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WORTH Partnership Project
News article2 July 2018European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency6 min read



This week, WORTH had the opportunity to interview the inspiring creative business adviser, trainer and management consultant David Parrish. David has dedicated his career to creative business around the world with his highly-acclaimed keynote speeches, training workshops, management consultancy advice and books. He provides creative entrepreneurs with advice and assistance that he has learned through his own personal experiences within the creative industry and through his own research and studies.

We wanted to learn more about his personal experiences in the creative industry and what advice he has for past and also future WORTH Partnership Project participants through our interview with him.

Your work is dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs grow and establish creative businesses, why is this important to you and the industry?

Helping people to set up and grow their creative enterprises is my mission, my passion and my profession. The creative industries is nothing without individual creative entrepreneurs and their businesses, so if we want the creative sector to grow internationally, we have to focus on helping these people and their enterprises, on the ground, at the grassroots. Very often their main passion is creativity, in designer fashion for example, but usually these creative entrepreneurs don’t have a background in business, or training in business matters such as marketing, finance, intellectual property and leadership. That’s where I come in. I was once in the same position as them but over the years I have learnt a lot about business, mainly from my own direct experience but also from going to business school, from reading hundreds of books, and from working with successful creative businesses in more than 50 countries around the world. It’s a real pleasure to share my expertise to help creative entrepreneurs to combine their talents with smart business thinking so that they become even more successful.

What initially drew you to the creative industry and what does creativity mean to you?

My first business, when I was in my early 20s, was in the creative industries (even though we didn’t use the term ‘creative industries’ back then!). Along with friends, I set up a community bookshop in my home town, which was a cultural project as much as a business. Our motivations were creative as well as financial, so I understand creative people who have the same mindset when they set up their enterprises in fashion, design, etc. I then worked in book publishing and later in international marketing and book distribution for small independent publishers. So my background was in what is now called the creative industries.

For me, the word ‘creativity’ has two meanings. I gave a talk at TEDx Napoli about two definitions of creativity: “a-Creativity” and “i-Creativity”. Usually people use the word creativity to mean some kind of artistic creativity (“a-Creativity”), for example in music, literature, dance, film, design etc. Of course this is valid and is the meaning within the term “creative industries”. However there is also a wider kind of creativity, that people use every day, which you might call ingenuity, problem solving, or ‘thinking outside the box’. I call this kind of creativity “i-Creativity” and we can find it in all fields of human endeavour including education, manufacturing, agriculture, finance and healthcare. (There is an article and video of my TEDx talk on my website here)

You were quoted to have said “Crucially, it is not a compromise between creativity and business – it’s a matter of getting the best of both worlds.”, what would be your personal advise to ensure this?

Often, people think they have to choose between creativity and business, as if it’s a binary choice, one or the other. Then they think that they can either be a “starving artist” or they have to “sell out” to achieve commercial success. We don’t have to starve! We don’t have to sell out! In fact, if we design our creative businesses in a smart way, we can work to our highest level of creativity AND achieve commercial success. Using smart business thinking we can devise a strategy that focuses on our creative passion, our competitive advantage and dealing only with the right kinds of customers. It’s what I call your unique ‘Business Formula’ and my article (in several languages) about it is online here. My personal advice is to spend some time in the office working ‘on’ the business, thinking about your own definition of success and using creativity to design your business; then combine this with spending time in the studio working ‘in’ the business.

WORTH is about creating partnerships, in your opinion, what are the partnership values that every professional involved in the creative industry must consider and how can WORTH support these professionals with them?

We can learn so much from each other and one of the things I do is to help creative entrepreneurs to network with each other, online and in person. We can share our business experience with other creative entrepreneurs in other sectors of the creative industries, and in other countries, and we can learn a lot from them too. At the same time, we have to look for learning opportunities and partnerships outside the creative industries. We can learn so much from other industries then apply their cool ideas to our own businesses, with some creative adaptations. Also, successful creative enterprises partner with other professionals who can help them with the business side of things, including lawyers, accountants and other specialists. Partnerships can work at an international level too, if exporting is part of your business strategy. Successful partnerships are based on being clear about your own business’s strategy and needs, then finding partners who have complementary skills and resources. WORTH can help in all these ways by providing facilities for networking within the creative industries, with professionals outside the industry, and also with international partners.

Through your own personal experience in the industry and your career, what is the number one advice you would give creative entrepreneurs that are part of the WORTH partnership program?

My key message is to combine your creative talents with smart business thinking. This is a powerful combination and it’s what I mean when I use the term “T-Shirts and Suits”. Successful creative entrepreneurs embrace business as well as creativity. The tools of business are there for us to use in our own ways, in tune with our own values and objectives. It’s not a matter of doing business in the way others do, but using the tools of business creatively in order to achieve the precise success we want and deserve.

You have a broad range of materials available to the public through your website, including your two books. What would you suggest to be most helpful to the winners of the WORTH Partnership Project first call?

I would say that out of all the free resources on my website, the most useful is my book ’T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity’. It’s available as a paperback, an audiobook and as a free eBook in English, which anyone can download from my website here. The book has been published in translations in 13 countries around the world, so it has international recognition and respect as an important business guide for creative entrepreneurs.


Find out more aboure David Parrish through his website here.



News Type
  • Inspire