How To Build A Creative Community

Whether you’re a designer, crafter, maker or painter – freelancing or running your own brand can often be a lonely business. To combat the isolation which solo-makers can feel, it is essential to build your own network of supportive, likeminded creatives.

Creative communities come in all shapes and sizes and offer all sorts of benefits; from practical advice and skill-sharing to emotional support. Even the most independent of makers can’t turn their aspirations into reality on their own - creatives need creatives.

But just how do you go about building your own network? 91 contributor Greg McIndoe caught up with a few small business owners to hear about their experiences growing and sustaining a creative community… 

building a creative community
an art project to help build a creative community

Libby Walker

Illustrator and maker Libby Walker graduated with a degree in Illustration from Edinburgh College of Art in 2009. Having spent years working her way up through different markets and  studio spaces, last summer Libby opened the doors to her very own shop in the south side of Glasgow. If you pop in to Libby’s bright yellow store you’ll find a whole host of totes, prints, mugs and cushions on sale as well as the artist herself, beavering away on her next colourful creation.

The shop is currently displaying an exhibition of new works by Libby inspired by her retail neighbours. The series depicts many businesses local to her - including beer shops, salons and queer book shops - along with the people who run them. Libby created the series to highlight the fact that many small businesses are run by just one person. Knowing herself how much work and risk is involved in launching your own business, the project commends her fellow shop owners for their brave business moves and thanks them for shaping the local community.

The beautiful illustrations are going to be edited into a single print which will be sold by Libby both online and in her physical store. The original paintings however will be gifted to the people who inspired them. In return, Libby has been promised beer, haircuts, plants, vintage treats and – most importantly - a tribe of new friends. This project is a perfect example of how creativity can be used to connect with people and immerse yourself within a community.

libbywalker.co.uk

Frome Independent Market
Frome Independent Market

The Frome Independent

The Frome Independent market was launched in 2009 by a local entrepreneur with the aim of bringing footfall to the independent shops of Frome’s picturesque cobbled streets. Over the past decade, the non-profit business has grown from working with just a handful of sellers to over 200 and now welcomes around 80,000 visitors a year. Once a month, a close-knit community of sellers, including contemporary crafters, homeware designers and ethical clothing and jewellery brands, assemble on the streets of Frome to flog their latest wares.

Frome Independent strives to be ‘more than a market’ and a key part of this effort has been encouraging makers and craftspeople to form their own ‘community with benefits’ which extended beyond market days. The organisers have witnessed countless friendships between traders form and strengthen as a result of trading alongside one another at the market. The strength of this community has been proven by many of Frome’s traders going on to open their own shops in the local area.

Creatives who trade at the market have nothing but praise for the organisation. Elizabeth Huband is the owner of ethical brand Badger House Leather who sell at Frome Independent each month. Currently one year in to her business journey, Elizabeth names Frome Independent as the catalyst which sparked the idea for her to turn her passion into a business and strongly believes she wouldn’t be where she is today without it.

Elizabeth explains that the benefits of the community go way beyond simply being able to sell products. She says, “the market allows you to feel connected to the community you live in, to collaborate with other makers and artists and to broaden your horizons in ways you never thought you would. I’m now doing business differently and frankly, doing it better!” This glowing review shows how surrounding yourself with like-minded creatives - even on a monthly basis - can benefit you and your business in ways you never knew it could.

thefromeindependent.org.uk

ohh deer - building creative communities online
ohh deer - building creative communities online

 Ohh Deer

Over the past 8 years, Ohh Deer has established itself as a go-to online destination when searching for the perfect quirky gift. A significant amount of the brand’s success story is rooted in the online community they have built up over the years. The half a million followers which Ohh Deer have gathered across their social platforms have helped their business to grow and grow.

 In the beginning, Ohh Deer started as a blog before launching themselves into the world of stylish stationery with the help of 10 illustrators whom they connected with through Twitter. They have now worked with over 100 creatives to create gorgeous, illustrated products which can be found in the likes of Oliver Bonas, John Lewis, Urban Outfitters and ASOS. 

Despite having amassed this impressive following, Mark Callaby - who founded Ohh Deer with his partner Jamie Mitchell back in 2011 - says that getting the best out of social media has become increasingly difficult over the years. In particular, the constantly changing and ever-unpopular Instagram algorithm has made it more and more difficult for Ohh Deer to engage with their followers. Undeterred, Mark simply sees this as a chance for his team to up their game – a challenge which he praises them for rising to triumphantly.

