Olivia Jones is the founder of Art Seed, a development and marketing strategy consultancy working with small-medium not-for-profits in New York City. Find out how her grit and passion for the arts scene in New York were instrumental in the startup success of Art Seed. Olivia emphasizes the importance of understanding how cultural drivers influence a client’s approach to business.
Are you starting a business and want to know more about business-related cultural awareness in the USA?
Join Belinda Jackson, of Prosell International and Working in the USA on Monday Feb 25, 2019 at The Liberty NYC for “Starting a Business in the USA” workshop. Aussie-born Belinda has been living and working in New York for over a decade and has provided advice to many Aussies who have made the move to the States. Belinda will be joined by a panel of business owners, including Olivia Jones, who will share their New York stories.
What is Art Seed and what inspired you to come to the USA?
I came to the States five years ago and had no idea what I was getting myself into! Since then I have worked in San Francisco and New York, on and off-Broadway and with some of the world’s biggest corporate brands, from American Airlines to Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Drawing on my own success connecting the arts with corporate brands, Art Seed creates tailored sponsorship packages that not only seamlessly integrate the sponsor’s brand with the artist’s, but also include one-of-a-kind experiences that the sponsor’s clients, executives and employees will find nowhere else, such as artist talks and private dinners with the creatives behind the shows we represent.
This work is a lot of fun! The arts scene in New York has an incredibly vibrant energy. There is something for everyone here, in every genre. I am passionate about the arts and I love working with corporate brands in interesting ways to create opportunities and support great art at the highest level in this amazing city.
What has been your ‘A-Ha’ or ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment?
We were still waiting for our furniture to ship from San Francisco when I started working with one of the biggest non-profit theater producers on Broadway. I think the experience of sleeping on a blow-up mattress in an empty apartment in Chelsea was a very typical entree experience to New York!
During that time one of the senior directors at my company suggested I host the Swiss CEO of our lead Opening Night sponsor. I would be hosting them on the red carpet and introduce their guests to the show stars and to the Executive Producers at my company.
I remember thinking, “Do they know I’ve never actually been to a Broadway Opening Night before, let alone a press red carpet?!” But I found my way! At the end of the night our Executive Producer whispered to me that the sponsors were very happy and well done.
It was a defining moment because it felt like I was where I was meant to be. Even though I still felt very much like the small-town girl from country Victoria, I realized that almost everyone in New York is from somewhere else! And that I had the grit and knowledge to make it here.
Oh, and I also met Clive Owen on the red carpet that night too, and introduced him to our sponsors and their guests. So that was fun!
What have been the hardest lessons to learn starting a business in New York and how does it differ to Australia?
One thing I’ve learned about breaking in to any new culture is that it takes a while to understand how people do things. How they network. What they expect from you. How they operate culturally.
Art Seed recently started working with Aussie and international artists coming to NYC to present their work so that has been an interesting focus for the work we do.
It’s a good idea to have a few local contacts before hitting the ground, and that, by the way, is a great benefit of working with a consultant like Art Seed!
In New York, relationships run very deep. A face-to-face coffee and a phone call is worth a thousand emails. Once you have established those relationships, I think New Yorkers are a little more open to the “new” than we are in Australia, so it can be easier to break in – as long as you’re prepared to work!
Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?
Face-to-face! Coffee dates. Meetings. Post-show events. Networking events.
Art Seed’s product is B2B, so building relationships is key to gaining trust and demonstrating we can deliver on our client’s objectives. We have developed a reputation for getting great results for our artists and for the sponsors we work with. So word-of-mouth marketing has been very important for us.
I love the work we do, and I’m so proud of our success, so I think that comes across in our networking and in our reputation.
Do you have any mentors, and how open have people been with sharing information and their networks?
I have met some amazing women who made it in the Broadway and the off-Broadway theater industry here when it was very tough, and want to pass on what they know.
New Yorkers are incredibly generous and willing to share what they know. Like I said, Australians have a reputation for working hard and that goes a long way in New York. Once you make those base connections I think it starts to fall into place!
Before I came to the States I gained my start in the gorgeous Australian Ballet Philanthropy team headed by Kenneth Watkins. That company is like a family. It was there that I learned so much of what I know, particularly that the art is at the center of what we do. I still receive a lot of guidance from my former colleagues and mentors there, whenever we are in the same hemisphere!
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?
You have to learn to take rejection on the chin and keep working towards your goals or be flexible and pivot if you need to.
What I love is that I can work anywhere, all over the city. Some days I’m in my office. Other days, I’m at Bluestone Lane. Other days I’m in the theater working from my laptop backstage or in house seats.
Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?
Australia produces amazing theater technicians and world-class artists, who are very down-to-earth and personable. We work at the highest standards of excellence, so our work is highly regarded in New York.
Bringing this work to US audiences, and creating partnerships that benefit both the artists and the brands we work with, is such a great privilege. I think that work-ethic and high standard is the very Australian ingredient that is Art Seed’s special sauce.
What is next for your company?
I love hearing from companies interested in placing their brand in front of the uniquely loyal theater audiences at the city’s most interesting and exciting theater companies.
In 2019 we will again be working at The Public Theater on the Australian/Malaysian production of Made in America. One of the world’s great theater institutions, The Public always brings a sell-out audience and I am so excited for what we can do to integrate our sponsors’ brands in that space. And host experiential opportunities for our supporters with our gorgeous Aussie and Malaysian artists behind this show
What if people want to experience Art Seed for themselves?
Look out for a special AWNY event with our artists during the previews of Made in America at The Public in May. We can’t wait to see a big AWNY audience there!
Connect with Art Seed projects:
All images courtesy of Olivia Jones of Art Seed Consulting
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