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From passion to income. How an artist with disability started her own business.

Image: Two framed watercolour prints in black frames with white backgrounds. Frame on left is red bottlebrush. Frame on right is wattle. Setting is highly styled interior with olive green wall and wooden detailed sideboard.
Watercolour prints, native flora. Michelle Brown Arts Studio. Image: Facebook

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

As the recipient of this year’s Fisher’s Ghost Art Award (‘Macability’) and Blue Fringe Art Award, Michelle Brown is not one to rest on her laurels. 

A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis in 2008 led Michelle, prioritise her passion and reinvent herself. Michelle completed a Diploma in Visual Arts and established herself as an awarded emerging artist. As a former teacher, it was perhaps natural for Michelle’s interest in art to merge with sharing with others.

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And, with first-hand experience of how difficult it is for people living with a disability to gain recognition and access to opportunities in mainstream art circles, Michelle knew she had something to offer. An online gallery, arts mentoring, consulting and support for everyone, including the disability community.

The idea for Michelle Brown Arts Studios was born.

No new business person knows everything – get the advice and support you need

However, with little business experience, she researched and found IgniteAbility to support the launch of her art studio. And with the rate of unemployment of people with disability much higher than the national average and ongoing challenges to stay employed, being self-employed has a number of other benefits.

“It’s difficult for someone with a disability to find employment or start a business and it looked like the kind of help I needed.”, Michelle explained.

“Starting a business comes with many challenges. IgniteAbility linked me to a business adviser and mentor who reviewed my business plan and helped me expand my offering. I was also connected with a marketing and social media expert who assisted with Facebook and Instagram”, she said. 

And, in addition to learning and support, Ignite provided networking opportunities, referrals to her services and assistance with grant applications to get the Michelle Brown Arts Studio up and running.

Maybe it is a deeper understanding of people with disability that makes this program different. The program went at Michelle’s pace, not at the drumbeat of a set program.

“They’re not restrained by the usual ‘in the box’ thinking and have very progressive ways of working. The support is always there and there’s never any pressure to get things done. It’s a very understanding environment”, she added. 

Image: Michelle Brown sitting at a trestle table at a seminar promoting her business. On the table are various arts implements and printed promotional materials.
Promotion is important for businesses like an Arts Studio. (Image: Facebook)

From student to teacher (again)

Michelle Brown’s journey with IgniteAbility has come full circle. As a graduate of the program, she shares her experience and knowledge having co-designed and created an entrepreneurship workshop with IgniteAbility.

To kick-start the journey of aspiring entrepreneurs living with disability, IgniteAbility are offering a no-cost online workshop to help participants explore entrepreneurship as a career path to independence, with 24/7 access through an e-learning platform.

Attendees do not need to have an existing business idea. Following the workshop, referral into the program is available for one-on-one free support for workshop participants ready to start their small business or consolidate an existing one.

Register for the free workshop:

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