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 Social Pow Wow 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) Social Pow Wow will receive a small fee. Social Pow Wow 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 Social Pow Wow 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.

Growing your creative business

With so much noise on the internet these days, it's often hard to track down the genuinely great content that will be worth spending your precious time on. We often find ourselves endlessly scrolling Instagram or reading memes on Facebook that, let's face it, aren't really going to benefit our lives in any way. If you've found yourself craving an online haven, a place to learn, socialise and get inspired without all the distraction, then let me introduce you to Sisterhood Camp. Lou Archell launched her 'IRL' Sisterhood retreats back in 2015, but this summer she has created an online retreat - perfect for those who can't make the real life events but want the benefit of the creative community and learning they offer. 

It is a private member community, which runs for three months each season. Once enrolled, you'll have access to all of the content - e-courses, blog posts and forums. It encompasses a range of topics - career development, creativity, wellness and travel. Summer Camp is already in progress so enrolment for that is now closed, but we have a little snippet from one of the e-courses to whet your appetite. If it floats your boat, then do hop over to the website for more blog content (many of the posts are public, although some are for members only) and register your interest in Autumn Camp which will open for enrolment on 20th August. (Pricing: £200 for 3 months. or instalments of £67 per month.) Autumn Camp starts on 1st September through to 30th November.

Growing your own creative business

Growing your own creative business - with Camilla Westgaard of Folksy

OVERVIEW:

Is there a secret to building a successful creative business? Scroll through Instagram and it feels like there are some creatives who have just got it down. Their feed is full of beautifully wrapped parcels ready to be shipped, their workshops are sold out in seconds and their inboxes are overflowing with DMs asking when the next shop update is happening. But how did they get there? Probably with a lot of hard work. Growing a business takes time and dedication, and stories of overnight success are rare or not quite what they seem.

Over the last decade, I’ve been there, put in those hours, had the successes and the failures, watched, learned from, listened to and guided other indie businesses as they’ve grown and thrived. It’s these creatives who keep the world interesting, so in this series I’m going to share the lessons learned to help you take your idea and grow it into a fully-fledged business or a nice little side-hustle that nurtures your soul, depending on what you want and need from it.

LESSON 1: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS: 

Growing your own creative business
  • DESIGN A BUSINESS THAT FITS AROUND YOU

Consider what kind of business you really want – and be honest here. Do you want something you can do from your sofa while listening to podcasts, that will bring in a little extra money to subsidise adventures away? Or do you aspire to having your own design studio with a team of people working for you so you can focus on ideas? Maybe enjoying the physical process of making is more important? Or maybe you want to travel the world passing on your wisdom and meeting interesting people?

If your business takes off, you may end up making the same products a hundred times or running the same workshops over and over again. How good are you at repetitive tasks? Think about which parts of the business you enjoy, what you would like to do more of and equally what you’d like to do less of. Then design a business around that – one that suits you. We all have to start somewhere but if you know where you’d like it to go and how you’d like it to look, it’s easier to get there… and also to make sure you don’t end up in a place you never meant to be.

How: Write down what your ideal business looks like in terms of the number of hours you are working on it, the number of people you have working with you, the scale of your output, where you work and what that work consists of. This will help you create a business that you can sustain and nurture.

  • DO ONE THING WELL

When people start a new business, they often assume that by offering a vast variety of products and choice, they’ll be able to appeal to more people and sell more products. In most cases, the opposite is true: occupy a niche, limit your product range and you’ll have a stronger business. You don’t need loads of product lines and variations to be successful; you just need to do one thing really well. Imagine you’re a restaurant (bear with me)… don’t be the one with the stressed chef serving hundreds of items on the menu, buying in tons of ingredients and juggling hundreds of pans. It’s not cost-effective and it’s not the way to go if you value reputation or quality. Instead be the one where the chef has a limited board serving the best ingredients, combined to create interesting and original dishes, cooked well, and where people queue for tables.

Focusing on one thing also makes it easier to define your customers, target your marketing, hone your skills and stand out as the go-to person for that product, style or content.

How: Think about what you want to sell. Are there lots of other people doing something similar? Good, that means there’s a market for it. But how can you get a slice? Who are the established businesses people look to? Is there something they are not doing that you could? What can you offer that isn’t currently out there, or what can you specialise in? Is there a community you can serve?

Growing your own creative business
  • GO AT YOUR OWN SPEED

Don’t expect to be able to leave your 9-to-5 straight away. If you do want to make your business full time, be realistic about when that’s possible. It’s true that if you leave your job you’ll be able to focus all your time and attention on your new venture, and it may well flourish more quickly. Some people thrive on this and feel they are more likely to succeed when all the safety nets have gone and the only option is to make it work. But being completely dependent on your own business for your income is risky, which is why having fallbacks in place and designing several revenue streams makes sense.

This isn’t just about how reliant you are on your new business to pay your bills, it also relates to where you focus your business and the channels you rely on for your marketing and sales. Think about Instagram: if you only ever focus on reaching customers through IG, what happens if a new platform comes along and people leave Instagram in droves, or the algorithms change the network so significantly (as happened on Facebook) that it no longer works for indie businesses who don’t want to pay to advertise their posts? You might be able to move your business across but you could have a period when your revenue plummets and your business might not survive the dip.

