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.

Ethical Living: A sustainable summer gathering

Summer is in full flow, with the UK and Europe experiencing another extreme heatwave last week. The soaring temperatures come accompanied with a stark reminder of the global climate crisis we are facing. Change is needed and fast, and while we may not be able to halt the use of fossil fuels individually, we can at least make small changes within our own every day, aiming to be more eco-conscious and sustainable.

With summer parties and gatherings on the horizon, we asked three small business owners to collaborate and combine their passions for food and pretty things with their love of styling and sustainability and pull together an eco-conscious summer garden table without compromising style. Katia Wlodarczak, Claire Street and Nikkita Palmer have put together these hints and tips to make the most of what you already have when styling your outdoor space.

Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels

We fill our homes with furniture and accessories we love, so when summer comes around, why shouldn’t we make our outdoor spaces look just as Insta-worthy?! Reusing items that you love and have already invested in is key to making your space both personal, practical and ready to enjoy the summer. A few simple home accessories such as blankets, throws, cushions, trays and chairs can be combined to create the laid-back and homely atmosphere we have created here.

Consider how to reuse existing furniture pieces, whether it be moving your dining table to the garden, or using benches, trunks and crates as side tables for an eclectic feel on summer evenings. Avoid succumbing to cheap white plastic garden furniture as they lack quality and we so very often see them end up in landfill. Opt for floor cushions and vintage deckchairs for a more individual and planet-friendly look. For the creatives amongst you, make your own reclaimed folding table from previously discarded wood (or other materials) or simply make a stack of pallets for a low level chilled out vibe. These can be easily dressed with rugs, fabrics, linens and some simple vases of flowers moved from the inside to out.

Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels
Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels

Avoid using shop bought flowers with excessive plastic packaging and transportation and opt for picking your own wild flowers from the garden, hedgerows, meadows or canals if possible. Alternatively, use a local grower for beautiful flowers which are often not easily found in the shops and support a small business in the process. Emma Connolly from A Bunch Of Wild provided us with an assortment of ammi, scabious, larkspur, lavender and rose chandos beauty.

Flowers can be arranged in vintage or new glass vases in a combination of colours and textures to get the pretty summer garden look seen here. Add a range of heights to your table to give variation with log slices (sourced from your local timber merchant) or stacks of vintage books. If using small quantities opt for odd numbers of arrangements for balance.

Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels

Forget paper plates and plastic cups and either bring out your own crockery or durable vintage enamelware. Great for camping holidays and garden use as they are both practical and beautiful – we love British based Falcon Enamelware. Replace paper napkins with linen or fabrics which can be used again and again. Work with what you have combining patterns and similar colours. An eclectic mix looks so much more relaxed than a formal matching table setting. An easy but effective tip is to fold your linens and add stems of lavender or eucalyptus with your cutlery – when entertaining, add a handwritten name tag on leaves or natural papers for more personalisation.

Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels

Plastic cutlery is most definitely a thing of the past. Reusable picnic sets are great if you’re going out of the house, or just use the cutlery you have at home. Replace single use bags with baskets and crates which are not only more space effective and organised but also look great. Serve your handmade treats on sharing wooden boards for a real feeling of gathering - ours are made from reclaimed timber which you could make yourself at home. (see hints and tips for this below)

Don’t forget to consider atmosphere when styling your outside space. If you are taking it into the evening consider lighting and the intensity of this, we love warm festoon lights draped from branches or trees (there are solar-powered ones available) as well as glass and wooden lanterns at a range of heights scattered around the space.

Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels

CREATE YOUR OWN RECLAIMED SERVING BOARD

We use a reclaimed pallet board for our serving trays as well as a chunkier timber when it is available. We highly recommend you work with what you have for the best and most personal feel. We source lots of our reclaimed timber from the building industry but you will readily find discarded pallets on Gumtree, Freecycle or Facebook marketplace for little to no money. However, always be sure to ask permission before taking anything.

When choosing your pallets, be sure they have a HT stamp on them, this means they have been heat treated to remove any nasty chemicals or bugs. Of course, you will need to sand your boards back for the best finish. We recommend using a low grit sand paper to start with (80 grit) and to finish with a higher grade such as a 120.  Once finished, be sure to coat any wood used with a food safe finishing wood oil, we use a natural mineral oil or an alternative chopping board oil available from homeware stores or online.

Photography:  Katia Wlodarczak / Gourmand Pixels

HOMEMADE QUICHE RECIPE

The quiche can be eaten straight away but to show it at its best, make it a day in advance and serve warm or at room temperature. Making your own pastry and adding parmesan and freshly ground black pepper to the flour will make the crust a bit more interesting. Plus, using just an egg and no water will make it more crumbly & delicate.

YOU WILL NEED:

For the pastry:

  • 200g plain flour

  • 30g parmesan

  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cubed

  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten

  • Black pepper, coarse, a few turns from the mill

    METHOD:

  1. Rub the butter in the flour using your fingers or a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until it resembles breadcrumbs.

  2. Add the lightly beaten egg and continue mixing until a small dough is just formed. Don’t overwork it!

  3. Shape the dough into a thick disk, wrap and rest in the fridge. After 30 minutes, roll out  the disk out to a thickness of 2-3mm between 2 sheets of baking parchment. If you have time, let it rest in the fridge some more. The more rest, the less shrinkage.

  4. Line a 20cm tart tin with the pastry sheet, Prick the base and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes.

  5. Scrunch up one of the pieces of baking parchment, lay it in the chilled pastry case and cover with baking beans, or better - some coins from your penny jar.

  6. Blind bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C. Remove the parchment with the beans or coins and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Reduce it to 120-140°C to bake the filling.

For the filling:

  • 3 large eggs

  • 300ml single or whipping cream

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced

  • 1 small courgette dices

  • 1 small yellow or red pepper

  • A few cherry tomatoes, quartered 

  • Small hand-full of spinach (optional - to add a green touch)

  • Salt and pepper

  • Olive oil

  • ½ tsp Herbes de Provence

    METHOD:

    1. Fry all your vegetables in a little olive oil, just like making a summer ratatouille, ideally one by one.

    2. Mix the eggs with the cream in a saucepan. Add the vegetables, spinach if using and the herbes de Provence. Season with salt and pepper.

    3. Gently heat until warm. If you have a thermometer, use it to bring the mix to 60°C (not more or it will start to set). By doing that, the filling will set faster in the oven, avoiding the undesirable “soggy bottom”.

    4. Make sure the pastry case is still warm when filling. Return to the oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Give the tin a slight wobble once in a while and remove from the oven as soon as the centre doesn’t feel liquid anymore.

    5. Let it cool at room temperature for 20 minutes if eating straight away or before putting it back in the fridge to rest overnight. The following day, bring back to room temperature or warm in a preheated over at 160°C for 5-10mins.


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.

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.

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.

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

FOOD 

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

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

HOMEWARES 

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. 

Screen Shot 2019-06-06 at 13.35.56.png
Lowie
Bronwyn, owner of Lowie

FASHION

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.

5 ways to make Pinterest work harder for your creative business

We love Instagram, we really do, but with increasing frustration at the algorithm we all battle with on a daily basis, it feels like many are looking for alternative ways to market their small business effectively. At our recent Seek Inspire Create event in Lewes, Georgie and Dorte of Curly Carrot gave a talk to our group about how to use Pinterest for business. It was a total eye-opener. I have also recently taken their e-course and have found by taking their advice, I am seeing more traffic to our website and our monthly unique viewers on Pinterest have more than doubled in the space of a few weeks! I therefore decided to invite Dorte and Georgie to share their top five Pinterest tips with our blog readers so that you can try implementing their advice yourselves, hopefully driving more traffic to your online space, too. Over to you ladies!

5 tips for using Pinterest to promote your small business

The first thing to understand is that Pinterest is different from other online marketing platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Users are actively searching for something - content, information, services and products. They aren’t just scrolling; looking to see what others are doing, commenting and liking. Pinterest users have specific interests and are shown content related to their interests. This means that what they are seeing when scrolling through Pinterest is likely to be the kind of thing they would click on to find out more about. The question is, how can you make sure they click on your pins and discover your business and your products or service?

 Here are 5 ways to make Pinterest work harder for your creative business that you can easily implement into your Pinterest strategy and see results quicker than you’d think!

Marketing your small business using Pinterest

1/ CREATE BEAUTIFUL PINS

Pinterest is a positive place that people escape to for aspiration as well as practical ideas that they can act on in their daily lives. It helps to keep this in mind when creating your pin, as well as making it attractive and useful, show how it will fit into people’s lives. Pinners want to save pins that inspire, engage and tell a story!

They should:

  • Stand out in the Smart Feed and catch the eye.

  • Attract your perfect customer.

  • Entice people to click through to your website.

2/ WRITE A GOOD PIN DESCRIPTION

Pinterest is a SEARCH ENGINE. What would your perfect customer search for to find your Pin?

To do this you need to:

  • Figure out what your keywords are.

  • Write complete sentences using the keywords that describe your product or service in the Pin.

5 tips for using Pinterest for business

3/ OPTIMISE YOUR WEBSITE OR ONLINE STORE FOR PINTEREST

A third of all Google searches are for images! Pinterest is popular because people are drawn to visuals and love searching for them. By not deleting that ‘IMG_1785’ title and including keywords in your Alt Text then you’re missing a huge SEO trick and ruining your chances of appearing in search.

4/ SCHEDULE YOUR PINS

Pinterest rewards pins that are saved consistently. It doesn’t work if you save 100 pins in one day and then none for a week. It is much more effective to drip feed these pins to your boards over the week. The best way to do this is to use a scheduling tool. An authorised Pinterest partner, Tailwind is easy to use and is a great timesaving tool. (Sign up for your free trial here*) Using Tailwind means you don't have to manually pin every day. You can even have all your pins scheduled for two weeks in advance while you’re on holiday! No commenting or engagement required to get results either!   

 *This an affiliate link. Which means if you start to pay the monthly fee, (only $9.99 per month and worth every penny) Curly Carrot will receive a small fee. Curly Carrot recommends Tailwind because they use it and it works! They want you to get results for your business too.

How to use Pinterest to promote your small creative business online

5/ PIN OTHER PEOPLE’S CONTENT

Think of your Pinterest account as a lifestyle magazine for your business. Include great content from others that compliments your business ethos. This will help you to hone down your aesthetic and style and see you become a resource. There is no magic ratio of your pins to others and it depends on how much of your own content you have. Experiment!


To learn more about how Pinterest can help your creative business to thrive and flourish visit Curly Carrot for a one-stop shop on all things Pinterest! Podcasts, free downloads, blogposts and the online course mentioned in the introduction.

