#291 – Vikki Velenosi
Vikki is an actor from Toronto, ON who accidentally stumbled upon her purpose. In 2012, she started a business, offering affordable studio and performance space to her fellow artists. It wasn’t until a few years later that she realized that what she was doing was running a business and she was actually an entrepreneur and had been one all along. This led her to realize that all artists are actually entrepreneurs and yet all of the business resources and language that are made available to entrepreneurs are missing in arts education and culture. Vikki is now a multi-passionate artist-entrepreneur, business owner, author and coach, helping other artists turn their passion into a purpose and their creative skills into a paycheque, without losing the art.
Phil’s Patreon: https://patreon.com/philrickaby
Phil Rickaby, Vikki Velenosi
Phil Rickaby 00:00
Welcome to Episode 291 of Stageworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights anymore. Thank you for listening. If you’ve enjoyed listening to Stageworthy and you listen on Apple podcasts, please consider rating the podcast with five stars. If you’re so inclined, you can also leave a review your ratings help new people find this show. And if you know someone that you think will like Stageworthy, tell them about it. Some of my favourite podcast became my favourites because someone I knew told me about them. And remember, you can find it Subscribe on Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify and you can find Stageworthy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find a website the archive of all 291 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com And if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby and My website is philrickaby.com. Coming up on my Patreon in support of a new audio drama, I will be posting a couple of videos one talking about the theatricality of last year’s audio dramas, St. Nick and the Big F*ck Up, and how I look at the same kind of theatricality in the coming audio plays, as well as a deep dive into the construction of an episode of last year’s audio play. Check it out at patreon.com/philrickaby. My guest this week is actor and artist entrepreneur, Vikki Velenosi. What’s I mean, what is the state of space space revolution right now? What’s happening there?
Vikki Velenosi 01:58
Well, okay, so space revolution, sort of I’ll try and keep the story as short as I can, which is that when the lockdown happened, we were mandated to close. And there was this, you know, big question mark of Okay, what’s going to happen? And for businesses, it dragged on for so long before there was an announcement of support. It was months. So with my landlord there, at the ones, both spaces it was, you know, big, just a big question mark. And, you know, I wasn’t paying them rent anymore, because there was no money coming in. And I was like, Okay, well, just so you know, and they were hidden by two landlords had two landlords have been handling it very differently. One of them was like, Okay, well, here sign this thing that it’s going to your we’re going to defer your rent for April, and it’ll be due in September. Like there’s no chance I’m not making up an entire month’s worth of rent. Yeah, before that time, and they didn’t want to sign it. It was like, I would be in bad faith. I know, I will not be able to pay that back. And then the other landlord was like, Don’t worry, we’re gonna work together, whatever, there’s going to be supports that would be available. We’re going to work on it. We want to take everything we can. And unfortunate for this is the landlord at The Commons, which is the little little relocation Yeah. And unfortunately for them, they had just bought the building. So it had been just sold, right closed. They closed on that building, March 15. And I think it was like March 13, when they were like it’s a pandemic. So, that sucked for them, but they were like, you know, we’re really supportive. We want to do everything we can we’re thinking they literally said the words, we’re not like normal landlords. Okay. Um, and the supports came out, they were announced that, you know, landlords could apply to have rent relief. My landlords there said they were going to do it. Landlords at The Attic said they were going to do it. And I think two months went by before, even like, the details of that rent relief programme were run out. And the landlords at the attic were like, great, no problem. Here it is, here’s what you need to sign. Here’s what you need to do. And the landlords at the Commons were like, actually, we changed our minds,
Phil Rickaby 04:26
Vikki Velenosi 04:26
We don’t like the programme. So that’s it. And they said, you, you can leave if you want, and we won’t go after you. Like, I’m sorry, what? Like, they’re like, yeah, we’re gonna need all of our money now, or you can go So, like that space, that I was just having this conversation with somebody else earlier today that like that space was, was getting all of my effort for you know, at least two years. The Attic was kind of like an afterthought. Like oh, flowspace So, it had been through a tonne of different renovations, there’d been a lot, a lot of thought into it. And so it was really upsetting. But in the end, I just it didn’t make sense to they weren’t going to work with me. And I wasn’t going to give them everything that they wanted. You know, considering the circumstances, and I couldn’t, yeah, but they the joke’s on them. Because, as of September, and different rent, different version of the rent relief programme kicked in, and all businesses when not all businesses, but my I qualified to be able to access rent relief. I personally, so I could access the rent relief and just give them their money, they would have got 100% of their income from September onward. And instead, I was officially out August 31. And they are still empty.
Phil Rickaby 05:52
Yeah, well, I mean, in the super s-, short sighted of them to do that. And, you know, I’m also not surprised that they’re empty what what business wants to open now?
Vikki Velenosi 06:09
Phil Rickaby 06:09
you know, so that’s too bad. But The Attic is still is still still there is still available? That’s good.
Vikki Velenosi 06:17
Yeah. So I mean, that’s that’s been the the good part of it all is that if it’s still The Attic is still there. I still have, you know, something to work from. And the truthful part of it is that, if I actually look at, and I did look at, you know, okay, what are people actually need right now? What do my clients that I serve the community that I serve? What do they need right now? They don’t need space, like not really not, not a lot like, so it actually made the most sense business wise to downsize. So it was a blessing in disguise that I was sort of forced into it, because I don’t think I would have had the heart to do it myself. Sure. So, you know, downsizing into the one space was a really smart move. I just didn’t do it on purpose.
