Building a business despite living with a health condition

To be diagnosed with a chronic illness is life-changing in every way, and often one of the greatest concerns facing those in this situation is how to manage work. When it’s either not an option to give up work or you wouldn’t want to, is it possible to design your working life around the new challenges you face, taking in to consideration what your body and mind can cope with? Creative business coach Jo Becker shares her personal story with us of how she has done just that, as well as those of two women who inspired her to keep going…

Photo: Lauren Mancke/Unsplash

Photo: Lauren Mancke/Unsplash

One of the lesser known benefits of running your own business is that - with creative thinking and the requisite hard work - it can support the management of health issues. The example of others online who generously shared their stories and experiences encouraged me to create a coaching business and ‘portfolio career’, that I hope will be both fulfilling and sustainable as I lose my mobility over the coming years.

I never thought about running my own business until my late twenties. In fact, I used to love working in the corporate world! I would get a buzz out of walking down a central London street, picking up a coffee and taking in the view from my 12th floor office. Lunches at a nearby cafe or in St James’s Park, and regular drinks after work; it was everything I wanted at a certain point in my life. Until it wasn’t.

Perhaps I outgrew the ‘busy-busy-London life’; maybe my perspective shifted as I went through a period of depression following some pretty traumatic years; or it might have been a result of being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy*. Whatever the cause, by the time I was 30 I felt like I needed to consider how I wanted my life and work to look over the next thirty years.

Jo Becker

Taking stock this way isn’t unusual, but it felt particularly pertinent for me, as my recent diagnosis meant that I knew certain things about my future: within a few years I would become dependent on a walking stick and orthosis, followed by a walking frame, a wheelchair, and eventually carers. As a single and fiercely independent woman, I believed that it was up to me to make the next three decades count. While I couldn’t change my health or prognosis, I was determined to find a way to work with it.

Two things helped with this; firstly, I had recently left the corporate world and set up a business with a friend. Although ultimately it wasn’t the right business for me, and I’d sell my shares to make a fresh start, my eyes had been opened to what I could achieve. I loved the autonomy of working for myself, and understood what it was like to go against the 'norms' (steady office-based job, progressing through the ranks over time) that I had expected to follow.

Secondly, Instagram and the online business world were a massive source of unexpected inspiration. Social media provides a window into other worlds (for better or worse!), and I could see that there were some amazing creative entrepreneurs running thriving businesses online, while living with chronic illnesses. In particular, I admired the attitudes of Sara Tasker and Jen Carrington, who had both built businesses that served themselves, as well as others.

Sara Tasker- a well-known Instagram coach and author - began her Instagram account while on maternity leave. Her beautiful imagery and natural honesty created a community, while her self-proclaimed ‘geekiness’ about the technical side of social media enabled her to grow her account so successfully that she was able to help others through coaching and online courses. This enabled Sara to leave her NHS job, and work from home.

Most importantly, it has allowed her to work from her bed when she needs to, using just her phone. Sara has Dysautonomia, a condition which affects her nervous system and can flare up at anytime. For years she tried to push through, ignoring her symptoms or managing them as best she could while holding down a traditional 9-5 job; being her own boss has allowed Sara to find more of a balance, and take better care of her health.

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Meanwhile Jen Carrington, a coach for creative business owners, very consciously set up her business following two mental health breakdowns, as she knew that she’d be happier working for herself. She had also been diagnosed with Chiari Malformation at the age of 16, and as this has become increasingly symptomatic in recent years, she’s more grateful than ever for her business. Jen has created a career in which she feels fulfilled and is able to pace herself carefully, allowing her to manage this rare neurological condition as best she can. She has taught me that a slow and steady approach to growing a business, will lead to something sustainable and rewarding.

Like myself, Sara and Jen have had to learn to live life more slowly. This can be frustrating at times, but you learn focus on enjoying the things that you can do. This has included pursuing work that we love, in a way that suits us and our individual health conditions. Of course creating a business that allows for this takes time and energy upfront and a determination not only to stay in our lanes, but to create them, trying not to worry too much about what others might be doing. It is all part of working with what you have, or as Jen has been known to say: “Playing the hell out of the cards you’ve been dealt”.

creating a career despite deteriorating health

Personally, that has included sharing some of my experiences as a newly-disabled and progressively ill woman, who is stubbornly determined to always try. I’ve learned - and I teach - that we get to choose; not necessarily what happens to us, but how we try to deal with it. We can choose to try to live, to travel, to build a business, to do work that we love. Modifications to plans and experiences are often required, and success is not guaranteed, but a huge amount of fulfilment comes from knowing that we’ve done our best, despite external forces working against us. Travelling solo around countries such as India with a walking stick, a backpack, and seriously weakened legs taught me that!

Taking control of my work in order to support a health condition I cannot control, helps me to feel more empowered, and I’m grateful that social media shows me, and helps me to share, that it’s okay to do things our own way. In fact, technology and the modern online landscape arguably enables more people to pursue 'work that works for them’, as it breaks downs physical barriers and levels the playing field to an extent. There’s no escaping the fact that it is also a competitive and busy landscape, and determination is key to achieving success. But by focusing on how we want our lives to look in the future, and the things we want most, it becomes easier to persevere.

*In case you're not familiar with it, Muscular Dystrophy is a group of muscle wasting diseases. I have a super-rare strain of it, called GNE Myopathy. It is progressive and untreatable. Symptoms began in my late twenties: I began falling over as my calf muscles weakened, and and now most of my leg muscles are significantly affected, and my hands are beginning to weaken. In time I am expected to lose the use of my legs and arms. It’s not okay, but also it is okay; it’s my reality, so I just have to make the most of it.

Ethical living: DIY Homemade natural cleaning recipes

I don’t know about you, but I do love a clean home (although mine rarely is!), but it seems about time that we really start looking at what we are using to do the job; what are we spraying on the surfaces we prepare our food on? what toxins are we putting into our water system every time we clean the sink or the toilet? Not only this, but every time we buy a bottle of cleaning spray from the supermarket we are adding to the single use plastic catastrophe we are facing. The best option is to make our own products and store them in reusable containers - and it’s easier than you may think. Herbalist Natasha Richardson of Forage Botanicals shares three recipes for natural cleaners that we can all whip up in an afternoon…

Natural cleaning product recipes to make at home

Since having my first child, a lot has changed and one thing I appreciate greatly is that kids learn by example. Therefore, I’ve started to live that cliche ‘be your best self’ and I’ve become aware of so many things I’ve always wanted to change, suddenly having the energy and impetus to do so. Evolving into a household that is free of single-use plastic is one step, the other is going ‘au naturel’ when it comes to cleaning products.

I work with women who have hormone imbalances and I’ve known for a long time that plastics and ‘normal’ cleaners contain chemicals called endocrine disruptors (EDC’s). These chemicals have been linked to all sorts of scary things, PCOS, infertility and cancer, to name a few. I’ve written about this in more detail over on Upcircle Beauty if you’re interested in the topic.

So, here are a few recipes I’ve been using myself which you might like to try. I would recommend simply replacing what you can as you run out of things, rather than throwing your entire cupboard of sprays in the bin. Instead, approach the change is a slow and manageable way.

DIY homemade recipe for natural toilet bombs

Toilet bowl bombs

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups of bicarbonate of soda

  • 1/3 cup of citric acid

  • 2 tbsp of hydrogen peroxide

  • 20 drops of Litsea cubeba essential oil

  • 20 drops of Thyme essential oil

  • A silicon mould (or a madeleine mould as I’ve used)

  • Mason jar (or other airtight glass container)

Mix the bicarb and citric acid together, then slowly pour in the hydrogen peroxide. It will fizz - this is normal. Mix it all together till you get a wet sand consistency. Next, add the essential oils and mix again. Now you can press the mix into your mould. It will react and harden within an hour, so don’t leave & forget about it! Use one bomb to freshen up the toilet bowl when needed and use two, along with a good scrub with the toilet brush, whenever a deeper clean is required.

Natural recipe to make a homemade Sink scrub

Sink scrub

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups of bicarbonate of soda

  • 10 drops of Sage essential oil

  • 10 drops of Lemongrass essential oil

  • Glass container

  • Scrubber

Combine the ingredients and mix well. Liberally sprinkle over the sink with a little liquid soap and scrub. Thoroughly wash with water after use.

Recipe for DIY homemade natural surface spray

Surface Cleaner

  • 1/4 cup of vinegar

  • 1/4 cup of water

  • 1/4 cup of alcohol

  • 10 drops of Rosemary essential oil

  • 20 drops of Orange essential oil

 Combine the ingredients in a glass spray container, shake before use. For the best effect let the sprayed liquid sit on the surface for a minute or so before wiping.

Thanks Natasha! So simple right? We can’t wait to give them a go! Do let us know if you try these out too.

Our Seek Inspire Create in Hastings

At the end of June, we hosted the 2nd in our series of Seek Inspire Create days. For our summer event, we decided to head to the coast, to one of my favourite seaside towns - Hastings. I’ve you’ve missed what these events are all about, it is basically a chance for us to bring the magazine to life - visiting in person some of types of beautiful independent stores we feature in the magazine as well as meeting and learning from inspirational creative women and getting the chance to make something beautiful with our hands. The days follows the structure of Seek, Inspire, Create - this is a little run through of the day, with beautiful images by SarahLou Francis.


The first part of the day took in three of my favourite independent shops in the town. We featured all of these shops in our Instagrammer’s Guide to Hastings post, and I always pop in when I visit the town. What makes the visit extra special when part of our event is that we get to hear direct from the owners all about the story behind their business and have the chance to ask questions, before browsing and shopping with exclusive discount. I’m pretty sure our whole group treated themselves to some goodies, it was hard to resist that’s for sure!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Butlers Emporium
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Butlers Emporium
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Butlers Emporium
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Butlers Emporium
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Butlers Emporium

We kicked off the day at Butler’s Emporium, a shop I have visited for many years now. Sadly owner Rose was away on a buying trip to Morocco when we were there this time, but her colleague Julia shared a little bit of insight into how they go about sourcing their eclectic mix of products from around the world as well as from British independent makers. The shop used to be a traditional hardware store, and Rose has kept lots of the original fittings to display her wares, so the bones of the space itself are just as interesting as what she has filled it with! It’s unlikely you will leave this shop without a little treat for yourself or a gift for someone.

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Warp and Weft
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Warp and Weft
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Warp and Weft
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Warp and Weft
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Warp and Weft
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Warp and Weft

After a quick coffee stop, we headed to Warp and Weft, just a few doors down from Butler’s Emporium. This store is incredibly unique and one of the most interesting shops I’ve ever been in. Owner Leida was a wonderful host, giving us a tour of both floors of the shop as well as their workshop area. Leida and her team design and make all the garments in their classic collection of clothing for men and women, which can all be tailored to fit perfectly. While they’ve been doing what they do for years, it feels even more relevant these days, as we all become more akin with the idea of buying clothes to last. Again, the shop is housed in a beautiful old building which is steeped in history and oozing character. Make sure you don’t stroll past it’s narrow store front on your next visit to the town.

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Reste
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Reste
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Reste
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Reste
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - Reste

The last stop on the SEEK section of the day was Reste - a treasure trove of rattan, plants, ceramics, magazines (including 91!), stationery, beauty products and much more. Owner Jacqui is so lovely and told us about how different her previous business was - running a party-ware shop! Now, her focus is very much on sustainability and helping people create a home that is filled with natural materials, greenery and eco-friendly products. I’m pretty sure I could spend a good hour in here (at least!) poring over all the beautiful items, trying to decide what to treat myself to! On this visit, one of the gorgeous rattan mirrors made it’s way back to 91 HQ!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - The Crown pub for lunch
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - The Crown pub for lunch
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - The Crown pub for lunch
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - The Crown pub for lunch
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - talk with nutritionalist Daniela Exley
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - talk with ceramicist Pip WIlcox


After a morning of shopping, we were all ready for a sit down and some food, so we headed around the corner to our table in the friendly Crown Pub. Goodie bags awaited our guests as did a delicious light lunch menu. After filling our tummies, we bundled into the cosy snug at the other side of the pub, where we were met by two inspirational women, ready to share their wisdom with us. First up was Daniela Exley, a naturopathic nutritionalist, who runs Beets, Pulse and Thyme. Daniela really does know her stuff when it comes to all things healthy eating and we all learnt so much about easy changes we can implement in our diets. Everyone in the group scrambled to snap up one of her ‘28 Day Mind and Body Reset’ books at the end of the session! Following Daniela, was Pip Wilcox, a ceramicist who has made Hastings her adopted home. Her move to the town was part of her story which she shared with us whole-heartedly, focussing on the how and why involved in making a big change in your life. Pip’s words resonated with all of us in the room, and afterwards we all admitted to getting a little bit emotional! Thank you to both ladies for being so incredibly generous with your knowledge and advice.