 Ohh Deer’s is undoubtedly a success story but it hasn’t been without it’s learning curves. Last year, they chose to open a physical shop in each of the co-founders hometowns of Ipswich and Loughborough. Unfortunately, their Ipswich store was forced to close a few months ago. Whilst this was a difficult process, it did offer them an insight into where Ohh Deer’s strengths lie as a business.

Speaking about the change Mark says that “the high street can be tough and for us our strengths are definitely online and selling to other shops so we've realigned the business over the last 12 months to play towards these strengths even more.” Mark is very open about the fact that he and Jamie have made plenty of mistakes during Ohh Deer’s history but each one has taught them how to be more business-savvy and calculated when taking essential risks. An important lesson to takeaway from Ohh Deer is how they have assessed and realised where their strengths lie. Before you can grow anything, it’s important to know where best to plant the seed.

ohhdeer.com

mayke collective - a blogging collective or creative makers and designers
mayke collective - a blogging collective or creative makers and designers

Mayke Collective

Last year, some of the UK’s leading lifestyle bloggers came together to form Mayke Collective. Five well-established content creators - Caroline Burke, Medina Grillo, Teri Muncey, Francesca Stone and Hester Van Overbeek - chose to band together to pool their creative resources, increasing their individual reach and therefore power within the blogging industry. The collective offer brands the opportunity to benefit from all of the member’s collective audiences as well as their 30 years joint experience within the industry.

 The idea for Mayke Collective was initiated by Hester Van Overbeek who blogs at Hester’s Handmade Home. Having worked independently as a freelancer for years, she missed having coworkers to bounce ideas off of and vent to after a bad day. Hester already had a community of bloggers which she chatted to online and socialised with at events and wanted to strengthen some of these connections and harness the collective power they offered. Hester describes each of the members as the ‘perfect match’ as they all create similar content but with their own unique creative style. An added bonus came with the fact that they are all mothers and so understand each other’s time limitations. The blogging dream team worked together planning the collective for a year before it launched. 

Since launching, Mayke Collective has gradually gained momentum and is offering its members more and more benefits. The collective offers the brands which each of the individual bloggers work with more coverage and gives their followers more free content plus they share PR contacts and resources with each other to help gain new clients. Best of all though, Hester feels like she has colleagues again. Having experienced how lonely a relatively young industry such as blogging can be, the best benefit has been having people who understand her and her business to talk to. Whether it is a contract query or some reassurance when she is feeling uncertain during a quiet period, the collective guarantees there is always someone there to listen. Mayke Collective seem to have struck the perfect balance as they are able to nurture their businesses, inner creatives and friendships all at once.

maykecollective.com 

the members of Mayke Collective

the members of Mayke Collective

There is so much to learn from these creatives, so along with their wise words and my own experiences, here are some top tips for building a creative community…

Collaboration over competition

Every creative I spoke to concurred that collaboration should always be favoured over competition. Libby Walker encourages all makers to “be creative, heartfelt , supportive and reward local support.” Mark Callaby agrees that the goal should always be to make friends even if you see someone as competition, saying “my parents taught me that manners go along way and they couldn't be more right!”

 Support your fellow creatives

The first step in building a community can be showing one-on-one support to a fellow creative. This can be something simple like choosing a few of your favourite profiles to share on your Instagram stories, or popping in to your local independent shop for a chat. Whether online or in person, these interactions are often the first stepping stone on the road to a thriving community.

 Do your hashtag research

Mayke Collective’s Hester Van Overbeek shared insight into how to build a creative community specifically through social media platforms. She advises you look at relevant hashtags or create your own to start a conversation and engage with fellow creatives who inspire you. There are countless examples of creative communities which started through a hashtag and if you can’t find one which fits then you can always start your own.

 Engage with people IRL

While social media is wonderful for building online relationships, nothing beats connecting with other creatives in real life. The sellers at Frome Market agree that the human interaction these events offer can prove just as valuable as any sales you make. Real life interactions can mean stepping further outside your comfort zone but the rewards will more than likely outweigh the discomfort.

Think about diversity

If you are thinking of setting up a creative community - be it a collective, an online platform or a design event - it is important to think about diversity. Online especially, the perspectives we are offered are often filtered to be as close to our own as possible. By making the effort to broaden these perspectives and include a range of people from a spectrum of genders, sexualities and races we in turn broaden our understanding of the world around us. The best design events that I have attended - such as Pecha Kucha Dundee - have included a diverse rostra of talent and allowed the attendees to reap the benefits of this inclusivity.

 Connect instead of simply selling

Similarly, if you are in the position to hold any kind of event, then think about what you are offering people, other than simply the chance to sell things. Speaking from his experiences with Ohh Deer, Mark Callaby wants to push for networking events which are more than a sales pitching opportunity saying “I get that we're all here to make some money, but we should also be here to support each other as running a business can be really isolating if you're not around like-minded people.”