Get 15% off the £69 launch price with the discount code ‘91MAG15’ - Enrol Here

Promoting your creative business with Pinterest

Ethical living: a beginner's guide to ethical fashion

Today we have the next in our series of ethical living posts; this time turning our attention to fashion. Capsule wardrobe expert Jessica Rose Williams shares her insight and a few tips on how to made a difference to the planet by being more conscious of how you shop, discard and care for your clothes.

a beginner's guide to ethical fashion

I blame ignorance for my poor track record with fast fashion. Until switching to a minimal lifestyle, I never gave a second thought to who made my clothes. I never considered how they had been made, what chemicals had been used in the process or how the company had disposed of their waste. I’d think nothing of buying cheap clothes with a view to throwing them away after only wearing them once. They say you can’t turn awareness off and this has been true for me when it comes to the ethics of the fashion industry. 

Second to the meat industry, fashion is the largest polluter on the planet and concern over our ever faster curing wardrobes is escalating. Fifty three million tonnes of clothes are produced globally each year, of which 87% ends up in land fill. With documentaries like The True Cost and Fashion’s Dirty Secrets blowing the whistle on the retail giants who don’t seem to care what devastation they leave in their wake, there has been an inevitable increase in the desire to turn our attention and wallets to ethical fashion. 

If fast fashion is the problem, the answer is to buy less but better and slow down the turnover of our wardrobes. The good news is that there are endless simple ways we can do this. Here are seven easy steps you can take to get started with ethical fashion.

ethical fashion brands

 Don’t throw everything out and start again

As tempting as it can be to wipe the slate clean and start all over again with a purely ethical wardrobe, this is not the answer. I went through a phase of feeling ashamed of owning fast fashion brands, as of course, I’d rather own a purely ethical wardrobe. I moved through this on the realisation that we’re all learning together and throwing perfectly good clothes out will only add to the problem. The best thing we can do is to wear what we’ve got now for as long as possible so we’re not adding to the waste issue. Moving forwards, when it does come to replacing pieces, then this is the time to exercise our new found ethics.  

Shop second hand

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Hit wealthy areas for the best pick of charity shops. Vintage stores are also enjoying a moment right now, but these can be tricky to find depending on where you live. If you’re a London dweller for example, you are lucky with a wealth of options including the likes of Portobello Road. If not, then online stores such as Retold Vintage, eBay, Depop and Vestiare Collective are great places to start for the rest of us. Bloggers are also waking up to sustainability issues surrounding fashion and selling their gorgeous wardrobes off regularly. Keep an eye out on their Instagram feeds for bargain pieces. 

how to make your wardrobe more ethical

Create a collection of your favourite ethical brands

Thank goodness for the internet! We can thank it for connecting us to brands who are creating beautiful clothes with consideration, compassion and with the intention of them lasting us longer than the latest trends. Ethical brand directories are plentiful and I find these are the best way to discover new brands. I have my own directory of favourites on my blog but Allison Simmonds, Field and Nest, Candice Tay and morethislessthat also have great recommendations. Get to know your favourite brands, there are some beauties out there. Brands such as Nadinoo, Stalf, Will’s Vegan Shoes, Thought clothing and People Tree are among my current favourites and suit a range of budgets. 

 Fabrics matter

Some fabrics are more sustainable than others. Organic cotton, linen and bamboo are favourites amongst the ethical brands, although there is an argument that natural materials aren’t always kinder to the environment, with some polyester requiring less energy to make. This can become a minefield, but sound advice is to simply consider the company’s manufacture methods before making a purchase by checking their ethics policy on their website. 

guide to ethical fashion

Ask a few more questions

Before you buy anything new, take a few moments to consider if you really need it. Do you already have 20 stripey tees and another one isn’t really going to add anything new to your wardrobe? Could you ‘shop your existing wardrobe’ and repurpose something you’ve already got? Assess the ethics of the company you’re looking to buy from and always ponder if you can see yourself wearing this new piece you’re swooning over for years to come, or is it just for one night? If yes, maybe you could borrow something from a friend instead or look to hire an outfit. Anything you can do to slow down your wardrobe will help the cause and boost you up the ethical charts. 

how to have a sustainable wardrobe

Take care of what you’ve got

I’ve always been a stickler for shoving anything and everything in the washing machine before going on to transfer it in the tumble dryer. Buying quality items made to last in the first place is always the best way to make your clothes last longer, but taking the time to read the care labels on my clothes has also been a game changer for me. Wash at the right temperature and resist the tumble dryer where possible. Store clothes in the respectful way they deserve instead of scrunching them up in drawers, and consider a gentle eco-friendly washing detergent that will be kind to fabrics. (see this previous post for more advice on eco laundry care.)

 Always recycle 

We’ve run out of excuses when it comes to clearing out our wardrobes and dumping our cast offs in the bin. This simply is not sustainable and is having horrific consequences on our planet. Clothing banks where we can recycle or donate out clothes are scattered throughout the country and you’ll often see them at supermarkets, village halls or even in multi-storey car parks. The difference recycling can make is huge and this is always the best way to dispose of our clothes. 

Photography: Jessica Rose Williams

How to curate a visual style

Whether you are just launching a new business or developing an existing one, your visual identity is a hugely important element of getting your brand noticed. Interior stylist Nancy Straughan (@nancy_straughan) shares her experience and advice on how to find your own visual style.

Designing a cohesive visual theme for your brand and business can often feel like a daunting task if it’s not something that comes naturally. First of all, figuring out your personal style can be a minefield in itself, and then actually establishing that look across various platforms can feel like a mammoth undertaking. We all want to have a recognisable style, and know that it is essential to building a brand and growing a business, but what are the steps to actually creating one that you love and that others will love too?  

Whether you’re a maker, designer, service provider or influencer, having a recognisable style is so important for gaining a following and customer base. When I decided that I wanted to rebrand my homeware business to become an interior and prop stylist, I knew that I needed to focus on finding my style. What I discovered is that you can’t develop your visual identity through research alone, you have to get out there and practice.

Curating a visual style for instagram

First Steps

When I began designing my new logo, blog and website I jotted down words that spoke to me. For example, terms such as ‘hearth’, ‘forest’, ‘home’, ‘nurture’ - these may sound totally random but they were the key to finding my visual style. All my words had a warm and homely feeling to them and all tied together with elements of nature. When I look around my home that’s exactly what I see. A cosy space filled with treasures, dried flowers and a calming colour palette of muted peach, olive and navy blue.

Mood board for curating your style

Once I’d established these describing words for my style it became so much easier for me to think about the sort of visual style I wanted my brand to have. Your style should be a reflection of your life simply because it will represent you so much better. I want someone to look at my work - be that something I’ve designed or a photo I’ve taken - and think “yes, that is so Nancy”.

So, think about what it is you really love? What style makes you feel happy or inspired? Start flipping through design books and magazines, write down the emotions you want people to feel when looking at your work, as well as those random words that you feel drawn to. Make a vision board of images that speak to you (either on Pinterest or on a large piece of card)  and before long you’ll start to see patterns emerge.

Nancy Straughan Living Room - curating your visual style

Share your lifestyle 

When it comes to Instagram, even if you are trying to promote products, people love to have an insight into your life. So I believe it is worthwhile to show people the beautiful things that surround you. That might be your home, your fashion, your work studio or places you visit around the world. Before long you’ll have a strong portfolio of images that represent you as well as your brand. Remember, it is all about editing and curation, so if you are a glamorous fashion blogger, showing photos of you hungover on the sofa with a pizza box is probably not how you want to represent you and your work! Likewise, for me, photos of designer high heels wouldn’t fit with my feed as my focus is my home and interior styling work - but what doesn’t work for one, can certainly work for another.

how to curate your instagram

Filters and captions

To keep a level of coherency, make sure you stick with one photo editing process or filter so that your images complement each other. I edit my photos to have a warm peachy vibe, but you may want to go for high contrast or desaturated images, depending on your preferred look. While we are mainly talking about visual style here, do bear in mind the words that you accompany your images with. I happen to share quite a lot on Instagram about my life, but it really is up to you to establish your tone of voice. Generally I would suggest giving some meaning to your image, while drawing people in with a question or conversation starter. Try out a few things and see what feels right for you.

Taking inspiration

 I spoke to three inspirational ladies from different creative fields to find out how their discovered their visual style and why it’s so important.

Curating a visual identity for Instagram
creating a visual identity for your brand
creating a visual style

Lucy Nicholls AKA @shinythoughts

Nancy: When I look at your blog and Instagram page the main thing that jumps out at me is all the colour and fun! How do you ensure that your style shines through when there are so many other Instagram accounts based around colour as a theme?

Lucy: Even though there are lots of colour-themed accounts out there, I tend to follow fashion influencers and sadly it’s rare that they will incorporate as much colour as I’d like! Maybe it’s the need to put out in the world what I feel is lacking in my life, that helps inspire me. I think there’s something to be said by not looking directly at images that you want to emulate, or else other negative factors such as comparison and copying tend come into play. Communicating optimism is very important to me so I won’t just consider the background and outfit I’m wearing but also my pose and facial expression to ensure that I’m lifting someone’s mood rather than making them feel bad about themselves. My ultimate aim is to make my followers smile with each post!

how to curate a visual identity for Instagram
curating a visual style for online presence
creating an Instagram identity

Vaani AKA @sugarplumbakeskingston

Nancy: As a cake designer you have to work very closely with your clients, how do you strike the balance between creating something that represents your style whilst also making sure your couples are happy with the design?

Vaani: Eating cake is about the senses to me: it's about the flavour, the smell and it's got to look like a feast for the eyes. With these senses in mind, my designs are led by my instinct to create buttercream cakes that are sensual, that capture beauty and romance. Over time I feel I've developed a strong portfolio and signature style, so that when clients commission me, I think they have a good idea of the kind of cakes that I make. Collaborating with my clients is really important to me though. I really value their input as this is what helps to create a cake that's unique to them. As I've taken most of the photos for my portfolio and my Instagram gallery, I think there is a consistency in the visuals. I love to create imagery that is sensual, atmospheric and sometimes a little moody which I think is what helps to unify my style, convey the essence of my designs and make it distinctive.

how to make your instagram coherant
creating a visual identity online
lovelydrawer03.jpg

Teri AKA @thelovelydrawer

Nancy: As well as managing a beautiful Instagram account and blog you also design and sell prints as well as teach brush lettering courses, how do you make sure that all these elements work together visually? 

Teri: As there are many different aspects to my business I’ve spent a lot of time considering how to make sure all of them are visually in keeping. I’ve always focused on creating a consistent style that runs through my blog and Instagram account, which comes down to the way I shoot photos, always using natural light and the colours I use as well as majoring on negative space as a theme. Obviously my lifestyle and interiors blog work overflows from that approach and images for my brush lettering workshops can be easily adapted to suit the mood and colour palette. I actually had a complete overhaul of my branding and shop products last year to bring them more in line with the look I champion on Instagram . Now I feel much keener to share this avenue of the business in amongst the rest. I think it’s all about being deliberate, deciding your aesthetic and sticking to it even if its tweaked and evolves a little along the way.