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - candle making with Lagom at Cake Room
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - candle making with Lagom at Cake Room
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - candle making with Lagom at Cake Room
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - candle making with Lagom at Cake Room
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - candle making with Lagom at Cake Room
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Hastings - candle making with Lagom at Cake Room


Feeling inspired, we chat all things creative as we take a stroll along the seafront to our final venue. Stepping into Cake Room we are immediately hit by the most amazing aromas and met by the creator of these delicious scents - Thabi - owner of Lagom candles. (You may have spotted her in our current issue too!) Thabi has prepared mini candle making stations for us all, and we spend the first part of the session learning all about essential oils and the different types of wax used for making candles. (Paraffin wax is a bad choice - avoid at all costs folks!) We all then had a chance to make our own soy candle which Thabi later posted to us to enjoy at home. The day was, of course, rounded off with tea and cake - a delicious vegan gingerbread and cola cake no less!

Like with our previous event in Lewes (you can read about that one here) it really was my ideal day out - shopping in beautiful stores, chatting with like-minded folk, being inspired by other creative women AND getting to make something wonderful to take home! I know that some people have perhaps been put off by the ticket price, but for everything that the day offers I really think it is great value. Sometimes we need to invest in ourselves - give ourselves time away from the every day and spend time with others who ‘get’ you.

The plan is to hopefully do one more of these events this year, so I really hope to see some more of you at that one. If there is anything you’d love to see us do at future events, please do leave a comment here, or via social media or email. These events are for our readers and we want them to be everything you’d love from a day built just for you.

Thanks to everyone that was involved in our day in Hastings - it was simply fabulous!

All photography: SarahLou Francis

10 Tips for Building Your Brand Online

If you are running a business these days, having an online presence is pretty much essential - and building a strong brand is also a bit of a necessity if you want to stand out amongst the noise that is the world wide web. We turned to Olivia Tripp, founder of Weekend:IN to find out how small independent businesses can go about getting their brand some traction online by establishing their brand identity….  

At Weekend:IN, we see a lot of amazing, small businesses that have great products on the shelves, but a less clear idea of who they are as a brand and how to showcase themselves online. We believe a strong brand identity online is not only what drives sales but it’s also what keeps a business running smoothly and evolving in the right fashion. If you’re just starting out with your brand and are looking for some handy pointers on how to develop your business online, read on for our ten top tips.

10 tips to Build A Brand Online

1/ Think about your target audience

 Out of all our ten tips, this is the most important and the first step to building a cohesive brand. If you don’t already have an outline of what your brand’s target audience looks like, start by building a customer profile - go into maximum detail by questioning yourself, ‘who are they?’, ‘what do they do?’, ‘what are their likes and dislikes?’, ‘what other brands do they shop/enjoy?’. This will help to develop your ideal customer ‘on paper’ and reminding yourself of your ideal customer base will steer you in the right direction when faced with tricky business decisions.

 2/ Consider your brand ethos

Your brand’s persona should be apparent in everything you do. Whether that’s food made using environmentally conscious production methods or a beauty line that aims to boost the self-esteem of young people, these beliefs should be at the forefront of all your business decisions. If you aren’t yet sure of your company ethos, make a list of all the reasons why you began, this will help to bring out your brand ambitions (whether you knew them or not!) and will be a handy stepping stone towards developing a clear identity and knowing what opportunities to take or pass up in the future.

3/ Don’t stray away from your values

Don’t be afraid to shout about what you believe in - but remember you need to stick to your word and be consistent in your messaging and beliefs, otherwise customers will doubt your credibility. This also applies to saying things you don’t mean. It soon becomes apparent that a brand is inauthentic and only saying things to go along with trends and attract followers and sales. These may get them page hits and sales to begin with, but it’s not good for building trust from your customers. Our favourite brands are the ones that we want to support and share with friends and family, rather than just buy a product from. The latter is, of course, important, but if a brand doesn’t support values we believe in, we’d be much less likely to keep shopping there.

10 tips to Build A Brand Online

4/ Be consistent with your visual identity

Depending on your company values and target audience, consider what immediate reaction you want your brand visuals to give and what visuals would best represent your business. Perhaps, for example, dark, sleek imagery would be best for a professional, high-end brand, compared to a colourful, playful style for a modern, millennial brand. Ask yourself what colours would best represent your brand? What key messaging do you want included in your logo? These are small but vital details and they round off your brand’s online aesthetic and furthermore solidify your brand’s identity. Working alongside a graphic designer is the best and most efficient way of creating a strong visual identity - why not start with building a collaborative Pinterest board for colour schemes, design styles and logo ideas, so that you and the designer are on the same page.

 5/ Keep your tone of voice consistent also

 Whether it’s a promotional blog post or an inspirational caption on your Insta, your desired tone of voice should be maintained throughout your online platforms. Do you want your brand to come across as friendly or serious? Informative or laid-back? By keeping your tone of voice consistent, your followers will come to recognise your unique way with words straight away, and trust and respect what you have to say. 

10 tips to Build A Brand Online

6/ Communicate your story

Scepticism towards large, impenetrable corporate companies is at an all time high and more and more, shoppers are looking to buy from businesses that are authentic and transparent in regards to their back-story and aims for the future. Make sure to include an ‘About Us’ section on your brand’s website so that customers can understand more about you and your business - it will ensure you attract the right customer base too. Engaging with followers on your social media platforms by replying to comments, posting Instagram stories and writing blog posts are also important, everyday tasks to help get across your brand’s story and connect with your customers.

7/ Find your niche

 Here at Weekend:IN we’ve found that, in order to flourish, it’s all about having an engaged following and a following that’s right for you and your brand. When we work with clients, we don’t aim to accumulate an extreme amount of followers in a short space of time, instead, we focus on a steady growth of the right type of audience, because what is the point of having a massive following online if they don’t actually like or buy your wares? Similarly, don’t try and sell your products to anyone and everyone. You simply can’t cater to everyone (unless you’re the next Amazon), and you’ll end up tying yourself in knots trying to please everybody. Remember your brand values and ideal customer profile, and with these thoughts in mind, spend an hour or two on Instagram following people who you could see fitting into your target audience.

 8/ It’s more than just sales

The best brands around know to not bombard their online followers with repetitive imagery and sales posts after sales posts. Your online presence is not solely a shop front, it is a mood board representing your brand’s ideas and inspirations. It can even be a space to occasionally showcase brands similar to your own that you admire and value (they may return the favour too!). You may want to post behind the scenes photos on Instagram now and then or write a more personal blog post, but don’t feel like you should if it isn’t in keeping with your brand.

10 tips to Build A Brand Online

 9/ Nurture customer relationships

Knowing your customers believe in what you believe, and support your brand and its goals, is a huge morale boost. You could be in the competitive realm of fashion, but you know what you bring to the table is different thanks to your unique ambition, established brand and loyal customers, creating your own niche in the market. Respect your audience by being transparent and authentic in your business endeavours; post behind the scenes photos from your workshop, let them know what projects you’re up to, express your current interests or future goals, take them on the ride with you. But it’s not only on social you need to nourish those customer relationships, every step of the journey should represent your brand well. Think customer service and user experience! By treating your customers well, you’ll have not just one-off customers, but faithful friends, fans, and most importantly, trust.

 10/ Don’t get disheartened

Things won’t happen overnight, attracting customers and sales, will of course take time, so be patient and kind on yourself. If you’re having a down day, remind yourself why you started and chat with other like-minded brands online; there are a tonne of fab business support groups out there.

Try to represent your brand the best way you can, with an authentic and clear approach, without losing sight of your values. Interact with similar brands and followers to keep you in the loop - it will also make you more likely to attract customers and clients from further afield.

If you can create a brand that holds strong beliefs, a clear visual identity and a thoughtful relationship with your customer base, you will do more than just sell products, you will create a real positive impact on people’s lives and keep them coming back for more.

SO much great advice there! Thank you Olivia.

Weekend: IN are in fact hosting a weekend retreat on ‘How to Build a Brand’ this September in East Sussex with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration guaranteed! Like I said at the top of this post, making your brand stand out these days is half the battle so it is worth investing in how to do it well.

Olivia is offering 91 readers a wonderful £100 discount with the code '91magazine', which is valid until 1st August 2019. Go check out the event details to discover the schedule, the amazing venue, the speakers and what else is involved. It sounds fab. All the details can be found here.

Three 91 creatives to follow - July

It’s been a while since I introduced you to a few of our lovely 91 contributors. We have a wide network of photographers, writers, stylists and illustrators who create the incredible work within our pages. I’d love you to get to know them more so today I invite you to read a little about these lovely ladies, and do go give them a follow too!

Cathy Pyle - Photographer

Cathy has done a number of beautiful shoots for 91 Magazine, although we first met when she came to photograph my previous home for another magazine! Her own home is a beauty, so do go check it out as well as her other work at @cathy.pyle

Cathy Pyle photographer
cathy pyle - photographer
cathy pyle-photographer

If you weren't a photographer what would you be and why? 

I only became a photographer in my forties and wouldn’t wish to do anything else! But in another life I might be an architect, an interior designer, or perhaps a garden designer. 

 Name 3 of your favourite instagrammers & why? 

@lobsterandswan - for beautiful photography with soul, and a reminder to seek beauty in the everyday.

@blackshorestyle - for endless interior inspiration. (I want to run away and live in every image she shares!).

@hildemork78 - for her gorgeously dreamy glimpses of her life in rural Norway.

 Top tip for aspiring photographers? 

 Learn and practise as much as you can: set yourself small goals, take workshops and courses, go to exhibitions, read books, talk to people in the industry. Master the technical stuff so that you can express your creative vision, just as you want to - that’s what counts.

What is your TV box set obsession right now?

Would it be terrible if I admitted to a temporary addiction to Love Island?! The perfect antidote to a full-on life ;) When I’m in the mood for something more serious, though, I’m currently enjoying the stunning third season of the Handmaid’s Tale. 

Favourite shop? 

For an inspiring wander, Petersham Nurseries. For online homewares with social justice and environmental sustainability at their heart, Aerende.

Favourite flower? 

Anything I’ve grown in my garden (or snipped from across the neighbour’s fence!), and especially if it has a gorgeous scent. Right now, it’s climbing rose and sweet pea.

Favourite plant? 

Oh, too many to choose from! But perhaps because it's in its element right now, I’d choose the delicate hydrangea petiolaris in the shady corner outside my kitchen.

Favourite city?

I think my favourite has to be London - close to home but never the same. I never tire of the views walking over Waterloo Bridge. 

Claire van Heukelom - illustrator

Claire is a Dutch illustrator based in France, whose distinct style caught our eye, with it’s feminine influence and beautiful hand-lettering. She illustrated one of the columns in our current issue, pictured below. See more of her work at @clairevanheukelom

illustration by Claire van Heukelom in 91 Magazine
Claire van Heukelom illustration
Claire van Heukelom illustration

If you weren't an illustrator what would you be and why?

I would be an architect. Architecture and interior design has always interested me, I considered doing interior design in art school but decided that drawing fits me best.

Name 3 of your favourite instagrammers & why?

@sanae_sugimoto - Sanae Sugimoto because of the delicate and detailed illustrations.

@laurentmoreauillustration - French illustrator Laurent Moreau who´s work is intriguing and whimsical at the same time.

@willian_santiago - Willian Santiago makes sensitive illustrations with beautiful colour combinations.

Top tip for aspiring illustrators?

Find your own style.

