When designer Stacie Woolsey first started looking into a Master's program, she was quoted an unaffordable amount to study and live in London. So, she proposed an experiment: could she work on live industry briefs with artists and designers in the field, just to learn about what they did? Stacie's story of reaching out to industry professionals quickly spread in the design community – that's how her creative education program, Make Your Own Masters, came about. In January last year, she brought on her first cohort of 11 creatives to follow the same formula of crafting their own education alongside industry professionals.
Financial inaccessibility is still a huge issue in the higher-education space. MBAs can set people back five or six figures, and they're usually only available to people with some prior knowledge of business or management. That not only excludes creative entrepreneurs, but also widens the knowledge gap between them and other business owners. So, creatives are starting to take matters into their own hands.
A new formula
Carolyn Dailey had worked in the creative industry for 20 years, and it was only when she started her own business that she noticed that knowledge deficit. ‘We all had a lack of business training and networks, which made everything a struggle.’ That led her to launch Creative Entrepreneurs, an online membership-based platform that tailors business concepts to creative people. Today, the platform attracts people in a number of creative sectors, including architecture, film and video games.
And there's an even larger gap in newer creative spaces, like content creation, influencing and podcasting, according to Ranbir Arora, CEO and co-founder of Dorm, which pairs aspiring business owners with established entrepreneurs. ‘You can best learn from an experienced entrepreneur when you are in the trenches with them as real partners of a project,’ Ranbir says. ‘This is where you can really see first hand how they tackle deep operational issues [and] how they keep calm under pressure.’ What's unique about Dorm is that the entrepreneurs are rewarded with equity or a share of revenue if the business they're mentoring is successful.
The accessibility question
A lot of these alternative education providers are offering their services at a fraction of the price of traditional universities. A membership to Creative Entrepreneurs – which has a rich library of on-demand educational content and events – will only cost £30 a month or £300 on a yearly plan. Berlin-based d.MBA costs just shy of €3,000 for a six-week business course that's tailored for designers – a far cry from the six-figure price tags of one- or two-year MBAs offered by universities. Prospective d.MBA students can even gauge whether the course is right for them before applying, by opting for a free seven-day trial that's delivered over email.
Accessibility isn't just about lowering prices, says d.MBA founder Alen Faljic. How a course is structured also has to be fundamentally different for creative professionals. ‘Having small groups of 30 people per cohort means that they can all hold each other accountable.’ Adding a community-based element to education also increases the likelihood that people will see the whole course through. That's why d.MBA completion rates are at 97%, while for most online courses, only 5% to 10% of learners finish the program. Alen and his team are already finding that they have lots more designers applying than they can serve. ‘More people are starting to realize that not having this knowledge is keeping them from growing in their careers.’