If you’d like to learn more about curating your visual identity, as well as using social media for business, email marketing and photography, check out 91 Magazine’s upcoming workshops. Our next one is on the 16th March in Surrey.

The hidden value of workshops and retreats

Workshops, masterclasses, day events and retreats have risen in popularity over recent years, (you can check out the 91 events page here) and perhaps with increased time spent online in our day to day, having the chance to get out in the real world with like-minded souls is an appealing way to counterbalance that. Retreat host Vanessa Dennett highlights some further hidden benefits of attending an IRL event and shares details of a few workshops and retreats happening around the country.

Running and hosting workshops over the past couple of years has offered me great insight into the sometimes unanticipated benefits of attending events in person. While the variety and indeed quality of online courses continues to grow there are some excellent reasons to commit your time and resources to a day of learning amongst a group of real life people.

There are ever-increasing numbers of workshops and day retreats available all over the country at which you might learn anything from mastering crochet or learning how to identify birdcalls, to making sourdough, creating a beautiful wreath or learning how to live with a simplified wardrobe. You can acquire skills that will be useful and enjoyable for the rest of your life, but there are other good reasons for you to invest your time and money in these days.

Benefits of attending real life workshops and retreats

A new environment

Stepping out of our daily routines is wonderfully stimulating and invigorating. Being immersed in an environment in which time and energy has been spent to ensure a comfortable and inviting welcome, usually with many interesting things to observe, both relaxes us and sparks our imagination and creativity while we wonder about how to incorporate some of these aspects into our own lives.

Uninterrupted time for something new, away from our screens, washing machines, dogs, children or assorted other ‘stuff’ of real life allows us the opportunity to genuinely focus on the subject matter. I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one around here with a flibbertigibbet mind, which despite my greatest intentions is frequently distracted while working at home. But amongst a group with shared purpose, the chances of focussing on the matter at hand are much greater in my experience.

Feelings of accomplishment

While the initial value of attending a workshop might be perceived as simply learning a new skill or understanding a new subject, I think that a feeling of accomplishment from the day is derived from more than just that.

Sometimes, the whole event can take on the feel of a mini adventure. Venturing somewhere new and immersing yourself into a group of unknown people can feel pretty stressful for the less extroverted amongst us. But, the realisation that almost everyone else has shared similar feelings of anxiety or discomfort about arriving at an event alone is extremely reassuring, and the satisfaction of doing so is a confidence booster and reminder that we are often more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

I’ve often observed too, how participants aid one another with alternative explanations or demonstrations, helpfully supporting the teacher or facilitator. Being instrumental in helping others learn is wonderfully rewarding and can result in that warm glow of satisfaction that helps us to feel good about ourselves.

Shared knowledge and resources

Did you read? Have you watched? Do you follow? Have you tried? Could you? Would you? I hear all these questions over and over again as people chatter. We love to try and be of help to others, to suggest a website, shop, magazine, blog or workshop that will be of interest or support. Whether your event of choice is offering general business skills or specialised technical knowledge, the chances are that you will encounter new thoughts, ideas and resources that spark your imagination and that you’ll resolve to explore more thoroughly in your own time.

Connection and collaboration

There is inarguably community to be found from online courses, and I have benefitted greatly from this myself, but the power of being in the same room as real people while you learn of shared interests and experiences is different somehow. The camaraderie, bonhomie and humour resulting from groups such as these is where the seeds of genuine friendships are sown, based on the comforting reassurance that others are thinking, feeling and doing the same as we are.

The connections we make in real life are very often sustainable as they can be happily continued online even if geography makes regular meet ups challenging. In the early days of business and projects when perhaps our Instagram accounts aren’t as perfectly curated and attracting the attention we might like, it’s often those online friends whom we’ve met in person who become our biggest cheerleaders. Quietly watching our backs and supporting us even on the days when everything seems to be impossible, these folk with whom we swap comments, suggestions, recommendations and introductions are often those with whom future collaborations will be made.


Below are a few suggestions for retreats and events which might spark your interest and lead you to make those real life connections and friends while learning and discovering new things…

The Simpson Sisters retreats

The Simpson Sisters, somerset

At Oak Tree Barn, just half an hour from Bristol, I host others who offer a variety of workshops ranging from self-care and mindfulness to personal development and creative activities. I’m a great advocate of the pleasure and connection enjoyed by eating around a table together, conversations happily flow when food is involved and the solidarity of indulging in afternoon cake is guaranteed to raise the spirits!

This year I am also offering monthly ‘Nourish & Flourish’ days. These days are intended to offer some support, warmth and camaraderie for anyone working on their own and feeling the need of some company. Just six people, coming together once a month. It is my sincere hope that people will experience some of the benefits I’ve talked about in this post, and will leave the barn feeling as though they have had the equivalent of a spa day (without the chlorine and swimming cossie requirement!)

www.thesimpsonsisters.co.uk

Hannah Bullivant workshops

Seeds and stitches, Kent

Hannah’s philosophy on getting people together is very much like my own. Not only does she offer an e-course, but she shares her beautifully-styled home in Faversham, Kent by offering day retreats for small groups to enjoy eating, talking, planning and making together. One of her participants offered the following feedback. “I left feeling nurtured and cared for after a period of feeling quite depleted. What is it about a group of women getting together around a table!? SO powerful!”

www.seedsandstitches.com

Kat Goldin workshops

Gartur Stitch Farm, scotland

From their farm in Scotland the multi-talented Kat Goldin and her husband Kevin offer a wide range of activities and experiences, from sourdough baking to cheese making and far beyond! Kat says “We teach practical skills; an ‘in person’ workshop helps people see the reality of how that skill fits in to our actual lives. It's not a theoretical idea or a project in isolation, workshop participants have the opportunity to get up close and personal with how we use the skills every single day.” 

www.garturstitchfarm.com

common farm flowers

Common Farm Flowers, somerset

Georgie Newbury, who offers a variety of courses from flower farming to social media from her lovely barn in Somerset, says “People do seem to love our workshop days, whether they’re here to learn something serious like how to make a career change to be a flower farmer, or just to have fun learning to make hand-tie bouquets or grow a cut flower patch. We take that part of the workshop very seriously in that we keep the groups we teach small. I wouldn’t want to have more people than I’d ever consider having for a dinner party so that I can make sure that everyone is very much included in the day and everyone goes away feeling that they’ve got more out of it than they’ve paid for.”

www.commonfarmflowers.com

Go Wild workshops

Go Wild Education, Monmouthshire

Jackie Roby can teach you how to light a fire, recognise birdsong and run a forest school amongst many other things. She is truly an inspiring leader and says “Something I definitely notice with my groups is the strong bonds that they form with both me and the other people on the course and I've seen friendships blossom that last well after the course has finished. I think it's the feeling of 'being in this together' and the journey of learning and making mistakes that makes the difference. Learning a new skill can be quite intense and people often feel a little vulnerable, especially if they've not taken a workshop or course in a while. Seeing a group of like-minded strangers being supportive of each other is great.”

www.gowildeducation.co.uk

Jessica Rose Williams workshops

Jessica Rose Williams, peak district

Jessica is passionate about creating a sustainable, simple life and is a great advocate of simplifying our wardrobes as part of this lifestyle. She runs occasional workshops from her enviably stylish pared back home in the Peak District and says ’Love it or loathe it, the internet and social media in particular, can be a lonely place. For me, there’s nothing quite like holding space for a group of like-minded women to come together. The conversations we have, lessons we learn and support we offer one another cannot be rivalled online. We all have our online friends, which is completely normal these days, but in our hearts I think we all crave that person to person connection - even fellow introverts like me.'

www.jessicarosewilliams.com

Alternative Valentine's Day dates

In case you’ve missed the red hearts and cupids that are currently adorning every shop window and supermarket aisle (probably since Boxing Day!), Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. With the commercialisation of a day we are ‘supposed’ to shower our loved ones with hearts and flowers, it’s easy to feel jaded by it all and want to avoid the whole thing entirely. But, instead of paying inflated prices at a fancy restaurant or spending a fortune on overpriced flowers, why not do something different this year? Do an activity together that will create memories for you as a couple that you will look back on fondly for years to come. Designer Berry Aktuglu shares four ideas for an alternative Valentine’s day out.

Valentines idea: Take a dance class

Take a dance class together

Even if you or your partner has two left feet, don’t let that deter you! Try something new and hit the dance floor at a local class. Opt for a style for which you both enjoy the music; whether it’s ballroom, salsa or swing, simply let loose for a night and have fun! Dancing is not only great for you physically, it also benefits you mental well-being and raises self esteem - which in turn contributes to healthy relationships.

Valentines Day Alternatives: visit a museum

Go to a late opening museum

Many museums do at least one or two late openings a week, so find an exhibition that interests you both and take a leisurely stroll together, admiring artwork or artefacts, while chatting (no phones allowed!) If you are London-based, find out which museums are open late on which nights here. Talking about something other than the kids or work will feel so refreshing!

Alternative Valentine's Day dates

Brunch is the new breakfast

Food is undoubtedly the way to everyone’s heart, and who doesn’t love brunch?! Take the morning off together and simply whip up a delicious dish at home and enjoy each other’s company. Try scouring Pinterest for love-inspired recipe ideas - heart-shaped waffles anyone?! Or, if you’d prefer to avoid the washing up, pop to a local eatery with a great brunch menu - they are much less likely to have raised their prices like they do for evening set menus.

Alternative Valentine's Day ideas - take a city tour

Take a walking tour

Be a tourist in your own city for a day and take a walking tour together. There are often lots of free ones available and if you prefer you can opt for a themed one. In London, you can take a Harry Potter tour or a WWII tour, or in Bristol you can go on a street art tour. Sharing and learning new things together is a great way to ignite interesting conversations.

And hey, if there isn’t currently a special someone in your life right now, then any of the above activities could be an opportunity to meet them! ;) Happy Valentine’s Day xxx

Ethical Living: Sustainable laundry

There’s no doubt there has been a huge increase in consumers looking to make thoughtful and sustainable purchases, particularly when it comes to clothing. This move follows recent TV documentaries that have brought the fashion industry’s ethical failings to the masses. This is great news for the planet, and it is pushing manufacturers to be more transparent about their production techniques and values. But, sustainability does not stop at the checkout. Giving your clothes the best care that you can will prolong their lifespan and help to reduce the volume of textiles that go to landfill. Slow fashion designer/maker Bridey Davies shares a few tips and ideas that are a step towards this goal, with the additional benefit of reducing the resources we use in the laundry process, as well as being economically savvy.