Follow your own path

Mark also encourages people not to feel restricted by what has come before saying “I've seen a lot of companies that try to copy others successes and they quickly fail.” He admits that when he and Jamie started Ohh Deer they had no clue about the industry, but this in fact helped them find their own identity without being overly influenced by others. Creative communities can take any form and if you have an alternative idea of how one should look or how it should be grown then go for it!

 Remember, you are not alone

Finally, remember that you are not alone in feeling isolated sometimes. It is easy to feel like you are the only one that doesn’t know anyone when you attend an event or be a little nervous starting a conversation with a creative whose work you love. Remember though, that we all either are or have been in the same position. Wanting to make connections with other creatives is very common and if you make the first move, the reaction will most likely be positive. You know that warm feeling you get when you get a nice message about your work or someone compliments your products? Well we all get that feeling too and we’d love to be part of a community which makes us feel it all the time.

Should You Turn Your Hobby Into A Business?

Starting your own business has never been easier or more commonplace - but is it something we all need to be doing? Slow marketing coach Kayte Ferris talks us through the questions you need to ask yourself when considering transforming a hobby into a business and if you do, how to get started.

should you turn your hobby into a business?

“Should I turn my hobby into a business?” – isn’t that the perennial question of creative people everywhere? Whether you write a blog and everyone around you seems to be monetising, or your friends insist that “you should totally sell these!” about your craft projects, it can feel like you’re somehow ‘falling behind’ by not selling your work. It feels at the moment that the air is thick with talk of side-hustles and productivity that make the whole idea that maybe this is something you should be doing all the more pervasive. But the question remains: should you turn your hobby into a business?

For a long time online, monetising your passions was seen as the ultimate self-actualisation. As the old adage goes, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, and a whole generation took those words to heart and strove to forge careers and businesses that gave them the best of both worlds. However, recently, there has been a small backlash within generation monetise, with online magazine Man Repeller claiming “We don’t have to monetize or optimize or organize our joy. Hobbies don’t have to be imbued with a purpose beyond our own enjoyment of them. They, alone, can be enough.”

 Ultimately, though, this is a decision that is yours to make, and yours alone. It’s very much the kind of decision you want to outsource – that’s probably why you’re reading this article! It feels too big, too life changing, to be made by just you; you surely need to crowdsource opinions from those who ‘know better’ and follow the advice of those who seem more sure about what’s right than you. It’s a comforting notion, but not an empowered one. Giving the power to decide the course of the next phase of your life to strangers on the internet is, when you put it like that, a pretty crazy idea.

Should you turn your hobby into a business?

But still, that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t really know how you feel and what you want, right? Maybe you sought out other opinions as a way to clarify your own thoughts, but all that’s happened is that you’re now more confused, with the added weight of knowing what other people in your life expect you to do. In order to make this decision, you need to get in touch with your subconscious thoughts and feelings, feeling your way intuitively around the dark recesses of your brain to dig out some dusty thoughts from the back. And here are some questions to help you do that.

1. How do you want to feel in your life?

Find a moment of stillness where you can feel comfortable, close your ideas and imagine yourself transported to an ideal world a few months from now. What is it like, here in your ideal future? Where are you, what are the colours and the light like, what are the smells and the sounds? (Introducing the senses to this vision helps to make it real for the brain and grounds you in this place.) How are you feeling, name those emotions.

With the vision in your mind, think about how your hobby features in that version of your life? Did it feel like it was possible because your hobby was your business, or do you think that monetising your hobby will jeopardise that vision?

The future vision is something I use to make decisions all the time in my business. In my vision, I’m in a garden; it’s evening because the light is low and golden, and all around me is green. I’m touching roses with my fingertips and the heady smell of flowers is all around like a cocoon. I know that inside my work is patiently waiting for me, but that I have nowhere urgently to be and no one to answer to. Any time I’m faced with a choice or a decision, I choose the one that will bring me closer to that feeling in my vision.

2. What would your dream week look like?

This is a popular exercise from my Purpose Kit to help you start to think about what is most important to you. 

An email drops into your inbox. A loved one nominated you for a ‘week away from routine’ and you’ve now got a whole week to do what you want with. You can choose where you take this week - stay at home, go to your favourite place, fly to the other side of the world. The only expectation is that you do whatever you want to in that week - you must do nothing out of obligation. 

Write down a few lines about where you’re taking your dream week - where you’re staying, what the weather is like, how you’re feeling. Ground yourself in this place, really feel it. Don’t skip this part! It makes the difference in taking your mind truly away.

