I Feel Weepy Over How Well My Students Did

Last Day of WHOLE ENCHILADA, Bespoke Hogaboom

I am allowed to write a self-indulgent FEELINGS POST, because this is my blog.

You know – just as a reminder!

Last night I hosted the final lecture of my third cohort of the WHOLE ENCHILADA, my business course for ethical Creatives. I had six students – five newbies, and one audit (someone who’d taken the course last year and wanted a brush-up). For the last eleven weeks we’ve gathered on Zoom on Wednesday nights – rain or shine, COVID or no COVID. We met with one another on off-hours, we worked together in email and Discord, and each student had several one-on-one coaching sessions with yours truly.

For their final, each student turned in a full business plan as well as a Year One cash forecast.

Over the next week I’ll be reviewing their plans and financial documentation in detail, then sending them notes and a link to a winter one-on-one coaching session. And this isn’t goodbye! Statistically about eighty percent of my students stay in regular or even very close contact. I can’t tell you how good that feels – and what a testimony it is to the quality of my course but also the business fidelity of my students.

Already though, upon first glance at this cohort’s business plans, I feel moved to tears. I know how much effort it takes to properly plan a business. I’ve done it a few times now. In addition to the business I run, I’ve kind of built a fake business, too – my WHOLE ENCHILADA course includes examples from Peerless Pierogis, a completely fictional, built-on-a-whim pierogi business that I designed for a pricing class. Peerless Pierogis gets better and more dialed-in every time I teach!

(Sometimes I think it would be fun to build businesses on paper, then vet potential owners and hand the plan off to people who are ready to RUN a business!)

I know how much work goes into these plans, and I know that for MY course the work is even harder than business accounting, marketing strategy, investigating business insurance, tax laws, all that stuff.

My course is a bit different than most courses – and indeed, different than every course and class I’ve personally attended – in that we jump through the typical hoops but focus a lot more on foundational matters. We spend a heck of a lot of time on our deepest motivations (because building a business from any other foundation simply will fizzle out) – and on moving our work into a position of artistic power and client respect (because Capitalism works unceasingly to erode both).

Every business class I’ve taken as a student, was pro-Capitalist and meager on ethics. As students we were encouraged to do loads of market research, to worry about what will sell (rather than confidently produce work and CREATE the market for that work), and to reduce COGS and OE margins. I’ve taken a few courses and I always learned something from them. But I’ve never taken a business course that understood messaging and ethics, as deeply as I do.

My students learn my way of running a business. And I work alongside them: this last cohort, for instance, I’ve had to dive even deeper into my own managerial finance acumen, as well as make some hard decisions with regard to family-work balance. All of this makes me a stronger business owner yes, but also a better instructor.

I’m not churning through another cohort: I’m deeply invested in my growth, as well as my students’.

But I’m not writing this piece to toot my horn. [toot! toot!]

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Most the world doesn’t understand entrepreneurs all that well, and most people really don’t understand Creatives. That is to say: all of us have a Creative drive. But the class of people I call Creatives, are first and foremost innovative, driven, and deeply countercultural (even if they don’t know this about themselves).

So to take a little group of six to ten renegades (a word one of my students brought to class last night) and reign them into all the more rigorous standards of business-building – well, it’s a challenge.

And I love it!

This third cohort boasted 100% attendance, with 100% course email open-rate. Each student turned in a robust cash forecast and business plan (and a couple students asked for an extension to further refine). To say I’m impressed and proud, is an understatement.

But it doesn’t matter all that much what I think of them: it matters what they think of themselves. I don’t know if they know this, but six months from now or a year from now or at some undisclosed date, they will open or re-open this document and marvel at the absolute BADASS who put it together! No matter what bumps in the road they’re experiencing, no one can remove this achievement from them.

I can see their accomplishments clearly; they’re probably still reeling from the arduous work and maybe they don’t see it yet.

But they will.

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So for my past students, all of them: thank you so much. I mention it every now and then, but I really want to make it crystal0clear:

One of the primary reasons I stepped into being a business instructor was that rather than working with the fabulous raw materials of denim and chiffon, of cotton thread and candelilla wax, of zipper and fastener and needle and canvas – I get to work with the raw material of another human being. In our time together they share an awful lot about themselves and I hope more than anything else, that they are glad they trusted in this way.

Thank you for enriching my life in the way only grounded, trusting human contact really can.

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Interested in hearing more about the WHOLE ENCHILADA course? I send out emails on Mondays, gearing up for Fall’s session (registration September 1st!). You can sign up for those here.