Categorized | Shoestring Startup

MIddle Aged Trapeze Act

MIddle Aged Trapeze ActName of your company and URL?

The Haggus Society

Date started?

We conceived it in August of 2010 but officially started on Halloween 2010.

What is your product or service?

Essentially we are an organization of artists who believe people over 40 are not invisible. Operating as a non-profit arts collective serving female artists, specifically, the re-emerging or re-igniting arts career. The services provided include mentorship from other established arts professionals; peer review and critique; marketing and business services; educational webinars, seminars; networking and opportunity to participate in organizational events and exhibitions; and finally social support.

Within the coming year we will also have what is termed earned income via educational products such as books, CDs and DVDs. Not to mention, official Haggus Society products such as shirts, jewelry, pajamas, hats, and maybe even footwear.

Our primary product, however, is the art itself. We truly endeavor to open up markets for our members, regardless of their goals. Meaning that some artists want to work commercially, some have goals of being collected at the gallery level and some have objectives of actually being acquired by public institutions such as museums.

Why did you start your company?

After a year of doing research into arts funding for individual artists, it was discovered that there is essentially no institutional support for the older female artist returning to an arts career. There is a perception that the youth have all the edge and most to say. We find this to be to the contrary of what we are encountering within our membership. The older female does indeed have “edge” and takes far more risk in sharing her message or perspective. It’s as if we have reached a place in life and perhaps even business where it doesn’t matter that everyone approve, what needs to be said, needs to be said.

Because of what our research revealed, we saw an opportunity to develop a market, fill a need and make a cultural difference. It was up to us to give our sisters a voice.

How was it financed ?

Essentially out of pocket for several hundred dollars. Literally a few bucks here, a few bucks there. We bought a domain name, used web forwarding to a word press blog.Purchased an email package wtih the domain. Then we bought our DBA and business license. And we created business cards to use as our first piece of marketing collateral.

After developing an annual operating budget we applied for fiscal sponsorship under the auspices of Fractured Atlas. This was important because while we aren’t yet a 501(c)3 yet, we do need to be able to raise funds and operate as a non-profit art collective. Fractured Atlas provides us this opportunity. Fiscal sponsorship is not free but the membership –with a host of programs and training– is affordable for a small organization –approximately 20 dollars per month.

The other advantage to this relationship is that it gives us credibility within the funding community as well as with potential donors, members, and sponsors.

Date officially launched?

The “official” date would most likely be the date we got our fiscal sponsorship and started taking donations and submission fees for our calls for art, which was July 10 of this year.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

Word Press for our “site”; social media; other art mentor blogs; various online call for art services; various marketing and advertising mentor newsletters. We consume as much about marketing, branding and advertising practices as we do about what’s happening in the art world. These do go hand in hand, contrary to the popular myth about artists only wanting to make art.

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ?

We love social media! You can find us here:

Provide exact URL of each

Youtube watch video URL?

Currently we’re using this channel on youtube:


We’ve posted several projects there including a kickstarter video we produced.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

There are currently five core members who do the bulk of the legwork. Three are board members. No one is paid for full time work, but we are working on building revenue for per project stipends.

The number of people on a given project varies by the size of the event and exhibition. For instance we are having our first benefit and exhibition in October. It’s estimated that we will have 13 people –3 jurors, 2 curators, 5 to install the exhibition, 3 gallery sitters or docents, all of which will be in-kind. Additional contractors under consideration are a live music act, catering. For larger events and festivals this number could easily treble.

What is the best advice you never got?

“Yes, you can.” Plan well, write it down! Commit to take small steps every day and don’t ever give up.

What almost killed your business in the start?

Social approval, aka, fear. Listening to other’s fears about whether or not you can pull it off is a project killer. Understanding that resistance is a sign of doing something right is always key. Don’t buy into the fear others project upon you. When they do this it’s more about them and the change in your relationship with them because of your new venture. Reassure them and stick to your plan.

What is the one thing that you did right?

We saw a real need, filled it, and created a message that resonates with our growing membership.

We were also given and took good advice, “Finish what you start.”

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

Learning how to fly without a net. We tossed out the belief system that security was good for us. Instead we embraced the concept that there is no security at all. This gives us the edge and courage to go out and be audacious with our vision and delivery of services and goods, every single day.

Are you currently in the black or red?

We say “black and blue.” Only because some days are grueling. But seriously, we’re in the red. Our projection is to turn the corner within the next year and a half.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

Word of mouth is still the best. We use social media, advertise on facebook and other internet channels. We also are doing massive p.r. through articles on blogs, magazines, websites with a focus on our female creative audacity. We also have a kickstarter project in the mix.

We often barter services with people who have large “megaphones” to coin a bad metaphor. Our business plan and budget have line items for conventional media (print, radio) as well as electronic media. We believe our plan must include multiple channels of communication to be effective. And believe it or not many of our older membership doesn’t engage in social media.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Increased membership and participants in our programming; two years of successful programming under our belts; corporate sponsors and donors; and the infusion of grants. All of which is a step by step process requiring patience and planning.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

Because we are non-profit, we feel that a larger company or organization would dilute our message. Our objective isn’t to run the organization forever. It’s really our legacy and to that end, we’d like to step down when the time is right and hand reigns over to the next generation of “Hags.” Of course, we might stay on in an advisory board capacity to be certain that the vision and goals of the group remain strong. But to sell it or to be acquired is not in our vision or mission.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be?

We have a projection of 100,000 dollars for year one. Whether we make this or not remains to be seen. But here’s what we’ve learned in other projects before this –plan the details, and ask big. Otherwise you lock into the mentality of no profit in non-profit. We’ve seen this all too often, non-profit art collectives buying into the impoverishment mentality of starving artist and no money in non-profit. We have seen different and we will prove different.

How long do you think it will take you to get to your projected annual revenue?

Most likely 2 to 3 years. But the way the trajectory is heading, who knows? It could be sooner.

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