Now, plan out what you’re going to do in this week. What are you going to do that’s just for you, that fills you up? Write out your itinerary.

What does this tell you in terms of what’s important for you? Would monetising your hobby be more or less like this dream week?

 3. When you think about monetising your hobby, what sensations do you feel in your body? 

This is a very traditional way of accessing your intuition and is actually really helpful when you have a specific question like this. Again get yourself somewhere comfortable (I quite like doing thinking like this in the bath!), lie back and clear your mind as much as possible of all the thoughts you’ve had about this, and all the opinions of others.

If you’re not used to connecting with your intuition, a practice run might help. Get to know how your body feels when you speak the truth, and how it feels when you tell a lie to see how it reacts to what is right and what is wrong. This is a trick I learned from Susannah Conway: say out loud “my name is [your actual name]” and take note of any feelings in your body; then say out loud “my name is [a name that is not your name]”. How do the feelings change?

Form your version of that question in your mind, ‘should I turn my hobby into a business?’, speak it out loud if you don’t feel too awkward, and pay attention to the sensations in your body. Do you feel any pangs, sparks, heaviness, tightness? Where in the body are those feelings? If you did the practice run, do they feel more like the truth or the lie? Can you put a name to any of the feelings – excitement or dread, potential or worry?

Should you turn your hobby into a business?

Hopefully, by working through these questions, you have more of a steer of what feels right and true to you. Maybe the answer surprised you, or perhaps wasn’t quite the one you wanted, but at least it’s come from you – you can know that you truly wanted it, or that you didn’t. So what next? If your intuition told you to keep your hobby for yourself, you can relieve the pressure – if you feel you need to, formulate a stock answer to quash those “you should be selling these” conversations, and go about enjoying your hobby!

If, however, your intuition said “let’s go for it”, you’ve likely got a whole other set of questions now! Where do I start? Do I need a business plan? What’s the next step? Here is my key advice for those on the cusp of their business:

  • Start before you’re ready – get a website up, start sharing your work on social media, book a market, do whatever it takes to start being visible in your business. Our compulsion is to work away in the background until everything is ready and perfect but the problem with that is two-fold: if you’re waiting for it to be perfect you’ll never take it public, and if you’re keeping it a secret then your potential customers aren’t getting to know you and trust you

  • Experiment – when you’re starting out is the perfect time to test and try things out, as you haven’t got much to lose if it doesn’t go so well. Play around and see what works, have fun with creating different content and try on some different methods of marketing. Don’t feel you have to start out with a rigid plan; your plan will be better for having things you’ve already tested in it

  • Be curatorial with the advice you take – there is so much business advice on the internet, and a lot of it won’t apply to you. People may be writing for business owners with a different business to yours, or at a different stage. Stay connected to your intuition and don’t assume that others know best – follow the advice that feels right

Ultimately, whether you decide to start turning your hobby into a business now, later or never, my biggest hope for you is that you continue to stay in close contact with yourself. As you continue to tread this path you will have well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) voices telling you what you definitely must do – it is never ‘wrong’ to do what feels like the best thing for you, even if that’s not what others want. It’s all in your power, and you can exercise it.

You can find more from Kayte at simpleandseason.com. Basecamp, her course to help overwhelmed beginners get going with their businesses, is available now.

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.

Our Seek Inspire Create Event 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.

SEEK

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

INSPIRE

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

CREATE

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

Our Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

Nearly three weeks ago we hosted our first ever ‘reader event’. I came up with the concept for a day event last summer, and decided 2019 was when we would launch them. (I was fully aware of how much planning goes it to running events!) It’s always nerve-wracking launching something new. Good old self-doubt tends to creep in, and initially I found myself fretting over whether the tickets would sell. Was my idea of a dream day out going to appeal to anyone else?!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

Thankfully, it turned out it was, and tickets were sold out about a month before the event. Phew! For me, curating a day out for 91 readers was done in the same way I curate the content for the magazine. The idea was to bring the magazine to life and literally base it around things that I love - independent business, beautiful shops and spaces, inspiring people, great food and creativity.

The structure of the day is led by the hashtag I came up with a couple of years ago #seekinspirecreate (also the name of our popular e-zine), with the day being split into three parts - Seek, Inspire and Create. I’m so thrilled that our very first event which happened in Lewes, East Sussex in February went so well! We had a lovely mix of creative women come along (although men are very welcome too!), some who lived quite locally, but some who had travelled the whole way from Manchester to join us! Here is a little insight into the day, with some lovely images taken by SarahLou Francis.

