good dinner party conversation starter: “who did you idolise and how did it contribute to your career?”

Mental health in the creative industries 

Workplace mental health injuries can be one of the costliest forms of workplace injury with the time lost and cost of claims significantly more than physical injuries. According to Safe Work Australia, the median time lost for mental health conditions is increasing to 30 weeks in 2020-2021. That’s a significant risk to any creative business to have key people unable to work for an extended period of time. The Regional Creatives Wellbeing Program, a collaboration with Hey Mate who are running workshops aimed at building resilience and mental health awareness and offering subsidised places in Mental Health First Aid courses for creative workers. The Hey Mate Projects’s blog has some tailored resources addressing the mental health impact of creatives working in isolation and tackling the stigma of mental health in the creative industries. A starting point for anyone thinking about tackling this ongoing problem in a creative way.

Things to do this month

Some timely steps to take this month to help grow your business.

  • Do you have a deal or offer for your clients at the end of the financial year? Or possibly a special deal for brand-new clients?
  • Set your budget for the year ahead and don’t forget to put aside your tax and your overheads.
  • It’s nearly tax time, so have a planning meeting with your favourite accountant.
  • Focus on Work Health and Safety. How much time was lost in the past year due to accidents and injuries?  Review your policies and consider mental health first aid training for yourself and your staff.