Tag Archives: TESCO

Tips for Business Start Ups: when should your hobby not become your business?

Colin has been a long time gardening hobbyist; he has dabbled in potted plants, sells the odd apple (and when I say odd, I mean odd strange, not odd occasional), designs all manner of green houses which sit in a Tesco bag under his bed and over the years has built a useful income for himself selling a disparate variety of plants, fruit and vegetables all from the comfort of his ramshackle garden shed. It’s been a labour of love for him and has been a hobby which has eaten up most of his time and not a small part of his income. If he were to do a cost benefit analysis he would probably demonstrate to himself that he was losing money hand over fist by the day, but that’s not important: he loves it, and it loves him and every one in the garden is happy.

Unhappily though, Colin has been persuaded that his hobby could become a significant business opportunity. Someone’s whispered in his ears too many times that if he could write a business plan, that if he should have an accountant, that he would then be driving a company car – all on the proceeds from the activity in his garden shed. He’s now staring at that run down shed and wishing it were more than it is: thinking it could do with a coat of paint, that it needs a receptionist and thinking, isn’t it about time he got serious with a brass plaque just under the window so that others down the allotment knew that he’s now a bona fide horticulturalist?

Colin unfortunately is so woven into his hobby that no amount of business cards, plans or acumen is going to convert this activity from a much loved hobby to a rational, calculated business. He loves it too much: he knows so much about the intricacies of his potted plants, their soil demands and how the sun shines at a particular angle on a Tuesday afternoon that he’s unable to distance himself from the nitty gritty of his garden and recognise that whilst some of the plot has business potential – much of it doesn’t. Some of the shed needs knocking down and rebuilding on the roadside; some of the ground needs concreting over, rather than left as an unending sprawl of wild flowers, interesting herbs and strange tendrils that no-one knows what they’re called, where they come from and where they’re going (aka weeds to the rest of us).

Colin’s hobby is just that – a beautiful, varied and delightful way of passing the time of day and bathing in the sunshine. It’s not – and won’t be with Colin in charge – a business. And neither should it be. The difficulty for Colin is to recognise this, step back from dressing up in suits and put back his garden gloves and continue to love what he does, has done, and will do for the rest of his days.

Loving your hobby is one thing: but you can love it too much for it to become your business.

The TESCO model of cultural development: partnering up on an unlevel cultural playing fields

Many public sector organisations working in the cultural sector like to present themselves not only as funders but also as partners. The notion of quite what they mean by partnership varies wildly. Clearly, they have every right to be concerned and interested in how public funding is used – but this has always been the case with any public sector funder in the past. The difference with these funder-partners is not only that they are concerned that the funding is used appropriately, but they also see themselves as having a hand in the messy business of production and delivery.

Not content with planning regional strategy and building cultural infrastructure (whatever that is – no amount of centralised planning is going to make the cultural sector resemble the national highways or sewage system), they have been busy redesigning themselves as quasi-production companies; and given the resources they have access to, are quite capable of blowing any other production company out of the water at the mere nod of a local apparatchik.

Whether or not those funder-partners have any skill in production or delivery of those projects is not the point. Their muscling into the day to day activities of specialised organisations whose life blood depends on cultural production distorts the sector so much that any longer term sustainability of those organisations becomes even more of a guessing game than it usually is.

This would be less problematic if those quasi production companies managed to reinvest their skills and resources into the wider ecology and if their protestations of partnership were driven by the five principles of partnership working.

But the frequent fact is that they’re not: they’re driven by the energies of ego, personal glorification and political arrogance. All the qualities that made Tesco the force it has become; and as they say, Every Little Helps (their own bank balance, survivability and cultural domination).