Catherine T. Morris is the founder and Creative Executive Director of the Boston Art & Music Soul Collective (BAMSC), an arts and cultural organization comprised of entrepreneurs who come together to create and support programs that promote music, art, and culture to and from communities of color. In this role, she is heading up the inaugural Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest), slated to occur in June 2018. This event will incorporate technology, art, film, performances, and panel discussion to create a highly engaging environment of culture exchange, and intended to instill hope, connection, and collaboration between communities. Learn more about BAMSC and BAMS Fest at www.bamsfest.com.
What motivated you to start your business?
Active listening and natural curiosity are the matches that lit the flames to my motivation in starting my business. As a child, I watched and listened to my parents, and neighborhood elders reminisce on how community concerts and televised music shows gave them life, empowered them to make change, helped them heal from personal adversity and re-connected them with friends and family. However, I noticed that those community-based, cultural institutions and events had declined over time due in part to gentrification, low neighborhood morale, and lack of funding for smaller (but effective) nonprofit organizations and businesses, who strive to support the arts and music. For me, I saw a challenging opportunity to revitalize the spirit of communities color across Greater Boston. This meant creating an annual festival that reflected the past, present and future. For me, I am the challenging opportunity to create a business that supported local artists in their creative and professional development through showcases, conferences, and workshops.
What is the greatest barrier you faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?
The greatest barrier has been securing funding/investments to launch and grow my business. Even with great credit and timely payments to help build my value, some people are reluctant to take a risk on a new venture in a niche market. However, I have been fortunate to build good will and develop partnerships with small businesses, nonprofit organizations and community organizers who provide services, meeting space and event venues at a low to no cost.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
I have mentors for different experiences that an entrepreneur faces. When I contemplate personal decisions or need reaffirmation that I am a capable, intelligent, and fierce businesswoman, my family serves as my pep talk mentors. When I need advice on business decisions or resources, I call upon my former professors and affinity groups as my strategic planning mentors.
Overall, I find my mentors through conversation with colleagues who share the same struggles as an entrepreneur. Our language, trials and tribulations are familiar but different.
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
Listen to your intuition, be patient, hire slowly, do not self-fund for long-term projects and understand the political landscape in which your business operates.
What resources have been most helpful to you?
Free webinars on business and arts-related subject matters have been most helpful to my personal and professional development. I am able to connect with professionals from around the world online, learn different strategies and ask questions, so that I do not fall into a groupthink mind set.
What does success look like for you?
Success is partly dependent upon persistence, thus success means hiring a good team that aims to be great through creativity, accountability, leadership and active community engagement.
What do you do to recharge?
I recharge by cooking with my family, writing in my journal, traveling to local restaurants and watching a great movie.
What’s your advice for a woman that’s considering starting her own business?
Be prepared to sacrifice something or someone in order to start your business. The sacrifices you offer come with a cost of emotion, recreation, relationships, time and (sometimes) personal finance. Surround yourself with family, friends and colleagues that can support your growth and development through the good and bad times.
Become comfortable with knowing and effectively communicating your numbers (financials, statistics, percentages, etc.), and know what your plan is to become profitable and sustainable.
During the month of May, National Women’s Business Council will be profiling young women entrepreneurs—many of whom are still students. Visit the NWBC Blog every Tuesday of the month to learn more about these inspiring women.