How: Being absolutely reliant on your business, or turning what you love into a profession, can change how you feel about it, and leaving financial stability for a new business venture is also a risk that not everyone can afford to take. You know your situation, so take everything at a pace that works for you.


*Extracted from Camilla Westgaard's e-course on growing your own creative business - part of Sisterhood Summer Camp.* - Camilla Westergaard has been immersed in the world of creative indie businesses for almost a decade, first as a designer & maker stocked in Liberty’s and then as Content Lead at Folksy, the home of British craft, where she interviews makers, writes advice for other sellers, commissions articles and designs social media content and campaigns. She is genuinely passionate about supporting makers and believes there are simple, practical steps everyone can take that will help their creative business become successful. If you want to see pictures of hedgehogs, cats and cushions, you can follow her on Instagram at @bbutterscotch
www.folksy.com

Growing your creative business

91 loves... Marta Abad Blay

We've had so many questions about the artwork that appeared on the cover of our current issue, which is hanging in the home of Ilona Zieltjens (@mamoesjka_nl). The print, entitled 'Girl 1' is the work of Spanish artist Marta Abad Blay, and we have fallen a little bit in love with her distinctive style. We caught up with Marta to find out a little more about her work....

Image:  @mamoesjka_nl
Image:  @mamoesjka_nl

91: What is the inspiration behind your series of Girl illustrations? 

Marta: I cannot stop drawing girls right now. It is like I cannot stop it. :) My work is very organic and I try not to think about it too much. When I think too much then I don't produce something I really like. With this series, I was very inspired by children's drawings; I see my daughter Mia painting and I really admire her process - without thinking, without judging. So I have tried to do the same when I am painting these girls. :) 

Image:  @martabadblay
Image:  @martabadblay
Marta Abad Blay and her work

91: What is your working process? How do you come up with your gorgeous colour combinations? 

My working process is completely organic. The colour combinations came about without any planning or preparation. This was actually intentional - I tried not to plan it, plus I don’t follow any trends. I just paint what I like to do.

91: How does it make you feel to see your work featured in lots of beautiful homes on Instagram? Does this help with selling your work? 

It is an honour for me to receive such a great response to my work.  And, yes, it has really helped to sell my work. It is a way to see my products in different places and atmospheres. 

Image:  @magdalenad
Image:  @teamtonkin

91: How can people get hold of one of your original artworks? Do you take commissions? 

Yes I do take commissions,  just write to me at martabadblay@gmail.com. I have also original pieces for sale in my online shop

Favourite independent shop: Stockholm store Beton - also online at Betonstudios.com 

Favourite Instagram account: Melissa Tonkin - @teamtonkin and Ilona Zieltjens - @mamoesjka_nl

Favourite designer/maker: Japanese artist Mogu Takahashi @mogutakahashi

Favourite city: Amsterdam

Favourite book or magazine: Apartamento

Image:  @mamoesjka_nl

Thanks so much Marta! So there you have it, the artist behind that eye-catching print on our S/S 18 cover! You can order direct from Marta on her website, or UK online store Grey September have recently started stocking some of her work. 

Making terrazzo coasters with Olivia Aspinall & Pelican Story

We are always looking out for the most exciting and on-trend events that are happening across the country, and anything that combines shopping, making and great interiors has definitely got us intrigued! We sent 91 contributors Nancy Straughan and Jemma Watts along to a recent event at Kreativ House in London, to shop the pelican story pop-up and make terrazzo coasters with Olivia Aspinall...  

Terrazzo coaster making with Olivia Aspinall

Terrazzo burst onto the interior scene a few years ago and since I first discovered it via Pinterest I have been dying to know more about it and how it's made. Like me, you’ve probably noticed it being used recently by some of the coolest interiors and homeware brands and in modern kitchen design, but in fact terrazzo dates back as far as the 15th century, and traditionally utilised chips of marble or granite. I spied a lot of terrazzo flooring while in Greece recently, thanks to the country's history in producing beautiful marble. 

These days, contemporary terrazzo features bold colours and shapes and is being used in lots of unusual ways. I would never have considered being able to craft something from it myself, so I was thrilled to be invited to workshop recently to learn how to make terrazzo coasters.

Kreativ House Hackney, London
Kreativ House, Hackney, London
Kreativ House, Hackney, London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London

The class was a collaboration between three creative businesses, Olivia Aspinall, pelican story and Kreativ House. The workshop was run by Olivia Aspinall alongside pelican story who were running a special pop-up shop on the ground floor of Kreativ House. Kreativ House is a beautiful private workspace that helps support small businesses in East London, the perfect place for both the pop up and workshops.

Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London

Before beginning the workshop, I had a browse of the beautiful pelican story pop up. This relatively new brand stocks a great selection of contemporary and hard to find homeware, furniture and gifts, many which are mid-century and Scandinavian inspired. Some are also locally made and the range felt a little bit different from your average homeware collection.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

Moving on to the workshop, our host and teacher Olivia was exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable and she carefully explained each stage of the making process before we got started. The main material for our home-made terrazzo was jesmonite. This is a composite material that combines plaster, cement and a water-based plastic resin. Bright pots of saturated pigment were laid out, which we would use to colour our jesmonite chips as well as the base of our coasters.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

The first stage was to carefully mix two batches of coloured jesmonite to make our chips for the coasters. I opted for a pale peach and a navy blue to match my living room at home. Measuring out the ingredients, we all made two separate batches of jesmonite resin, which would then be spread thinly onto sheets of plastic and left to dry. A quick cup of tea later and our coloured jesmonite was dry and ready to be broken up into chips.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

After placing these pieces into cups, it was time to decide on the base colour for our coasters. My living space is relatively neutral and features hints of peach, blue and green, so I decided an off-white colour would work best. I added a touch of white and a little bit of mustard to the base to create a very pale cream colour. 

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

Next, we weighed out our jesmonite chips and Olivia provided us with some complimentary colours for us to add to our existing mix. Along with my peach and navy blue chips I added some mustard, pale pink and beige. These were then added into the base mixture of jesmonite and the entire lot was poured into two coaster moulds. The last stage was to tap the silicone moulds to ensure that all air bubbles would escape, then they were left to dry out completely.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

Olivia explained to us that she would take our coasters to her studio where she would sand and polish them to reveal the layers of our coloured chips. A few days later my coasters arrived in the post from Olivia and I absolutely love them - they complement my living room perfectly!

My expectations of making terrazzo was that it would be extremely complicated, but in reality it's simply a bit of colour theory, measuring and stirring! The trickiest part was choosing colours, but thankfully Olivia’s guidance was really helpful. Not only was it amazing to create something that seems so complicated by hand, but I so enjoyed learning about a new and exciting material – I’m positive that jesmonite will be making a firm impression on the interiors market very soon!

Check out pelican story online - their mailing list or Instagram will keep you posted on future events - the next one is happening in June (15th, 16th & 17th).  Olivia Aspinall will also list more workshops dates on her website and Instagram

Words: Nancy Straughan

Photography: Jemma Watts

Six indie shops hosting creative workshops

We love indie shops here at 91, and often wish we could spend more time in them. Luckily for us, the trend for indie store owners collaborating with creatives to host workshops means we can do exactly that. It really is a match made in heaven. Michelle Evans talks to six shopkeepers to find out more about why they do it and how it benefits both their shop and the creatives they work with. 

Image courtesy of Botany

Image courtesy of Botany

We all like to feel like we are part of something meaningful. We look towards things that speak about the kind of life we want to lead and hold values that resonate with us. That counts for the purchases we make too, and unlike the consumerism of the late 20th century, the modern shopper is much more mindful, ethical and considered about the choices they make in the things they buy.

Independent shopkeepers with a bricks and mortar residence, know that they offer one golden thing that no online store can replicate: a real life store experience. It's the chance to connect with customers in a more meaningful way, giving them a more personalised and memorable experience. With this, retailers are finding ways to bring their shop to life by inviting creatives to join them with workshop experiences. It gives a unique way for a customer to participate with the shop, where they can feel part of the brand and learn something, or even make friends. For shopkeepers, it's also the opportunity to collaborate with like minded creatives, inviting them to set up a mini studio in store, and help show customers what the shop is all about.

Life Story, Edinburgh, Scotland / Photo courtesy of  @wearetrouva

Life Story, Edinburgh, Scotland / Photo courtesy of @wearetrouva

Squid Ink workshop at Life Story

Squid Ink workshop at Life Story

At Life Story in Edinburgh, owner Susan Doherty works with artists or makers who are associated with her business. ‘For example, when Squid Ink hosts workshops, they are using Sarah's (the creative behind Squid Ink) branded mini looms, that we also sell in the store. Participants often come back to buy one for a friend having fully understood themselves how they work and what the benefits of the product are, having attending a workshop.’

Not only does this enhance the story of the product and maker, it also shows that the shop has a love for craftsmanship, and encourages the customer to try craft themselves. The workshops create a buzz, make people curious and want to come in and find out more. This helps to raise awareness of the shop and collaborators alike.

Future workshops include macrame and leather purse making. Life Story @lifestoryedin

Caro, Bruton, Somerset

Caro, Bruton, Somerset

workshops at Caro

workshops at Caro

Having workshops in store is also a great way to build community. Natalie Jones has created an events calendar at Caro in Somerset to encourage collaboration. ‘Caro is situated in a very creative and convivial town. We are surrounded by a pool of people with a hugely varied arm of interests which I wanted to embrace at Caro. Having a space to encourage people to get together and learn a new skill or spend a few hours sharing ideas is a lovely thing to be a part of.’

The shop becomes a place of destination and discovery, where people not only build a more personal connection with the store, but also with each other. At Caro, Natalie has collaborated with creatives from jewellery designers to calligraphers to oscar winning photographers and says, ‘It has brought a fascinating mix of people to Caro which is fantastic.’

Upcoming workshop: Branding, Trends, Social Media & Blogging Workshop. Details here.

