As part of M-Venture’s #YourNight campaign, raising awareness of inequalities within the nightlife industry, we speak to founder and CEO of ArtNight, Aimie-Sarah Carstensen about her business, her experience as a female founder in a male-dominated industry, and building an inclusive team.

ArtNight is a very different way to experience a night out. What was the inspiration behind it?

My co-founder David and I have always enjoyed learning, experiencing different hobbies and gaining new skills. With ArtNight, we wanted to create an atmosphere where learning meets entertainment – in bars and restaurants, with a vision to bring people together through “edutaining” experiences.

How has the pandemic impacted ArtNight and does ArtNight combat this challenging moment for the nightlife/ event industry?

Coronavirus hit us hard. We lost approximately 98% of our revenue, having previously been on a very good growth path. But we see opportunity in every crisis. We knew that our core value and mission – bringing people together – would still be important, even in a pandemic.

But of course, coming together couldn’t be physical anymore. So, we developed new digital products pretty much overnight and started offering digital painting and baking classes. The necessary materials to participate were sent straight to people’s doorsteps. After a couple of weeks of testing, we received great feedback from our customers and decided to make these offerings part of our portfolio together with the in-person experiences that we offer.

What is the gender ratio for participants of your event? How do you make sure that ArtNight provides a safe and inclusive environment for all?

We have four brands: ArtNight, ShakeNight, BakeNight and PlantNight. Overall we would say that our main target group is women, aged between 23 and 48. But in no way do we limit ourselves to one demographic. Our motto has always been that creativity is for anyone and everyone. Everyone that visits our workshops with the thought “I can’t paint, I can’t bake”, will be proven wrong – we guarantee it.

We have also always been passionate about creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values people from all walks of life. We follow the same principles for each and every event we organise for our customers.

You as a founder and the majority of your team members are women, which is rare in the start-up space. How do you ensure an inclusive team culture?

I think we see the same phenomenon in other industries as well, which are also ‘male-dominated’. Girls are often told at school which professions would or would not be suitable for their gender – they are labelled. For the nightlife industry, it´s even harder – as the event business is usually not considered as a ‘real job’ in the early ages.

Building an inclusive team culture is something we put a lot of effort into collectively. Two of our core values are empathy and authenticity. This means we are respectful, speak our mind and are always open to and act on feedback.

We believe that terms like inclusion are just words until you act in accordance to them. We have taken such terms and made them pivotal principles to our team – diversity drives innovation, which is why we continuously want to foster a team culture where differences are celebrated.

Have you seen any innovations/approaches in the industry you think are particularly effective/impressive to deliver a safer night out for women?

Our events with pre-selected and trained hosts in combination with pre-event guest registration are an important step to delivering a safe night out.

This is a deep-rooted issue in society, can nightlife ever be fully safe for women if society is not?

I would say yes. I think it’s just a question of the condition of the location, staff presence, keeping track of alcohol consumption and managing the crowds.

Is there a way that night economy businesses can not only work on a practical level of delivering safer nights out, but also contribute to wider cultural change?

I think a wider cultural change is not necessarily based on the nightlife economy. But I think the whole entertainment industry could improve it by offering affordable and accessible concepts for a broad target group – to bring young and old together! That’s what we´re doing.

The night-time industry has historically been unsafe for women. How do we ensure it is safer once we return to normality?

I´ve just watched a documentary called The Revolution of Altruism. Studies show that after a crisis – despite everything that the media shows – societies tend to have more empathy, selflessness and willingness to help each other. I just hope that this will also happen to our society after the pandemic and that this will contribute to a more positive and safer environment for women. The key will be better security concepts and protocols.