Photo: Bridey Davies

Photo: Bridey Davies

Prolonging Wear Between Washes

For a while, I developed a completely unnecessary habit of wearing an item of clothing once before putting it in the laundry basket. I didn’t check to see if it really needed a machine wash with detergent, it just became a routine at the end of the day. Undress before bed, throw everything in the basket. Then at the weekend, it would all go in the machine for a hot soapy wash. A hangover from the days when my children were babies and this seemed like the safest option. In fact, the simplest steps have made the biggest difference to curbing this habit.

Firstly, installing some hooks in the bedroom has given me a place to hang washed-but-still-clean clothes without them becoming creased by the morning. If any small marks have appeared on otherwise clean clothes, then the most effective way to remove them is to rub gently with the corner of a bar of soap. Rinse the area with a little water and allow it to dry before wearing again.  Finally, a homemade freshening spray can give your clothes a new lease of life before you put them on in the morning.  I mix four parts water to one part witch hazel, and add a few drop of essential oil for fragrance. A combination of eucalyptus and lavender is my favourite and I’ve even come to prefer this to a spritz of perfume in the morning!

Photo: Bridey Davies

Photo: Bridey Davies

Opting for alternatives to bio-detergent

A gentle detergent is the best choice for your clothes, your skin and for the planet and luckily, there are lots of alternatives to the harsh varieties in the supermarket. Some people like to use soap nuts, the dried fruit shells containing a natural soap called saponin. They are completely natural, non-polluting and compostable. I buy mine from a local greengrocers but you can buy them online from websites such as www.soapnuts.co.uk. Simply pop a handful of nuts into a cotton drawstring bag and throw into the machine. I use these for very delicate clothes and spritz with freshening spray afterwards for fragrance.  For all of their benefits though, I have found it is true that soap nuts are more effective at forty degrees than thirty, a cost that you might like to consider if you decide to try them.

Alternatively, you could make your own detergent using borax and traditional scented soap.  Combine two parts borax, two parts washing soda and one part grated soap to create a simple and effective washing powder. This mixture is more gentle on skin than a supermarket bio detergent but I would advise choosing soap according to known sensitivities in your family as scented soaps can be irritating. I buy the borax and washing soda from a local hardware store but they are easily and cheaply available online too - try Ethical Superstore.

Photo: Dan Gold on  Unsplash

Photo: Dan Gold on Unsplash

Harnessing the power of the sun

There is little better than the sight of freshly laundered clothes drying on the washing line on a warm, breezy day. Speedy, satisfying and sustainable. In fact, these days I would never machine wash either denim, canvas or woollen items.  A regular spot clean when necessary helps to remove marks, whilst a day spent airing in the breeze will freshen them up perfectly too.

But, did you know that the washing line is also useful to clean your clothes? UV rays from the sun can often be powerful enough to remove stains and bacteria from fabric. For best results, hang damp clothes in bright sunshine in the morning to see an improvement by the afternoon.  Wooden dolly pegs are the best kind to use here as they won’t leave behind rusty marks and are compostable too.

Of course, not everybody will be able to implement all of these ideas into their routine - you might not have a garden for a washing line or be able to screw hooks into your walls, plus nobody needs the pressure to be perfect all of the time. But hopefully, just some these ideas will help you to form mindful laundry habits, and your favourite clothes will reward you with years of joyful wear. 

Ethical living: a beauty & skincare guide

We’ve had such a great response to the ethical living theme in our AW18 issue of the magazine, that we decided to run a series of blog posts, highlighting great products for living more ethically. First up, Kay Prestney investigates the best buys to switch into your beauty and skincare regime.

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

With shocking daily headlines and images highlighting the plight of our planet and the negative impact on our health, we are all feeling overwhelmed and concerned by the amount of waste and chemicals in our lives. The products in our bathroom are one area for great concern - we are aware of the things we should be trying to eradicate such as animal testing, chemicals, palm oil and plastic packaging - but we don’t all have the time to research the alternatives.

So, to help out, we have gathered together some brilliant small brands founded by people who want to make a difference to both our health and that of the planet. Every small act really does make a difference, so try some (or all!) of our swap tips to start the new year with some positive changes for yourself and the environment.

91 ethical beauty guide

Drink up!

One of the biggest and simplest things we can do to improve our health and cleanse our bodies is to drink more water. After the festive party season and with the heating turned up for winter, we are probably all dehydrated, so rather than reaching for more beauty products promising to hydrate and plump, start with an eco-friendly water bottle and make sure you are getting your two litres a day. Try adding some natural flavours, such as a twist of cucumber, lime or lemon, for added taste.

Mintie 350ml and 500ml stainless steel water bottles - £9.50 / £12

Environmental Life is a small Brighton business founded by young parents Vic and Dan who were concerned about the BPAs and toxins associated with the plastic containers and food wrappings they were using for their children’s packed lunches. They also wanted to reduce the amount of waste they were producing. They have designed a range of chemical free, eco-friendly and re-useable containers for food and drinks suitable for all the family.

@mintielunchboxes

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

ONE great, natural facial oil

Using too many products on your face and body can cause adverse effects as your skin adjusts to each product. Keeping it simple and natural encourages your skin to regulate itself. You can also use oils on your hair to discourage split ends and on your body as a moisturiser; use when your skin is slightly damp after a bath or shower to encourage absorption.

MOA Aphrodite facial oil - £26

This rosehip, damask rose, yarrow and geranium organic facial oil by MOA hydrates, calms and nourishes the skin without the use of any chemicals or environmentally damaging ingredients.

@magicorganicapothecary

Alternative stockist: 19 Alexandra Road

LA-EVA Jasmina oil 50ml - £25

Organic UK brand LA-EVA makes what founder Louisa Canham calls ‘units of well-being’. Each product has been inspired by the memory of a scent or place and this blend of jasmine, argan, rosehip, safflower and almond oils evokes images of white muslin curtains floating on a summer breeze in a warm climate, transporting you to Mediterranean summer days. 

@lifelaeva

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

Natural lip colour

Swap out endless lipsticks or lip balms and keep just one great product in your handbag for smooth, natural lips with a hint of colour.

Bloomtown red & berried lip balm - £4.80

Bloomtown are a small indie business creating palm oil-free, cruelty-free, natural, vegan body and skincare products handmade in Cornwall. They also donate 10% of their profits to environmental and social causes.

@bloomtownuk

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

No more single use

Single use items are having such a significant impact on our planet - consider how many cotton wool pads you may have went through in your lifetime?! Ditch the single use for a reusable alternative.

La Nature reusable makeup remover pads - £15 (for 8 re-useable pads with a laundry bag, travel pouch and recipe book download)

UK small brand La Nature was founded by Anna and her husband in 2018 when they got tired of all the disposable toiletries they were throwing away and wanted to make a difference. Using one of these can save on average 300 disposable cotton pads. Made from a natural bamboo derived rayon fabric, they are more absorbent than cotton or hemp and are chemical and dye-free. Bamboo is naturally anti-microbial and hypoallergenic and the plant is fast-growing and biodegradable so these can be put on the compost heap when they wear out. They come with a brilliant free recipe book for five natural makeup removers (e.g. banana and soya milk) that you can make yourself, further helping the planet and your body.

@lanaturestore

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

Non-plastic dental care

While toothbrushes might not be single use, we still go through a lot of them in our lifetime and the plastic versions end up in the landfill. Swap for a compostable wooden one instead.

The Humble Co bamboo toothbrush - £3.99

The Humble Co toothbrush has bio-degradable nylon bristles and bamboo handle, and each purchase funds projects for children in need.

@thehumble.co

Georganics vegan charcoal dental floss with English peppermint essential oil and natural wax - £4.90 (refills available at £6.90 for two reels)

Started from a farmers market stall in London, Sussex based company Georganics produces natural, organic, hand-crafted, zero-waste dental care products from ingredients sourced as locally as possible.

@georganicsuk

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

DITCH HARMFUL DEODoRANTS

Earth Conscious jasmine & rose natural deodorant - £7.60

Handmade in the UK using natural, vegan ingredients, these deodorants by Earth Conscious are cruelty and palm oil free. They use sodium bicarbonate to prevent bacteria and odours whilst arrowroot keeps perspiration at bay and coconut oil and shea butter moisturise. Not only will you avoid harmful gases found in aerosols, the container is biodegradable cardboard.

@earthconsciousuk

Alternative stockist: Greener Habits

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

PLASTIC BOTTLE ALTERNATIVES

Our bathrooms are often overrun with a vast collection of potions and lotions all contained inside plastic bottles. Cut down on these by opting for alternatives to shampoo, shower gel, bubble bath and hand soap.

Soapnut vegan shampoo bars - £6

Alternative stockist: MiApparel

Soapnuts have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, known for their anti-inflammatory, toning and softening properties which comes from the saponin. Organic, botanical ingredients such as coconut milk, rice bran and avocado oil have been added to these shampoo bars for additional conditioning properties. All of Living Naturally’s bars are cold-pressed and free from palm oil and chemicals.

@livingnaturallysoapnuts

The Printed Peanut solid shampoo bar with lavender and rose geranium - £5.95

Equivalent to the contents of three plastic bottles of shampoo, this natural, hand-made, vegan, palm oil-free, non-animal tested soap bar smells great and is packaged in recycled paper with beautiful artwork by The Printed Peanut designer Louise Lockhart, which is printed in the UK using eco-friendly inks.

@theprintedpeanut

Alternative stockist: Firain

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

Wild Grove dark forest charcoal & sea salt spa soaps - £4

Canadian Lisa Pasquill is based in Bristol and makes all her Wild Grove natural beauty products by hand, selling them on her popular farmer’s market stall in the city. These soaps are made in the traditional way using natural essential oils and butters in a hot process technique which allows the fragrances to hold for longer. The rough finish of these soaps adds to the artisan feel and the scent fills the whole bathroom long after use.

@wildgrove

 Join Vitamin sea & hedgerow soap bars - £8

East London brand Join began producing essential oils and soy wax vegan candles inspired by the two sister’s childhood on the Cornish coast. All the products have evocative names conjuring the natural scents of the sea and cliff tops. The range has recently expanded to include diffusers, room mists and soap bars. The soaps are handmade, vegan, natural and are sent out in recyclable packaging.

@joinstorelondon

Greener Habits Co lemongrass & hemp soap - £2.90

Greener Habits is a small indie company based in London founded to make a positive environmental impact and to support the Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary in Kent. Hemp bran and essential lemongrass combine to produce a naturally antibacterial and deodorising soap with a fresh, zingy smell. Handmade in Yorkshire they are also free from palm oil chemicals as well as being vegan and cruelty free. Full points for the compostable label made with elephant dung and water based eco inks!

Sisal Soap pouch - £4

This clever biodegradable bag made from the Mexican agave plant serves the triple purpose of holding your soap in the shower, exfoliating your skin as you use the soap, and can be used to merge several small pieces of soap so you can use them until they are completely finished. Made by Hydrophil, stocked by Greener Habits in the UK.

