Featured The Hustle

“Big Gay Market” takes top Arts Business Competition prize

Photo by Mats Rudel/UW-Madison

UW-Madison’s “Shark Tank” style Arts Business Competition announced its prize winners Wednesday, as finalists from the competition had a chance to pitch their artistic entrepreneurial ventures for the chance to win money to continue their ventures.

Three pitches from individuals and teams of UW-Madison students pitched business ideas for a chance to receive a prize of $2,000, $1,000 or $500 to further their artistic entrepreneurial endeavors. The panel of judges – Arianna Barrios, Lance Owens and Anna January – assessed the three finalists on the feasibility of their projects in the long-term, viability, contribution to the arts, creativity and innovation. The finalists each had 10 minutes to give updates on their entrepreneurial endeavors, needs to grow and future plans.

Taking home the largest prize of $2,000 were Ollie DiPietro and Ashley Shaw for The Big Gay Market. The project found resounding success and support in its first event this past March. The duo recognized a one-of-a-kind opportunity in Madison to create a space for LGBTQIA+ artists to have a space to peddle their goods outside of insular times like Pride Month.

With the $2,000 prize in hand, “we can pay for the things that we want to and it doesn’t have to come out of our own bank accounts. Like just bare the minimum, but it also means that we can afford, like website fees, Canva pro,” said DiPietro.  

DiPietro and Shaw needed the funds to expand The Big Gay Market. Back in March, an estimated 500 people showed up to the market hosted at the Wisconsin Rugby Complex in Cottage Grove. Vendors jumped at the opportunity to participate to the point that Shaw and DiPietro had to turn some away in the limited capacity indoor space.

Future plans include a scholarship fund for vendors to attend and cover the vendor fee, finding a larger space eventually and purchasing health and comfort items to promote its inclusivity. The duo’s loftiest goal is to eventually make it a traveling market hitting all parts of the country.

The second prize of $1,000 went to Augusta Brulla and her project the Dane County Artist Directory (DCAD).

August Brulla. Photo by Mats Rudel/UW-Madison

Brulla’s project aims to create a directory of artists in Madison and break down barriers between artists and clients. Visual artists from all ranges of experience are currently the target artists Brulla wants on the platform, but she aims to expand it eventually. Brulla’s project aims to work on simplicity, an idea she’s banking on from her time as an art consultant, to ensure that the platform runs as smoothly as possible.

“I am just really excited. I have a lot of resources to move forward. Some things that I wanted to do but the money was the last piece to move forward with it,” said Brulla.

The DCAD is in an early beta stage currently. Brulla hopes to have DCAD up and running in the summer. Brulla’s further plan is to scale DCAD to the whole state and has been playing with the idea, but for now Madison is the start.

The final major prize of $500 went to Shahada Buckley and Trace Johnson and their Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival. The festival provides an experience to hear chamber music for free in Fairhope, Alabama. The inspiration comes from Buckley not experiencing chamber music in her hometown of Fairhope. The two have been working together to bring the wonders of chamber music to new audiences free of charge. The first festival was held last month and there are plans to have another soon. The Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival has a focus on bringing underrepresented composers, women and BIPOC composers, an opportunity to perform.

“It’s gonna help us with our credibility when we get to Fairhope because this is the fourth grant that we’ve successfully received for this project. So when we talk about that in the details of the time that we put in to relay the message that we’re serious about the project,” said Johnson.

“You can’t do anything without money. You can’t have an arts project without money. It makes the actual project happen. When it’s like floating up here and we would like to do all these things, but now we can actually do them,” said Buckley. “So I mean, it’s everything to be able to have funds to do it, and because we are not ticketing any of our events, we have to rely on grants and donations to fund all of it.”

Sahada Buckley and Trace Johnson. Photo by Mats Rudel/UW-Madison

Buckley and Johnson want to dispel barriers and intimidation of chamber music being solely for aficionados to music lovers of all calibers. In their last festival, the two received praise and even signed some autographs for attendees. Future plans for the festival include making it longer and creating a travel stipend to bring out more composers from places besides Madison.

In addition to the three finalists, two emerging artist awards were given in the sum of $250 each. Jack Ohly’s for hire prop shop, OhlyProps, and Isabella Hellen de Messer’s project, CraftingGreen, were recognized for their entrepreneurial achievements and outreach in their respective ventures.

Chris Walker, director of division of the arts at UW-Madison, closed out the competition with a grand aim to double the prizes for next year’s competition and then double it again for the following year.