SEEK

For the first part of the day, I wanted to take everyone to a few of my favourite independent shops in the town. Whenever I visit anywhere new, I am always seeking out beautiful stores to browse, and Lewes is certainly packed with lots of them! We of course couldn’t get round all of them, so I selected three very different, but equally dreamy shops.

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

First up was Marchand Son, the most unique paint shop you are ever likely to come across. Owner Simon previously ran a shop in London called 'Colour Makes Me Happy’, but moved himself and his business to Lewes around 6 months ago, bringing his quirky style to the town. Simon chatted to our group about the many myths surrounding paint, explained how he taught himself to make paint and shared the stories behind his brilliant paint names. He is a true creative who has built something entirely unique and it was wonderful to learn more about his business. He even mixed us little pots of ‘91 Magazine pink’ paint for our goodie bags!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create Event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

Next, we walked around the corner and onto the high street to visit Freight HHG. This beautiful store is run by Adele and her mother, and is a mix of homeware, clothing and lifestyle items. What makes this shop different is that the two women design or commission most of the items they sell. Adele chatted to us about how they avoid the usual trade fairs and prefer to seek out talented makers to craft their wares, with everything being made within the UK. Designs and materials are carefully considered to make products that last. It was lovely to hear the story behind how they have created their unique brand and everyone had the chance to ask lots of questions as well as to shop with our exclusive discount!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

Our final stop for the Seek part of the day was From Victoria in The Needlemakers. This gorgeous shop is an absolute treasure trove of homeware, gifts and plants. I could spend hours poring over the pretty things in every corner of this space run by the lovely Victoria. Surrounded by unusual hanging plants, cacti and tropical beauties, Victoria gave lots of sound houseplant advice to the group during our plant Q&A. Then we all eagerly browsed the goodies with many of us leaving with little brown paper bags filled with treats to ourselves!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

INSPIRE

We were extremely lucky with the weather with the event falling during that really warm spell we had at the end of February. As we walked to the lunch venue where the INSPIRE part of the day would take place, we were shedding our jackets and talking of how spring-like it felt. The group were giving me slightly strange looks as I led them along the road to an industrial estate, I’m sure all wondering exactly where we would be eating! But, stepping through an unassuming door and passing by a noisy workshop area, all was revealed as we entered kitchen makers Inglis Hall’s beautiful showroom. The space is a working kitchen, so was perfect for out caterers Caccia and Tails to come and prepare the delicious lunch while we all mingled and chatted.

The table looked beautiful, decorated with plants from From Victoria and gorgeous flowers by Bulb Floristry. Jam-packed goodie bags awaited our guests on their seats too. The food was truly delicious, with meat, vegetarian and vegan versions of mac ‘n’ cheese along with an amazing salad and focaccia bread.

After eating and chatting, we then had two excellent talks to listen to. Firstly, Dorte and Georgie of Curly Carrot talked us through using Pinterest for business. So much useful information was shared and I have a renewed love of Pinterest ever since! Next, Jade Golding, a creative business coach (and owner of two other businesses!) talked about how to inspire your customers online. She explained the difficulties faced with selling product online and then provided useful ideas on how to overcome these and create an inspiring online shopping experience.

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes
91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

CREATE

With tummies filled, brains inspired and goodie bags in hand, we set off to our final destination for the CREATE part of the day. Inside the fragrant AS Apothecary store, we were warmly greeted by owner Amanda who quickly made us feel at home in her beautiful space. Her small-batch natural skincare products line the walls, styled to perfection with plants and other natural objects. Amanda chatted to us in depth about natural skincare and how she creates her range from flowers and herbs that they grow and harvest in Sussex, Scotland and Greece. She has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and I’m pretty sure most of us were converted by the end of the chat. (Many of us were purchasing her products before we left!) We then got the chance to mix our very own beauty balm, which we worked together to make under Amanda’s careful supervision. We all got to take away a little pot of what we made, and I have not stopped using it since that day!

91 Magazine Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes

The day was rounded off the only way it could be; with a cup of tea and some delicious (and beautiful!) cakes supplied by Flint Owl Bakery! yum!

As I said during my introduction at the start of the day, I basically wanted to create my ‘ideal day out’ and as the event drew to a close, I was happy to confirm that it had delivered exactly that! It was so lovely to be able to share it with a wonderful group of like-minded women and it reminded me how good it is to step out of your usual day-to-day and just enjoy some time doing things you love, meeting new people and discovering new things.

We are already starting to plan the next of these events. It will follow the same format but in a different town with different businesses and people. I honestly can’t wait! if you’d like to hear about when tickets go on sale for it, make sure you sign up to our mailing list for updates.

A HUGE thank you to everyone involved in our day down in Lewes. It was truly magical!

All photography: SarahLou Francis