What is your TV box set obsession right now?

We are watching The Sopranos for the second time. My oh my, how I love the characters of Paulie, Tony and Carmella.

Favourite shop?

Nature et Décoverte is a great shop where you can wander around and forget about time. You can find great things for your house and garden, all selected with a love for nature.

Favourite flower?

The peony because of it’s colour, all the delicate leaves that makes the beautiful flower. And that smell…

Favourite plant?

To be honest I do not have a green thumb, so I only admire from afar. So instead of house plants, I always have fresh flowers around the house.

Favourite city?

Lyon, a great city not so far from where we live. It has an old and a new village with amazing squares, alleys with little shops around every corner, great bouchons, and the typical vibe of the South of France.

Meredith Cowser - writer

Meredith AKA One Social Girl is one of our US contributors and has written a column for us since we launched in print 3 years ago. Starting out a crochet blogger, Meredith now runs her own brand communications studio. You can follow her at @onesocialgirl.

Meredith Cowser
Meredith Cowser
Meredith Cowser

If you weren't a writer what would you be and why?

I think I would be a graphic designer! I am fascinated by the process of bringing beautiful design to life. The use of colour, shapes, typography, and lines is just another way of bringing a story to life!

Name 3 of your favourite instagrammers & why?

Such a tough call! Here are three ladies inspiring me right now:

@eatingbirdfood - For food, Brittany’s healthy recipes are some of my favourites! I have tried several and have loved every single one. Her photos and videos are beautiful, too!

@jennymwalton - For fashion, I find myself thoroughly enjoying the sneak peeks of Jenny’s world as a fashion illustrator and half of The Sartorialist- the street style website. I love seeing her work, fashion choices, and where she is traveling next! 

@jasminedowling - Jasmin is an incredible designer, photographer, and all-round inspiring creative to follow. Her feed is visually stunning and curated based on colour palette. It is truly a feast for the eyes!

Top tip for aspiring writers/bloggers?

1. Stay true to your unique voice and talents. 

2. Don’t go at it alone. Building your community is essential for a healthy personal and professional life. 

3. You are not defined by what you do. If someone says no to something you wrote/created, they are actually saying yes to you. 

What is your TV box set obsession right now?

Stranger Things. 1000%. I am probably watching the new season as we speak….

Favourite shop?

It isn’t a storefront, but Cocokind skincare is my favourite brand right now. Their products have changed my skin, rid me of hormonal acne, and are made with clean ingredients. I’m obsessed and you should check them out! 

Favourite flower?

Dahlias! Counting down the days until they are in season at my local market. :) 

Favourite plant?

Even though my gardening skills are non-existent, I always smile when I see and, more importantly, smell a rosemary bush. The smell of rosemary is so intoxicating and makes me think of foods I want to cook. 

Favourite city?

There are a lot of cities I would love to visit in my life, but my favourite I’ve visited so far is Bath. I had the pleasure of traveling there all the way from Texas a few years ago and loved every minute. I can’t wait to travel to the UK again one day!

Thanks ladies! I love hearing a bit of insight into their lives - I hope you do too! Make sure to go say hi on Instagram too! :)

91 is pinning... Ethical living

Once upon a time, choice was limited for anyone wanting to live more ethically. But, thankfully 2019 has seen a shift in the general awareness of environmental issues, and the internet is now awash with online shops selling eco-alternatives as well as blogs and podcasts offering up advice on zero-waste living and lists of the most ethical brands out there.

Pinterest is of course a one-stop shop for discovering all those useful posts and tips of how to green up your lifestyle, so we’ve started a board to collate links to these resources and products that are great swaps for any existing plastic or polluting items.

Styling: Lauren Becker / Photography: Cathy Pyle

Styling: Lauren Becker / Photography: Cathy Pyle

The above image is taken from our AW18 issue from a feature about ‘how to style your home for a better planet’. The whole issue had an ethical theme, so do grab a copy while we still have a few left. Below are a few more images we’ve pinned to our Ethical Living board, do head over there for more, and why not start up your own board to save the ideas to?

image via  Bev Cooks

image via Bev Cooks

image via  The Future Kept

image via The Future Kept

Photography by  Si Thompson  / Styling:  Karen Barlow  &  Kirsty Saxon

Photography by Si Thompson / Styling: Karen Barlow & Kirsty Saxon

Pop to our Ethical Living Pinterest board for more.

Seek Inspire Create with Team 91 - June

On my last check our hashtag #seekinspirecreate had over 350,000 images under the it! Amazing! Inevitably there are plenty of non-relevant pictures, but equally there are loads of beautiful shots, so do take a peek here.

So what have the ladies behind 91 been seeking, getting inspired by and creating recently?! Here, some of our team share what they’ve been up to of late…

Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker

Hashtag Authentic book – Olivia Williams, brand manager

Sitting at the top of my reading pile is Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker who is the force behind Me & Orla, her phenomenally successful blog and Instagram account, with the book taking its name from her popular podcast. The book is an absolute beauty and I’m grateful to be tapping into it since feeling the need to reignite my connection with the creative community on Instagram. The book is broken down into four chapters -  Story Telling,  Making Pictures  Archive Your Life and Sharing Your World - with stunning images on every page and Sara’s lovely girl-next-door narrative. She inspires and empowers in equal measure. What I particularly love is the positivity that radiates throughout, combined with the philosophy that by remaining authentic and true to yourself, anything is possible. My journey is just starting with this book and I’m looking forward to journaling my way through it, learning and growing mindfully. 

pic via:  Tinsmith’s IG

Tinsmiths – Sine Fleet, sub-editor

Every now and then, I get a little pang of nostalgia that pulls me back to one of my ‘happy’ places, the historic Herefordshire town of Ledbury. It has a wonderful mix of small independent shops and eateries, and to lose myself in its warren of winding lanes, gazing up at ancient timber framed buildings, is just magical to me. In contrast though, top of my to-do list is always a visit to the town’s most strikingly contemporary building – a large and undulating glass and steel structure that’s home to design store, Tinsmiths.

I love design in all its forms, but for the home, it’s nature-inspired, thoughtful interiors that draw me in, and I’m always on the lookout for timeless design that will be cherished for the long haul. Tinsmiths is a real tonic for this. Alongside textiles, furnishings, lighting, and all sorts of characterful homewares, there’s a beautiful collection of art, craft, and artisan ceramics. Both the unexpected architecture of Tinsmiths, and the curated collections inside, perfectly fuse the old and the new - and the result is something quite special.

28 day Mind & body reset book

28 day mind and body reset book - Caroline Rowland, editor

We recently hosted our second Seek Inspire Create day event, this time in Hastings, with a host of lovely local businesses involved. The group was treated to a talk from Daniela, a naturopathic nutritionalist who runs Beets, Pulse and Thyme. She shared a wealth of knowledge about exactly how and why what we eat and put on our skin affects our health and well-being, and how so many ailments can be treated or managed by simply improving our diet. (Daniela is proof of this as she manages her own auto-immune disease purely in this way).

At the end of the talk, she told us she only had five copies left of her 28 day reset manual and the group quickly scrabbled to get their hands on one, including me! The idea is to follow her 28 day programme to ‘reset’ your body and mind, looking at one thing each week - 1. Gut health, 2. blood sugar and adrenals, 3. the skin and lymphatic system and 4. hormones. As well as lots of meal ideas throughout, in the skin section Daniela has included recipes for how to make your own scrubs, face masks and deodorants - I can’t wait to give it all a try! Find more tips and ideas on Daniela’s blog and details of how to do the reset yourself.

Taking pottery classes

Learning new skills - Shelley Welti, marketing manager

This year - inspired by all the wonderful makers we meet and interview for 91 Magazine - I've challenged myself to learn a new skill every month. So far I've made a purse (or to give it its full name: a necessary clutch wallet), been on a natural cosmetics course, honed my writing skills (hopefully!) in a workshop, sewn a wrap skirt and am learning how to make a macrame wall hanging. I've also continued with my pottery wheel course – I've just finished my third – and already miss the feel of the clay and how it magically transforms from a slab into a bowl or cup, just by using your hands. While my makes are definitely not in the league of the talented ceramists we feature, I'm really enjoying letting go of perfectionism and the day's stresses and seeing what happens on the wheel. I still can't quite believe I made a cup! 

Rosendals Trädgård, biodynamic garden cafe, Sweden

Rosendals Trädgård - Hannah Gambin, events co-ordinator

My husband and I recently took a trip to Stockholm to celebrate my birthday. One of many highlights was Rosendals Trädgård - a biodynamic garden cafe on the island of Djurgården. Our visit started with a stroll exploring their vegetable fields, rose gardens, wild flower beds and green houses, before stopping at their gorgeous cafe for the most delicious homemade lunch. Tasty goodies were also tempting us next door in their farm shop, from home-baked bread to their biodynamic vegetables. We couldn’t leave without taking a look inside their picturesque shop, a carefully curated space with a wide selection of flowers, plants and seeds. So much thought and intention has gone into creating Rosendals Trädgård - a must see when visiting the Swedish capital.

91 visits... the Barbican Conservatory

91 editor Caroline spends an afternoon exploring one of London’s best kept secrets - the Barbican Conservatory.

I love London, I really do. What I love is that no matter how long you live here there will always be something new to discover, or somewhere that’s been there forever but you just never knew about it. This was the case for me with the Barbican Conservatory. Nestled in the heart of the Brutalist complex, that Londoners either love or hate (I love), is a verdant oasis - in fact the second largest conservatory in the city, after Kew.

Barbican conservatory, London

The conservatory is only open to the public on certain Sundays and bank holidays, so best to check online before you plan a trip, but the added bonus is that it offers free entry. Plant lovers will most likely lose a few hours wandering the leafy pathways and exploring the various levels, viewing the vast collection of tropical plants from all angles.

Barbican conservatory, London
Barbican conservatory, London
Barbican conservatory, London
Barbican conservatory, London
Barbican conservatory, London

As someone who has become a tad houseplant-obsessed over recent years, it was so interesting to see so many of the varieties that I have added to my own home is this environment, where they’ve been allowed to run a little bit wild. I was in awe of the giant, unruly monsteras, the roof-skimming fiddle leaf figs and the hefty pileas. I’ve since discovered that you can do a 60-minute guided tour of the conservatory with their resident gardener to find out more about the history of the place and it’s immense collection, for which tickets are just £12.50. Alternatively, you could treat yourself to afternoon tea amongst the greenery, with the cakes and savouries all inspired by a fruit, flower or herb grown in the conservatory.

Barbican Conservatory, London
Barbican Conservatory, London
Barbican Conservatory, London
Barbican Conservatory, London
Barbican Conservatory, London
Barbican Conservatory, London
Barbican Conservatory, London

Make sure you scale the steps to the top of the glasshouse where the arid room is located. This was one of my favourite areas - packed with an impressive collection of cacti and succulents, wonderfully established jade plants and the most phenomenal burro’s tail I’ve ever seen!

An excellent way to spend a carefree Sunday in the city and will likely encourage even the least green-fingered amongst us to acquire a potted friend or two!

Details of opening times can be found on the Barbican’s website.

91 is reading... The Foraged Home

We love shopping for our homes, we really do, but more and more we are feeling unsettled about constantly purchasing ‘new’ as the plight of our planet looms over us. We believe the way forward is to shop more considerately, buying only the items you truly need or love, and finding out about it’s story - where was it made, by whom and with what. To compliment these special items, decorating with finds from the natural world is the perfect way to create a home with soul.

This recent book - The Foraged Home - authored by Oliver Maclennan and photographed by Joanna Maclennan, is full of beautiful examples of foragers - people who have used their ingenuity, creativity and passion for nature and adventure to decorate their spaces.


Foraging for your home does not just mean wandering in the woods picking up sticks - although this is part of it! So, we are sharing five ideas gathered from the book to inspire you to become a home decor forager yourself….

The Foraged Home - book review on 91 Magazine
  1. Get out in nature - go walking in the woods and keep your eyes peeled for branches that could be turned into a curtain pole or a clothes rail. Plus, all year round you can find foliage that can be used in vases for a rustic display - cow parsley, gorse, seed heads all look wonderful, for example.