Caro / @carosomerset

Sarah and Bendrix, Cheam, Surrey

Sarah and Bendrix, Cheam, Surrey

Floral workshop hosted by Inspired Collective at Sarah and Bendrix

Floral workshop hosted by Inspired Collective at Sarah and Bendrix

Veronika Pollard and Petrica Harmsworth had a similar philosophy when they began running creative workshops at Sarah & Bendrix in Cheam, Surrey. ‘We started running the creative workshops (called Inspired Collective) because we wanted to give something a little different to the local community than just a gift store. Our aim was to create a space where people can come together to learn new skills, explore their creativity and make new friends at the same time.’

Workshops are a way for Veronika and Petrica to know their customers more, and develop their relationship with the creative community. 'We’re really keen on collaborating with local small businesses that focus on handmade, small-scale production, whether that’s through running workshops, stocking their product, and hopefully longer term, helping them to develop their business expertise.'

Fundamentally, the workshops have allowed us to be creative in different ways, brought new ideas and a closer connection to the local community. ‘Quite unexpectedly, we’re now working with a local creative crafting business, in hosting an event for a mental health charity, something we would never have envisaged a year ago!’

Find upcoming workshops here. Look out for a 91 Magazine workshop coming soon! Inspired Collective / @inspired.collective

Home byKirsty, Roath, Wales

Home byKirsty, Roath, Wales

floral workshops with Forbesfield flower school

floral workshops with Forbesfield flower school

Building on shared interests is a very natural way for shops to collaborate with creatives. Kirsty Patrick runs floristry workshops via her shop Home ByKirsty, along with Beth at Forbesfield flower school. Their story began as shop neighbours in Cardiff, and after a few successful classes together at Kirsty's new shop location in Roath, they decided to make the classes a regular event. With a combination of business savvy and floral artistry they have built a series of workshops across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

‘We work so well together, not only in our creative style, but we also balance each out - Beth teaching with her incredible knowledge of all things green, while I do the hidden organising and businessy bits. Having a business partner that virtually reads your mind is priceless, as running a business is tough.’ Their work together has become a partnership, where unique qualities of one business and owner, helps the other. Kirsty's bricks and mortar shop is the business base, while the workshops are in varied locations, helping to find new creative, engaged customers and spread the word about Home ByKirsty.

New workshops will be posted here. Home byKirsty / @homebykirsty

Botany, Hackney, London

Botany, Hackney, London

wildflower workshops at Botany / Photo:   Anna Jacobsen

wildflower workshops at Botany / Photo: Anna Jacobsen

Hosting workshops or classes can build a closer connection between shops and their customers. It also helps show a deeper message or ethos behind the shop, that people can connect with. At Botany in East London, Angela Maynard has curated a series of events that encourage people to step away from the digital world and make something with their hands.

‘So many of us are stuck behind a computer during the working day or using social media instead of pursuing hobbies like we may have done in the past. So to be able to take a few hours to explore our individuality – either through a wildflower walk used to inspire bouquet making, pinch pot making with a mediative approach, botanical drawing using the shops plant life as the subject matter, or learning about essential oils and how to make your own natural skincare, helps us (I think) to explore aspects of our personality, using our brains in a slower, more relaxed and focused way, that we may have forgotten about or not used for a long time.’ There is something very grounding about doing simple things with our hands, and focussing in a gentle way. The workshops become a form of relaxation, the chance to slow down, learn and be creative.

Workshop listings are here. Botany / @botanyshope5

Bears Ice Cream Co, West London

Bears Ice Cream Co, West London

Watercolour workshop at Bears Ice Cream

Watercolour workshop at Bears Ice Cream

At Bears Ice Cream company, imagination is their raison d'être: ‘Our mission has always been to give our customers the chance to experience creativity in some way. This is reflected in our unusual Signature Cone menu, the “make it yourself” Glacier or when they sit down and get drawing on our chalk table. Therefore it was a very natural step for us to start collaborating with Michelle Evans of Roxwell Press, on our watercolour x ice cream experience. For us food and art are two different mediums of expressing your passion.’

The class creates a unique atmosphere, and lets people 'live the brand', by learning to paint ice creams in watercolour, then creating a real one to eat. ‘Michelle brings her wonderful mix of bright colours into our shop and her relaxed way of teaching is a great start to our Saturday mornings. Collaborating with an artist brings in a great energy and seeing people leave after a painting class with a relaxed smile on their face and ice cream in hand makes our day.’ It has also opened up new avenues of collaboration, with gift and greeting cards designed by Michelle for the shop.

Michelle concludes: 'As an artist and designer, collaborating with shops on workshops has been a fantastic way to' step out of the studio and meet a new audience. It's inspiring to be creative with a group of people, in unusual places, and for all of us it feels like a fresh, liberating experience. We all learn from one another, I get to know a group of people who frequent a shop I feel akin to, and they learn some new watercolour techniques. Everyone comes away with something that helps them develop, something meaningful.'

Workshops at Bears can be found here, or for other watercolour workshops by Michelle, head here. Bears Ice Cream / @bearsicecream

The Importance of Purpose For Creative Projects

Today we have an in-depth, practical post for any of you pursuing a creative career or even a personal project or hobby, but need some focus and guidance. Marketing coach Kayte Ferris delves into the importance of purpose in your work, how to discover that purpose and then how to use it to your advantage. Pour yourself a cuppa and let's get started....

