Arts and Business Interview: Colin Tweedy

Colin Tweedy, CEO of Arts and Business, talks about the upcoming awards and why small businesses shoud sponsor the arts

Arts and Business is a company that believes that the arts can benefit small businesses a lot, and is passionate about connecting the two together. With the A&B award coming up, Startups.co.uk talks to CEO Colin Tweedy about the awards, why he thinks it’s so important that small firms should interact with the arts, and the mutual gains that can be made.

The mood is very positive right now in the company, particularly with the 27th Arts and Business Awards. Sponsorship of the arts is growing, and in particular “the growth is on small and medium businesses which can range for a local firm of solicitors to your local bookshop” according to Tweedy. Concerning the nominations for the awards, he’s pleased with the results calling them very good and going on to remark that they reflect the diverse types of sponsorship every year. Despite concerns about varying sponsorship, this year they’re better than ever according to him.

In the small business category nominations, there is no particular company or sector that stands out every year and, instead, businesses are widespread across sectors. “You don’t necessarily have to have a large budget or a large staff to deliver good value, so it’s very encouraging… and more and more small scale businesses realise that there’s value.”

What Arts and Business is looking for is a collaboration which always involves the arts group and business as much as possible in a genuine partnership”. But it’s not just a partnership that is required these days by companies but a sense of corporate and social responsibility. Companies are taking more corporate responsibility because it’s a fashion, according to Tweedy, although the government has provided a strong lead as well.

But it’s not just about fashion when it comes to entrepreneurs – there are benefits. First and foremost is the financial benefit to the business – it’s good for the staff morale which increases productivity and brand awareness is increased by reaching a far wider audience than previously possible. Then their skills would exchanged, with the potential for strengthening employees’ creativity whilst the arts could benefit from business people’s skills.

Another aspect is corporate entertaining. For example, there could be performances in the firm’s office, or an evening in a gallery. It would also enhance the reputation of the company, as something is being given back to the community. The SeatCat and Yarnspinners case study proves that with 78 per cent surveyed saying the storytelling was enjoyable and 72 percent reporting satisfaction. It’s easier for smaller companies as there’s not so much of a rigid structure and it’s easier to make decisions – so according to Tweedy, there are no excuses not to do it.

To back this up, he gives an example of “the work of Barefoot Books, the small book company, with Manchester City Galleries where the books were being sold in the gallery, there were the employees of the bookshop and the publishing company were really involved with the staff of the gallery.”

Of course, it’s not for everybody. Tweedy points out that “a lot of them don’t think the arts can deliver anything for them, or they don’t like the arts personally. A lot of it’s often due to individual taste, some people just say: ‘We make metal widgets, it’s something we don’t want to get involved in, doesn’t seem relevant to us or the right profile.”

As a parting shot, Tweedy mentions that ignorance – that companies don’t realise how easy it is to get involved – is holding small firms back, or that it never occurred to them. However, it does depend on the company and resources just may stretch to sponsoring an arts organisation but, for those who can manage it, it could turn out to be just the thing your company needs.

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