  2. Forage online - Foraging doesn’t even have to mean going outside! You can scour websites like Freecycle from the comfort of your sofa. Look out for great pieces of furniture that people are getting rid of. But only take them if you really need or want them.

  3. Scour skips and bins (!) - Often people put objects in skips or by their bin that are in perfectly good condition, so keep your eyes peeled when you are out and about. Ideally, if you see something interesting it is best to ask if you can take it first, unless they have left a sign on it to say ‘take me’!

ideas to decorate your home by foraging
Decorate your home with forage finds

4. Look out for discarded timber - old palettes and discarded pieces of wood can easily be transformed into pieces of furniture with a little bit of work. You can ask shops if they have any palettes going spare or even at your local recycling centre.

5. Beach combing - the beach is a great place for foraging - from beautiful pieces of driftwood to pebbles and shells to items washed up by the tide. While you are there, why not do a mini beach clean and pick up any rubbish you find too.

Five ideas for decorating your home with foraged finds

For lots more ideas and to see more of the homes of these inspirational foragers check out this lovely book, published by Thames and Hudson and available here.

All images: Joanna Maclennan

Home tour: Verena Gernemann

91 news editor, Sophie Warren-Smith, talks to German instagrammer Verena Gernemann about her countryside home and why she enjoys sharing it with the masses on Instagram. 

Verena Gernemann - interiors instagrammer

TV and radio journalist and wedding ceremony speaker, Verena Gernemann, has lived in Haltern am See, a pretty countryside town near Muenster, Germany since 2017. She shares her home with her husband Flo and two year old daughter, Elsa, although the couple previously lived in an apartment in Cologne. They loved city life and originally the plan was to buy some land, build a house and rent it out. They’d never considered living in the countryside themselves - it was merely a retirement idea for the future.

But, their minds slowly changed as they navigated the build, “When we started planning the house we found out that we didn’t like opting for the cheapest versions of everything, and wanted to build a nice house. I planned everything with Pinterest, interior books and magazines.” Verena found herself discovering inspiration everywhere she went and became fully immersed in the process. “One day, we were on holiday in London and I found a beautiful industrial bathroom in a restaurant. I took pictures and decided to style one of our bathrooms like this”. As the project came to an end and the house because prettier and prettier, they decided to try living there to see how they liked it - and have never left!

home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann

 Verena started using Instagram in 2014 when she got married - the idea being to have a personalised hashtag so that everybody could share their photos from their wedding. Shortly after that, she started to share pictures of their Cologne flat, but it was in 2017, when they moved to their current house, that her account really started to gain an audience.

“One day I suddenly got 200 likes for a picture of our kitchen and I was wondering what’s was going on. I still do not know what happened back then, but after that day I got more and more followers and it’s still growing to this day! I use Instagram as a hobby. I don’t feel that pressure to post every day. It’s just fun. When I had 1000 or 2000 followers I began to receive requests for collaborations. I only pick those which I really like, otherwise I think it’s not authentic. I never thought that one day I would reach so many people - but I am very proud that I can be an inspiration to some of them, that makes me happy,” explains Verena.

home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine

Back in January this year, Verena used the Konmari method to minimise the amount of cleaning up and tidying. This made it much easier for taking photos for Instagram as everything now has its place and it’s easier to keep everything organised. From time to time, Verena buys new things so her pictures stay interesting and her DIY projects have been popular, although some followers feel disappointed that they can’t buy her curtains that were handmade by her mother! Decorating and DIY projects are her two favourite pastimes and she loves browsing flea markets to find beautiful old furniture with character, “I never liked the 100% perfect look in interiors - for me, furniture and interiors have to tell a story.”

home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine
home tour: Verena Gernemann - featured on 91 Magazine

 The couple’s favourite room is the kitchen. Verena explains, “I love the eat-in kitchen. It’s the room where I am most of the time. I eat, work, talk, laugh and cook in it. It’s the most crowded place when we have guests but I just love it. For some people it’s imperfect or impractical - because of the carpets, for example - but for us, it’s just perfect. Cosy and hyggelig.”

 Verena loves the her home and enjoys the possibility of decorating each room from scratch when she wants to. But, does she miss life in Cologne? “We are still city lovers,” she admits, “but at the moment - and with a small child - we love all the benefits the countryside and our own house with a garden gives us,” says Verena.

Follow Verena on Instagram

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Cherryade

Cherryade, an exquisitely curated and beautifully designed store in Poundbury, is the creation of husband and wife team Ginny and Ian Stanley. Soon to launch online too, we talk to Ginny about taking the time to build the personality of a brand, and what it’s like working together as a couple.

shop front.jpg

Hi Ginny! Tell us about the team behind the scenes at Cherryade…

As a husband and wife duo we are responsible for all facets of the business, from the fun stuff like sourcing and buying, to the boring jobs like the office paperwork. Most of our big decision making is made together – luckily, we agree most of the time! We are now very lucky to be supported in the shop by a small team of amazingly talented staff, each with their own strengths and expertise - the value of good employees is not to be underestimated!


What inspired you to set up your business, and how did you develop the idea?

We ran a coffee shop together for a few years, and began selling a small collection of homeware. We quickly realised that this was the direction we wanted to take, so we sold the cafe and focused on starting a new business.

We opened almost six years ago. Having previous experience of being self-employed helped enormously, so we were well aware of how much time and effort is required and how all-consuming it becomes. 

chair corner.jpg

Could you describe Cherryade, in a nutshell?

We are a design-led concept store, offering curated collections of goods for life and home. Our collections feature jewellery, bath and fragrance, children and baby, cards and wrap, stationery, books, homeware, utility and house plants.


Where does the name come from?

Driving home from the Peak District one day, ‘Sally Cinnamon’, a Stone Roses track came on the radio, and we were singing along. ‘Cherryade’ was in the lyrics, and it was born. It doesn’t really mean anything, it just stuck and we went with it!


Do you have a core ethos or set of values at the heart of your business?

We feel strongly attracted to the concepts of slow living and wabi sabi, and want to show their value to our customers. Taking time to appreciate the simple things in life fits exactly with our ethos and is reflected in our product range. Self-care, products with sustainability in mind, and those that celebrate natural materials and textures are also a focus. We try to choose special pieces that will stand the test of time and bring joy when you use or see them.

coffee shot.jpg

Tell us about your neighbourhood…

We are based in Poundbury, a newly built village-like urban extension to the county town of Dorchester in beautiful Dorset. Built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, it’s home to a great collection of independent shops and cafe’s amongst residential housing, and has become a popular destination for both locals and visitors as an alternative to the traditional high street.


How valuable is social media and Instagram to your work?

We have been steadily growing our Instagram and online community since we opened. It grows with us organically and I hope shows our culture and authenticity. It’s a real feel-good moment when customers tell us they have come specifically after seeing a post - sometimes travelling some distance. It reaffirms how important our online community is. How amazing to be able to reach out to people who like what we do every day! It’s a privilege, and a part of shop life I really enjoy.


How did you go about designing the Cherryade store?

It was love at first sight with our building. It’s sited on a corner plot, with a double-aspect and two entrances. It’s a building that looks and feels architecturally impressive and beautiful from the outside. Internally the high ceilings and huge arched windows form a space that is full of light. We created individual zones for our categories of products to be merchandised together, like a mini-department store, with the intention that each area has enough room to give the product and/or designer credence.

shop shot.JPG

How do you source and curate your collections?

When we travel we gain inspiration from places we visit, and of course we enjoy the trade shows in London, Paris and particularly Scandinavia. We have our favourite suppliers who have remained consistently strong for us and continually bring out new collections.

It’s good to visit their showrooms to see and hold products in the flesh, and then consider our buying focus and direction for each season. Increasingly we find we can source online, especially finding some of the less well known smaller designers and creatives who may not have a presence at trade shows. We find the most difficult bit is deciding what not to buy! Editing and curating takes up a lot of our time!

meraki bottle.jpg

What do you find are the pros and cons of running an independent store?

We love working for ourselves and making our own decisions. We have spent our whole married life working together and it is hard to imagine anything different now. It definitely has its challenges of course! The main one for us - as it is for anyone who is self-employed - is the continual battle to find the right work/life balance. There really aren’t enough hours in the day! 


What have been Cherryade’s highlights, so far?

Highlights for us are always customer satisfaction and positive feedback. It’s reassuring to hear that people ‘get it’, and we take that compliment very personally. Every single decision is measured and considered, so it is confirmation of that effort paying off when we get lovely comments.


Do you have a typical ‘working day’?

I split my time between being on the shop floor, buying, and working on social media. We don’t have an on-site office, so we find quite a lot of time is also spent working from home. It can be difficult trying to concentrate on buying decisions and budgets with the buzz of the shop happening at the same time! There is always a huge amount to do on a daily basis, such as serving and spending time with customers, working on displays and merchandising, taking deliveries, and plant care.


How has your business evolved since you began?

We are constantly evolving as trends come and go, new designers and suppliers come on the scene, and of course we are always looking for something new to offer our customers. The house plant trend in recent years is one such example, as its now become such an integral part of what we do, to the extent that the shop has become a bit of a jungle! We started some years ago by introducing a few succulents and cacti, and have since progressed to weekly deliveries of many differing species, varieties, sizes and shapes! 

Our online business is now all set to launch. It was always our intention to let the physical shop grow and gain personality, to develop its culture before going online, which I believe has been crucial for us. It’s going to be a big year!


How do you handle marketing and PR?

We do very little traditional advertising and struggle to see much value in that anymore for a business like ours, considering the power of social media. We find having direct engagement with our followers and customers benefits us considerably more.


Any favourite products, makers or bestsellers?

The love is always there for every single product that we choose to stock. Earl of East London scented soy candles are a particular favourite, currently. Each has a beautiful back story of how the fragrance was created, each with a totally unique scent. The quality is excellent. 


And do you have any gems of advice for aspiring independent store owners?

Be prepared for blood, sweat and tears -  and very long hours! Concentrate on the positive comments, ignore the negative ones. Listen to as much advice as possible - but don’t believe all of it. Trust your instincts!

string of hearts.jpg

What’s in the pipeline for you and Cherryade?

We expect most of our attention in the immediate future will be taken with the launch of and growing that into as much of as a success as we can. 

Find Cherryade Life Store at 180 Bridport Road, Poundbury, Dorset.
Online at and on Instagram.

Now is the time for independent retailers

If you’re an independent shopkeeper whose ever felt disheartened by the domination of big brands in the retail sector, and wonder how you will ever compete, then read on. Retail Strategist and founder of Future Retail Consulting Catherine Erdly tells us why now is the perfect time to be an independent brand and speaks with four business owners who have not let the big players put them off in following their retail dream…

Another week, another story about the death of the high street. With Amazon continuing its path to world domination, it can feel like a worrying and uncertain time for those of us in the business of selling products. However, looking more deeply into the reasons behind the failure of big retailers shows a different story.

 It shows a story of customers waking up to the possibility of something different, something special and something that speaks directly to them. In that way, there has never been a better time to be a creative retail business.

The Fig Store, featured in  91 Magazine AW17 . Photograph by:  Kym Grimshaw

The Fig Store, featured in 91 Magazine AW17. Photograph by: Kym Grimshaw

Retail Revolution

Let’s be clear, retail is not dead, but BORING retail is!

In the 80s, 90s and 00s, people were interested in fitting in or “keeping up with the Jones”. Big retailers expanded - convinced that the way to keep growing was to take on more and more store space. Because they were servicing a customer base that was interested in fitting in, they were able to manufacture in bulk. Prices in China were so low that they could achieve huge profit margins to cover their costs. This created large chains with identical stores, full of unadventurous products designed to appeal to as many people as possible.

 As consumer behaviour has changed, especially with the growth of online shopping, then these retailers have been slow to catch up. So, when many of them were faced with a customer who no longer wanted something boring and mediocre (BHS anyone?), then they could no longer keep going.

Midgley Green, featured in  91 Magazine SS18 . Photograph by:  Kym Grimshaw

Midgley Green, featured in 91 Magazine SS18. Photograph by: Kym Grimshaw

People no longer want “stuff”

Fast forward to 2019, and now not only do people want to stand out instead of fit in, most people are dealing with having far too much stuff in their lives. We want fewer items, but for them to mean more, suit us better and reflect more of our personality.