Phil Rickaby 07:09
Well, speaking of what, what artists need? What is, what, what, What do you think artists need? And and? And how can how, how do you see space space revolution working to or, or yourself working to help artists get what they need?
Vikki Velenosi 07:31
Yeah, I, uh really early on, when I first started running spaces, going back nine years ago. And I, we’ve talked about this actually, before. I had, you know, I was an actor, I was I was writing I was starting to produce, and what it what I thought I needed and what everyone else talked about meeting when we’d all have beers, you know, it’s just space, we just need space. That’s all we need. It’s just some space to do our thing. All the spaces are disappearing. And that would be you know, what we talk about? And then I started providing space. And I provide it and you know, they say, Oh, it’s too expensive. People say that, oh, it’s too expensive, like, oh, okay, well, I’ll try find a way to make it cheaper, and make it cheaper. And then I find ways to like, Okay, well, I could give you the space for free if you do this for me. And they’d be like, no, this is not right now, like, you know what? Turns out, yes, space is needed. But what I’ve learned along the way of doing this, and actually trying to serve the arts community is that mindset is more important than purpose built space. And that’s something that I’ve been building, as a business owner, as an entrepreneur. And it’s something that I see a lot of artists, not even consider. You know, people talk about self care, which is important. And that’s a part of it, that’s a piece of it. But the actual mindset that goes into creating anything and making it happen and actually doing it, and actually, you know, moving it forward, getting back up when it doesn’t work. That is a mindset shift that that needs to happen in order to get through it. And even to use the resources that are handed to you. those resources are only useful if you have the right mindset and you look at it in the right way. So that’s what I’ve realised is I realised it a long time ago, actually, this is sort of where if I want to help as much as possible, this is sort of think where I need to shift what I or add, I mean, I imagined it mostly as like, oh, I’ll just add this whole extra layer to space space revolution, but anyway, reality, I didn’t have any capacity left to add anything at all. So that’s why it took so long. But, you know, talking about blessings in disguise, the pandemic left a lot of open space and energy for me. So it’s been it, that’s what I’ve been refocusing on is, is a place and a community where people can, can gather together and just marinate in a supportive act action based, entrepreneurial minded place. And that’s originally Well, I thought up all of this, it was going to be okay, the attic, now that I have this space, I’m going to have some open desk hours, I’m going to have workshops, I’m going to do this, but it was still surrounding space. Now that, you know, it’s still unclear when that’s going to be available. I’ve now started moving it and imagining it as an online space. And whether or not that will be where it lives and stays or if it will transition to an in person thing that’s still up for, you know, discovery, but mostly, it’s a, it’s looking like, it’s going to be Facebook group and website based in fostering this kind of a community,
Phil Rickaby 11:39
Right. Can we talk a little bit about the entrepreneurial mindset? Because I think that’s something that a lot of artists, and I don’t know, I don’t want to speak for all artists, with theatre people in general actors and the like. It’s not something that we think about a lot. Even people who are producing theatre probably don’t think about an entrepreneurial mindset for the arts. And so what does what does that look like? And what I don’t know, what have we been missing?
Vikki Velenosi 12:15
Um, one specific thing comes to mind, and what you said it, so many, so I have another business as well, I run a princess party business, and kids entertainments, kids entertainment. And a lot of my entrepreneurial skills transferred over, I would say, maybe all of them. And so I’ve tested it sort of in a traditional business way, and then an arts way, as well. And then as a producer in the arts, transferring it over. And, you know, I’ve got all of these little test babies out there that have happened. And when I tell people what I’m doing, or you know, it comes up in conversation, I hear from artists, oh, I don’t understand business at all. I’m so not a business person like you. Why is it helps you fit No, nobody’s a business person. Nobody and everyone, at the same time, because I am the least likely person, if you went back, you know, 10-15 years, and we’re like, you got to be a business person to be like, I don’t know anything about business. And I didn’t mean to either, it just happened out of necessity of what I was trying to do, which was provide space for myself. So the, the just not even imagining yourself as a business owner is such a huge part of it. I, in building this, Facebook, the Facebook group is really what’s getting my attention right now. And that’s what I’m building out. And that’ll be launched there soon. I started asking people, you know, what do you want to see in a in a group? What resources would mean the most to you? In terms of just business knowledge that you feel like you’re lacking or that you wish you knew about being an entrepreneur, being a business person, and the two top answers that I got from people were taxes, and investing in the stock market. And I like, I had a real like, good crisis about it for a minute, because it’s like, I don’t those aren’t what I don’t know. Like, I mean, I kind of know a lot a bit about both of those things. But that’s so not where I was headed. And then I realised, oh, my god, no, that is actually what I would have said, as well. And one of the, one of the first things I was telling people, when I said started running space and was starting a business was when people ask me, how’s it going? I’d say, I had no idea how much I didn’t know. I didn’t know, right? I just felt like I was like, I opened a door into a room and I was like, holy shit. This is I had no idea this was even here, like, so. I know that when I started if you’d ask Ask me, it took me a while to even call myself a business owner like years. When I was already doing it, I was running a business. And when I thought of what a business person looked like, I thought of a man in a suit carrying a briefcase thinking about taxes. investing in the stock market, like that’s what I thought, yeah, this person who was like, so not me, living in my weird, lofty factory converting room with, you know, the curtains that were half falling down, wearing my all black and walking around barefoot, like I didn’t, I didn’t imagine it. And so I didn’t even consider it. So in terms of mindset, this idea of just the first step of imagining yourself as something and saying, oh, maybe that is the maybe I, maybe I could. And what I think is so genuinely amazing about artists, is that all of the stuff that business owners are paying 1000s of dollars trying to learn, like creativity, or like that, try, they’re trying to get in touch back in touch with themselves. They’re trying to get back in touch with their why and their purpose, and that can touch with the community and all these things that artists have all of that in the mag, we have all of that, like, we’ve got a whole pantry full of all of these things that entrepreneurs wish they had. I’m included in that his entrepreneurial spirit, that everybody talks about, oh, the entrepreneurial spirit, in order to do anything, that’s not fitting into the mould of what we were trained to do. And, you know, in in our educational journey, which is focused on you becoming a person who be like, I think that’s pretty across the board understood that you’re, you’re trained in elementary school in high school to become the employee. There’s, there’s not a lot of talk of like a nun, when you invent whatever, and it just doesn’t even, it’s an afterthought, if it even is mentioned. If you’re breaking that mould, you’re already you already have an entrepreneurial spirit to be an artist is the epitome of entrepreneurial spirit. So there’s no real reason that an artist shouldn’t be able to, you know, feel like they could be an entrepreneur, because they already are.
Phil Rickaby 17:34
Yeah, I have this feeling that a lot of people, you know, artists and theatre and actors, and there’s this block in our heads, about, about that sort of thing. Just like when people are like they’re starting to get into self producing. And they, they hesitate, because they feel like, I don’t know anything about producing. I’m not a producer, I could never market myself, not a marketer, there’s no way that I could talk about my work. And that sort of like stands as sort of like a block. And then to try to think about how, what you’re doing like, like how to be a business person, again, another block, because we, we went to Theatre School thinking, Well, you know, I’m not, I’m out of the machine and all the things that we thought, like, we’re not business people, we’re just artists, you know, and that’s, so to change that mindset is very difficult thing for it, I think, for a lot of us. And but it is a block. It’s something it’s a story we’ve told ourselves.
Vikki Velenosi 18:35
Yeah. And I think it really does it. My theory is that it really does come from the way that we are educated to become employees, it’s still leftover in us. And it’s also all around us, from everyone who loves and cares about us, who also subscribes to, you know, the capitalist industrialised way of life, which you know, as you should, that’s the way that our society is, you know, the, the when do you When are you going to get a real job question? Is the like, the, you know, the one that makes all artists skin crawl? Like That question is a valid question from people who are, you know, most who care about you and who understand that, you know, in their world, the only way to get what you need in life and be secure and healthy and happy is to, is to go this route where you become an employee. So we’re all sort of immersed in that attitude. While we’re, while we’re doing this really radical thing of creating art, creating something from nothing, and then, you know, trying to make that work and trying to share it with people. And I think we’re just still hung up on the idea that we have to be employees. And what I also have just sort of started, I started using the phrase the industrialization of the arts. The capitalization of the arts. And when you look at the way the arts industry has been run for performing artists, you apply for everything, you have to apply for the, you know, we call it auditioning, you apply, you apply for the role, you apply for, you know, the position you you apply for the grant, you apply for the funding you apply for the you know, we’re constantly applying, like we’re employees, trying to get a job and applying is a huge part of being an entrepreneur is, you know, putting yourself out there asking for the exchange, proposing something to someone, it’s all in there. But the biggest piece that seems to be missing, for a lot of artists is just just changing the just widening the point of view a little bit into the world of not asking for permission or applying in order to reach an audience. Because that’s where we that’s direct to consumer, if you’re in the business term, it’s it’s it’s direct to consumer, we’re doing business to business, as artists in, in the traditional sense, and we’re trained in our programmes to do business to business. Oh, yeah. Find the casting director, find the the agent, find the producer, find the person find the gatekeeper, who’s going to give you the keys to then get to the audience, or who’s going to deliver you to the audience for you where we haven’t, our mindset hasn’t caught up to the fact that we’re in where the internet happened. Like, even just tick tock happened, Instagram happened, all of these platforms happen. YouTube happened, these places happened where you just go direct to consumer. Yeah, and it’s totally fine to also do that business to business, you know, casting director gets the producers get to the, you know, the bigger cooler stuff that you know, it’s really neat, but go direct to your audience as well. Do not forget that because there’s this huge open field of opportunity that no one should be missing.
Phil Rickaby 22:25
Actually, absolutely. I think that there’s so much in terms of the as, as an entrepreneur, we do, like, I’m all over the place right now. Because my head spinning but like that idea of, of gatekeepers, and you’re right, we’re asking permission all the time. All the time for for funds for for May I perform, like how do I how do we get the money to do the thing, we’re always asking for permission. I think that, you know, we’re a lot of these, you know, these ways of reaching direct to the consumer, are our new and so they never thought about taught us about those in theatre school and they never know, you know, we don’t know how to use those. And these are, these are new things for us to try to explore.