@greenerhabitsco

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

Yellow Gorse is based on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, this small company produces natural and environmentally friendly therapeutic products created to help alleviate the stresses of modern life and to encourage energy flow. Made using botanical ingredients in small batches, their products are ethical, vegan, natural and sourced locally where possible.

Herbal bath tea 500g - £24.95

Wild chamomile, lavender and clary sage essential oils mixed with mineral rich epsom salts help to remove toxins, stimulate circulation and promote energy in this relaxing bath tea. Fill the little bag with a handful of the beautifully scented ingredients and let your worries and toxins wash away!

Himalayan bath soak 175g - £12.95

With geranium to relieve stress, patchouli to ground, frankincense to calm and lavender to relax this blend of pure natural oils and Himalayan salt restores and revives you. A recyclable glass bottle and metal top and pure ingredients make it planet friendly as well as chemical free.

Lavender, frankincense & nutmeg bath & body oil 100ml - £16

This can be used in the bath or applied directly to skin to calm and moisturise with an uplifting blend of essential oils.

Chamomile & lavender Sleep balm - £4.80

Finally, after a busy day, try their chamomile & lavender sleep balm to help you drift off into a restful night’s sleep.

@yellow.gorse

91 Magazine ethical beauty guide

SOAP DISHES ARE BACK!

With switching out bottles for bars, there has been a come back of the humble soap dish. Repurpose a vintage saucer or support indie makers by purchasing a beautiful handmade one.

Libby Ballard Ceramics soap dish - £18

Libby Ballard’s work is all individually thrown, trimmed and glazed in her studio in Wiltshire and is inspired by her coastal childhood on the Isle of Wight. Libby uses a flecked stoneware clay which produces beautiful, tactile pieces. The swirls in this soap dish keep the bars raised allowing them to dry quickly, thus prolonging the life.

@libbyballardceramics

Remember folks…. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world” Harold Zinn.

Thank you to the following brands for supplying samples of their products for trialling and photographic purposes to put this guide together: Environmental Life, 19 Alexandra Road, Bloomtown, La Nature, Georganics, The Humble Co, MiApparel, Firain, Wild Grove, Join, Greener Habits, Yellow Gorse & Libby Ballard Ceramics

An Ethical gift guide

Christmas is only a few weeks away, and if you are aiming to shop more ethically this year but are still struggling to find the perfect gifts, then get inspired by our gift guide, collated by Lucy Saunders.

With moral principles behind each product featured, here are my top five ethical presents for him, for her and for kids this Christmas. Whether it’s a gift to pamper, to eat, to entertain or to look stylish we have it covered, saving you internet-trawling time and taking the shopping stress off your hands, leaving you safe in the knowledge your purchases are minimal in their harm to our planet.

FOR HER

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

1/ Envelop yourself in the nostalgic hues of jasmine, bound with green thyme and warming black pepper. La-Eva products are made in the UK, certified organic and are suitable for vegans.

La-Eva facial oil, £25 - The Future Kept

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

2/ Know a coffee lover? Treat them to a beautiful reusable cup, made from hand-blown glass. These are100% free of plastic and chemicals.

Sol Cup, £19 - Sol

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

3/ Proud to support the UK charity Womankind Worldwide who work to empower women all over the world, Lauren Hunt’s jewellery designs are not just stunning but also support a worthy cause, and wherever possible Lauren uses eco-friendly recycled gold.

Opal & Gold Ring, £152 - Lauren Hunt Jewellery Designs

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

4/ A fun four pack of soft, sustainable bamboo and organic cotton blend socks, which are breathable, naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. We especially love these ones from the Summer Vibe set.

Summer Vibe sock gift set, £24.90, Thought

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

5/ This classic style vegan leather watch is a contemporary yet ethical choice for your wrist that works with any outfit. They come wrapped in an eco-friendly felt pouch and box.

Light Grey & Gold watch, £120 - VOTCH

FOR HIM

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

1/ The George is the ultimate man bag. Handmade in Calcutta, using locally sourced materials and suppliers, this bag is ethically produced, as well as being a classic to last for years.

Messenger bag, from £165 - NV London Calcutta

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

2/ This 65% dark chocolate has underlying coffee aromas which perfectly balances the sweetness of the malt barley. Handmade in East London, this chocolate in also vegan friendly.

Malt dark Chocolate, £6 - The Future Kept

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

3/ Flourish Magazine is printed on FSC approved paper, has a underlying passion of sustainability within its written pages and is packaged using biodegradable tissue paper. An ideal gift for travel lovers.

Flourish Magazine, £10

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

4/ This low-foaming, vegan friendly soap is free of synthetic fragrances and lightly buffs the skin with botanical particles. Made in Margate, UK.

Haeckels Small Exfoliating Seaweed Block, from £4 - Haeckels

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

5/ These boots will add a little bit of sophistication to any outfit. Made from faux suede with a rubber outsole and elastic gore, the boots are vegan-friendly, as are all this brand’s shoes and bags.

Vegan Chelsea boots, £115 - Matt & Nat

FOR KIDS

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

1/ Choose from three different designs of these sweet bib and rattle sets. The bibs are made from 100% organic cotton and backed with organic velour. 

Bib and rattle set, £15 - Julia Staite 

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

2/ This very soft PJ set is made from 100% organic interlock cotton fabric to stay comfy all night long. Made ethically in the UK, this classic breton stripe design is suitable for both sexes and for all ages.

Classic Breton PJ set, £32 - Sleepy Doe

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

3/ This organic and vegan chocolate comes with a cute cardboard toy to assemble, which is one of six designs to collect. A perfect stocking filler.

Vegan chocolate & toy, £4.25, Berylune

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

 4/ Tomtect is a new construction toy using multi-length thin wooden blocks or planks, great for children’s fine motor skills and developing imaginations. Made in France with wood from sustainably managed pine forests. 

TomTect construction toy, £28 - Conscious Craft

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

5/ This reimagined rocking horse is equipped with a winged saddle, footrests and an adjustable fabric backrest. Constructed from natural rubber wood and non-toxic water based dyes.

Rocking Pegasus, £99.95 Conscious Craft

Happy ethical shopping! x

How to start an online lifestyle store

If you’ve ever dreamt of being a shopkeeper, opening an online store can certainly seem like the easiest option - no property overheads, open 24/7 and working from home are all enticing benefits - but as Huma Qureshi discovered, it’s not quite so straightforward! This kind of business demands you to become a jack-of-all-trades, and is certainly not an easy path. Huma tells us a little of her tale and then chats to three women who are nailing it at online retail to find out what is really involved in the land of e-commerce….

Last year, I launched an online store. I was excited about the possibilities. I had grown bored by seeing the same brands appear everywhere, even in independent stores, and I started thinking - what if I could make a shop filled with the unusual timeless products I wanted to buy? A picture formed in my head of a store full of mesmerising and beautiful pieces. I created mood boards on Pinterest and played around with website templates. I started browsing on Etsy and Instagram, looking for the sort of pieces I wanted to sell.

But in reality, I had very little idea of what I was doing or how to do it. I am a writer with a blog; I had no retail experience. I didn’t let this stop me. I jumped straight in, emailing crafters and makers whose products I wanted to stock, not really realising just how much work would be involved. I wish I could say I had a methodical checklist by my side but honestly, I did everything more or less at the same time - I bought my web domain and built my website while ordering stock; I picked out my branding colours while writing product descriptions. I didn’t really have a plan.

Somewhere along the line, and possibly because of my lack of planning, I stopped finding it enjoyable. I realised it was no longer the right decision for me and so it was with some relief I closed my store down. Still, I’m always curious to know how other people manage it successfully; it is a huge task, to be all things (shop owner, shop curator, photographer, marketer, administrator) at once. So I decided to find out. I asked three fellow online shop owners to share their more positive experiences.

Jo McCarthy, shop curator and owner of Firain

Jo McCarthy, shop curator and owner of Firain.

Firain, an online lifestyle store, opened in September 2017. Taking its name from an old Welsh word meaning ‘noble, beautiful, fair and fine’, Jo has filled Firain with handmade treats, gifts and beautiful homewares. She runs Firain from home, sourcing products from makers, using her spare room as her office and stock room.

 Jo’s idea: Firain had been at the back of my mind for a long time, but since my husband and I were living overseas I didn't pursue it. When we came back to the UK, the idea of running a little online shop became more of a feasible income stream. I knew that I wanted to work from home and have a flexible schedule and I had hoped that the necessary skills would come along at the right time. I told myself that if it didn’t work, I could turn the experience into something to learn from. I love that I am slowly carving out a little niche for myself.

What came first, products or a website? I emailed makers and small businesses to ask if they would be interested in selling through me, despite me having no website to show them. I was so encouraged when supportive and enthusiastic emails came back and that’s how I started to curate the shop. At the same time, I started to share on Instagram about my new shop opening and used targeted hashtags which seemed to gain a little bit of attention. 

With the website, everything has been very 'DIY' and done within an extremely tight budget - I built it myself on SquareSpace. I am certainly not techy! Don't be put off by your lack of experience. I am never happy with my website and tweak it every day!

Firain - online lifestyle store

And everything else…? I set up my shop with zero budget for branding, marketing materials or photography (a graphic designer friend helped me with my logo). Taking product photos and uploading them is the most time-consuming task and using a professional would be a good solution, but it’s not in my budget right now. I am trying to enjoy this creative process and not think too much about what I can't achieve, right now!

How much work is involved? I try to set time aside each day to work on the shop in some way, around my other jobs. Usually, it's keeping up with baseline tasks - posting on Instagram, updating the website, fulfilling orders, answering emails and keeping on top of invoices. Then there’s writing monthly newsletters and blog posts too.

Running a creative business will never be the easiest, most lucrative path to take and I have struggled to justify some of my decisions. The ebb and flow of running a shop can keep me awake at night! I need to make an income from Firain and I wish I had prepared a little more about the start-up costs and the potential challenges. But I absolutely love packing up orders for my customers. I feel that my creativity is coming back.

Jo’s advice:

1. Do the best with what you have, be self-sufficient and financially responsible but try to enjoy the creative process. Seek out interesting products that speak to you somehow, for some reason. You can't expect your friends and family to be your most loyal customers, so try to find your own tribe beyond your current network.

2. Be modest and acknowledge where you have gone wrong and try to learn from those mistakes.

3. Be selective about working with people who understand your limitations as a small business. Allow yourself time to breathe and pause. You can't make good decisions when you feel frantic and stretched. Most of all, be patient with yourself and with the business. In time, you will be proud that you swam against the tide and created something from scratch.