 They want to connect with other people who share their values

More than that, today’s consumer, especially the younger generation, really want to connect with companies that share their values. They are far less interested in faceless corporations and much more interested in seeing the founder on their Insta stories giving a tour of their workspace. They want to buy, and support, businesses that share their beliefs and their world views. 

The story of your brand has become one of the most valuable marketing assets for retail businesses in 2019 - but what is Debenhams story? Or Next’s for example? 

Conscious consumerism is here to stay

2018 marked a tipping point for public awareness of the environmental impact of modern manufacturing.  The move away from single-use plastic and growth in reusable items such as coffee cups is another example of how today’s customer is far more interested in sustainability than ever before.

 And this environmental awareness amongst customers is only going to grow. Generation Z, who are rapidly gaining purchasing power as they move into adulthood, tend to be very aware of environmental issues and are even more likely than other age groups to base their purchasing decisions on how products are manufactured.

As the GlobalData report on UK Sustainability in 2019 highlighted, 93.5% of consumers want retailers to act sustainably, and 80% of them feel that retailers are not doing enough. The perfect opportunity for small businesses with a focus on sustainability to shine.

Winters Moon, featured in  91 Magazine SS18 . Photograph by  Georgia Gold .

Winters Moon, featured in 91 Magazine SS18. Photograph by Georgia Gold.

Independent businesses can build a community

So what does all of this mean for independent retailers? Well, as an independent retailer or brand, you are perfectly placed to take advantage of these shifts in buying behaviour. You can relate directly to your customers as a real human being, not a faceless corporation, mainly because it actually IS you talking to the customers, not a marketing department!

You can build relationships with your customers, getting their feedback on new products, understanding what they like and don’t like, and inviting them to be part of your buying process. Above all, you can relate to your customers by sharing your story and your values, and ultimately build a community around you of people who share their world view. Focus not on trying to beat the bigger retailers at their game - no-one will ever be faster than Amazon - but think instead about what you can do that the bigger retailers can’t.

To find out more about how independent businesses can compete successfully against bigger players, we asked four independent businesses to share how they focus on what small businesses do best.

Hetu, zero waste food store, London
Hetu, zero waste food store, London
Laura, owner of Hetu


Laura Boyes, founder, Hetu Zero Waste Store

Hi Laura, how long have you been running Hetu? 

Hetu opened its doors on 3 December 2017 but I was working on it for about 9 months before opening.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was living in Australia which had over 50 zero waste shops, while there were only a handful across the whole of the UK and none in London. At that time I was also looking for a new direction in life. So I decided to return home and open London’s first fully vegan zero waste shop.

What will a customer get from you that they won't get from a supermarket?

Loads! Our customers get the personal treatment, we know our regulars by name. They get advice and help along their vegan or zero waste journey.

 They also know that we have done the research for them and only stock products that meet our strict guidelines. And above all, our customers get to go home with plastic free, vegan and cruelty free products.

Why do you think customers like to shop with independent food stores?

It helps foster a feeling of community. People like knowing that their money isn’t going direct to big corporations and making the rich even richer.

 How have you used your physical shop to create a relationship with your customers?

Our customers have become friends, I see them more than I see my own family!  Being able to interact with customers face to face means we really truly know them and know what they need. We are always asking for feedback and they know they are part of the shop and its success, not just another customer. 

What advice would you give to a small business competing in a category dominated by big players?

Don’t be afraid to stay ‘small’ - scalability does not always means success. Staying small means we can be nimble and change quickly as and when needed. It also means we are able to make decisions based on principles, not on making shareholder profits.

Small print books
Small Print Books
Jenny, owner of Small Print Books


Jenny Thomas, founder, Smallprint Books

 Hi Jenny, can you tell us when (and why!) you started Smallprint?

I started the business online in January of 2015 having worked on the concept for 9 months or so. The bricks and mortar shop opened in October 2017. After 2 children, I was ready to throw myself into something new and exciting! 

What is the appeal of shopping in an independent bookstore?

Books are magical - they transport you to a new place of possibility and imagination. Shopping with independent bookshops is a special act as you impart some of that magic from the seller to the reader, it's a lovely exchange of feelings and positivity. 

How important has building a community been for your brand?

Hugely important! You are nothing without word of mouth and that has been our number one force to withstand the pressures on small businesses. 

Smallprint grew in the early days through community fairs and festivals - speaking to people and hearing their stories about childhood favourites and the power of words and pictures to raise children. Every day someone comes in who has been recommended and that is something I am forever thankful for!

How have you used your bricks and mortar space to grow that community?

We host a series of events in the space we created at the rear of the shop. We have a lively room with beautiful artwork and tipis, cushions and drawing tables. We have a program including dance, music, storytelling and languages as well as craft and story sessions with authors and illustrators. We have great success with regular attendance for these and we keep them free so everyone can access.

What advice would you give when it comes to your competition, who may well be much bigger than you?

Believe in yourself and switch off to the competition! Not everyone wants to give their money to big corporations. Yes it can be disheartening when someone comes and chooses to buy elsewhere, but stay true to your USP and believe in your heart that you are doing something that makes a difference. 

mind the cork
mind the cork
Jenny, designer and owner of Mind the Cork


Jenny Espirito Santo, founder, Mind The Cork

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jenny! Tell us about your journey so far with Mind The Cork.

I started Mind The Cork on a very part time basis back in 2014. It partly started due to my love of the material - cork is incredibly sustainable. The brand has evolved hugely since that time - and sustainability is becoming even more important for the customer today. 

What benefits do your customers get from buying from a small business?

There isn’t anything that we, as customers, don’t already have. So the vast majority of purchasing is not a necessity, everything that people buy is frivolous, in a way.    

If you buy from a small business, then you get to be part of something. If you want something bespoke, then a human is able to customise products specifically for you. You can have that “beyond the brand” connection with a real human being who’s behind the products.

How many of your customers come to you because of shared values?

It’s a mixture really. There is definitely a customer who comes to me because of my minimalist, pared down aesthetic. And others, who love the cork leather products I make because they are waterproof and behave like leather, but are completely vegan.

But I’m also very much against mass-production, and I’m constantly looking at ways to improve the design and processes of making the product to reduce my impact. I definitely attract others who share that ethos.

What advice would you give to anyone competing in a niche dominated by larger players?

Don’t try to compete. It’s as simple as that. You have to remember that small businesses, often one person, will never compete with an entire marketing department in a bigger retailer.

What we do have is ourselves, as human beings. Life is about connections. Human to human. 

We care about what we are doing, not because we’re in it for the money, but because we are passionate about the design, material and ethos of our business. When people buy from us, they are buying that passion. 

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Bronwyn, owner of Lowie


Bronwyn Lowenthal, founder, Lowie 

Hi Bronwyn, tell us about how Lowie began.

 Lowie began life in 2002 when I was travelling in Turkey. I’ve always been fascinated by local handcrafts and I brought back some knitted socks. They were an instant hit and in our first season we were stocked in House of Fraser and Topshop. 

We expanded over the years out of knitwear and into other ranges - always produced ethically, and using organic cotton.

Five and a half years ago we opened a shop in Herne Hill in South London, and then two years ago added a second site, also in South London, in Crystal Palace.

Why do customers love to shop with you?

People love to support local businesses. Our customers want something different, unusual and with a story to tell, they don’t want to be wearing the same as everyone else. Also we’re big on colour!

 We offer free repairs for life which gives the customers trust in the brand. They know that for us to offer that service, the garments must be high quality and durable.

How does having a physical store help build that relationship?

Having a place where we can talk to our customers definitely helps build trust. We know that 50% of our web orders come from local customers. They know the quality and they’ve seen and touched the clothes and tried them on. 

But you can’t just hang clothes on a rail and expect people to buy them. You need to offer an experience - our customers love the personal attention and convenience that comes from shopping at a small boutique close to home. 

What advice would you like to share with other small businesses competing against bigger brands?

Hone your offer, make sure it’s unique, so that people have got to have a reason to come to you. There is no point in doing what the high street is doing but charging more money for it. 

People love to support small businesses but they won’t spend more money just because you’re small. They need a distinct offer, so the design is really important.

If you are a small retail business and feel you need some help with pointing your business in the right direction, check out Catherine’s website - Future Retail consulting - you’ll find useful blog posts as well as details on her online & IRL workshops and 1-2-1 sessions. Catherine is offering 91 Magazine readers 10% off her one-to-one services booked in the months of June, July and August. Just quote ‘91 Magazine’ when you contact Catherine.

Instagrammer's guide to: Sheffield

Sheffield is emerging as one of the most creative cities in the north of England, with lots of interesting businesses opening up to serve the creative community. Karen Barlow shares with us a few of her top spots for eating, shopping and taking photos around the city.

Despite being only about 90 minutes away from my home in Manchester, until quite recently, I had only visited the city of Sheffield once before. In recent years - and mainly because I became infatuated with the beautiful Instagram feed of Sheffield florists Swallows & Damsons (more on that later) - I became curious to know more about this city.

Home to the world’s most famous steel, Henderson’s relish (Sheffield’s version of Worcestershire sauce) and the Arctic Monkeys, this former industrial city is on the verge of big changes. The city’s brutalist architecture maintains it’s urban edge while many quarters have been gradually gentrified. Many new food destinations, craft ale bars and cool coffee shops have popped up and it’s development is rapid. What gives the cityscape it’s energy is it’s diversity. Beautiful Victorian villas overlooking charming parks contrast with edgier, alternative and characterful neighbourhoods - each area feeling like a separate town within one city.

 Below are a selection of my favourite spots I’ve discovered as I have got to know this interesting and vibrant city…

Tamper Coffee, Sheffield - Instagrammer's Guide to Sheffield by 91 Magazine

Tamper Coffee

Every day should begin with coffee and there are many great cafes worth a visit in and around Sheffield. My favourite - serving freshly ground offerings, New Zealand style - is Tamper. Located at Sellers Wheel, a fantastic former 19th Century Silversmiths, it is in the heart of the Cultural Industries Quarter. This area is an interesting place to start and get a sense of how this city would have looked during the industrial revolution - it’s full of renovated factory buildings and mills, none more impressive than Sellers Wheel. You’ll find other branches of Tamper at Westfield Terrace and Kommune (see below).

IG: @tampercoffeesw

The Blind Mole

The Blind Mole

Kelham Island

For an afternoon of mooching, head over to Kelham Island. This area is still undergoing lots of change and redevelopment, but it’s home to some interesting independents, such as The Blind Mole antiques and the Peddler night market, a popular venue for street food, craft beer and music, held on the first Friday and Saturday of each month. Cutlery Works at Kelham Island, is the largest food destination in the north of England, with a range of permanent and pop up eateries and bars, located over two floors in a former factory building. Just across the road, overlooking the river Don, is Church, located in a former steel works factory. Opened by Oli Sykes, front man for the band Bring Me Horizon and his wife, and appropriately named Temple of fun - in part due to its selection of retro arcade machines, play stations and pool table -the restaurant and bar are 100% vegan.

IG: @the_blind_mole/

IG: @peddlermkt/

IG: @cutleryworks




La Biblioteka

La Biblioteka


Recently opened in a former Co-op store In the heart of the city, you’ll find Kommune which houses a selection of food and drink destinations, The Viewing Room art gallery and La Biblioteka, an independent bookstore, which sells a selection of gifts and specialist art and design magazines (including 91!) Kommune is closed on Mondays, but open every other day of the week.

IG: @kommune_castlehouse

IG: @labiblioteka 

collard manson, Sheffield - Instagrammer's Guide to Sheffield by 91 Magazine

Collard Manson

Vintage fans should head to Devonshire Street where you’ll find some of the city’s best vintage clothes shops, such as Vulgar and Mooch Vintage and just around the corner, Cow Vintage. Collard Manson is also located here - something of an institution in Sheffield. The owners have been trading in beautiful homewares, gifts and clothes since 2002. It is exquisitely and cleverly merchandised with a distinctive style; walking into the double height store almost feels like being transported to European destination - somewhere more akin to Amsterdam or Berlin – well worth a browse.