Vikki Velenosi 23:14
Yeah, but they are they are very real and they’re very here and I think I find tik tok is a more interesting case study to me than even YouTube. Because Tik Tok from what I understand is started by theatre kids not started but popularised by theatre kids, it was an app that was mostly used by like, young actor, aspiring actors who were, you know, using it to sing and to it just became an easy way for them to express themselves. Like, this is no accident, that forming artists who have that drive already flocked to this app, that just allowed you so quickly and easily to produce videos of your of yourself. And then the fact that the pandemic happened, everybody ended up singularly by themselves, and, you know, with limited ways to communicate, and reach people, it just then it started blowing up, it became this, you know, huge possibility. And now you have people who don’t even consider themselves artists, telling incredible stories on this app, sharing incredible life changing information and art and, and it’s such a cool development. And I think that it’s the, you know, I hate hate to say like something so cliche is like, it’s the way of the future but that direct to people way of creating that people don’t care about the production value, not not to the point where anybody and everybody without any training can figure it out. And you know, one afternoon. People want stories.
Phil Rickaby 24:52
Vikki Velenosi 24:53
Phil Rickaby 24:54
Yeah. There’s there’s I was just having this conversation a little while ago about how in theatre, we can do we don’t need a huge budget, we can be low fi, and people will buy it. Yeah, right, people will suspend their disbelief in a theatre for a production in a way that they won’t for a movie, we can say, you know, the lights can go down, and we can throw up a blue light, and bingo, it’s night. But you know, people are like, roll their eyes, if a film does Day for Night shooting, and that sort of thing, like, we can get away with, with with so much in a low fi way in in theatre. So we don’t need like that huge budget, we can do a lot with a little. Um, now as far as like, because, you know, one of the big, the big questions and the things that that, you know, when we’re trying to be an entrepreneur, I imagine that a lot of people, when they start to think about themselves as entrepreneurs, is that they, they don’t know what they’re offering, as an entrepreneur. Like, I trained to be an actor all these years, and I’ve been practising being an actor all these years, how, what’s the service that I offer that people pay for? Right? And that’s, that’s got to be like, question number one, isn’t it?
Vikki Velenosi 26:15
Um, I would say, backtracking a tiny bit more, the way that I like to look at it. And sort of coach people to look at it is take one step back and make a list of every single community, that one you’re a part of, and to that matters to you. And that is an exhaustive list, like you could spend forever doing it. Because we are all every trait that we have. Every thing that we’ve seen everywhere that we’ve been everything that we’ve done, we have communities that are attached to us, there are going to be some, like, do I care about the, you know, community of people who are the same height as me? No, not like, in a mysterious way. But do I care about the community of people that live in my building? Yeah, I actually really do. Do I? Do I care about the community of people that live in the actual few square blocks where my building is? Actually I do? Do I care about Toronto? Do I care about the, you know, the people who have family members with addiction? Yes, I do. I do. I do. I care about people with addiction, the communities of people with addiction, because I have a family member who deals with that, yes, I do. So there’s all of these communities that we’re a part of just by living and being human and living our lives, and your, your gift, your what your, your product, you’re your product is your gift, your gift is your product, is your storytelling ability is your talent, and your and the fact that you care. So whatever you do with that, knowledge of what you care about, or what concerns you, or where you feel, like you have some lesson to teach, or some story to tell, or some, you know, something to contribute. That’s, that’s where you, that’s where you can go and it’s the nice thing about it is that it really is infinite, the options, as long as you’ve lived your life. Just that’s all you got to do live your life. And I, I think after that, then it becomes Okay. Now, what do you have? What do you want to give that community? What do they need? And I think, you know, this is another business tool that I’ve, you know, I think needs to be talked about more often in the arts world is the minimum viable product, and investing in testing, get your, whatever it is, get your one minute version, get your pitch, get your get anything out there created, and that’s minimum, and then test it with the, with the community that it’s for. And I, you know, all of this comes from a desire to, you know, if I think about if I just use my own exercise there that I did, like, what community do I care about, like I care about the performing arts community, I care about the community of actors who I see and know intimately are, do feel lost, feel defeated, feel like quitting feel like leaving the industry feel like it was all a waste or you know, all of the all of the stuff that comes from trying and not feeling like you’re getting anywhere in an industry all I care about those, I care about those people And I think I, by providing space, I have a very unique opportunity to see a large number of people come through over and over and over again over the years. And I see the pitfalls that happen and the pattern that happens between everybody who seems to try and one of the things is okay, here’s my show, I created it. It’s who’s it for? If you ask Who is it for the answers like, Toronto? Just because you’re here? Yeah. Like, yeah, and also Toronto doesn’t know how to care. It doesn’t like, unless it’s like a does know how to care if you’re, if you’re creating something for Toronto, like what’s worked before, like really serious, huge Toronto pride based stuff, like, I don’t know, if your Shakespeare play really hits that point. Like, there’s nothing wrong with it. But like, what? So I think starting from a community is so key to answering that question of like, what’s, what do I have to give? What do I have to offer? Like, really? Decide? What, which community am I creating for right now?
