Investing In Design Entrepreneurs

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Design is the fastest growing business sector in New York City. Now do they know how to sell? By Jennifer Markas (Founder, Damsels in Design)

We've heard it over and over again. Designers know next to nothing about business. Whether or not this is vast generalization, can we blame them? Their education is lacking. Institutions are not receiving enough support to teach designers practical business skills to take their careers to the next level.

In a survey conducted by Center for an Urban Future in New York City, 88% out of 300+ design professionals stated design schools do not provide significant opportunities to develop business and entrepreneurial skills.

However, design is the fastest growing business sector in New York City. The design industry adds thousands of jobs, college graduates, and startup companies each year. Twice as many students are graduating from design schools in NYC than in Los Angeles. How do we guarantee they'll be prepared for the workforce? Networking organizations, professional associations and design incubators have filled the gap where traditional education institutions have failed.

Damsels in Design, a cross-disciplinary networking community for women in design-related fields, was founded on the premise that creative professionals who are well-rounded have access to more opportunities.

It’s about making valuable connections across industries to drive business, employment and collaboration. Through workshops and lectures, Damsels in Design provides educational and professional opportunities to women that would not otherwise have the time, money or access. In addition, many non-profits are investing in designers.

Consider the Council of Fashion Designers of America. CFDA incubates a handful of aspiring fashion designers by providing them with low-cost design studio space, business skills, and a network of mentors to guide them along the way. By extending these opportunities to creative professionals they’re making it possible for them to learn self-sufficiency, to meet mentors, future employers, investors and collaborators.

Traditional entrepreneurs understand business processes - how to write a business plan, how to pitch to investors. Designers know how to design. How to sell is another issue.

It's about time design schools across the nation invest in their students. If that means making business courses a requirement for all students instead of those that major in it, so be it. The students might whine and groan, but the universities will be doing them a bigger disservice if they continue to treat design and business as two separate studies.

Another solution could be for design schools to collaborate with the organizations that are already providing designers a platform for entrepreneurship. It's a win-win for all stakeholders.

In order to bridge the gap between design and business, Damsels in Design is offering an 8-week business plan writing workshop for creative professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs. Men and women, members and non-members are welcome to attend. For more information, click here.

Women 2.0 readers: Do you consider yourself a design entrepreneur? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo credit: Amy Lee. About the guest blogger: Jennifer Markas is the Founder of Damsels in Design, the premier cross-disciplinary networking organization for women in design. Each month she hosts private tours, networking mixers, lectures and workshops in NYC to educate and empower her members. Jennifer is passionate about supporting young professionals in the design industry and serves as a connector, recruiter, coach and consultant in New York City. She is a graduate from Boston University and Parsons School of Design.