MBA Students Analyze Artist’s Business

Entrepreneurs are taught to think out of the box, and so of course, it only makes sense that a professor of entrepreneurship would also think out of the box when presenting lessons to their students. For students in one MBA course, analyzing the business of an artist was just one of many hands on lessons throughout the course.

Most recently, students in MBA 711, the fundamental entrepreneurship course in Mason’s MBA program, found themselves analyzing the work of Mason alumnus, Nathan Loda, MFA ’15. A professional artist, Loda was looking for new ways to expand his business.

“Within the notion of being ‘an artist’ there are a dozen different paths. Our students looked at all of them,” says Jim Wolfe, entrepreneur-in-residence and assistant professor in Mason’s School of Business.

As part of this project in applied entrepreneurship, the students treated Loda as a soul practitioner and faced the challenging task of crunching the numbers of a business in a unique industry.

“The hard part for students was trying to get their heads around the expenses of being an artist and the market pricing for paintings,” says Wolfe. “This is not your average Northern Virginia start-up company.”

The students completed a financial analysis and explored various pricing models when preparing a feasibility study that included different approaches Loda could take to move his business forward.

Loda says that the project was inspiring, worthwhile, and motivating. The feasibility report made him think differently about his art because the MBA students presented his art practice as a business, something he had not thought about before. “Sharing my art practice, goals, and business ideas with Wolfe’s MBA students and hearing their questions and comments encouraged me to think more business-minded and focus on growing my art practice as a business.

“I updated my website, formed an LLC, opened a business checking account, and boasted my social media presence. The experience inspired me to take steps in succeeding as a small business entrepreneurial artist!”

Wolfe says that projects like these are a win-win for both students and business owners. MBA students gain consulting experience, and business owners get great ideas to apply to their businesses.

Wolfe is an entrepreneur himself with 25 years of experience helping more than 50 early-stage firms develop. He strives to bring unique business examples of entrepreneurship into the classroom to push students to think outside the traditional avenues of business. Wolfe says he brings in real-life businesses for analyzing in all of the classes he teaches, reaching out to the many Mason alumni entrepreneurs whenever possible.

“I literally have several dozen businesses that we have looked at, including breweries, distilleries, nonprofits supporting anti-human trafficking, consulting firms, and hardware firms, to name a few.”

Learn more about the mural Nathan Loda recently painted for Mason alumnus Bill Karlson ’94 for his new distillery in Manassas.

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Janet Palmisano

Janet Palmisano is a member of the Recruiting and Admissions team at the George Mason University School of Business.

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