Alaina Clarke is able to bring an entrepreneurial mindset to her dream job as the Conference Program Manager for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG).
“It’s one of the main reasons I was hired,” Clarke said. “Not only because of my metalsmith background and my non-profit background, but it was because I had an entrepreneurship background…most of my entrepreneurship background comes from CEI.”
Clarke worked as the office graduate assistant at GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation while she pursued a Master of Nonprofit Management Administration.
Clarke is a metalsmith by trade and graduated from GVSU in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in metalsmithing and jewelry. After taking time off to start her own jewelry line, she returned to GVSU in 2013 and landed the job as graduate assistant at CEI. During her two years at CEI, Clarke acted as a connector for the office, taught entrepreneurship classes, wrote articles, managed social media, worked on student outreach and handled logistics for events, including the Women Entrepreneur Symposium and the Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy.
When Clarke entered her master’s program, she had ambitions to start a fine arts high school that would fill the need being left by drastic cuts in middle school and high school arts funding. Through research done at CEI, Clarke was able to determine where a greater need lied.
“In college, we are told that being an artist is not a financially viable career choice,” says Clarke. “The way that artists make a living has completely changed in the last 5 years.”
Utilizing resources at CEI, Clarke developed her master’s thesis around using the business model canvas to create a curriculum that teaches artists business skills in a way that is conducive to their learning style. She partnered with Jenn Schaub of Avenue for the Arts to further develop the curriculum into a workshop called “Break it Down: Doing Business.” The two successfully launched the series in January of 2015.
This, paired with her experience at CEI made Clarke a stand out candidate for her current position at SNAG.
At the time that Clarke interviewed for her position, SNAG had been established for over 45 years and was beginning to make a shift from a traditional, academically focused organization to a more inclusive and entrepreneurial one. The annual SNAG conference that Clarke manages is a pivotal element to this change. In years past the conference has been an opportunity for members to meet each other, interact with the organization and learn new techniques. This year?
“We have a more focused theme. We call it SNAG NeXt, so the theme is more entrepreneurship and business,” Clarke said. “Because of my background, I was able to lead that conversation and transition.”