The Arts Hub – Smiths Falls
This month’s Featured Business is The Arts Hub, located in Smiths Falls, ON. The Arts Hub is the collaborative creation of Ambre McLean and Matt Connell with Rosalyn Dennett and Rob McLaren, two couples who had the desire to unite the Arts Community and showcase the seemingly under-represented musical and artistic talent local to Smiths Falls. The business provides a collective workspace for artists to develop and display their passions, including music/vocal rooms for private/group lessons, a recording/sound studio, an art gallery, and a boutique gift shop.
Owner Ambre McLean explains that the formation of the business was serendipitous in nature in that the couples moved to Smiths Falls at approximately the same time and connected online soon after relocating. Ambre and Rosalyn, who are both professional touring musicians, had crossed paths throughout their careers at national and international music festivals and conferences. Further, while developing the idea for The Arts Hub, the group stumbled across an available commercial building (14 Main Street W) that had the exact requirements needed for the proposed multi-function workspaces, including an existing storefront design and name from previous business “Serendipity Lane”. The group knew the beautiful storefront, with its gorgeous showcase windows, would allow for the display and sale of numerous makers and artists found locally, an essential component to the business plan.
The business’s success to date has been made possible through the symbiotic integration of several independent businesses that share the workspace, blending complementary skills and expertise within a variety of industries. The businesses, which are represented by members of the ownership team, includes Smiths Falls Music (private and group music/vocal lessons and workshops), Northwood Studios (an independent record label geared toward Canadian singer/songwriters), and Stump Media (a female-owned, Canadian-based label focusing on artist management and promotion).
Ambre McLean was a successful participant and grant recipient of the Starter Company Plus Program organized by the Small Business Advisory Centre of Lanark County/Smiths Falls. Through the program, McLean was able to learn how to structure the business, develop a business plan, and develop key networking relationships with other entrepreneurs within the group, many of whom have remained close and supportive since the end of the program. McLean valued the group’s input which gave her clarity and validation about the unique yet wholly similar challenges each entrepreneur experiences. When asked about what advice McLean would give to other entrepreneurs starting out, she said:
“Limit what expectations you may have and try to gain a realization of what can be accomplished. Have patience and try to be content with what resources you have available at any given time.”
Upon opening, The Arts Hub was received positively by both vendors and customers alike, with support being expressed through the increase of foot traffic driven primarily by word-of-mouth. McLean graciously acknowledged the support of the Smiths Falls Downtown Business Association (DBA), the Smiths Falls Chamber of Commerce, and the Town of Smiths Falls, including Mayor Shawn Pankow. McLean thanked her customers, students and their families, and vendors who have continued to support the business with understanding and compassion while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many businesses, The Arts Hub collective team has not been unaffected by the pandemic and has been required to challenge themselves to meet each hurdle. McLean admits that some benefits may have come from the initial shut-down (and subsequently reduced foot traffic) which allowed the team to work out small kinks and regroup/restructure to allow for the development of creative and inspiring new ways to run the business online. Happily, over 90% of registered students continued learning throughout the pandemic through the online program.
The Arts Hub will be continuing workshops, exhibitions, and programs throughout the fall which cater to all kinds of music and art enthusiasts/makers/creators. For more details about The Arts Hub and to sign up for their newsletter, please visit the website at www.theartshubsf.com/