Tea on a pile of notebooks - finding purpose in your creative projects

In my work as a marketing coach for small creative businesses, one of the very first things I tackle with clients is their purpose – the reason their business exists and why they get up and work on it every day. Think about the brands you love or the last few non-necessities you bought. I’m willing to bet that you love those businesses because you buy into what they believe, and that their own views on life match up with yours. That’s the power of having a strong purpose at the core of your business; you build an audience of advocates who believe what you believe, and will support you through transitions and pivots in your products.

But I’m not just here to talk about business, because purpose is exceptionally important for our passion projects too. Whether you’re starting a new business, side hustling, or have a creative project you’re doing just for you, having a strong purpose is vital for keeping you on track, motivating you, and overcoming those guilty feelings of doing something just for you. It’s similar to how it’s easier to lose weight when you have an event coming up that you want to feel confident for – when you’re clear on why you’re doing something, everything else just flows.

In this post, I’m going to talk about why that purpose is so important and how it can help you in your creative project, as well as give you my tips for finding your purpose, the very same ones I talk through with my client’s at the beginning of their journeys.

Planning on a big piece of paper

Why is purpose important?

  • It’s an anchor - As creatives, we have a tendency to be pretty magpie-ish when it comes to opportunities and ideas. While this leads us to exciting, and at times life-changing things, it can also cause us to stray off our path and into something that isn’t particularly on brand or right for us as people. Whether it’s a sponsored brand collaboration that leaves you feeling icky, or coverage in a publication that doesn’t sit well, we all know the feeling when we’ve done something that didn’t feel right.

What a strong purpose does is anchor you in these situations. It gives you a standard to hold all opportunities and ideas up to and see if they directly serve that purpose. In this way, it helps you to be more objectively yes/no about new ideas, but it also ensures that every single thing you do is on brand and purposeful.

  • It’s a motivator - We all have days where we sit at our desk or walk into our studio and are just not feeling it. When the deadline is fast approaching but you’d rather walk across hot coals than tackle the thing that needs doing. Our motivation and energy naturally ebbs and flows, and we need to accept and work with that rather than fight against it.

A strong purpose, however, will make sure that you spend more time in flow than in ebb. Particularly with passion projects, when life more easily gets in the way and it becomes harder to justify the time and energy you’re spending, having a core purpose you can continue to come back to is a way of giving yourself accountability and justifying the project to yourself.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve started a blog whose purpose is to make you practice your writing so you can take on more fulfilling tasks at work. Having that purpose statement on a post-it stuck to your laptop, or simply remembering it every time you dread sitting at a desk will put the fire in your belly to carry on.

  • It builds community - This one is particularly important if you are working on your business, but community can also be extremely powerful for your creative projects too. Your purpose is a big neon sign to your target customers and other like-minded souls that you are for them, and it gives them a reason to jump on board with you.

With all the noise on the internet we are all in a constant state of sifting for what’s relevant to us. It’s like we’re panning for gold, and the internet is constantly pouring a deluge of silt into our sieves, so we have to continually shake through the dirt keeping a beady eye out for the nuggets that are useful to us. What we have to do as businesses, or the gold in this analogy, is make sure that we are so shiny and bright that our people can see us clearly in the mud.

Now everyone is looking for slightly different gold – some people want great big chunks, others want smaller pieces that are just perfect for what they need. What our purpose does is highlight to our people that we are the nugget they’re looking for. It’s not about standing out to everyone; it’s about making sure your people see you and recognise you.

Purpose statement for creative business planning

How do you find your purpose?

Ok, so hopefully by now I’ve convinced you, but now you have a bigger nagging worry of ‘what even is my purpose?’. The first thing to do is not panic: the vast majority of people I work with haven’t got as far as thinking about their purpose, sometimes even years into their business. It also takes time to think about your purpose – this is a meaningful mantra and not something you’ll come up with in five minutes. It’s a good idea to sit with these exercises, go for some mulling-over-walks and let your purpose develop organically.

One thing to be aware of is that people will often fall into the trap of confusing their ‘what’ or their ‘how’ with their ‘why’. For example, you may think “I love making homewares” – that’s your ‘what’. Building on that you may say “I’m passionate about using recycled materials” – great, that’s your ‘how’. “I am working to make the smallest footprint I can on the planet, and want to provide others with ways to lessen their impact too” – now that’s your why. Do you see how much of a difference that last statement will have move on anchoring and motivating you, but also helping others to get on board with that purpose and form a community around it?

So how do we start to draw out your why? Below are a few of my favourite exercises.

  • What do you want to be known for?

Two friends are having a conversation. One says, “I really need X”, and the other friend excitedly recommends you as the guru for all things X. In this situation, what is X? What do you want your name to be synonymous with? What do you want to be known for?

Using this as a nucleus, you can begin to build your purpose out of and around it. Is the answer you came up with more of a ‘what’ or a ‘how’? If so, track backwards to the ‘why’. If it’s already closer to a ‘why’, flesh that out – what about your story inspired that ‘why’? Make it real and tangible in order for it to be truly meaningful.

Exercises to find purpose in your creative projects
  • Ask why five times

This exercise can be difficult and frustrating, but in spite of that it’s annoyingly effective. If you’re struggling to get to the nub of your purpose, this exercise is about challenging your statements and deepening your thinking by continually asking you to go one step further.