Tabara N’Diaye, shop owner of La Basketry

Tabara N’Diaye, shop owner of La Basketry

Tabara set up La Basketry, an online boutique selling artisan Senegalese baskets, in 2017. Originally from Senegal, she was born and raised in Paris but has been living in London for over a decade. Tabara grew up in a home filled with traditional Senegalese baskets and loved them not just for storage but as a way to remain connected to the stories of her heritage, and this is what she wants to share through La Basketry. She runs La Basketry from her home and has cleverly transformed her walk-in wardrobe into a storage room which holds all her shop’s products.

Tabara’s story: Being online is ideal as there are no borders; I can reach customers everywhere in the world and spread the love for the beautiful products I sell. I didn’t have any experience of retail before launching La Basketry, although my mother did own a shop. But I don’t think you really need experience - the tools and platforms available make everything very easy. I use Shopify – it’s very straightforward. I do think you need to be tech-savvy though. You can’t expect your online shop to sell products for you! SEO, Google Ads and even social media advertising are great ways to reach new customers so why not maximise the opportunities that are available to you?

I write all our website copy, newsletters and manage all our social media,  but I much prefer to work with professionals for product photos. I’ve also worked with a PR company in the past. I have no problem outsourcing certain tasks to people who can do a better job than me! I think it’s important to realise you cannot be good at everything.

How long did it take between having the idea for La Basketry and turning it into a reality? It took about a year. I worked with the London Small Business Centre to get my business plan into shape. I studied the market, the competition, established my pricing structure, and thought about marketing and so on. My business has evolved since then, but this was a great starting point. It’s free to see an advisor at the London Small Business Centre – they provide with templates and you can book as many appointments as you’d like – you can even sit down with an accountant to run through the numbers!

La Basketry online store

How do you source your products? I work directly with female artisans in Senegal. When I started the business, I had no design experience so I curated products from their existing collections, just changing colours and patterns for example. As our client base has grown, I’ve now started to design some of our products.

What's the biggest day to day challenge you've encountered in running an online store? Packing orders! It was taking a lot of time so I decided to outsource it. I work with a fulfillment company called Weengs when orders get too hectic. It means I don’t have to spend two to three hours packaging or queuing at the post office but can focus on other areas of the business instead.

Tabara’s advice: There are hundreds of online shops launching every day so don’t think that the moment you press the ‘LIVE’ button, customers will flock to your site. Your online shop is part of a much wider marketing strategy and you need to make sure that you’re engaging with potential customers via social media, PR and any other methods that would work for your business.

Emily Mathieson, shop owner of Aerende

Journalist-turned-social-entrepreneur, Emily launched Aerende, an ethical homewares online shop, in 2016. She runs her business from her home in St Albans, using her spare bedroom and office to design, develop and store products and package up orders. Unlike most online stores, Emily doesn’t just curate products from makers - she collaborates with and commissions social and therapeutic craft groups to create beautiful and everlasting products for Aerende.

Emily’s story: I have a lifestyle media background so I was confident in branding, telling stories and coming up with a beautiful edit of products. But it was arrogant of me to assume that that would be enough and I’ve been on a steep learning curve since then to really understand finances, cash flow, costings, marketing and strategy, as well as the underlying technical skills and SEO needed to really make a success of an online shop.

Retail is much more demanding than I naively imagined. You have all the normal requirements of running a business but now have to be great bloggers and social media masters too. I don’t have a background in manufacturing or design so product development (though wildly exciting) can be a tricky process and, of course, many of my makers face so many of their own challenges so that volumes, consistency and deadlines don’t happen in a conventional way.

I do every single thing for Aerende, from sticking labels on candles to sending images out for press requests. I’ve written every page of the website and hand-wrapped every single order. I store our products in my home, which is brilliant for flexibility, but challenging in terms of finding a cut-off between home life and work life. I’m lucky that we do have a spare bedroom and an office, but Aerende is starting to outgrow them and, having limited space means we can’t benefit on economies of scale on things like packing boxes; I simply don’t have enough space to store them. The next step is seeking some social investment to help fund a studio where we can store stock properly, showcase the products and create some distance for me between home and work.

 Why online? Being online has many advantages – not least in being able to reach people from a wider network than a physical shop might do. But I’ll be honest: this was a practical decision born out of lack of finance rather than a strategic one. I needed to be able to work flexibly around my family and going online is a much less risky way of testing a concept than going all in with a physical store. Having said that, a bricks and mortar shop is still a dream for me. We loved our pop-up with Appear Here so much, we’re looking at ways of funding another.

How hard was it to set up your website? Setting it up was the easy bit. My family are amazed at what I’ve built considering my fairly basic technical skills. I’ve learnt a lot in the last three years but the retail platform we use – Shopify – is amazingly user-friendly, even for non-techy people like me. It makes all the back-end payment stuff easy and links in with lots of apps so we can add and adapt features as and when they are requested or when we have funding to do so. SEO is a harder thing to crack and is an ongoing process. There are so many resources out there (and I’ve heard Lucy Lucraft’s SEO course is a good one).

 How do you source your products? It’s a complex process. Unlike almost every other online interiors/gift store, we can’t find items at trade fairs or on social media because our makers aren’t really on or at either. So it’s a process of word of mouth, Google and lots of research. And then, because we want the products to be desirable and to fit with the collection we work out colour schemes and shapes and sizes that would work well, and create each product in collaboration with the makers – so they can explore their skills and we can ensure an ever-changing collection. Now we have a profile makers are starting to find us too.

And how do you design your products? I don’t have a formal background in design so I simply start by creating products that I’d like to own or want to use. I hope that by creating things I love to look at and use, others will feel the same. Some inspirations come from nature, from heritage techniques, from Shaker and Danish design or sometimes start with a colour mood board I’ve spotted on Pinterest. It’s easy to feel there’s a ‘proper’ way to do this stuff but one of the great joys of running your own business is that it’s not always necessary to conform to preconceived notions of what business is. And I often remind myself that being an outsider without an MBA or corporate experience can open up possibilities for doing things differently and more effectively. Design is an organic process and I want to hang on to that feeling rather than over-thinking or over-complicating products that should bring pleasure and beauty to the day-to-day.

Emily’s advice

1. Plan ahead and do the finances but be prepared to ditch the plan and to drop an idea if it isn’t working.

2. Have a story. Tell it confidently and regularly. Make this your point of difference.

3. Have a vision. Knowing where you want to get to really helps to prioritise and focus on the day to day.

Thank you ladies! So insightful! Do check out all three lovely brands - Firain, La Basketry and Aerende, as well as Huma’s excellent blog Our Story Time.

Taking the leap to freelance life

Writer and blogger Jessica Rose Williams recently made the long-dreamt-about decision to leave her job and go full-time with her blog. But how easy is it to make that choice, and how do you know the time is right? Jessica shares her journey with us and then chats to three other creative women to hear their tales of taking the freelance leap…

When is the right time to go freelance? Jessica Rose Williams explains.

It’s what most of us dream of when the boss is dishing out those jobs we hate doing, breathing down our necks and telling us we can’t have that morning off we’d asked for. Being my own boss has been a dream of mine for years, but I never thought it was for people like me. I thought you had to be one of those stereotypical creative types, an Insta-ready 6ft blonde in a bikini or have a bullet-proof business plan in your pocket with a ton of money in the bank in case it doesn’t work out.

Mostly, I always thought you had to have a lot more brains, confidence and courage than I thought I had. Fast forward a few years and here I am writing this; being my own boss, and I took that morning off I wanted just yesterday. 

I have a theory that given the choice, most people would jump at the chance of being self-employed over working a traditional 9-5. Making my own leap took a lot of psyching myself up for, like one of those birds you see flapping around in the tree before they actually fly the nest. But I did it. And I’ve no regrets. Knowing when to do it was the toughest part. Is there ever a right time? 

I knew the time was right to start blogging full time 18 months ago, but I chose to ignore it. My husband was the one who said it out loud first and I insisted he was wrong until it got to the point where I couldn’t ignore what had been staring me in the face any longer. So I jumped. I felt lucky to have had the freedom to write my blog alongside my work for our financial advice business but the workload scales eventually tipped and I couldn’t manage both. I had to choose and I chose what fed my soul and gave me the most joy, even though it wasn’t a sure thing financially.  

My biggest struggle was stepping into what felt like an almighty spotlight and saying out loud that I was doing this. I’d already been doing it anyway, but I’d stayed in the safety zone and kept my strings attached - just in case I failed. Reframing failure as a learning opportunity was invaluable in lifting the pressure I’d been suffocating under and giving myself the reassurance I needed. 

It would be unrealistic to glamourise freelance life as a perfect one but with so many of us dreaming of a career on our own terms or even just a creative side hustle that provides some pocket money, I think it can be comforting to hear from those that have gone before us. 

I interviewed three other self-employed creatives to find out more about their stories and the struggles they had to overcome before they flew the nest too. 

Kayte Ferris on going freelance

Kayte’s story 

Kayte Ferris was a marketing manager for a nursery furniture company before she upped sticks to the Welsh mountains to start her creative coaching business. She told me how even though her job was creative on paper, the reality of staff meetings and sales targets weren’t what she wanted to do. Something was missing. 

It took her boyfriend accepting a job offer in rural Wales for Kayte to run out of excuses and take the leap. Knowing her living expenses would be halved felt like the opportunity she’d been aching for. With the decision to quit her job and move to the countryside taken out of her hands, Kayte’s real struggle came with deciding what she was going to do. To overcome this, she signed up for coaching with Jen Carrington, binged on creative podcasts such as Being Boss, Hashtag Authentic and Blogtacular and gave the decision making process the necessary time it deserved.

www.simpleandseason.com

Siobhan Watts on becoming a freelance photographer

Siobhan’s story

Siobhan Watts was a tour manager for a theatre company before she decided not to return from her maternity leave and develop her photography business instead. She’d been building her creative venture for two years prior to her leap, but it wasn’t until she got pregnant that she knew she wanted to take it full time for freedom. 

Sometimes it’s a case of asking yourself which is worse and this is how it was for Siobhan. It became scarier to see herself at 40 with 2 kids in a job she didn’t like than to go after what she truly wanted. After years of fearing the vision she was terrified of and not knowing who she really was, it felt like it was now or never. Siobhan found believing in herself the hardest thing to do but with the task of raising a little girl on her hands, she felt she wouldn’t be able to tell her to follow her dreams when she’d clearly given up on her own. 

www.blesstheweather.com

Kara Leigh Ford on being a freelance ceramicist

Kara’s story

After finishing her art degree, Kara worked in marketing for 10 years before she decided to take her ceramics business full time. She describes herself during that time as a compass with no north. Kara had learned pottery at evening classes as a creative outlet, but it wasn’t until she was in a room full of potters at auditions for BBC’s The Great Pottery Throwdown that she realised it was possible to make a living from her hobby. Less than six months earlier she’d lost a close friend to a brain tumour and felt this was the kick from the universe telling her to make it when he tragically hadn’t. 

