Business in the context of art and culture

15.09.2022 No matter whether the aim is to bring a product to the next level, get a concert series up and running or establish yourself as a self-employed designer: the Business Lab at Bern University of the Arts (HKB) supports students and staff with thinking and acting entrepreneurially.

Zwei junge Männer diskutieren ein Projekt an einem Laptop.
Andreas Dobler (left), a master’s student in design, has already made use of the HKB Business Lab’s services multiple times and very much appreciates the advice from Chris Jenny (right). Image: supplied

«Business isn’t a bad thing. It helps you to make a living from what you like doing.» That’s the message that Chris Jenny, Head of the Business Lab, wants to emphasise to students and staff at HKB. He speaks to classes in the various artistic disciplines, offers coaching and mentoring, and is also available to offer advice in his pop-up office when someone wants a spontaneous discussion.

Promoting an entrepreneurial mindset

For artists, it’s not always easy to make a sustainable living from their work, says Jenny. That’s why it’s very important to him to promote an entrepreneurial mindset among students early on. At the same time, he is also aware that «Art works differently to business – and that has to remain the case.» Despite that, the question of how you can produce something and make a living from it remains the same across all areas and degree disciplines. After all, it’s clear that: «At the end of the day, the hours invested in a project must also be financed.» That’s why he keeps telling the people who come to see him: «When you do the thing you like doing – creating things – for 80% of your time, and spend the other 20% focusing on the business side, then you can continue doing what you like for that 80%.»

Hands-on – tailored to individual needs

The students and staff who come to the Business Lab have a wide range of questions: How do I make sure people find my pictures on Google? How do I approach foundations or sponsors? How do I create an invoice? Or when it goes one step further: What do I have to be aware of when founding a start-up or spin-off? «I take my time, I listen and I provide my perspective,» says Jenny, who was an entrepreneur himself, and who co-founded the Impact Hub Bern and can draw on a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship. He says that a large part of his work is helping people to help themselves. He tries to make everything hands-on and to provide quick fixes. «Some people come once, others come multiple times,» he explains. He is always happy to help, but he can’t force anyone to do something and also doesn’t have the time to check in a couple of weeks after a meeting to see how someone is getting on.

A «booster service»

One student who has already received advice multiple times from Chris Jenny is Andreas Dobler. The master’s student in design, who is specialising in entrepreneurship, is working on a digital intermediary platform for luxury and premium watches. «My goal is to offer smaller and independent watch brands a platform, and also to provide my customers with the perfect watch – no matter if it’s from a well-known brand or a brand with less reach.» Andreas was told about the Business Lab by a professor and values its services highly. «Chris Jenny helped me to develop my business model and shared valuable contacts with me.» This accelerated his development process and acted as a booster for his project.

Making mistakes is good

Jenny is also pleased with this kind of fruitful collaboration: «I really like supporting young people, and it motivates me when I see that they understand and take things on board.» He adds that he is also honest when he has the sense that something isn’t working and encourages people to try out new things. In doing so, one thing is important: «Anyone who tries something new also makes mistakes.» That’s right and important – because someone who makes no mistakes remains stuck in their comfort zone. That’s why Jenny’s message is continually: «Make mistakes, preferably multiple mistakes every day, but if possible not always the same ones.» That’s the way to keep progressing, whether on a personal or a professional level.

HKB Business Lab: further information and contact details

You can find more information about the Business Lab’s services, interesting links for entrepreneurs and contact details for Chris Jenny here: