Helpmann Academy recently awarded more than $55,000 in seed funding to a group of emerging creative entrepreneurs at an event at Lot Fourteen.

The event was the culmination of an intensive six-month landmark program titled the Helpmann Academy Creative Innovator Program, which was devised to support emerging creative practitioners to develop the entrepreneurial skills required to turn creative ideas into successful businesses.

Throughout 2021, Helpmann worked closely with 11 program participants from a range of mediums to build confidence in their abilities to create and sustain a creative practice. The participants attended a series of workshops and masterclasses designed to support them to define their entrepreneurial business model, identify and reach their target market, develop their brand and deliver a professional pitch. They also each worked with an established creative mentor and business advisors from Perks Accounting services.

Helpmann Academy Creative Innovator Program participants: Angelo Valdivia, Jasmine Watkins, Erin Daniell, Alice Reardon, Sandra Sok, Lily Drummond, Anthony Robinson, Alexander Salkicevic, Bryce Kraehenbuehl and Emily Bettison. Photo: Thomas McCammon

Each Creative Innovator Program participant was provided the opportunity to pitch Shark Tank-style to an esteemed panel of experts for up to $20,000 in seed funding. The results of those pitch presentations were revealed by South Australian Chief Entrepreneur Andrew Nunn at the event.

Flinders University graduates, Alexander Salkicevic and Bryce Kraehenbuehl received $20,000 in seed funding for their film production business, Two Up Films, after impressing the pitch panel with their innovative business model. In addition to funding, they will also receive a placement at the Incubator Space at Flinders University New Venture Institute.

The emerging filmmakers say that the reality of their success is only just starting to hit:

“It took about a week to process and truly see how massive of an opportunity for us this is. The funding will be used to completely finance the production of our first low-budget horror feature film made here in Adelaide. This includes paying for cast members, crew members, locations and equipment.

“This funding will kickstart the cycle of our business model, by selling our features to distributors and using the money from the sale to fund our next project.”

Salkicevic and Kraehenbuehl say they are the first production team in Australia to make micro-budget horror films (films that cost less than $500,000 to produce) with the intent to make a return on investment to fund future projects.

“Although thought of as a ‘niche’ genre, horror is extremely popular and has a strong, dedicated audience. We believe it’s a great way to export our creative IP to international markets, getting picked up by international distributors and showcasing the talent we have here in SA to worldwide audiences.”

The pair add that without the Creative Innovator Program, their dream of making their unique business model a reality seemed a long way off.

“We would say that as artists, this program might be the most useful opportunity we’ve ever been given to seriously look at our craft and work out how to make a sustainable living from it. Before the Creative Innovator Program, we thought our business idea was years away before being achieved. However, with all the amazing guidance we gained, it opened our eyes to all the creative avenues we can go down now that are attainable.”

University of Adelaide graduate Emily Bettison received $20,000 towards her vocal and music sample-pack business, STAK. She was also provided with a place in the Venture Catalyst Program at the University of South Australia’s Innovation and Collaboration Centre.

“With STAK, we are focussing on producing naturally processed, high-quality vocal samples to expand the possibilities for music producers; giving them the control to process the samples in whatever way they need to most authentically fit, shape and accompany their productions,” Bettison says.

She adds that her business is also a first in Adelaide and greater Australia, and one of only a few sample-pack companies owned by a woman globally.

“I am so excited to use STAK as a platform to continue advocating for women and building representation in the music industry.”

While the prospect of pitching her business in front of a panel of industry leaders was daunting, Bettison says it was this process that really helped solidify everything she had learnt through the program.

“Preparing for the pitch is what really helped tie everything from this program together. Suddenly, I needed to clearly articulate and explain every key part about my business to a panel of business experts. So, if there were any elements that I was unsure about or hadn’t yet locked in, that was the time to figure it out.”

The funding from her successful pitch will go towards start-up costs for STAK, including graphic design, branding and visual media creation for the brand, building a “kick-ass website”, and a national and international publicity campaign, as well as advertising.

Bettison says that the support of the Helpmann Academy has enabled her to reach for goals that she previously thought were unattainable.

“The Helpmann Academy’s commitment to supporting and empowering creatives is incredible. They honestly feel like my Fairy Godmother. Their support enables artists to move forward in their careers, to learn and grow, to try new things, with the permission to take risks. I found a new kind of motivation and inspiration through their support.”

The Helpmann Academy Creative Innovator Program is generously supported by a group of Helpmann’s philanthropic partners and donors and Arts South Australia.

Applications for the 2022 Creative Innovator Program are currently open. Individual creatives and small groups from a range of disciplines with a burgeoning business or business idea are encouraged to apply. Applications close Monday,  December 13, 2021. More information and application details are available here.

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