May 20, 2020
Arts entrepreneurship graduate creating a “Buz” with new business
As Penn State moved to remote learning in March, arts entrepreneurship student Sarah Buzalewski, like all students, faced a new academic normal in the time of COVID-19. But the senior embraced the adversity and found unexpected inspiration that reshaped her arts business idea and carved a path in a rapidly changing business landscape. Just before the announcement by Penn State to suspend all in-person classes, Buzalewski was in the final stages of developing and launching a new arts business, which also served as her capstone projects for the Arts Entrepreneurship minor. Under the watchful eye of Tamryn McDermott, instructor of the program’s capstone course, all students in the course were faced with the necessity to create online solutions for their businesses, which Buzalewski said shifted her thinking and resulted in a more well-rounded idea. Buzalewski, who graduated in May and earned a bachelor of music degree with an emphasis in violin performance, is the founder of BuzGigs, a music gigging service that connects musicians with playing opportunities for events such as weddings or parties. BuzGig users can log onto the company’s website and browse student-musician profiles to find the artist or ensemble that best fits their needs. Then, with a few clicks, the musician is booked. The idea has earned Buzalewski a 2020 Arts Business Ideas Competition grant of $5,000 to develop BuzGigs. In its fifth year, the competition is the College of Arts and Architecture’s annual showcase of arts entrepreneurship that asks students to present an arts-based business plan that could earn entrants grant money to develop the concept. BuzGigs was a primarily online business prior to the social distancing guidelines resulting from COVID-19, but the pivot has allowed Buzalewski to develop and implement online gigging, streamline the delivery of the service and enhance the company’s social media strategy. The time away from campus has also led to Buzalewski working with Arts Entrepreneurship program faculty to develop a mentoring program that will offer students in the program a hands-on opportunity to run BuzGigs and study its development. “Having the time to explore the online possibilities has been really helpful for the product and has led to opportunities that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t go online,” Buzalewski said. “Spreading the joy of music while supporting student-musicians was my goal, but moving toward a mentorship program will hopefully allow the business to have a lasting impact.” McDermott said the ability of Buzalewski and her peers to find success in a tough situation will have a lasting impact on one of the University’s up-and-coming programs. “All of the students in the capstone course have seamlessly adapted to the online forum, but pivoting from their business models and finding unlikely ways to explore the ideas is inspiring,” McDermott said. “The students have all set very ambitious, but achievable, goals for their businesses moving forward and I think that adaptability speaks volumes about our students.” In addition to Buzalewski, Natasha Schlaffer and Madison Urich were named as grant recipients for the 2020 Arts Business Ideas Competition.