Phil Rickaby 31:18
Hmm. Which community do I care about? Yeah, those those questions, I think, are those ones that that, especially those those of us who sort of stumbled into self producing and things like that, and starting or starting or trying to figure out like, you know, if this is a business, what is the business and all of that stuff? Like? These are questions we never asked. Nobody ever taught us to ask, like, Who’s this for? Because we weren’t marketers, all this sort of stuff. And we have a hard time
Vikki Velenosi 31:47
Don’t worry about that. That’s not for you to know.
Phil Rickaby 31:49
No, no, but we have a hard time. Like saying things like, like, figuring out like, Who is this for? We’re like, it’s like, obviously everybody wants this, right?
Vikki Velenosi 31:58
Yeah, yeah. But you know what, it’s that’s the any entrepreneurial space, you go into that specifically for business owners. That is, that’s the first conversation I’ve had there, too. So it’s not an artist specific problem. It’s a human specific problem. There’s, there’s also a lot of like, really unhelpful information out there. Like, well, if you like it, then everyone – and that’s not that. Sometimes.
Phil Rickaby 32:27
I mean, sometimes I think I think that, in my mind, I think that I know where that comes from. It comes from the idea of, I know, I’ve seen on the internet, when people get when you’re telling a story that’s really personal. It can be so many people fall and be like, yes, exactly like that. But when you try to tell a story that’s universal, nobody relates to it. And I think you can fall into that, that trap of, Oh, well, if I like it, it’s you – then obviously, everybody else will like it. But it’s not the same thing. Yeah, cuz I like it is not a story. It’s not the story that I’m telling.
Vikki Velenosi 33:07
Well, the, the when people join the Facebook group, but they’re going to the Facebook groups called artists bosses. And what they’re what I’m giving people, when they join as a welcome gift is how to write a story in five minutes or less. And it’s a exercise that I use, I use in kids parties, actually. I use it with kids to help them tell stories at parties, because kids love to just make up stuff. And it’s a great imagination game and it’s fun. And they what they come up with is hilarious. So it’s fun for the parents, it’s great. And I use this exercise, and it’s you can take any story and put it into this format. and realise that all stories sort of follow this same idea. And it’s, I’m using this as like the first piece, the first resource that I’m giving anybody because in order to, you know, do so much of what’s required as an entrepreneur, knowing knowing that you actually do know stories is sort of step one. Like you know what a story you know, stories even even if you don’t think you do, even if you do you know how to you know so much of this stuff. Even if you don’t know all of the training that you ever see about social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, tik tok, it’s always about what is your brand’s story? What is your What is your individual story? What’s your brand is story marketing is story like we we are equipped to do this. as artists, we have all the right stuff. It’s just reformatting it and and and believing that you actually do have the ability
Phil Rickaby 35:00
Hmm. It’s kind of interesting thinking back to what you were saying is how in a lot of business organisation that business, business people, entrepreneurs, they are often trying to learn how to be artists, how to think outside the box and things like that. So in a way, if we could stretch our minds around it and stop telling ourselves that we can never be entrepreneur, we already have a lot of those tools. We know how to play and we know how to how to connect with ideas and, and things like that we just have to turn those tools towards ourself rather than stuff that somebody else wrote. Yeah. Now since the since the the pandemic has been going on, I’ve noticed you doing several different things like some clubhouse talks about how to how to you know, how to do Patreon and things like that. Is this was this also part of the your overall artists boss? idea? Or is that just sort of something on the side that you were that thought like, people should know this?
Vikki Velenosi 36:12
Right? Um, it’s, it’s definitely all part of the same idea. And I found out what clubhouse was, and I was like, Oh, my God, I, I’m not ready for anything, but I’m just gonna hop in and do this and just see what happens and this and if nothing else, I’m gonna learn a little, I’m gonna gain the confidence to be able to, to do this, you know, I’m gonna just hit the ground running, I just sort of saw, I don’t know, it was kind of like, I wasn’t ready to go anywhere. But the train was passing. And I was like, wow, I better get jumped on now. Because I’m so it’s all part of the same idea. But just a very, like test run in a test run way. For me just figuring out what do people talk about? What do people actually need? How far off am I about, you know, what I think people need? And I guess really, it’s, it’s a, it was a way of me quickly putting together a minimum viable product, and then testing it out through what it is I’m trying to do. And and so far, it’s been really beneficial and awesome. And it’s, you know, built its own little community there. And I think it’s just only going to be complimentary to what it is I’m doing with the, the Facebook community and whatever that goes to. I’m not like clubhouses, that is an interesting place. I don’t know, if you’ve spent much time there.
Phil Rickaby 37:33
I haven’t actually spent any time there. I sort of know the concept of it. But I haven’t I haven’t, I haven’t really played with it yet.
Vikki Velenosi 37:40
It’s it’s attracted a lot of business coaches, in varying capacities, consultants and coaches who will run rooms and have people join that, you know, it’s all audio and you can bring people up on to what they were calling the stage. And they can unmute themselves and ask questions. And there’s, you know, certain etiquette of like, only speak when, when talk to in some rooms and other rooms is just free for all. And it’s a lot of being pitched and sold to. And a lot of really, like, almost painfully awkward networking. Just people really, like hard pushing hard for like, that opportunity or that, you know, connection or that. So not all rooms are like that, but it’s full of a lot of that. So it’s, it’s, it’s not the most attractive place. Like I don’t think that in terms of what I do, I would like put all my eggs in that basket or anything, it’s insane. But it is a really neat way to connect with people that is kind of unparalleled, because you can just quickly have a conversation with whoever it’s like a matchmaking service, essentially, where you just randomly get to talk to people.