When it comes to choosing the right time, Kara believes in signposts from the universe and ‘if you ignore them, it’ll give you bigger signs’ she told me. She couldn’t ignore the signs any longer when her new home came equipped with a shed perfect for a pottery studio at the bottom of the garden. Less than six months after losing her friend Kara had handed in her notice and was ready to face her greatest fear of not being a success. Leaning into a little vulnerability and telling her family and friends what she was thinking of doing gave her the final push she needed.

www.karaleighfordceramics.com


Some tips if you’re thinking ‘this is me!’ and you’d love to start your own creative business

‘Start before you’re ready. I wish I hadn’t kept my cards so close to my chest and shared my business developing openly. It’s more important to be talking to those you’re thinking of selling to’ - Kayte Ferris

‘Tell people about what you’re thinking about doing. The self-critic is loudest when you don’t get support’ - Kara Leigh Ford

‘Do it. Do it. Do it. You don’t have to go all in right away, but make a plan and get yourself in a secure position - maybe cut down on some days in your job. If possible save up some money and get a few clients so you can explore what it is you do and don’t want to do. Hire someone like a coach or get some like-minded people together to support one another. Ultimately - just do it’ - Siobhan Watts

And me? I would encourage you to let to your gut guide you. Too often we look for external permission when we’re the ones that know what’s best for us. Forget what your head and heart are telling you and focus on that pull that comes from deep down in your stomach. You’ll know when the time is right. Trust it. 

I came away from each interview feeling more and more inspired to continue my new but exciting freelance journey and chase my own creative dreams. I’m hoping you feel the same way. 

Thank you Jessica (and ladies!) for this inspiring and insightful look at how it’s possible to make the move from full-time employment to living the working life you really want. Follow Jessica’s journey over on her blog and Instagram.

Facing adversity with creativity

At 91 we love delving in and hearing the stories of why and how people have launched a creative business. There’s often many different reasons why people have decided to go it alone or try something they’ve always dreamt of. All are inspiring of course, but there are some stories that just stick with you. Grace Harvey chats to two women who found their calling after extremely dark and different times in their lives. Their stories a reminder that life isn’t a dress rehearsal and we should take every experience - good or bad - as a way to move forward with positivity and creativity, making the most of life however it leads us.

Photo by Scott Murray

Photo by Scott Murray

Positive Luxury. Choose Light. Four words born out of darkness and circumstances in which many of us hope to never find ourselves. Siân Esther, a luxury nightwear brand founded by Siân Adkins following the death of her parents, sets out to ensure that women can have a safe night’s sleep, and puts positive luxury at the heart of its mission. ‘Choose Light’ is the foundation of Moments of Sense and Style, or MOSS for short, a lifestyle store founded by Syreeta Challinger and her partner Rob, after Rob suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2014.

Siân Esther

Siân built her brand around the notion that in the nights we can’t sleep or days we can’t get out of bed, that we should still have beauty around us. Siân’s willingness to share her experiences so candidly has established a system of support for women who otherwise would not have this. Grief, as Siân herself notes, is not a topic of conversation that we have on a day-to-day basis. Her work with charity partners and the ethics behind the brand set her apart from other luxe brands, whilst ensuring that luxury remains at the heart of Siân Esther’s philosophy. Here, Sian tells me more….

What in particular inspired you to create something positive out of difficult personal circumstances, and to share your experiences so frankly as well as positively?

Creativity has always provided a great sense of joy for me and when I struggled to find the perfect pair of sophisticated pyjamas that I could give as a gift to my Mum, we challenged ourselves to make samples and look into patterns. During this time my Mum died suddenly and I really felt this was something that I wanted to carry on in her legacy. Mum’s ethos was always about buying fewer, better quality pieces and so this would form part of the brand values.

For me I found the grief of losing both my parents young (my Dad died 5 years before) really affected my sleep hugely and I would often wake in the night with anxiety, or worry about things that I would never have done before. When something tragic happens to you, it also challenges us to look at things differently, I couldn’t change the situation but I did realise I wanted to do something that was purpose-driven. Although grief impacted my sleep, I was so grateful for my fantastic support network of friends and family, as well as a lovely home and I realised that not all women who go through tough situations have this support system. Through the partnerships with our charities, I want to be able to help vulnerable and disadvantaged women to have a safe night’s sleep too. To be able to give them that feeling of comfort and security, like when you put on a pair of pjs.

What work do you do with your charity partners and how do you help vulnerable women through these partnerships?

We support women through three different routes; through our profits, our supply chain and personal support. 20% of our profits go to supporting our three partner charities. Firstly, The Marylebone Project, which is the largest women’s homeless shelter in the UK. They help women who find themselves homeless and in need for many reasons; from domestic violence and mental health issues to financial difficulties. The Luminary Bakery is a social enterprise in East London and provides training, community and employment opportunities in their bakery for disadvantaged women who may have experienced poverty, homelessness, violence or criminal activity. Mercy UK run a 6-month residential programme for women aged between 18 and 30 and who may be struggling with low self-esteem, depression, self-harming, eating and anxiety disorders. The home provides a safe place to equip and empower women in a healing journey.

Our second route is through our supply chain – we work with a social enterprise - Juta Shoes in East London - who employ women who would otherwise find it difficult to get into work to make our espadrille leather slippers and we also partner with Freeset in Kolkata, India who employ women who were previously stuck in the sex-trade industry to make our makeup bags. This is part of their journey to freedom. Lastly, we have also been practically involved with supporting the set-up of a women’s day shelter in a church in London.

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

What has been the biggest challenge about developing and communicating the philosophy that underpins Siân Esther?

Brand visibility in general has been hard outside of the regional area, as probably lots of start-ups find. For me personally; the challenge has been around being able to share my story openly and honestly, as I don’t think we talk about grief enough but then also balancing this with the beauty of our products and not just creating a heart-felt story. I want people to fall in love with our products and then also love our mission to support a social cause.

And the best? Which moments or opportunities have especially stood out to you?

I held a launch party at the Coppa Club in Henley where I live and that was a really special moment for me – to be able to celebrate the achievement of creating beautiful nightwear pieces with friends and family and to celebrate the start of a new journey after a difficult and dark time was amazing. We need to remember to celebrate the good things in life! After this, I had such positive feedback and received a letter from our MP, which was just amazing. Siân Esther was then featured on Sheerluxe as the brand to know for ethical pyjamas and that was very exciting.

Alongside this, I have also loved meeting so many new people, who I would otherwise not have met; other start-up founders, the charities which we support and people who have reached out through social media as they love what I am doing and want to help. I have realised not to be shy when asking for help and people are often flattered to be involved.

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

How would you encourage others to harness difficult circumstances or situations in their lives to create something positive?

I have realised that sadly we do sometimes face difficult situations that we cannot change but that we shouldn’t let our circumstance shape our future. We can build resilience through these tough times and use this to propel ourselves forward and grow. I think it is also important to mention that resilience isn’t just about being strong, we also have to be willing to be vulnerable and to allow others in to build relationships and to ask for help when needed.

When a traumatic experience happens to us, it often changes the way we see things or the perspective that we approach life. I listened to a talk by a chap called Stephen Foster, who talked about no risk = no reward, which really resonated with me. I found that after losing my parents, I became even more aware of other’s reactions around me but if we focus on these reactions, we can miss out on the opportunity in front of us.

What message do you hope people take away from Siân Esther?

I hope to encourage others to be bold and do something they really enjoy but also to build businesses that are purpose-driven from the core and not just as a bolt on, as a nice-to-have element. Finding something you really enjoy doing - which for me is creating nightwear, arranging flowers and baking - can provide a great sense of relief and joy through the mist of a difficult time.

Hopefully the women buying my pieces will feel empowered wearing them but also that they are playing their part in helping to empower other women.

www.sianesther.co.uk


Moments of Sense and Style

Based in Lincoln, MOSS encapsulates an elegant and thoughtful calm. Their range of candles and room mists, notebooks, luxury matches, and Rob’s art is based on their story and journey- each evokes a place and a feeling, and is a reminder to slow down and cherish small moments. It was clear from Rob’s exhibition at the University of Lincoln earlier this year, and the TEDx talk they did together in June, that both Rob and Syreeta talk and create candidly about their experiences. Rob’s art encourages us to see how love can truly heal, and that he continues to do brilliantly as his tries his utmost to get through. Syreeta filled me in further about the history of the business and how it has helped the couple to embrace what life has thrown at them…

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Tell me a little more about MOSS.

Moments Of Sense & Style or MOSS for short, is a lifestyle studio and brand. Each product, art print or project we work on is considered and developed with a sensory experience of beauty in mind. The ethos is simplicity, to encourage people to slow down; embrace their senses and do it in style.

The brand was born out of life changing events, it has been a creative saviour. A loving, healing and cathartic project, but also a way to try and get back into the world again. To establish ourselves and earn a living around our life as it is now.

We are socially and ecologically aware, that yes, we wish to create products, but not creations for the sake of it. Each product is deeply considered and aligns with a need or desire from our life as it is now, with respect for the provenance and raw materials. By embracing the path of a studio alongside our wares, we are able to work on projects that compliment our ethos and help spread awareness of not only brain injury, but the importance of wellbeing to our health and inner world too. It’s more of a movement, a fluid label, one that leaves room for us to grow and change; as change is the only constant we have. Life is always changing and shifting and we have created a space in which to evolve.

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

What in particular inspired you to create something positive out of difficult personal circumstances, and to share your experiences so frankly as well as positively?

It’s quite a tale. My boyfriend at the time Rob and I were living and working in Hong Kong, when on the 27th September 2014, Rob suffered a near fatal brain haemorrhage and stroke. To make things more complicated, we were on the second day of a holiday in Sydney. Rob was in a coma and I was told he wouldn’t make it, but here I am almost 4 years later balancing life as full time carer, Rob’s slow rehabilitation, starting life over again and able to share this with you.

After being stuck in Sydney for 3 months, we realised life in HK was over and moved back to the UK to be with family. I had to move countries, start life in a city and home that was not my own, whilst dealing with Rob’s needs and care. Trauma on all levels. I lost my identity and sense of self, my home, my job, all in one go, whilst having to radiate love and support to Rob. I realised that’s all I had. Love. And that’s what has carried me through.

In all this, caring and rehab and grief, I needed an outlet. I could’t find work, was feeling low and needed to do something. It started out initially as a blog - a Tumblr page - inadvertently creating an aesthetic for the brand. It’s slowly evolved and become a creative space for both of us. Sharing the story through the Tumblr was a visceral journey. I pulled words, music, visuals, many of the photos our own and it was essentially a form of therapy for me. It had to get out of me.

