When Robert Hartwell founded The Broadway Collective music theater academy in 2016, he was working at the kitchen table with his assistant. Times have been tough, a feeling most early-stage entrepreneurs can relate to.
“It was just the two of us working in the kitchen,” says Hartwell, laughing at the memory. “You couldn’t open the refrigerator because it would come on the table.”
But he insisted and built the humble collective into a multi-million dollar company with award-winning training. Students are recognized at top universities such as Carnegie Mellon University and New York University. Hartwell himself has an impressive résumé. He spent 10 years as a professional artist, appearing in five Broadway productions, two national tours, and a performance at the Tony Awards.
Now it’s about leading the next generation of artists – especially in underrepresented BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. Sure, The Broadway Collective helps artists develop their talent, but Hartwell’s real dream is to help them become strong, resilient, and vulnerable people.
“A lot of these people are the weirdest person in their communities,” says Hartwell. “They go through a gender and sexually oriented identity. You hear family members say, “This is not a real career. That is a pipe dream. ‘We are there for these people. ”
For Hartwell, emerging for these communities means building a company that reflects its values of representation and diversity.
“If you don’t see it, you can’t become,” he says. “I want our students to see that there are black, brown, non-binary and queer people in our company. If you don’t see it, then how do you know it’s possible? ”
Outside of his company, Hartwell devotes time and space to identifying and creating opportunities that they otherwise may not know exist.
“Our job is to show them the jobs available,” he says. “And they have a lot of different places in the industry. And then you give them the tools to break the glass ceilings and break the doors. It’s not about getting a seat at a table. It’s about building your own. ”
For those entrepreneurs who want to go their own way, he offers this advice.
Believe in the power of hard work.
Hartwell knows what hard work looks like. In the early days, he opened the phone book in one town and called every theater and dance group to promote his drop-in courses. Most hung up. Now his classes are sold out.
Part of the education at The Broadway Collective is establishing routine and structure to provide students with a framework in which to learn discipline and the power of hard work. This is where, he says, the transformation takes place.
Find a single voice to guide you.
Hartwell’s first business coach was Rachel Rodgers, founder of Hello Seven, a company designed to help women make more money and, in particular, create more BIPOC millionaires. Rodgers was the only voice in Hartwell’s ear who helped him build a business and follow best practices that made sense to him. In a world full of shiny objects, he advises you to find a single voice to guide you.
When choosing your mentor. Pay attention to the following:
- Make sure your mission statement aligns with your values and beliefs.
- Take a look at their past mentees. Make sure they are the right person to lead you.
- Make sure they keep learning and growing. Winning someone who feels they no longer need to study is a recipe for disaster.
Create a mission statement that you believe in with all your heart.
Let this model be your North Star. It’s easy to write pretty language that looks engaging on a shiny website, but it does little to steer your business into real, sustainable growth. Spend time on the words and make sure they represent you, your company’s true goal, and your personal values.
Make every decision with your mission statement in your heart.
This is not a write-and-forget situation, says Hartwell. Review your mission statement every day. Post it in big letters where you can’t miss it. Make every single decision taking into account your mission statement. No decision is too small to be considered part of this statement. From your first hiring to your first fire, consider the words thoughtfully.
Stay a lifelong student.
Hartwell’s main advice is to remain a lifelong learner. You are never too old to be a student. To do this, find people who you admire and learn from them. Attend conferences. Take the time to learn new things in both your industry and related industries.
“Be ready to be wrong,” says Hartwell. “Be ready to do the job. Be ready to be vulnerable. Be ready to be a student at any age. “
Photo by SnappyPete / Twenty20
Cecilia Meis is the integrated content editor for SUCCESS magazine and SUCCESS.com. She recently earned a bachelor’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. Cecilia is from Kansas City and enjoys sand volleyball, new stationery, and a heaped plate with burnt ends.