Phil Rickaby 39:05
Yeah. I mean, it’s been interesting, because there are so many tools that have come up during this pandemic and so many things. You know, just speaking about the resiliency and the creativity of people who make theatre people who two years ago told me that would have told me that I don’t know anything about technology now doing like, like, like zoom shows, and like learning technology and how to set up their own three cameras shot in their bedroom. Like that’s incredible stuff. So there’s there is a way we can think outside the box. And there’s so many tools that have that have popped up like clubhouse and other ones. They’re just not all good for what we’re doing.
Vikki Velenosi 39:48
Now, and you know, I think there’s really what’s interesting to me, and fascinating to me about being an entrepreneur. And our business owner is that when you don’t have anybody to, you know, answer to or anybody else who’s calling the shots or directing you or you know, without, without anybody else above, like telling you what you should be doing, you realise quickly how, or I realised quickly how the possibilities are really endless, like there actually is no wrong answer. There’s like, what works and what doesn’t. That’s it, for where you’re trying to go. And then along the way, while you’re trying to go there, what what didn’t work, you realise, oh, my God, actually, well, that totally, I never even would have thought of this. But this goes here, like, so it’s just such an interesting, never, never a dull moment. Like, experience. And I think a lot of artists, and, you know, performing artists specifically miss out on that, because that when they are getting a job, same thing, going back to that idea of like, when you are the employee, you’re asking for the permission you’re asking to be you’re applying, you’re getting chosen, you’re getting, you know, hired, you never get that full, creative control over what it is you’re doing. And even when you’re, you know, even when you’re self producing, I feel like people self impose their limitations into like, what the community is doing, or which industries doing or, you know, so it’s actually really reimagining yourself as a creative entrepreneur, it’s like really reimagining yourself as a, as someone with creative freedom, true creative freedom. And I think that’s, for me, as an artist, what I felt like I was missing before I started all of this is, I felt like I was missing that creative freedom. I felt, you know, stuck and stifled. So this is the most like as being an entrepreneur is the most creative I’ve ever had to be
Phil Rickaby 42:09
sort of sort of just a little bit ago, we were talking about about, you know, talking about Patreon ideas. And I think that that crowdfunding in general is something that performing artists and theatre makers have largely ignored or misused. And then because oftentimes, will, will start our Indiegogo or our, our Kickstarter, and we don’t get a lot of traction, except outside of our, from our friends. Because quite frankly, a lot of times, we don’t consider why people back these things. Sure, you know, we’ll start a Kickstarter. And to be quite honest, our the things that we’re offering as perks are really shitty, and things that nobody would really want. Outside of like our friends, yeah. And so we then abandoned crowdfunding, because we, it didn’t work for us at one time. And meanwhile, we’re completely misusing it and not thinking about how to make offerings that are attractive to people. So they will give us money to back the thing. We have to give them something that they want, we can’t just like, I remember what a campaign years ago that just enraged me because their whole thing was for for $10. We will thank you on on social media for $20 will thank you in our programme and on social media, and it was just like, No, those things you do anyway. Like, if you want the money, you have to give somebody something they want not like, we can’t treat it like the way that we can’t treat it like it’s charity.
Vikki Velenosi 43:54
Yeah, so one of the biggest and hardest mindset shifts that I am still on learning. And like, God, it’s one of those lessons that comes around to hit me over and over. And it’s like, every time it does, God dammit, you’re still here. And it’s, it’s this it’s the mindset of being, both for charity, and charity, as an artist. And that was, I was taught that, like, I, I remember, like I still like it’s it’s so much less now but just the thought of charging money. And I tell the story all the time of when I first started running space to separate people said to me, Well, that’s not really fair. You’re taking money from artists. And I think about that once a week, at least. They think, hmm, man. Yes. You’re completely completely right. And I’m trading money for something I’m offering that should then be able to give that person what they need. But there’s this without, without the mentality of, I need to get what I need in order to do what I’m trying to do. That transaction doesn’t work. And so I have, that’s one of the been one of the biggest obstacles in running a business for performing artists that I don’t have for entertaining kids and selling programmes and shows to you know, moms don’t have this problem, where I run into people who are just furious that I would charge $1 Yeah, they’re like, they feel like I’m holding them hostage. I have the emails from people saying that, it it’s absolutely unfair that I, I took advantage of them, because there’s so few spaces few spaces available in Toronto. Like, Holy moly.
Phil Rickaby 46:12
Yeah. It’s like, we it’s like, it’s like there’s there’s a complete Miss, like not understanding that we have to, like, if we don’t pay for a space, how does that space stay open?
Vikki Velenosi 46:22
Well, but I also I, I remind myself, like, I literally sent those emails before I started running space 100%. I sent them messages. And it wasn’t I wasn’t like, pissed, like, some people are. But I was like, you know, Hey, can you just lower the price for me, because I’m an artist, I’m like, but I’m an artist, though. I therefore am deserving of your charity. Because I’m the one doing charity, I am just but a mere charity, offering my art for barely nothing, I’m making no money. So therefore I am a charity. And I also have deserving of charity. And there’s this like, really weird cycle that I think is just unexamined. And and if you take a second, like you said, and say like, well, how who’s gonna pay for this space? If not, you know?