Here’s an example of what this exercise might look like:

·      “I make homewares” – Why?

·      …”because I couldn’t find anything I wanted for my home on the market” – Why was that?

·      “…because it tended to be mass-produced and poorly made” – Why is that important?

·      “…because I wanted a home that felt cosy and organic, unique to me” – Why?

·      “…because we moved a lot when I was a kid and nowhere ever felt comforting like that” – Why is that important?

·      “…because I believe that your home should be the place you feel most comforted, safe and at peace”

By challenging each answer you get closer to what is actually driving you, and what will therefore inspire others to join you.

  • What good do you do in the world?

This is an especially good exercise for those who struggle to see the value in their project, or who can’t put a finger on why it’s important they continue doing what they do. It’s also great for thinking about those passion projects and continuing to be inspired by them.

I’ve worked with graphic designers who feel like they provide ‘just a logo’, or shop owners who say ‘it’s only a cushion’. That is not a very motivating or inspiring way of thinking! While none of us creating online are quite at the ‘solving world hunger’ end of spectrum, we are still doing good in the world. By creating a logo that graphic designer has given their client the confidence to hand out their business card without shame and grow their business – so perhaps that can be their why. The shop owner is selling cushions by young designers just starting out and giving them a chance to pursue their creative dreams – maybe that’s what motivates them.

Even if your passion project means that you are calmer and shout at the kids less often, that’s still doing good in the world. Thinking about the value that comes from your work from a different viewpoint is a great way of pinpointing what is motivating you.

Like I said earlier, your purpose won’t necessarily come to you in five minutes, or even five hours. Even if it feels weird thinking so deeply like this, at the other end you have a totally invaluable guiding light to help you out on ebb days and inspire you to ever greater things in the future. With a purpose, everything else becomes easier – everything that you talk about in your marketing will flow from here, what you post on social media, even which channels your on in the first place come from that purpose. As you and your business change over time, so too will your purpose flex and adapt – treat it as a living thing you continue to nurture and work on and you’ll have a very happy creative life together.

Kayte is running Out Of The Woods workshops in Bristol and London exploring business purpose and using it to grow this April - Find out more here. She blogs about growing a soulful business and has lots of free resources you can download and work through to explore this concept further. Thank you Kayte for this insightful post! 

The Importance of Purpose For Creative Projects

Slow living bloggers top tips for decluttering

Are you desperate to declutter your home but feel overwhelmed and not sure how to tackle it? Jessica Rose Williams shares some top tips and speaks to some other slow living bloggers about how they approach the task of decluttering and refreshing their homes for the season ahead. 

Photo: Jessica Rose Williams

Photo: Jessica Rose Williams

It’s official! Minute by minute the days are getting longer and the mornings are getting brighter. It’s time to rise and shine. Slowly but surely, we are starting to feel more energised as spring bursts into bloom. Goodbye winter duvet and nights spent under a blanket binging on Netflix. Best of all, adios to that winter fatigue. 

A fresh season calls for a fresh start and we naturally feel more motivated to take action during times of transition. Now is the perfect time to take back control of your living space and edit out what is no longer serving you. 

My own tips - Jessica Rose Williams - jessicarosewilliams.com / @jessicarosewilliams 

The thing with tidying and organising is this; the easiest way to do it is to get rid of stuff. We stand in front of our overflowing wardrobes feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. You can rearrange your wardrobe to your heart’s content but unless you get rid of all the clothes that don’t fit, make you feel uncomfortable or just don’t feel like you, you’ll never crack it. My advice is to start with whatever feels easiest, it might be your wardrobe, a junk drawer or your desk. Ask yourself this one question and you’ll soon see stuff start to disappear - have I used this in the last year?

Past predicts future and if you haven’t used something in a year, chances are you never will. Allow yourself to enjoy the feeling that comes from a wardrobe that’s only filled with your favourite things and give your stuff the care it deserves. This tutorial on how to fold your clothes is brilliant. Items take centre stage when they have room to breathe and you’ll appreciate them more. 

When it comes to your no pile, divide this into ‘sell’ and ‘donate’ piles. Be careful not to leave things you want to discard lying around. If you do that, you’ll lose momentum and they’ll end up stuffed in a cupboard, which defeats the whole point of decluttering. Ebay or Depop are great for unwanted items that others may find value in. I also find giving to charity really rewarding. The Salvation Army will make blankets out of clothes you may think are only good for the bin.

Photo: Jessica Rose Williams

Photo: Jessica Rose Williams

Rachael Smith - www.ourbeautifuladventure.co.uk / @ourbeautiful_adventure

When it comes to tackling the clutter in our homes I think the biggest hurdle for a lot of people (and as a Mum of 3 I know it was for me) is time. We tell ourselves we’ll sort it next weekend, or next month and somehow it’s years later and we are still unhappy in our own homes. I found the best way to tackle this was to break the process down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Next time you find yourself pulling out your phone to while away some time, decide instead to set a timer for just 15 minutes and pick a shelf, a cupboard, or surface to tackle and start sorting. When the timer stops you can go back to whatever you were doing but you will be surprised how much you can clear out in just 15 minutes. Doing this once a day, or even once a week, will help you to declutter huge amounts and you don’t have to find that elusive time to do it all at once anymore.