The Maya Angelou quote rings true “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. And as I shared, with friends at first, the response was overwhelmingly encouraging. It spurred me on and I continued to take step by step. And not only was I sharing to get it out of me, I was sharing to feel connected. I was isolated geographically, mentally, physically. In a city without any contacts, I had to start again on every level, yet how does one connect in a new city without work and in our horrendous situation?

Social media was a window to the world and made me feel part of something when so far removed from reality. Not only that, I was incredibly proud of what I was doing and of Rob - his determination and strength, our courage as young couple; staring tragedy fearlessly in the face. I wanted to tell the world how brilliant he was and how my efforts, by investing patience, love and care, had spurred on such wonderful changes.

I had taught Rob to draw again and this was how we communicated for a really long time, and we still do on bad days. He now draws for pleasure and is pursuing a new path as an artist, selling his prints as part of MOSS. Rob suffers with Aphasia which affects his reading and writing as well as speech. He is learning, but essentially it was like having a six-foot baby; he’s had to relearn everything.

And we will continue to share and talk about it. As when something happens to you, society tends to decide your fate. Writes you off. But we feel that everyone has something to offer if only given half the chance. Especially when offered a creative space. We feel passionately that creativity heals.

Don’t get me wrong, it has been horrific at times and still is on occasion. But with time, gentleness and positivity and a whole lot of love, we have got through.

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

What has been the biggest challenge about developing and communicating the philosophy that underpins MOSS?

It’s a challenge that’s for sure, but I always describe us as more than just a brand. Its more than just a candle, notebook or art print. For many people, they feel with their heads, not their hearts and don’t quite understand. They wonder why I do what I do. I wonder why they wouldn’t. The challenge is seeking the like minded souls, who feel deeply and perhaps have been through something. Where life has tested them, whether through something big or small, but something has awakened within them. They’ve let their guard down, not fearful. Something has moved them deeply and allowed them to understand the fragility of life and be open to others, with the understanding it comes with both dark and light; the good in the bad and bad in the good.

And as a fast evolving tech first world, I feel we are losing that connection to understanding ourselves, our connection to others. But those that do get it; it’s pure joy to feel connected to them. That they too, hold a place for our recovery and path as much as we encourage positivity and love for those of theirs. Fundamentally, it’s about being; the complex bundle of emotions and feelings, respecting one another for who we truly are, lifting each other up, supporting each other when chips are down.

And the best? Which moments or opportunities have especially stood out to you?

We held an exhibition for Rob in January this year at University Of Lincoln. It was an incredible achievement, at just 3 years after the brain haemorrhage, for Rob to be able to do this and for the uni to welcome us graciously. For me, it was incredibly tough to write and curate it, yet under Rob’s strict instructions, we shared the full story. Images from life before, his coma, the rehab recovery; all out in public. Yet the message was strong; one of hope and positivity. How creativity and love can heal.

And we elevated that message with a Tedx talk in June, sharing our hearts and story, on the world stage! What a moment, to be on stage together. But fundamentally, that we are here. Together. Doing this! I write this as we near the four year anniversary and to be able to share this with you, all that we have done and are doing, is incredible. They told me Rob would never make it, and if he did he would never be the same again and none of this was a possibility. Look at how far we have come. That is the most incredible thing.

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

How would you encourage others to harness difficult circumstances or situations in their lives to create something positive?

By letting everything go, every inch of my life as I knew it came nothing. It was not easy, nor was it comfortable. But from nothing, comes something. The quiet, the slow pace. The emptiness is a place of possibility. And from possibility, comes curiosity. And the space to dream and wonder. As what have you got to lose at this point? Nothing! So take a step. Even if it’s just an inch. Inch by inch, as with Rob’s recovery, it’s the only way to build, to grow, to develop.

Find the energy to do so, as sadly no one else can do it for you. There is no hero or knight on a white stead, other than the one inside of you. It won’t be pretty. But surrendering to the situation, letting it get all messy and mad is one of the most liberating things. Letting go of what once was and opening your heart and mind. Allowing yourself to feel every bit and understand your emotions around the changes and when you try new things.

It’s not always easy, and I still have to remind myself of this notion. But it’s where you really delve deep, finding strength you never knew you had.

What message do you hope people take away from MOSS?

Hopefully, more than one. First and foremost, the message to slow down. To breathe. To carve out time, just for soothing the soul and taking stock of the good in the world. And in that way, I mean carve out time and create a ritual, perhaps lighting a candle to mark the change of pace, or noting or doodling in a notebook, to soothe your soul. To be grateful. To cherish the beauty in the mundane, the precious every day things we all take for granted. They are the true gifts. And most importantly, one of light, of hope. That no matter what is thrown at you, there is always a way through.

www.momentsofsenseandstyle.com

91 is pinning... indie brands

It’s a bit of a quick post on the blog today as things are a little hectic at 91 HQ right now. The AW18 issue goes to print TODAY! I’m busy preparing for the delivery of boxes and boxes of magazines in a few weeks, addressing envelopes of our pre-orders, getting the digital version ready and all the other admin that comes with it. I’m also getting ready for my creative business workshop with Inspired Collective on the 27th (this one is sold out, but there’s another one for sale at the mo, happening in Nov). Anyway, I just wanted to share what we’ve been pinning of late. A new board - Indie Brands - is where I’m collating all those gorgeous independent makers, designers and shops that we love. Here’s a little taster, but do pop to our Pinterest page for more. It’s very much a work in progress, so we will continue to add to it, so make sure to follow!

Stylish co-working spaces

These days more and more of us our working for ourselves, but being at home all day doesn’t suit everyone. It can be easy to start feeling lonely or develop cabin fever spending too much time in the space you live as well as work. Thankfully, co-working spaces are now popping up everywhere, many of which have went to town on their design and aesthetic, proving that office spaces don’t need to be dull, grey, uninspiring boxes. Sophie Warren-Smith discovers five of the most stylish work hubs from around the world…

The Wing - female only co-working space New York
The Wing - female only co-working spaces - New York

NEW YORK

WhereThe Wing, various locations in the US.

The Wing is a unique networking and community space that’s exclusively designed for women. We are in love with their chic aesthetic and colour palette of millennial pink, pastel blues, russet and olive green.

What they offer

They have four beautifully curated locations - Flatiron, Soho (above top), Dumbo (above bottom) and DC with San Francisco launching in October 2018. There are two membership options, Single Location which gives you your own space, priced at $215 monthly, or All Access which gives you unlimited access to all of their locations and events, $250 a month.

Special features:

Being for women only some of the special features include a beauty room and lactation room. There’s also a library, showers, phone and conference rooms, food & drinks and other perks and freebies. The Wing also plays a big part in supporting women and girls in community projects. 

Uncommon Borough - co-working space
Uncommon, Borough - co-working space

LONDON

Where: Uncommon, 1 Long Lane, London SE1 4PG

Uncommon have various branches around London - they can be found in Borough (above), Highbury and Islington, Fulham and Liverpool Street. Plant lovers will enjoy their nature inspired Borough location, which also has a lovely open plan coffee lounge for meetings or just taking a break.

What they offer:

All locations offer five options and you can choose from day passes, weekend passes, a hot desk, dedicated desk or private office. Prices start from £20 for a day pass - we love this option - it’s perfect if you live out of town and want a day or two working in a different environment or you’re visiting and want somewhere creative to work.

Special features:

All of their locations have a coffee lounge, meeting rooms, showers, bike storage, phone booths for extra privacy, outdoor space and are dog friendly. Some of them have kitchenettes and Borough has a pop-up retail space where you can trial new products that you’re working on, or buy from fellow creatives.

Stockholm co-working space The Castle

STOCKHOLM

Where: The Castle, Slottsbacken 8, 111 30, Stockholm

Situated in a stunning period style building, The Castle is in the heart of central Stockholm. The great hall of Flemingska palatset, still has the beautiful original decor from the 18th century with decorative wallpaper and gold panelling.

What they offer:

They have many options starting at fixed desk, flexible desk full-time and the useful low income 2 days a week or low income full time. You can also rent a room, prices start from 1800kr/month.

Special features:

There’s a cafe where you can socialise with other co-working members and network over meals, tea and coffee, a yoga room that doubles as a photo studio and screening room, plus you have access to printers and conference rooms.

We Work La Fayette in Paris
WeWork LaFayette co-working space in Paris

PARIS

Where: WeWork La Fayette, 33 Rue La Fayette, Paris 75 75009

WeWork is a global network of workspaces with locations in most major cities worldwide. Their La Fayette location is situated in a stunning Art Deco building, which has an eye-catching central atrium, multiple outdoor terraces and scenic views over St.Georges and Pigalle.

What they offer:

There are nine locations in Paris, La Fayette (above), Champs-Élysées,  37 Avenue Trudaine, 123 Boulevard de Grenelle, Coeur Marais. 7 Rue de Madrid, 198 Avenue de France, 18 Rue de Navarin and Colisée. They vary in what they offer - all have private office space and other options include dedicated desks and hot desks. Prices start from €360 for a hot desk.

Special features:

At all of these locations you’ll have super fast internet, daily cleaning, IT support, 24/7 building access, office supplies, global network, coffee, draft beer, bike storage, business class printers, mail and package handling and private phone booths.

Mesh - co-working space in Oslo, Norway
MESH co-working space in Oslo - Food & Drink Bar

OSLO

Where: Mesh - The Creators’ Community, Tordenskioldsgate 3, 0160 Oslo, Norway

Mesh is the first co-working space in Oslo and has been designed specifically to nurture and grow creativity. The Work Lounge is a creative space to meet new people whilst working, or use it for meetings if you’re visiting the city. The Food & Drink Bar is open to everyone and serves international dishes throughout the day, so you can eat and network at the same time!

What they offer:

Mesh offer three memberships - private office space for teams of 2 - 40, plus desk membership is for those who want to work in an open plan environment, flex or fixed term options available and The Work Lounge is a great space for meetings, so it’s ideal if you are in Oslo as a traveller and want somewhere to connect with others. Prices start from kr790 excluding vat.

Special features:

Mesh’s Food and Drink Bar is open to both members and non-members, and they have six event spaces with their own event crew and sound engineers. They also hold a series of talks that are held throughout the year on various different topics.

another handy tip…

Croissant app

Croissant - a co-working space app

We’re not talking about pastries here sadly, but Croissant is still a genius idea! Started by a group of friends who used to work together in coffee shops and who wanted the freedom of being able to bounce from place to place to meet up and connect wherever they were. Basically it’s a monthly co-working membership that gives freelancers access to hot desks at the coolest workspaces in cities all around the world. In London and need a space to work? Simply log in to the app and it will tell you what’s available, or likewise in any city.

How does it work?

There are three payment options - Explorer at £29pm, Creator at £99pm and Luminary at £199pm, and it works by using hours, so for example you turn up at a place via the app in New York and are there for two hours, you’ll get two hours taken off your membership. You check in like you do in a hotel, and check out when you leave.