Pictured: Steven Karpenko (back row, centre) with Launchpad's Creative Entrepreneurship Program class, May 2017.
As Artscape's newest program facilitator, Steven Karpenko has been earning his Launchpad stripes in rapid succession. In March he led the Creative Business Design Workshop, and the Creative Entrepreneurship Program, and is scheduled to facilitate more of the same in June. Before he ventures into the classroom, we caught up with Steven to reflect on the entrepreneurial journey, including his own experiences, and to discuss his advice for aspiring creative entrepreneurs.
When did you first realize your aptitude for entrepreneurship?
I got my first taste of being an entrepreneur in 1994 after about ten years in the corporate world, with a digital publishing startup called Betacorp Technologies. One of my first products was an educational CD-ROM (precursor to DVD) about NASA and the space program that we brought to market and were really successful with. I never really looked back from there.
With entrepreneurship, challenges come with the territory. How do you keep going during tough times?
The entrepreneurial spirit is to persist when faced with challenges. Success is often lurking around the corner, but sometimes we can't yet see the resources to make it happen. Taking time for reflection and building new connections helps inspire creative solutions to turn around the situation.
Transitioning from business to teaching sounds like a major change of pace. What motivated you to make the change?
As an undergraduate business student I thought it would be very rewarding to teach in a business program and give back to students. About 22 years later the opportunity presented itself and I took it. I was able to blend teaching entrepreneurship with working at the Business Development Bank of Canada as a Program Director, and starting my own businesses. Everything I did complemented the other stuff so it never really seemed like work.
As a former football player, we can't help but wonder: what draws you to art and design? Do you have any hidden creative talents of your own?
To me, playing sports at a high level is a form of art. To be competitive requires mind-body connection and applying training techniques in a creative way to maximize results. It’s like bringing sculpture to life! I enjoyed acting in student plays in University and have played blues guitar for many years. More recently I have taken up dancing with my fiancee and have a regular yoga practice.
What drew you to Artscape's Creative Entrepreneurship Program?
What attracted me to Artscape is the opportunity to train artists in business skills and create a more self-sustaining artist community. This has the effect of increasing both the cultural and economic impact of the arts in Toronto.
How has your background in health and wellness equipped you to work with artists and designers?
My sport and fitness background, combined with my life coaching and mindfulness training, helps me stay grounded and inspired to better connect with our creative students. Teaching entrepreneurial skills includes teaching about resiliency and focus, which helps them manage stress and thrive in life.
Do the participants in the program ever play the teacher to YOU?
Of course! Everyone has different experiences and as Facilitator my role is to create an environment where we can share and learn from each other. In the "Google age" topical information is only the backdrop. Our classroom becomes a place where we use practical exercises to bring out the experiences, and then strategize about how best to implement them in a successful business model.
What's next in store for you as an entrepreneur and as an educator?
My commitment right now is to Artscape's Launchpad programs and to help grow it into the leader in Creative Entrepreneurship Education. I continue to hone my craft as an educator to help bring out the best in our Workshop participants by teaching, life coaching, working with entrepreneurs and through continuing education.
What advice would you give others who want to grow their passion into a sustainable business?
There are so many variables in growing a business but the main things are to seek out advice wherever it is available and to establish some sort of work-life integration, so that the business doesn’t cause burnout.
Any helpful resources to share with entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Here at Launchpad, we have support for students to develop their networks, meet new friends and mentors, and experience a sense of community. We bring together creative entrepreneurs and resources to form a peer group and learn together from experts in the field.
Steven Karpenko is an educator, coach, and advisor to businesses of all sizes in the areas of management performance and leadership. Steven was a Coach and business mentor for six years at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), working with hundreds of companies across Canada. In his ten years as a Senior Instructor at Bishop’s University, Steven was a national award-winning lecturer in entrepreneurship and management. He is the author of the eBook, “From Gloom to Zoom, Regaining Control of Your Business and Building a Winning Life.” (published 2015). Steven's latest business venture is Athlete Next, a life coaching program to support elite athletes and performers in transition.
Artscape offers the only full suite of business programs developed specifically for artists and designers. Our hands-on workshops and courses give you the skills, resources and support to start or expand a creative business of your own. Learn more about Artscape's signature Launchpad Programs here.