Being Creative Does Not Mean Being Bad at Business

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By Suhina Nath, MM ‘17

A trait I find common between Donald Trump and all those awkward, overly sympathetic, agnostic beings who criticize artists for their professions, is their abstraction from reality. Not many realize that artists are true visionary leaders, whetted marketers, and audacious business risk takers; only with an added dash of sass and (often) without a suit and tie.

That’s one thing I learned at the recent Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit I was invited to attend on behalf of the Michigan Ross Master of Management program.
 

JESSICA ALBA: ARTIST, ACTOR, BUSINESS EXECUTIVE

Suhina with a group of students at the Forbes
30 Under 30 Summit

Jessica Alba, known for her roles in movies like Sin City and the Fantastic Four, is recognized by few as a thriving entrepreneur. An artist, sure. But a business leader?

As she sat on the stage of Harvard Business School in her grey suit, she shared her story of success with Honest Co. as its founder, executive, and steering visionary.

Apart from the jargon on the company’s $1.7 million worth, its 300 percent growth in the last year, and 120 “better for you” products, what struck me most was her passion and her vision for Honest Co.

She started the company with the hope of catering to an unaddressed market for non-toxic “better for you products.” Having battled with traumatic allergic reactions in childhood and afraid of the same for her newborn, she did not desire such an experience for any other mother.

JESSICA ALBA: ARTIST, ACTOR, FAILURE

Unlike what many would presume, Alba did not receive immediate funding for her venture.  Rejected in the initial phase of funding, her investor preferred funding Kim Kardashian’s ‘Shoe Dazzle.’

But with patience, perseverance, excessive data collation, and analysis, she was able to refine her proposal and gain funding in the next round. She is now leading almost 300 employees and follows unique criteria as a woman business leader for recruitment – one based on honesty and integrity presiding over skill and expertise.

HALSEY: ARTIST, SONG WRITER, BRILLIANT MARKETER

Halsey, a popular American song writer, also had much to share on her business and marketing brilliance. She shared an anecdote from her concert at the Madison Square Garden, during her initial years of establishment, when she was new in the music industry and few of her advisers had confidence in her ability to sell the 18,200 seating concert hall.

But perseverance and concerted marketing efforts led to the successful sale of the show tickets within just three weeks of going on sale. With this, she taught a lesson in risk taking and clever marketing.

Halsey also had much to share on the challenges of marketing to a millennial audience. She emphasized on their transience and what was most intriguing was how she channeled that into a motivation to constantly innovate music.

She drew a unique analogy between music and “better for you” products. She brought mysticism into marketing as she spoke of marketing music, an abstract product. She spoke veraciously about her commitment towards music innovation to prevent market saturation.  These are complexities of marketing that she was able to vividly perceive.

As I left Boston and headed back to Ann Arbor, I found myself truly inspired by these conceptualizations of the business behind art. Relieving with a deep sigh my initial hesitations to deflect from my family lineage in business, I resolved to follow my passion in creative marketing. Because I now have power to be the best of both!!


Suhina Nath is a student in the Michigan Ross Master of Management program; she will graduate in 2017.

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Suhina Nath
MM '17