Photo: Jessica Cresswell

Photo: Jessica Cresswell

Jessica Cresswell - thewoodlandwife.co.uk / @thewoodlandwife

We have very little storage in our home so we often feel the space we live in can become cluttered with items that we have accumulated. Spring is the natural time for a deep clean and de-clutter and I adopt a very simple method. Due to living with a chronic illness, rather than leaping in, cleaning and de-cluttering like a mad thing, I find the best way to approach things is to take my time to slowly sort our home.

It starts with getting a few boxes and a bin bag together and leaving them in our spare room. Every time I go about the house and see something that hasn’t been worn or used in a while, I place it in one of the boxes or bag. A few years ago I watched a film called ‘Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things’ and it totally transformed the way I think of material items in our home. As a self-confessed ‘second-generation hoarder’, I now adopt ‘The Minimalists’ approach to simplifying my life.

Every possession in our home, must either function as a ‘tool’ or add a positive aesthetic value to our life, so by asking myself “does this add value to my life?” I am then able to work out if an item serves a valid purpose or brings me joy. If it doesn’t, it goes in the box. This continues until I have enough to fill a box and then I will donate, dispose or store for the future.

As I write this, I am currently surrounded in boxes, as my Spring de-clutter began in January. I am gradually sorting, with the idea in mind that 2018 will be the year our home becomes as uncluttered as possible. I truly believe that there is no one tool I use to help me more than that one question I learnt from ‘The Minimalists’, and I now use it in making decisions when de-cluttering, as well as choices on any purchases for our home.

Photo: Abi Dare

Photo: Abi Dare

Abi Dare - www.thesefourwallsblog.com / @thesefourwallsblog

Trying to declutter your entire home in one go will seem overwhelming, so my top tip is to begin with a quick-win area such as a shelf or drawer and then move on to another. When deciding whether to keep things or not, I always remember the words of William Morris, who famously said ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’. For every item, I therefore ask myself 'do I use it?' and 'do I love it?'. If the answer to both questions is no, I say goodbye. If there’s anything I’m unsure about, I just put it to one side and revisit it after a few weeks. If I haven’t missed it, I know I can let it go for good.

I’m particularly ruthless when it comes to home accessories, as I like to keep my house looking minimalist and clutter-free. But I still end up with more than I can display, so I store most of them in a cupboard and only have a few out at any one time. I love swapping things in and out according to the season and my mood, and it’s a great way to freshen rooms up without accumulating any more stuff.

We hope you find these ideas useful in your quest to minimise clutter in your home and restore a sense of freedom from 'stuff'. Do check out Jessica's recently published e-book on creating a year-round capsule wardrobe - something I'm sure we all strive to own!

TOP TIPS FOR DECLUTTERING YOUR HOME

Shop indie this Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love but it’s also the perfect opportunity to spoil your loved one with a thoughtful gift. Whether it’s an item to wear, goodies to pamper with, something beautiful for the home, or a surprise weekend away, opting for something special from an independent shop will not only impress your loved one with its uniqueness, it also helps to keep our small business community thriving! Stylist Sally Meier has curated a lovely selection of items for both him and her to save you a little bit of work this February!

FOR HER

Pressed Flower Glass Frame Picture,  Botanique Workshop , from £9.50   Real flowers are pressed and sandwiched between glass to create these unique framed blooms and leaves. Different sizes are available.

Pressed Flower Glass Frame Picture, Botanique Workshop, from £9.50

Real flowers are pressed and sandwiched between glass to create these unique framed blooms and leaves. Different sizes are available.

Earl Grey Tea & Bergamot Dark Chocolate,  The Future Kept , £4.50    Crafted by Coco Chocolatier in Edinburgh, this bar is beautiful inside and out.  

Earl Grey Tea & Bergamot Dark Chocolate, The Future Kept, £4.50 

Crafted by Coco Chocolatier in Edinburgh, this bar is beautiful inside and out.  

Row Bracelets,  Bohemia , £28   The Row Bracelets have a simple and delicate gold plated chain with a row of semi-precious stones. Hand-crafted in India and available in four colours, these bracelets are a perfect present, with a canvas gift bag included. 

Row Bracelets, Bohemia, £28

The Row Bracelets have a simple and delicate gold plated chain with a row of semi-precious stones. Hand-crafted in India and available in four colours, these bracelets are a perfect present, with a canvas gift bag included. 

Jewellery Box in White Oak,  Tea and Kate , £99   A sleek, sculptural and entirely practical jewellery box for the lady who loves minimal.

Jewellery Box in White Oak, Tea and Kate, £99

A sleek, sculptural and entirely practical jewellery box for the lady who loves minimal.

Woburn Bouquet,  Abigail Ahern , £110   Buy flowers that will last forever like these super-realistic faux bouquets from Abigail Ahern. 

Woburn Bouquet, Abigail Ahern, £110

Buy flowers that will last forever like these super-realistic faux bouquets from Abigail Ahern. 

