An Artist’s Passion is at the Heart of Innovation

An interview with Stephanie Chin, Entrepreneurship Evangelist at Maryland Institute College of Art

An Artist’s Passion is at the Heart of Innovation

An Artist’s Passion is at the Heart of Innovation 4032 3024 Hutchison Law

What is different about the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) UP/Start program relative to other entrepreneurship competitions? Student-artists are the difference. In this interview with Stephanie Chin, Assistant Director of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Evangelist at Maryland Institute College of Art, we learn about the MICA UP/Start program and how student-artists use their entrepreneurial spirit to benefit Baltimore.

The MICA UP/Start Venture Competition is like other entrepreneurship competitions in three respects: (1) the program hosts an initial competition to select winners; (2) business mentors coach the selected winners on business process planning; and (3) the selected winners compete for money prizes. Unique aspects of the UP/Start program reflect the MICA mission: EMPOWER students to forge creative, purposeful lives and careers in a diverse and changing world. THRIVE with Baltimore. MAKE the world we imagine.

EMPOWER students to forge creative, purposeful lives and careers in a diverse and changing world. The UP/Start program shines a light on a frequently overlooked population of entrepreneurs – Artists. Ms. Chin explains that the “entrepreneurial spirit is high amongst creative people.” Artists must “think on their feet, push boundaries, [and] be innovative.” Entrepreneurial spirit is not the same as business acumen. For many participants, the UP/Start program is their first exposure to business training or an accelerator process, and student-artists experience a “steep learning curve.” That said, the learning environment is safe: student-artists compete for grant funds rather than investments, which reduces the pressure for an immediate return. And, regardless of the outcome, “there are still entrepreneurial concepts that they can take away.” Ms. Chin sums it up: “People may not think of [student-artists] initially as entrepreneurs or businesspeople, but they certainly are and they can excel at it.”

THRIVE with Baltimore. Baltimore draws student-artists to MICA, yet student-artists may exist in a “MICA bubble,” staying on campus rather than exploring the city. The UP/Start program bursts the bubble: local business professionals mentor student-artists, and student-artists collaborate with local businesses, community members, and other artists to address community issues. Ms. Chin sees the UP/Start program as “putting together different pockets of people that might typically never really intersect.” The UP/Start program “acts as a bridge that can kind of help connect [student-artists] to those industry people, to the community members that they need to move forward with their idea.” The UP/Start program further engages the community, as it opens the initial and final competitions to the community. Indeed, attendees pick one of the select winners of the initial competition as the People’s Choice Award. Student-artists step off-campus, and the Baltimore community steps on campus, which benefits both the student-artists and Baltimore.

MAKE the world we imagine. Passion drives student-artists. Ms. Chin explains that the student-artists are “doing this out of a place of passion: they want to create change, make a lasting impact, want to create a sustainable career path for themselves.” Ken Malone, a Principal with Early Charm Ventures, LLC and a mentor with the MICA Up/Start program, extols this passion as a business advantage. “MICA students have a really strong ability to sell themselves.” They have extensive experience promoting themselves as artists while promoting their artwork to family, friends, and educators. “The passion that these kids have for what they are doing really comes out when they are talking about it.” The mentor role, Ken suggests, is to coach UP/Start participants to leverage these pitch-type skills “as they go through the program and start to understand the business planning process.” The result: business savvy innovators leading passion driven innovations.

The MICA UP/Start program stays true to the MICA mission. The program challenges student-artists to view themselves as community-oriented business owners, while it maintains a nurturing, education-oriented environment. Success is defined by the success of the student-artists, rather than the success of an investor.

I want to thank Stephanie Chin for sharing information about the MICA UP/Start program. To learn more about the UP/Start program and recent UP/Start winners, please visit ( I also want to thank Ken Malone of Early Charm Ventures. LLC. To learn more about Early Charm Ventures, LLC, please visit (


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