The Innovation Hub’s Lightbulb Moments blog presents: Julie & Linda Cho
Startup: Ascend Art | Hub program: Launch
About Linda & Julie’s startup, Ascend Art:
Ascend Art is a digital marketplace that connects underrepresented and underserved artists with buyers. “As Artists ourselves living with disabilities who have faced housing insecurity after escaping a violent life-threatening family situation, we have lived through the challenges that we aim to dismantle. We are artists who have faced multiple personal, health and financial challenges. We have faced the barriers to entering the art marketplace through traditional methods. We wanted to create ways for underserved artists to sell their work by connecting them to community partners and buyers through our digital platform, Ascend Art.”
“We believe that social enterprises led by those who have lived through the same challenges and experienced the same barriers can create impact within the same communities we grew up in. We have lived through these challenges that we aim to break through. We believe we have the power to change the despairing outcomes for artists who are youth at risk, living with disabilities, who have fled family violence and are facing housing insecurity. We have partnered with local community organizations for at-risk youth to reach youth artists. Who we are and what we aim do propels our mission to create income opportunities for underserved artists through our platform, Ascend Art.”
Ascend Art’s Lightbulb Moment:
“I was working on my BUSI 2800 Start-up Learning project and came across a social enterprise, Sama. The premise for Sama’s inception is to address global poverty and the founder, Leila Janah believed, “Handouts are not going to end global poverty. But work–dignified, living wage work–just might.” Sama’s mission was to address global inequality, where geographical locations in East Africa, Northern Uganda and parts of India–are barriers to accessing well-paying jobs. Additionally, lack of access to education and training mean people live in poverty— working long hours for little pay.”
“I introduced my sister, Linda to Sama and social enterprise business models. We were driven to create an alternative solution for artists that face multiple barriers to earning income and entering the traditional workforce. We serve artists that face life-altering circumstances of living with: disabilities, mental illnesses, social anxiety, PTSD, facing housing insecurity, financial challenges, artists who are at-risk youth, women fleeing intimate partner violence, and bereaved families. Like Leila, we believe artists facing these challenges don’t lack talent, they lack access to a network of buyers. We noticed a gap in the art market where artists from historically underrepresented communities aren’t being represented or served. Our venture Ascend Art will be an online platform that prioritizes underserved visual artists across Canada.”
Who has been your biggest support system for you in your entrepreneurial journey?
“The biggest support system for us has been the mentors that we have met through the Launch program. Especially at the early stage of building a venture, meeting early believers in our mission who support us with advice and insights has been incredibly valuable. Our community partners who refer underserved artists are also amazing supports because they connect us to the artists we aim to serve. Knowing that what we are building—could change lives for artists who face multiple barriers to entering the traditional workforce: disabilities, social anxiety, PTSD, and housing insecurity—deepens our conviction and determination to build Ascend Art.”
Do you feel more confident in your role as an entrepreneur because of your experience with the Innovation Hub?
“Yes, we do feel more confident as entrepreneurs after completing the Innovation Hub: Launch program. The Launch program was a great starting point for us to build a foundation for our venture: our mission, what we do, who we serve, learn about financial forecasting, and create a strong pitch deck to present to prospective investors in the near future. We met our first sponsor and our first prospective buyer through the Launch workshops.”
What would you say to a student who is interested in one of our programs?
“My advice to any students interested in the Innovation Hub programs is to be open and curious about learning as much as possible from the workshop guest speakers (experienced business leaders), the course content, alumni of past programs and build discipline and commitment to researching, networking, partner building, and capacity building for your venture outside of class time. As founders, Linda and I put in a lot of extra hours outside of class time to build our venture, our community partners (seek and attend events related to building your venture), and prospective clients.”
Written by Monika Hutchings, Communications Coordinator at the Innovation Hub. If you would like your story to be edited, updated, or removed please email email@example.com.