Artist Steve Johnson and business students at the Technical College of the Lowcountry are generating ideas for the long term. Specifically, the students' long-term entrepreneurial success.
"In our class, we have a project to raise money for the Entrepreneurial Club, for a seed fund," said student Melissa Wuttke. "Each spring, students will pitch a start-up business, and one will be funded."
The club is hoping for a matching grant. For their first product, the members chose to make notecards from two original paintings by Johnson, who is a student support services counselor at TCL. I like notecards and I like Johnson's work, in particular the "Angelica" painting the students chose to reprint, which is a simple abstractification of a pair of strappy sandals.
The club's grassroots funding could work.
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"In Beaufort, people can get behind it because we value small businesses here," said Wuttke, who plans to go into the culinary arts business. For a club event at the International Alternative on Boundary Street adjacent to the police station, she served up fabulous mini cupcakes and prosciutto-laced flatbread.
The International Alternative is Johnson's studio and a cultural center for dialogue and relationships.
"One way to get people excited about business is bringing people together, not just selling," he said.
For the event, Johnson offered the activity of painting the pages of a 10 foot by 8 foot book he'd built, complete with jumbo paintbrushes and podium.
Art as a setting for business suits Wuttke's culinary plans because she wants a "sense of community, not just making money." By integrating art into the students' business curriculum, "we're acknowledging everyone's strengths and talents," she said.
TCL student Yin Silsrikul is studying business to augment her training in pharmaceuticals. She hopes to open a drug store one day.
"I liked art in high school. It's good to get back into it again and see how an exhibition like this works, how people come in and interact."
Omar Grant-Brown is the president of the Entrepreneurial Club and is working as a marketing representative for a publication in Atlanta while he attends TCL. He is interested in the music business.
"I want to establish a studio, to help artists and producers. Art will be on the walls," he explained, "for visual energy."
Ty Davis is approaching his business studies with real estate in mind, while he works at the pro shop on Fripp Island.
"I set up a display to sell our cards," he said of the fundraiser, "and people are buying them; they like them."
Tiffany Lee Gardner often adds to her art collection via her job at the Job Link Center at Goodwill.
"But to me, poetry brings out simplicity, even in my own home," an understandably important ingredient for her life while she and her husband raise four children and she works on her degree and runs a housekeeping business.
All these "ands" coming from these young people is like a poem about ambition, one that concludes well.
Paul Fuetterer is one of the Service Corps of Retired Executives volunteers who've met with the students to share wisdom and expertise and business plan insights. He spoke about marketing and found the students to be observant. One young man pointed out they had the same shoes on and rapport was established.
"These college students are progressive. I think they're pretty sharp having this club," Fuetterer said. "I invest in the stock market, so I gave them annual reports from different companies, and I told them in these reports you'll find out how large corporations operate and it might whet your appetite to become investors. I didn't see any of them go to sleep."
Raquel Bryan, who attended the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence before TCL, summarized all these diverse intentions and creative ambitions: "I am a young entrepreneur and master barber. These business classes back up what I've learned. It's going to take management and a lot of work to own a barber shop. The cool thing about my job is the artistry. I'm an artist, and people come in with designs in their heads, lots of lines and angles. This is freedom of expression in many forms."
The note cards are also available through Johnson, at 843-525-8353.
Lisa Annelouise Rentz lives and writes in Beaufort.