Ayleen Crotty | Crain's Portland

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ayleen Crotty

Background:  

Filmed by Bike started in 2003 as a small fundraiser for bike events, and the event has been supporting a burgeoning international community of bike-loving filmmakers ever since. Filmed by Bike started in a micro-theater with a whopping 60 attendees in Portland, Ore. and its movies are now seen all over the world. Each May, Filmed by Bike hosts a large-scale film festival in Portland at the historic Hollywood Theatre. The hometown event includes a Street Party, filmmaker Q+A sessions, dance parties, Brewery Tour Bike Rides with the Filmmakers, workshops and awards ceremonies.

 

The Mistake:

I went to school for photography, and I come from an experiential arts background. I also come from an entrepreneurial background, and I was running sidewalk sales crafts booths when I was in junior high. As an adult, I wound up working in nonprofits for many years and often was the person on the team responsible for event-related work.

The Filmed By Bike festival began as one of those tasks; it was a fundraiser for another event. Our expectations were low. We hoped for 30 people and we wound up with a standing-room-only crowd. We told people they might not even get to see the movies, but they still purchased tickets – there was that much enthusiasm for what we’re doing.

Our supporters, they’re a thrifty crowd. But they were still willing to spend the money. We knew we were onto something and wished to continue.

As the director, I have a very clear vision for the festival, which turns 16 this year. Finances can’t drive all decisions because then it would lose its heart. In the early days, I was very bull-headed, that the overall vision was mine. But I lacked the outside vision necessary to bring the event to the next level.

Outside influence and feedback is an essential component in drawing out the true potential and creativity in a project.

The Lesson:

Along the way, I developed relationships with extremely talented, high-level people. They were acquaintances and friends who put a lot of time and effort into sharing their experience and wisdom.

As those relationships grew, I realized people wanted to do more and have bigger roles with Filmed by Bike. We established an advisory board that has helped guide the festival in its development and helped me think outside my bubble. Their help enabled me to better realize my artistic vision while running a business.

For years, we held back on raising ticket prices. We wanted to keep them low, but we opted to chase sponsors and money in other areas that was exhausting and not yielding the greatest results. Filmed by Bike runs an excellent sponsorship program. We give them a lot of marketing exposure to our audience, and the process of cultivating new relationships can take a lot of time.

Finally, an adviser with no emotional connection to the event told us our ticket prices were 10 years old, and we needed to raise them. We moved forward with that this year. In year one, the event cost $3, and this year, they will be $15, with an early-bird rate of $11. An all-access pass to movies, bike rides, filmmaker chats and more is $65, with an early-bird rate of $60.

Filmed by Bike advisers come from all different backgrounds and share a variety of thoughts and ideas. They have helped me make changes I don’t think I have the time, energy or resources to accomplish. They also help me focus on the big picture.

Outside influence and feedback is an essential component in drawing out the true potential and creativity in a project. I originally thought I needed to protect my creative freedom, but in reality being so insular was only limiting myself and the potential of Filmed by Bike.

Follow Ayleen Crotty on Twitter at: @AyleenCrotty 

Follow Filmed by Bike at: @FilmedByBike

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