IG: @collardmanson

Moonko, Sheffield - Instagrammer's Guide to Sheffield by 91 Magazine


Further along onto Division Street, you’ll come upon Moonko, another independent store channeling a European aesthetic and vibe. Against a backdrop of white walls sit a selection of homewares, artwork, stationery and ceramics, all nestled amongst an array of indoor plants, creating what can only be described as an urban jungle. The owners and staff have in-depth knowledge of how to care for each species should you need any advice or guidance on looking after your purchases. Their products, mainly crafted by independent makers, have been carefully selected according to their eco-credentials.

IG: @moonko____

Photo:  @Haarkon_

Photo: @Haarkon_

Sheffield Botanical Gardens

If plants are your thing, then look no further than the Botanical Gardens just off Ecclesall Road in the centre of Sheffield. Over 150 years old and listed by English Heritage as a grade II site of special historic and architectural interest, the glasshouses are full of rare species of plants from tropical countries and are a horticulturist’s dream, not to mention being extremely photogenic. There is also a tea room and a calendar of events, including a 3-day music festival every July.

Cocoa Wonderland

Also on Ecclesall Road is Cocoa Wonderland, a must-visit for chocoholics and the sweet-toothed. The café and shop transport you back to a fantasy land of nostalgia with shelves of sweets and treats from a bygone world in glass jars and indulgent hot chocolate and cream teas served from vintage china.

IG: @cocoa_wonderland

Sheffield antiques centre - Instagrammer's Guide to Sheffield by 91 Magazine

The Antiques Quarter

The Antiques Quarter is situated at Abbeydale Road and is dominated by an impressive former ballroom now known as The Abbeydale Picture House. This independently run venue is the location for live music events, cocktails, craft beer and street food plus the monthly Pedlars Corner Flea Market. This area is home to over 60 independent bars, restaurants, delis and bakers, florists and small businesses.

IG: @sheffieldantiquescentre

Swallows and Damsons 

In the same area is the shop that led me to Sheffield in the first place: Florist, Swallows & Damsons. Initially drawn in by their popular Instagram feed, in real life, the shop owned by Anna Potter, is equally as inspiring. A mix of gorgeous flowers and plants, are complimented by a varied selection of pots and vessels for your blooms, and its wooden-panelled tongue and groove walls and vintage style display units make for some great Instagram shots for your own gallery. If you can’t make it to the shop itself, grab a slice of the floral action via Anna’s first book, The Flower Fix, which has just published, showcasing her beautiful space and floral arrangements.

IG: @swallowsanddamsons

Forge bakehouse, Sheffield - Instagrammer's Guide to Sheffield by 91 Magazine

Forge Bakehouse

Not far away is the Forge Bakehouse, where everything from the seasonally-changing bread, pastries and even the fillings for the patisseries are handmade on the premises. It’s so good that it’s almost impossible to get a shot of the bakery fully stocked, so get there early before they sell out. As well as baked goods to take away, food and drinks are served from breakfast until dinner within the lovely light-filled glass extension on the side of the bakery, with a further seating area upstairs.

IG: @forgebakehouse

Bragazzis, Sheffield - Instagarmmer's Guide to Sheffield by 91 Magazine


 If you are a bit of a foodie and fancy picking up some Italian groceries to take home with you while you’re here, head further up Abbeydale road to Bragazzis deli and café. Here you will find the finest Italian anti pasti, olives and bread, or sit inside and treat yourself to a range of paninis and salads and of course, great quality coffee.

IG: @bragazzis

Words & photography by @karen_barlow, unless otherwise credited.

Instagrammer's Guide to Sheffield - by 91 Magazine

Meet the Maker: Karen Hsu

Paper florist Karen Hsu creates beautiful pom pom style flowers using sustainable and biodegradable materials. We spoke to the London-based maker to hear about her delicate designs, creating statement displays for Selfridges and how nature inspires her work…


Hi Karen. Why and when did you decide to open Pom Pom Factory?

It started in 2012 when I was working at Mercantile London - a fashion boutique in Old Spitalfields Market. I was asked to create a window display for the shop.

It was this experience that helped me realise that the most unassuming yet endlessly versatile material that I had been using on the counter day-in day-out would eventually become the first pom pom display I made. And it was tissue paper!

Pom Pom Factory was born when Selfridges approached me and asked me to make 6000 paper flowers for them for their Christmas window displays. I frantically assembled a team and quit my job at Mercantile. Mercantile were kind enough to let me use their basement as the “factory “.


What had you done previously?

After graduating from Central Saint Martins with an audio visuals degree, I was working as a film runner, sometimes as an extra, and set designer and prop maker.


How would you describe your style?

I make paper floral displays, either utilising creative tissue paper for pom pom flowers or specific crate paper to produce realistic flowers at site specific installations. Over the years, I’ve seen my style of work develop from making paper flowers as a decorative element to finding a harmonious connection between observing nature and craftsmanship.


Can you tell us a little about the processes used to create your work?

I always start by observing the natural flower I am going to recreate in paper form, I explore its form and structure to ensure I obtain as realistic an impression as I can.  

I will then take a desired colour roll of paper out and start building the flower out from memory, which I believe allows me to impart my own signature perception of the flower. I want my imagination to maintain a significant level of influence on my creations.


Your wares are all made with Pyrène (a natural tissue paper which is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable), why was it so important to you that your products are environmentally friendly?

Being inspired by nature, it is important to create something that is sustainable and biodegradable. I want my creations to last but not cause a negative impact on the environment.


Which is your most popular flower? Why do you think that is?

Peonies are the most popular, I think due to their unique varieties and strong feminine quality, their full-bodied shape make them perfect for indulgent bouquets and arrangements. They’re delicate yet tough as nails.


Hard question: do you have a favourite?

I love making thistles! It has such a different structure to any of the other flowers that I make. Their delicate bright colourful flower heads and body full of sharp thorns intrigues me to no end.


What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t really have typical days, it changes all the time, I get a lot of last minute orders usually in the fashion of “can I have these flowers made by tomorrow?” Which means I always have to be ready to go into overdrive to fulfil a myriad of bespoke orders.

In the past I’d always say yes, which usually lead to me being a perpetual night owl. These days, I am more realistic with timings and let my clients know that my flowers are all handmade to order so it takes time to create the best possible display.


You also hold workshops, can you tell us a little about them?

I started to teach workshops three years ago. I love being able to share basic paper flower making and craftsmanship with others. My workshops are not just about being able to make a paper flower but of the processes involved that enables someone to create, style and establish their own unique imprint on the flower.

I like to encourage my students to explore their own ways of making flowers rather than just following a template. I post all my upcoming workshops on my newsletter that I would like to encourage all those interested to sign up.


If you were to share any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business - what would you say?

Trust yourself and build a support network around you. I have an amazing group of small business entrepreneurial friends whom I exchange experiences with and offer mutual support to.


What's been your highlight so far?

Our London Craft Week display this year was definitely my highlight. We had spent one year planning this event and are so grateful to work with the London Flower School, Italian paper supplier Cartotenica Rossi and Old Spitalfields Market to create a concept for an installation inspired by underwater coral reefs and floral gardens.

Peony Wokshop.jpg

Quick-fire questions

Describe your work in three words:

Imaginative, versatile and emotive.

What are your making rituals?

I like to start with an empty table before I lay out all my tools and papers before I commence making. I like to observe and conduct this ritual methodically to get myself into the making mindset. Sometimes I will go out for a walk for a few hours around my neighbourhood, I end up chatting with friends who have shops by close-by. We usually converse about new and upcoming exciting projects and this usually pumps me up for the work ahead.

Tea or coffee?


Mountains or sea?


Night owl or early bird?

Night owl

I wish someone had told me...

Maya Angelou once said ‘Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it!’ I try to remind myself of these words everyday.

See more from Karen via her website and Instagram.

91 is reading... In Bloom

Clare Nolan is a very talented lady. Not only is she a stylist, writer and former lifestyle editor of YOU magazine, she is an author, a mentor, a teacher and a gardening whiz! She has brought all of these talents together in her newly published book In Bloom - Growing, harvesting and arranging flowers all year round.

In Bloom by Clare Nolan

The cover is beautiful - rich with colour and the detail of those sumptuous peonies and roses. Inside is full of stunning floral photography, all styled and shot by Clare herself, and her words convey the passion she has for growing her own flowers and the enjoyment gained from cutting those blooms to fill her home with.

In Bloom by Clare Nolan
In Bloom by Clare Nolan

The book itself is a chunky tome; one that will be referred to again and again as you navigate creating your own cutting garden and require Clare’s guidance or reassurance. She begins with how to get started - planning your garden as well as tools and where to source your seeds and plants. This is followed by sections on annuals and biennials, bulbs, perennials, shrubs & trees, foliage & fillers and finally how to harvest and arrange your homegrown blooms.

General advice is given initially for each type, before Clare focusses in on specific flowers - providing growing tips, her favourite varieties and how to harvest them. Her styling experience comes into play in the final section of the book with an array of ideas and inspiration for displaying your flowers to maximum effect.

In Bloom by Clare Nolan
In Bloom by Clare Nolan
In Bloom by Clare Nolan

I love a book that does more than just one thing, and this ticks all the boxes in terms of providing masses of practical advice but also bundles of visual inspiration. I dream of a garden that provides me with beautiful flowers all year round so I can curb my shop bought habit, so this book is going to be invaluable in leading me towards that goal! Thank you Clare for creating this bible for aspiring flower growers!

In Bloom is published by Kyle Books and is now available to purchase online or from all good bookshops.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Holy Water

Located in the picturesque seaside village of Beer, Devon, Holy Water is a modern apothecary store stocking beautiful natural products free from preservatives and harsh chemicals; instead they are full of hand collected, foraged and harvested from-the-wild goodies. We spoke with Alyssa, who runs Holy Water with her husband Wil, to talk simplistic style, hand-making products and breaking the ‘expensive equals quality’ mindset…

Hi Alyssa! When and why did you decide to open Holy Water? 

I moved from the States in April 2018 after living and working in Seattle, WA. We were living in Bath at the time and had been searching for a shop space in which to explore this new venture. We were on holiday in Beer and saw a 'for rent' sign in the window. We ended up taking it that week, which was wild!


What had you both done before? Did any of these skills help?

Wil (still) works in the design industry for the Danish company HAY. While I worked for an herbal apothecary in Seattle and a gin company in Bath - before that I'd always been in retail and management. These skills were essential to our decision to open a shop. Wil could source the materials to make the shop look presentable and I could speak about the products we sell. 

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

Sounds like a dream team! How did you decide on the name?

Five years ago when I started the brand, I was consumed with how much water changes the skincare routine. We need to consume water for clear skin, to wash our skin, to mix the masks, salts for the bath, etc. It was a play on words for how sacred water is to the skin. Although we do get a lot of religious questions! 


How would you describe the interior style of Holy Water?

Originally it was pretty bland. When we took the property on we stripped back the 70's wood-chip and re-plastered and re-painted. We only had about ten days to turn a shell into the shop. We rescued a beautiful parquet cash desk from the bin. We also found the shelves for the jars from an old school that had been remodelled. We found Wedgwood factory drying shelves in old oak which sit in front of an exposed stone wall. So it's a mix of old and modern that's sits well with our brand list. It was really imperative for us to keep the integrity of the building in tact and keep it simple.

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

You're passionate about natural products, why is it so important to you?

I've always been attracted to products derived from natural and herbal constituents. In fact, I can remember being a child and pressing strawberries and raspberries to my cheeks and lips to stain them over using my mom’s makeup. I worked for a few natural markets before working for an apothecary and I think that helped to push me in the right direction; seeing individuals so excited about making products at home using no nonsense ingredients that could actually HELP you was a game changer.

I also grew up with a low-waste father who instilled the important of reusing and recycling everything. I want to keep the conversation out in the open about skincare and not hide behind clever packaging and tricky hidden labels. I suffered with acne for most of my life and the only thing that helped me was natural skincare and herbs. This is my primary reason for doing this- to help humans feel their best and most beautiful. 

How do you source your wares?