Phil Rickaby 47:15
What do you think that some of that comes from? You know, I remember having conversations years ago, with a collective I was working with and the subject of what do we charge for tickets came up. And a couple of people were like, well, we want to make it accessible to everybody. So we should charge $5. And it was like, No, we should charge 15, 15-20. But then what about the people who can’t afford it? Well, we have a pay what you can but what about, and I think that because we worry about people, quote unquote, being able to afford it. And that comes from the fact that we think that only our artists, friends will come to see it. We get stuck in that, like, Oh, I have to make it affordable. But you can price yourself out of an audience and not by raising your price. If your price is low, people will think that it’s not worth anything. Yep. And so I think that a lot of times we go in, and we’re think people are thinking, Oh, well, I’m not gonna make any money from this, because I’m only charging $5 a ticket. So obviously, I’m a charity. And I’m you should give me the space out of charity. And that’s, like, that’s wrong.
Vikki Velenosi 48:28
Yeah, Well, you know, just what you were talking about with that gofundme. And really, I think that’s, that’s sort of set us on this track of talking about it about this talk about this topic. People have success when they start something with their friends and family, because their friends and family care about the individual who’s doing the project. They don’t care about the project, right. But you’re asking people Hey, will you give some money? Because and I need you to prove that you care about this project? People will go Yeah, absolutely. But they don’t care about the project. They care about you. Yeah. And that gives you a false sense of security. When you’re doing a GoFundMe for the first time, or when you’ve watched other people do a GoFundMe is all people really, like really give money to this this project. Wow. Okay, why aren’t they giving money the second time, why aren’t they giving money the third time? Why is it dip instead of go up? It’s because people are wet. Because the perk that you’re giving what you’re offering in exchange are warm and fuzzies. For people who care about you. That’s right. That real thing,
Phil Rickaby 49:45
that first time, of course, our family gives us money because they care about us. But we can’t go to them every year and expect them to give us the same amount for every six months or however often we do it. We have that charity from them again, that word Do we have that charity from them once. And then after that it’s diminishing returns. And we have to actually start thinking about what to other people want. And we have to do our research and figure out what’s working in other GoFundMe, or, or or Indiegogo or things like that.
Vikki Velenosi 50:20
Well, like the promise of something that would be really valuable. And coming back to that idea of the creating something for the community. And, you know, I’m thinking of like, one of the things that I backed once was a collar for a dog that would give you like, their temperature and their heart rate, and it would ping you and your phone, if there was anything like health wise, and it was a GPS, it was all this stuff. And anyway, and never ended up getting made. But that’s not the point. The community that they were serving, were obviously pet parents over protected pet parents. And, you know, I’m there, and I am completely in that in that community. And I wanted that product, I was like, get this product to market now. fast as you can, I will give you money, if that means you can get it to me faster. And that what they’re selling is get it to me faster, please. Or get it to me at all. So there’s, that’s what they’re selling. And you’ve got, you know, there you will never catch any page like that. That’s like, we’ll give you a Thank you.
Phil Rickaby 51:27
Yes, yes, exactly. I think about the ones that I’ve backed. And I’ve backed them because of the perk, yes, maybe, you know, whatever I backed because of the perk, let’s take theatre and stuff like that off the table. I’ve backed projects, because I get a copy of it, or whatever I want what they’re offering. And on average, I’ve given them $50 now imagine if for a theatre project, we offer people things that they that they might really want, and people would be willing to give us $50 at a bare minimum. Like how quickly could we fund our project if we actually put that out there and and really figured out? What was something that people want?
Vikki Velenosi 52:12
I think this also I talked a lot about the importance of bartering, and importance of the name of importance, but like the real treasure that bartering well is. And this is something I was fortunate enough to learn from my dad, who is like the king of bartering. He has a guy for everything. He has a like and that and he networks through bartering. Like he doesn’t go to an event. He’s He’s a business owner, as well. But he doesn’t go to an event in order to meet the people. He wants to rub shoulders with he he networks as a byproduct of bartering. And it can be the like, the greatest tool you’ll ever find. And I started doing it with space just out of necessity because I didn’t have any capital funding or money to start with I didn’t have I didn’t invest. Like I invested maybe like $300 just like no big deal kind of thing. I mean, at least $300 just still big deal time. But it just you know pales in comparison by for like these capital projects where it’s like no, no $7 million to create this first, first project. But so many people will come to me as a space owner and attempt bartering. And the attempt goes like this. Hey, we’re brand new. We’re just starting out. Will you can you give us the space for you know, half of what you normally charge or, or or for free. We’d love to give you a shout out in our programme. And I’ve done this I’ve typed I’ve sent this email and I I cringe when I get it because I’m just reminded of when I sent it and just what I know now and I’m like, oh god, how embarrassing I sent this email so many times to different people. Because what this has done is it’s only thought about what you need and not what you actually can offer or what that other person needs. And and it’s just like checking a box on like some kind of like, producer template that they found on online or did some programme that was like your set of produce barter, ask for give them advertising space in your programme like but you just told me you’re brand new.
