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Networking group inspires creative businesses in Halifax

The Creative Kick networking group looks to keep creative talent local

4 min read
caption The Creative Kick often holds speaker nights, where paid speakers share tips on how to make a living in creative fields.
Contributed by Alison Knott

What does Atlantic Fashion Week, the front page of The Coast Alt Weekly and a Quebec dairy farm have in common?

They’ve all benefited from the skills of Halifax-based creative professionals: people who illustrate, design, animate and consult for brands across Canada and internationally. They also belong to a group you may have never heard of.

The Creative Kick is the only independent interdisciplinary networking group specifically for creatives in Halifax, according to its founder, Alison Knott. It’s a place where artistic entrepreneurs and creative hobbyists of all stripes are bouncing ideas off each other, networking, and trying to keep creative talent here on the East Coast.

Knott, a local web consultant and designer, started the group in 2012 as the East Coast Creative Collective. Over the years, she said it began evolving into a drawing group.

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This year, the group rebranded, calling itself The Creative Kick in order to focus on its original goal of inspiring creative people.

caption Alison Knott is the founder of The Creative Kick, and runs its website and social media sites, as well as moderating speaker nights and panels.
Sam Gillett

“Halifax has meeting spaces in spades, and that’s great, but what could I do — what could we do — to push people to do more, to see their potential,” Knott said in an interview.

She doesn’t profit from the meet-ups, and she designs and runs the group’s website and promotions herself.

The group meets monthly at various Halifax watering holes. They either chat with others about their current projects, or listen to local speakers discuss different parts of running a creative business.
They’re also making connections, something Knott said is vital in the Maritimes.

While Nova Scotia’s economy doesn’t attract as many large design, web development, or animation studios, Knott says The Creative Kick targets what makes Halifax unique.

Knott said Halifax is a great city to be in for people looking for jobs in creative fields because of its small business community — perfect for making grassroots connections.

“You don’t have to go to the head of HR. In Halifax, it’s quite more likely a company will get a resume and they’ll say, ‘Do you know this person?’” she said.

But the tiny size of the business community can also be challenging.

After packaging designer Sunil Sarwal moved back to his hometown of Halifax from Montreal, he found the East Coast business environment presented unique challenges to people in his line of work.

“It’s really hard,” Sarwal said in a phone interview. “Most of my clients are in Toronto, or Montreal. It’s difficult to work from this far away. It’s hard to keep a finger on the pulse.”

But as Halifax grows, Knott said, so do opportunities for creatives looking to cash in on stores, non-profits and other small businesses that may need cards made, websites designed or professional photography.

The group’s frequent panel discussions or speaker nights are tailored to developing these skills. At past events, Halifax-based designer Duane Jones discussed knowing your worth. Other topics included a talk on bookkeeping.

Over all, Halifax’s business prospects are looking up. In the last quarter of 2019, Nova Scotia’s gross domestic product was expected to surpass Canada’s average, according to Halifax Economic Partnership organization. There’s also a host of examples of Halifax impacting the larger world of design and visual art.

James White, who encouraged Knott to start the group, is a designer who’s worked for big names like Google and Metallica. Some members of the group have ties to Wildbrain, Copernicus Studios or Jam Filled — animation companies that have produced shows like Teen Titans, Go, and Bob the Builder.

With a growing economy comes new businesses with creative needs, Knott says.

For Knott, small businesses and non-profits are the perfect customers for the many freelance designers and entrepreneurs that The Creative Kick attracts.

Knott said community is the key to making Halifax a more attractive place to start a small business or to freelance in a creative field.

“Once you start with community, that’s when people will stay here,” Knott said. “If you can plant that important seed, the rest of it comes, them wanting to stay, them getting jobs, doing the work they feel passionate about.”

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About the author

Sam Gillett

Sam calls Orillia, Ontario home. When he's not chasing Signal stories, he can be found sketching in cafes, watching soccer or following news...

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