I'd been compiling a list for months of stockists we'd want to carry if we opened our own space. Some are from the States and others are from England- we have a few "rules" we follow if we stock products at the shop- local, handmade, homemade or ethically/sustainably made.

We have a lot of local products from Devon and south England as well as small batch homemade products. It's so important for us to support the local community. 

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer
Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

As well as stocking from independents, what do you create in-house? Do you enjoy the process?

In the shop we make three bath soaks and four clay masks. This process is incredibly personal to me. I walk the coast of Devon to collect varieties of seaweed and dry them in the shop, I pick the yarrow in season, our cousins make us the charcoal in Devon and I grind all of the oats and rose petals by hand. Making these are the most meditative and quiet I can be while constantly thinking about what's next! 


That’s so lovely! Which item is your best seller?

Our salts, masks, soaps and Juniper Ridge are our best sellers. I think people always want to support local now, which is great. Knowing we make them in-house exclusively makes them a little more special as a gift or for the home. Juniper Ridge is a Californian company (where I am originally from) that distills indigenous herbs and uses the essential oils for their soaps. It smells amazing and they donate 10% of all sales to protecting the wilderness. 


Which product is your can't-live-without? You can choose a few if it’s too difficult…

I definitely can't live without the clay masks or the herbs. We sell over 75 organic herbs for teas, tinctures or recipes that I rely on to feel my best. I mostly drink nettle, red raspberry leaf, clover and ginko. However the roots are really helpful for clearing the skin - burdock, dandelion, liquorice and yellow dock. The masks I definitely need to keep my skin evened out!

What do you enjoy most about running Holy Water?

The people who visit. It's my passion to speak about natural products and herbal remedies and I love helping people to find "their product" even if it's just a bar of soap. Each one of our labels has a backstory and I thoroughly enjoy telling people about them.

I also love creating custom teas for different situations to keep it personal and individual. I really hate going into a shop and nobody can give me any information on the products - I wanted to learn as much as I could and stay updated and educated to be the most helpful for the guests who come in.

I also keep all of our products under £40. I don't think beautiful things should be expensive and I don't think cheaper products aren't good for you. In fact I'm trying to break the "expensive equals quality" routine we seem to be in. Good products can be ethical and affordable and are in many cases better for your skin and body/mind.

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer
Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

What has been your career highlight (so far!)?

Opening a shop has been a huge accomplishment - although it has definitely been a learning curve. We haven't yet been open a year and there are so many variants we have to keep in the forefront. Expanding without losing integrity or "selling out," keeping a decent selection without overpricing products, staying present and informed about those products and our stockists. 

Do you have any top tips for those thinking of starting their own store?

It's important to remember why you're doing it. I wanted a shopfront to sell teas and skincare because I genuinely want people to feel their best. So the integrity and ethos is in the forefront. It's also imperative to TAKE IT SLOW. We opened the shop on savings and didn't take a huge loan which means we had the opportunity to build very slowly and not rush to make the shop fully packed with products. This means we are extra careful in choosing the brands we stock and careful about how quickly we expand. Also staying creative! We had no expensive shop-fit, just paint and a few really good finds. Keep it simple and keep it you. 

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

What does the future hold for Holy Water?

We're definitely excited to introduce more small independent brands in store! We are also working to develop low waste and bulk skincare in refillable and recyclable packaging- as well as compostable and sustainable skincare and teas. We're trying to incorporate our surroundings - both natural and personal - into the stock as much as possible... so stay tuned! 

Find Holy Water at Fore Street, Beer, Devon, EX12 3JB and online.

Follow them on Instagram.

Photography: Jim Holland  and Caroline Rowland

Meet the Maker: Bisila Noha

Looking to explore her creative side, Bisila Noha serendipitously stumbled upon her talent for ceramics. Now at a collective London studio, she creates unique handmade marbled ceramics that beautifully evoke nature and landscapes.


Hi Bisila, we love your beautiful ceramic pieces - what first inspired the idea of setting up your business, and how did you then develop it? 

To be honest, it all happened very naturally without me realising much about it. I had gone on a break to study ceramics a bit more and the moment I put my work out there I started getting orders, so I had to start making full-time.

How would you describe your work?

My pieces are a mix between pottery and painting, since I make forms that I then use as a canvas to make ‘ceramic paintings’. I use simple forms and powerful decorations that make each piece totally unique.

What is your background?

I studied translation and interpreting and also international relations, and right before setting up my business I worked as an account manager at an advertising agency that specialised in adapting or translating ads and marketing materials.


Do you have an ethos behind your business, or values that you focus on?

I believe that as a society we should change the way we consume: we should ‘buy less and buy better’. We should buy local products as much as possible and keep an eye on the carbon footprint of the products we use. Therefore, I make pieces that are durable, made with local raw materials and I mostly sell in London and avoid shipping.

How would you describe your creative style?

It’s very much inspired by nature - storms, skies, the sea, mainly - and Japanese sumi-e paintings. 


Describe your work process?

At the moment, I have a signature technique - marbling - thanks to which people recognise my work, which is great. I’ve been using this technique for a while now, so I am constantly looking for new shapes I can use to explore and tweak the possibilities of marbling, as well as better express myself through it.

I use UK raw materials and I am always trying to find ways to minimise the range of materials I use while making the most of them. I also love collaborating with people in order to come up with new ideas and projects. 

What kind of space do you work in?

It’s a collective studio in East London called Turning Earth In Production. We are now about 12 people making very diverse work - sculpture, functional pots of all kinds. We have just been moved to a new space, so we are going to try to build a stronger community. Everyone’s dream is to have their own space, but working next to other people can be great too. We learn a lot from each other and there is a nice atmosphere.


Do you have a design background, or are you self-taught?

Art-wise - I’ve mostly learnt all I know while working at Lon-art, an arts and education organisation I run (my other passion along with ceramics). Design-wise, I think it all comes kind of intuitively and also thanks to my sister who is an interior designer and design and trend forecaster. And when it comes to pottery, I have been studying and practising for the last six years, so I would say that while I’ve done different pottery courses and residencies, I am mainly self-taught. 

Has your work evolved over time and taken you on a creative journey?

Definitely! I started off making very naive, small pieces. Also, I’ve realised that at the beginning I was heavily influenced by a rather capitalist approach to life, constrained by societal ideas of productivity and functionality. Therefore I struggled to create ‘only’ decorative pieces, and so all my first pieces had multiple functions. It was a bit too much!

As I like to say - these first pots were a metaphor of us, human beings, becoming ‘human doers’. I am now being much more zen about it and embracing ‘the being’. I’m not scared of making things, I just enjoy making - this may not be straightforwardly functional, but I like to think that art and decorative pieces also have a very valid function - that of visual delight and aesthetic pleasure. 


How do you juggle producing handmade works, with engaging in the online world?

I used to be way more worried about Instagram and all that, posting a lot, etc. It is true that it is a great tool to sell and show what one does, and I do sell via Instagram. However, now I am more focused on promoting myself offline, contacting people, galleries, etc. And the followers will come… hopefully! 

How valuable is the online community to your business?

When making new work it is super useful to see how people react to it. And it can be very encouraging.  There’s also a good bunch of makers that explain how they do things, which is great to learn. And I also use it for research. 


Where do you find creative inspiration?

In nature. Since the very beginning I have been making and decorating pieces with landscapes in mind.

What do you find are the joys of being an independent maker, and what are the challenges you face?

I do enjoy it a lot. I am very driven so I can get lots done, I’m not scared of asking for things or contacting people, so being on my own is great to do anything I want. However, I must also say that it can be very lonely. Moreover, a creative path is one where there aren’t many rules as to how to progress etc, so this DIY aspect of it can be a bit scary or discouraging. I sometimes don’t know if I’m doing things right, and because it’s a very personal journey, it can be tricky to know where to get good advice from. My biggest challenge is to deal with myself. I have been very demanding and a tad harsh with myself, so I’m now trying to be a bit more chilled.


 Which pieces do you most enjoy making?

My favourites are my large decorative wall pieces. They are about 45cm diameter and the marbling on those is very powerful.

How did you discover your love for what you do?

 Just by chance. When I moved to London six years ago I knew I wanted to explore my creativity - a friend suggested pottery, and here I am. 

What does a typical working day look like?

My days are often very varied, but I like going early to the studio and work for about six hours, and then have time to go for a swim, work on other projects, or also teach - which I do regularly in the evenings. 

Bisila Noha ceramics

How do you approach marketing and PR?

My marketing is via Instagram and my newsletter, and for PR I am now thinking how to do it, to get the right people to see my work. Every so often I have a day where I crazily email people, shops and galleries that I have been following for a while - and see if anyone replies. But I think it is high time I got a real strategy!

What have been your working highlights so far?

My number one highlight undoubtedly is the London Art Fair, where I exhibited in January this year with Thrown, the gallery I have been working with for the last year. And then the trip I did to Armenia a year ago, where I was invited to teach a 3-week workshop on ceramics and embroidery at Tumo Studios in Yerevan. It was the best, as I could travel thanks to my work, teach, meet people and have an amazing time!

Bisila Noha ceramics

Where do you sell your work?

In London, I sell at Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road, at the gallery Thrown in Highgate, Not Just Another Store in Shoreditch, and Living Earth - the brand new shop by Turning Earth. I also do a couple of markets each year, plus I sell in Madrid, at Bureau Mad and Planthae. 

What does the rest of the year hold for you?

For the Londoners, I would recommend they to pop by Living Earth. If in Cornwall, I will be exhibiting my work at Porthminster Gallery in St Ives for their September Festival Show (August 31st - October 5th), which is very exciting! I also have a couple of other things in the making, so 91 readers can follow me or subscribe to my newsletter to be in the loop.

Do you have time for creative pastimes or hobbies?

I love analogue photography - I used to translate for Lomography years ago, and since then I am super into it! But my hobbies generally are more exercise oriented, like swimming and yoga.

Any advice for makers just starting out?

Don't be too worried about what other people do, do your own thing and believe in it. Also - be gentle to yourself, and from time-to-time, dedicate some time to assess your achievements and somehow celebrate them.

Quick-Fire questions: 

Describe your work in three words?

Poetic, dynamic, mesmerising.

What are your making rituals?

My current ritual is listening to either Andrew Bird, Agnes Obel or Haley Heynderickx while throwing. And Laura Marling while trimming!

Tea or coffee?


Mountains or sea?

Mountains - Panticosa being my favourite place on Earth!

Night owl or early bird?

100 per cent early bird.

I wish someone had told me…

How important procrastinating and leisure time actually are when running a creative business.

See more from Bisila via her website and on Instagram.

Photographs courtesy of Bisila Noha, Ida Riveros and TUMO Studios

91 visits... the Jurassic coast

Some of your may have followed my recent trip to the Dorset / Devon coast over on Instagram Stories, when we stayed just outside Lyme Regis for five days. In between enjoying the beaches and the lovely Easter holiday weather, I managed to get to a few of the shops and cafes I’d been desperate to visit, as well as discovering some new little gems. If you haven’t visited this part of the south coast, it is most definitely worth the trip; here are a few of the top spots I recommend shopping and eating at…

Ryde and Hope, Lyme Regis
Ryder and Hope, Lyme Regis
Ryder and Hope, Lyme Regis
Ryder and Hope, Lyme Regis

Ryder and Hope, Lyme Regis

Ryder and Hope are a 91 Magazine stockist based in the heart of Lyme, and I’m not ashamed to admit that for ages I have wanted to see that pink sink in person! It didn’t disappoint and I spent ages browsing every corner of the shop. The store is filled with beautiful items from independent brands such as MOA, The Basket Room and Arran St East, as well as stationery, books and plants.

Swim, Lyme Regis
Swim, Lyme Regis
Swim, Lyme Regis

Swim, Lyme Regis

If you have our latest issue, you will probably recognise this place as it was featured as our restaurant tour. As soon as Kath (our ex-su editor and now contributor) suggested this place, I knew I had to have it in the magazine AND pay it a visit! I didn’t make it to the shoot that photographer Maria Bell did for us, so I was so pleased we could fit it in to our family holiday. Located right on the seafront, Swim’s interior is gorgeous plus it didn’t disappoint in the food department. We went for breakfast and I had the french toast & fruit, although everything on the menu sounded amazing. A must if you are in the town.