Phil Rickaby 54:49
Vikki Velenosi 54:51
In the same sentence you told me you’re brand new. Like if you know and also What What makes you think that my clients are going to be like, You haven’t told me who your people are? Yeah, Who’s coming? What’s your target audience? What’s your? It’s just?
Phil Rickaby 55:13
Yeah, no, no. And
Vikki Velenosi 55:15
when you see it, you see it right. And it’s obvious, but it’s, it’s tough. It’s tough to find it to know this stuff, especially when information is out there. And like, you know, I know I mentioned briefly like producer training, but when it’s like, you know, just offer them a space in your programme, because that works for Sol pepper. That works for salt, pepper for the restaurant next door.
Phil Rickaby 55:37
Yeah. I think I think about that all the time, the number of times that it’s like, yes, offer this space in the programme. And that’s fine. If you’re, like, you know, salt, pepper can do it. And, you know, companies that have been around for a while they can do it. But what is the value of that to you? When you you just said, we’re brand new? Yeah. We don’t even have an audience yet.
Vikki Velenosi 56:03
Yeah. So if you think in terms of like, you just, just just, I think the really the way to deal with this better is to just slow down a second and think, Okay, what do I need? I need rehearsal space. Okay. What do I have? If you have no audience? at all, you don’t even know who they’re going to be? You’re not sure you don’t have any certainty. You don’t have any numbers, you don’t have anything that you can like, prove that you know who you are. There’s nothing like that. What can you do? Everybody has a side hustle. Like, who has a skill here that’s marketable, that we can leverage, like, who can like, Can anybody build anything? Can anybody you know, any? Like any. I’ve never known an artist to not be multi talented and multi interested as well. And just if nothing else, you are capable of cleaning. badly, you can probably clean, you can probably you know, who needs cleaning? Yes, that question. Next? Who needs cleaning? Is there anybody we can cross reference that needs cleaning? And has space? Like? Are there restaurants that need their floor mop? Like, are there? You know, like who’s so you can be asking that question? And then there’s Okay, what are the? What are the reasons? They might say no, like, then you can think about that. Well, what about security? What about this? What about that, you know, who do we know that maybe trusts us a little more? Does anybody have like an uncle with a restaurant or like, like there? Or does anybody? Anybody belong to a church? Where they’re known and trusted? Like, yeah, really. And if you go back to like business terms, again, it’s like this is leveraging your goodwill. goodwill is a term that’s tossed around all the time that I think it’s just a case of, like so many other things we’ve talked about already. It’s just a case of the arts community, not having this language and not having a substitute for it. It doesn’t exist if you don’t have language for it. Not really, anyway, like, unless you have a way of describing it. It’s, it’s pretty hard to understand it. So yeah, the good the leveraging your goodwill and bartering that way. So before you send that email, like I will, I can, like maybe one time I’ve had somebody say to me, like, Hey, we really are. This is our budget. This is what we need. Hmm. I’ve noticed when I was there for an audition, the garbage was overflowing. Do you need any help? Taking out garbage? I actually live across the street. I live down the street, like, oh, my god, yes. But probably, what’s the obstacle there? I don’t I don’t know you. I don’t trust you to be in the space when I’m not there. So how do you get past that? Maybe we can rent from you a couple of times, you know, prove that we are a trustworthy group. And then could we explore further because we’re gonna come to you exclusively for our rehearsal process. Could we explore further a potential trade for space and or discount space and we will do the cleaning for you in the evening. Like, that’s an incredible gift. Because it’s something that I didn’t have to reach out for. I didn’t have to spend the time looking for but that was just presented to me as a great offer. I think we we missed the mark when we create offers that aren’t good for both groups and just hope the other person is dumb enough to take it.
Phil Rickaby 1:00:09
No, I think that that’s that’s sometimes the case is that we’re, though we would never say it out loud, we’re kind of hoping that will offer this shitty deal and the person will just like, jump out or you know what? charitably often when we’re starting out, we don’t know. enough to know that we don’t have an audience. Yes, yeah. We have because we haven’t thought about it. We haven’t. We are. We’re It’s our first time. Obviously, this is going to be a big hit. We’re all gonna be famous after right? Obviously, how can it go any other way? Doesn’t happen any other way in the movies? Oh, the movies? How they? laughs Yes. Yeah. So just as we start to finish off, where, where can we find the artists bosses community.
Vikki Velenosi 1:00:56
So it is a Facebook group that is currently as we speak now live, but you can search it on Facebook, you’ll be able to very shortly. So probably by the time anybody’s listening to this, it’ll be on the space space revolution website. The way to join. And you can also reach out to me, I feel like, you know, finding me on Instagram or finding space space revolution on Instagram, it’ll be it’ll be pretty prominent out there as long as you’re looking for me or space space revolution. So but yeah, artists bosses is the is the name of the Facebook group. And when you join, you get that exercise in how to create a story in five minutes or less. And yeah, that’s, I hope that anybody listening will come and join the community because I think that entrepreneurial skills even if you weren’t intending to be an entrepreneur in any fashion, or call yourself that they’re, they’re always so so helpful and so lacking in the educational spaces within the arts community performing arts community.
Phil Rickaby 1:02:11
Yeah, absolutely. Well, Vikki, thank you so much for talking with me today.
Vikki Velenosi 1:02:16
Yeah, thank you for having me.