The 7 Fingers and the challenge of funding creativity

The arts and culture sector is an industry where securing financial backing can be difficult, but The 7 Fingers collective has managed to thrive thanks to a finely tuned strategy and calculated risk-taking. CEO Nassib El-Husseini explains how he surrounded himself with key partners.

The collective was created in 2002 and it has remained loyal to its financial institution ever since. Nassib recalls that only Desjardins would accept "atypical projects." The cooperative "was the only one willing to consider contracts in the arts and culture scene," he says.

Selling before producing

In this industry, you have to sell a project before it ever sees the light of day. It's a huge challenge that can slow or even snuff out a creative company's chances for survival. "You have to successfully find an audience and locations that agree to schedule a show before it even exists. It's no small feat!" says Nassib.

Setting up shop in Montreal

To bolster their credibility and pursue their dream, The 7 Fingers decided to open brick-and-mortar locations. The collective invested in studios right in the heart of downtown Montreal. The CEO emphasizes that this investment would not have been possible without the support of a financial partner and public agencies. "Rather than telling us to stay small and not take any risks, they told us we'd tackle the challenge together and go further," explains Nassib.

Striking a delicate balance

The gamble was not without consequences. After making the choice to purchase 60,000 square feet in Montreal's Quartier des spectacles, the company had to manage financial pressures while recognizing that the move was necessary to grow. "It's a choice you have to make, knowing that there will be huge obstacles and challenges to overcome."

Expanding abroad

Having a Montreal base while extending their network abroad might be one of the keys to The 7 Fingers' success. The company has exported 90% of its work internationally since the start. Thanks to an agreement with Export Development Canada, all contracts are paid before teams leave, facilitating creation and team deployment. This strategy allows shows to make the rounds and increases opportunities to attract new investors. For example, after performances in Edinburgh and the U.S., the Traces show caught the eye of Virgin Voyages, which approached The 7 Fingers for a partnership. As a result, 2 of their productions will be featured on a cruise setting sail in April 2020.

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