Lyme Bay Cafe, Lyme Regis

Lyme Bay Cafe, Lyme Regis

On the same day, we ate lunch in an equally scrummy cafe - the Lyme Bay Cafe. The weather was lovely and we were lucky enough to bag a table outside overlooking the sea. I didn’t get many photos inside due to where we were seated and it was also very busy, but the interior is lovely with a modern industrial vibe and nice touches, like my favourite La Eva hand-soap in the bathroom. Food was really tasty - I had the crab sandwich in a pretzel bun - delicious.

Rise, West Bay
Rise, West Bay
Rise, West Bay

Rise, West Bay

One of our days out took us to Bridport and West Bay where I didn’t have much luck on the shopping front. I managed to completely miss Yellow Gorse on the high street which I was gutted about when I realised as I love their products and the shop looks stunning - get a peek here. Also, Old Albion was on my list, but after a bit of a long hunt to find it, we discovered it was closed. Thankfully, we did find Rise - the sister cafe of Swim. It is in a lovely location in West Bay, surrounded by water, with lots of natural wood, colourful textiles and plants - right up my street! We had already eaten, so we just pop in for coffee and ice cream - a lovely spot to rest your feet whilst exploring the area.

Holy Water, Beer, Devon
Holy Water, Beer, Devon
Holy Water, Beer, Devon
Holy Water, Beer, Devon

Holy Water Apothecary, Beer

Holy Water Apothecary was a complete chance discovery after we took a little excursion to the village of Beer. I spotted the shop front as we drove in the village and made a bee line for it immediately! Inside did not disappoint, with a lovely mix of some of my favourite brands as well as a few new discoveries. Owner Alyssa was incredibly welcoming and in fact, we have a Shopkeeper Spotlight post coming up soon, so look out for that to hear more about her story.

Collate, Axminster
Collate, Axminster
Collate, Axminster

Collate, Axminster

Another of our morning drives took us over to the town of Axminster, where we had brunch in the River Cottage Kitchen, before popping into Collate for the browse. The original black and white tiled floor has been restored by shop owner Naomi, who explained during the shop’s previous incarnation as a pharmacy the floor had been covered over! Naomi curates a unique collection of vintage and antique pieces alongside handcrafted items from local makers. There were lots of lovely finds, from ceramics and textiles to skincare and books. A lovely shop that’s a little bit different.

Rousdon village bakery
Rousdon village bakery
Rousdon village bakery
Rousdon village bakery

Rousdon Village Bakery, Rousdon

Our accommodation was actually in Rousdon, about 5 minutes drive from Lyme Regis, and we’d noticed a bakery that appeared to be located in an old petrol station which was always busy when we drove past. So, after a local recommendation that added to our curiosity, we decided we should pop in before we made the journey back to Surrey. The actual bakery itself was lovely, although had pretty much sold out of everything by the time we made it there! But, adjacent to food area was this lovely retail space, which I was instantly drawn to - quickly forgetting the lack of pastries next door! It felt very relaxed (in fact I wasn’t even sure where or how to purchase anything if I’d wanted to!) with a lovely array or cookware, ceramics and utility items.

Deans Court, Wimborne
Deans Court, Wimborne
Deans Court, Wimborne
Deans Court, Wimborne

Dean’s Court, Wimborne

To break up the drive home, we decided to stop off in Wimborne. We didn’t spend long there, other than a little visit to the cute model town there which my 4 year old loved, followed by lunch and a browse at Dean’s Court. The shop here is a lovely space housed in an old squash court with a really eclectic mix of homeware, beauty, and some clothing, mixing one off vintage finds with independent brands. I didn’t leave without treating myself to a few goodies and even my other half bagged himself a lovely vintage workwear style jacket. The perfect way to end our trip!

I really enjoyed exploring this part of the UK - it has a perfect mix of places to feed the design lover within me, but also lots for outdoor types and kids with the stunning coastline and scenery. Thank you Jurassic coast! We will be back!

From the cutting room floor - Volume 7

As if receiving our free e-zine in your inbox this week wasn’t enough new inspiration, today we’ve got some extra images ‘from the cutting room floor’ that didn’t make it in to the latest issue. As always, there’s never enough room for all the beautiful shots our photographers capture, so rather than leave them hidden away on my laptop, here they are!

home tour from 91 Magazine volume 7

The home of Sophie of Sleepy Doe that featured on our cover, photographed by Kasia Fiszer, just blows me away. I can’t stop poring over it! Here is an unseen angle of the living room with that amazing indoor swing!

home tour from 91 Magazine volume 7

I loved this simple, yet carefully-curated corner of Gayle Mansfield’s kitchen. The calendar clock on the wall gives away just how far in advance we are working on the issue! Beautifully captured by Lesley Lau.

shop tour of Klin D'oeil featured in 91 Magazine volume 7
shop tour of Klin D'oeil featured in 91 Magazine volume 7
shop tour of Klin D'oeil featured in 91 Magazine volume 7

In December last year we also popped to Paris to shoot the beautiful Klin d’oeil store where every corner was impeccably styled and photogenic. Jemma Watts got some lovely images which again were so hard to edit down.

Kangan Arora and Jonna Saarinen studio space - featured in 91 Magazine vol. 7
Fox in the Attic home studio as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
Lagom candles studio as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
Little Mashers shop as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
SWIM, Lyme Regis as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
SWIM, Lyme Regis as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
Acorn & Pip as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
Acorn & Pip as featured in 91 Magazine vol 7

We featured a number of other gorgeous shops, studios and creative spaces from around the UK, photographed by Nuraan Ackers, Katharine Peachey, Catherine Frawley and Kathryn Taylor.

home tour featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
home tour featured in 91 Magazine vol 7
home tour featured in 91 Magazine vol 7

Last but definitely not least, is the home tour with Kate Chilver and Craig Williams. If nothing else makes you want to fill your home with plants, then their home will! I love ever corner of their space and kinda wish they could just come and recreate it all in my home too! (and maybe help care for all my plants as well!)

If you haven’t got the new issue yet, then do pop to the shop to grab one. As you can see, it is FULL of dreamy inspiration and - I hope you’ll agree - a proper little treat to yourself or for an interiors loving friend!

An Instagrammer's guide to: Folkestone, Kent

In the latest of our Instagrammer guides, blogger Clementine May takes us on a tour of her home town of Folkestone.

Located on the south east coast of Kent, Folkestone is a seaside town with a thriving artist community and a unique selection of independent shops. It’s just an hour from London by train and makes for the perfect day trip. In the summer months people flock to the Harbour Arm to enjoy street food, pop up bars, live music and even a champagne bar in a lighthouse. But a walk along the cobbled streets of the Old High Street is the perfect way to spend a couple of hours anytime of the year. This part of town (also known as the Creative Quarter) is where independent shops nestle alongside artist studios, coffee houses and a mix of old and new architecture.

Kitty McCall shop in Folkestone, Kent
Kitty McCall shop in Folkestone, Kent

Kitty McCall

Located on the bustling Old High Street, this shop is like a breath of fresh air with its colourful and vibrant designs. Catherine Nice (founder of Kitty McCall) is a graphic print designer living and working in Folkestone. With fourteen years experience working in the creative industries this shop has become home to her bright, bold, tropical prints. Her beautiful designs adorn a whole host of lifestyle products ranging from lampshades and stationary to framed prints and wrapping paper.

IG: @kittymccall

Moo Like a Monkey, Folkestone, Kent
Moo Like a Monkey, Folkestone, Kent

Moo Like a Monkey

This shop is a little gem; filled with beautifully designed toys, books and clothes for children. There are handmade wooden toys, a unique selection of clothes with colourful Scandinavian designs and a selection of books celebrating diversity and the individual. Although Moo Like a Monkey has only been open a year, the ethos is strong and all items have been thoughtfully sourced from new designers locally and from around the world. Everything is unique and sustainably made; making this the perfect place to pick up a special gift for the little ones in your life. The shop is also brilliantly child friendly; the kids are encouraged to play with anything within their reach so they are kept entertained while you can relax and browse.


Workshop Number 29, Folkestone, Kent
Workshop Number 29, Folkestone, Kent

Workshop Number Twenty Nine

Although this shop is compact it is filled (inside and out) with a selection of beautiful objects. Everything ranging from old posters and signs to chairs, tables and light fittings. I love looking through their selection of kitchen utensils and the more useful, everyday items like clothes pegs and door knobs all with individual style and attractive detailing. The items have been artfully curated from architectural salvage and lovingly restored. When the weather is fine, pieces are stacked up outside the shop making it almost impossible to walk past without feeling the need to step into this elegant shop front for a closer look. Keep an eye on their beautiful instagram account to find out opening times (currently Saturdays only).

IG: @workshopnumber29

The Potting Shed, Folkestone, Kent
The Potting Shed, Folkestone, Kent

The Potting Shed

Also located on Rendezvous Street and just opposite Workshop Twenty Nine is The Potting Shed; a new take on the old antique shop. With a selection of decorative pieces and furniture, each object is unique and with a story to tell. When I visited there was a 1940s hand-painted fairground sign, mid-century armchairs and a selection of ceramic and glass vases. Everything has been styled to create a beautiful setting against the backdrop of the shop’s very own indoor potting shed.

IG: @tpsfolkestone

Pot and Vessel, Folkestone, Kent
Pot and Vessel, Folkestone, Kent

Pot and Vessel

This little plant store is an oasis of succulents and cacti with a range of beautifully made ceramic and terracotta pots (both modern and vintage). All the plants are lovingly tended to and with so much choice there is a plant here for everyone. This shop is a little further out of town but it’s worth the walk. It's hard to leave without picking up a little plant complete with pot and a whole wealth of plant care knowledge and advice. Keep an eye on their Instagram as they quite often have workshops and pop ups on the old high street in town and elsewhere in the area.

IG: @pot_and_vessel

Folkestone Beach Huts
Folkestone Beach Huts

A walk to Sandgate village

If you have time for a wander along the coast then I would recommend walking through the Lower Leas Coastal Park that stretches from Folkestone to the little seaside village of Sandgate.  Pick up the path at the old vernacular Leas lift and follow it through the gardens and adventure playground or veer off onto the pebbled beach promenade. This shoreline route will take you past the Mermaid Beach and ice cream coloured beach huts. With a farmers market on the first and third Saturday of the month and numerous antique shops, Sandgate is full of mooching potential. I like to explore the quaint fisherman’s cottages that are dotted around the back streets (Wilberforce Road offers a pretty selection) and if you are feeling energetic take the footpath at the end of this road (you will find it in the car park) to the woods behind the village.

Orchard Lane Coffee House, Folkestone, Kent
Orchard Lane Coffee House, Folkestone, Kent

Orchard Lane Coffee House

This little coffee shop on Sandgate high street serves an impressive range of vegetarian food and vegan cakes. Just a stone's throw from the beach it’s a perfect place to grab lunch or a bite to eat after a walk along the coastal path. If you don’t manage to make it down to Sandgate then Orchard Lane also have a coffee bar in Hot Salvation Records. This laid back record store sells a wide selection of old and new vinyl on Rendezvous Street (just next to the Potting Shed) so you can browse their records while enjoying the Lane’s excellent coffee and vegan muffins.

IG: @orchardlanecoffeehouse / @hotsalvation

Photo: Sophie Rowell

Photo: Sophie Rowell

Photo: Sophie Rowell

Photo: Sophie Rowell

The Bayle Folkestone

This beautiful Georgian house located in the pretty Bayle area of Folkestone has been stylishly renovated and decorated by Sophie Rowell (owner of Folkestone based interior service Côte de Folk). This elegant location house is available to rent. Sleeping eight people it is the perfect place to bring friends and family for a long weekend by the sea. Sourcing objects from Morocco and France as well as closer to home, Sophie has created a beautiful, functional and serene home from home. Cote de Folk is involved in a number of creative projects across Folkestone, you can find out more via their Instagram account.

IG: @cotedefolk / @thebaylefolkestone

Photography by Clementine May unless otherwise stated.