Green Fig Botanical Candle Co,  Midgley Green , from £14   These generously sized and practical soy wax candles will transport you to beneath a rambling fig tree in a sunny courtyard. 

Green Fig Botanical Candle Co, Midgley Green, from £14

These generously sized and practical soy wax candles will transport you to beneath a rambling fig tree in a sunny courtyard. 

Old Park Hall, Devon  - from £160 per night   This quintessential country pile on the Devon and Dorset border is so much more than a B&B. Beautifully decorated, amazing food from local producers and in-house treatment room to enjoy full relaxation. While you are there, visit or even book a cookery course at the local River Cottage!  

Old Park Hall, Devon - from £160 per night

This quintessential country pile on the Devon and Dorset border is so much more than a B&B. Beautifully decorated, amazing food from local producers and in-house treatment room to enjoy full relaxation. While you are there, visit or even book a cookery course at the local River Cottage!  

Moroccan Rose Bath Salts,  The Future Kept , £10   These luxurious bath salts are not only pure indulgance, but have healing properties too. Crystals of Himalayan pink salt are hand-crafted with dried petals of rose and scented with Moroccan rose essential oil. 

Moroccan Rose Bath Salts, The Future Kept, £10

These luxurious bath salts are not only pure indulgance, but have healing properties too. Crystals of Himalayan pink salt are hand-crafted with dried petals of rose and scented with Moroccan rose essential oil. 

Bouquet Man Card,  Botanique Workshop , £3.50   A pretty card that says it all. 

Bouquet Man Card, Botanique Workshop, £3.50

A pretty card that says it all. 

FOR HIM

Theo 'Slow Brewer' Coffee Brewer,  Oggetto , £52.95  Danish design brand Stelton's award winning Theo range is a perfect gift for lovers of slow brew filter coffee.

Theo 'Slow Brewer' Coffee Brewer, Oggetto, £52.95
Danish design brand Stelton's award winning Theo range is a perfect gift for lovers of slow brew filter coffee.

Juniper and Raspberry Dark Chocolate Bar by Caro,  Caro Somerset , £6.50   Caro has partnered with award-winning chocolatiers, The Chocolate Society, to create chocolate bars inspired by the countryside. 

Juniper and Raspberry Dark Chocolate Bar by Caro, Caro Somerset, £6.50

Caro has partnered with award-winning chocolatiers, The Chocolate Society, to create chocolate bars inspired by the countryside. 

Y Studio Brass   mechanical pencil,  Tea and Kate , £90   This mechanical pencil is exquisitely crafted in brass and copper to provide the optimum weight, with a smooth and steady feel when writing or drawing.

Y Studio Brass mechanical pencil, Tea and Kate, £90

This mechanical pencil is exquisitely crafted in brass and copper to provide the optimum weight, with a smooth and steady feel when writing or drawing.

These Islands Book,  Midgley Green , £45   These Islands is a gorgeous book for any photographer, landscape lover, explorer or coffee drinker looking to be taken away from it all for a moment, or to inspire future trips in the British Isles. 

These Islands Book, Midgley Green, £45

These Islands is a gorgeous book for any photographer, landscape lover, explorer or coffee drinker looking to be taken away from it all for a moment, or to inspire future trips in the British Isles. 

Moebe Oak Frame,  Tea and Kate , from £25   Frame a photograph or a special memory in this stylish and simple frame. Available in different sizes and finishes. 

Moebe Oak Frame, Tea and Kate, from £25

Frame a photograph or a special memory in this stylish and simple frame. Available in different sizes and finishes. 

Liberty Print Bow Tie,  Botanique Workshop , £29   Made from Liberty print fabric, these bow ties are available in three different prints and will add style and colour to any dapper gent's outfit. You can also purchase a gift set of a matching bow tie and pocket square. 

Liberty Print Bow Tie, Botanique Workshop, £29

Made from Liberty print fabric, these bow ties are available in three different prints and will add style and colour to any dapper gent's outfit. You can also purchase a gift set of a matching bow tie and pocket square. 

Lens Champagne Saucer,  Caro Somerset , £14 each   These beautiful champagne saucers are the perfect gift combined with a bottle.

Lens Champagne Saucer, Caro Somerset, £14 each

These beautiful champagne saucers are the perfect gift combined with a bottle.

Caroline Gomez Destination Guide,  Tea and Kate , £18   A great gift, especially with an accompanying plane ticket tucked inside! The destination travel guide series explores cities from the inside, meets with fascinating people and takes time to see new places in a different way. 

Caroline Gomez Destination Guide, Tea and Kate, £18

A great gift, especially with an accompanying plane ticket tucked inside! The destination travel guide series explores cities from the inside, meets with fascinating people and takes time to see new places in a different way. 

'Cat Love' Greetings Card,  Wrap Magazine Shop , £2.50   A fun, simple and romantic card illustrated by Cari Vander Yacht.

'Cat Love' Greetings Card, Wrap Magazine Shop, £2.50

A fun, simple and romantic card illustrated by Cari Vander Yacht.

A gorgeous selection of goodies I'm sure you'll agree?! Forward this post on to drop major hints, or simply treat yourself - why not eh?! Happy Valentines Day all! x

Shop independent this Valentines Day - Gift Guide by 91 Magazine