How To Grow Your Business During The Pandemic, According To Creative Entrepreneurs

Go see my BLOG POST FOR AllBright EDIT, out today.

If you’re struggling to make it in the marketplace, you’re far from alone. We spoke to three creative entrepreneurs in London to learn how they’ve adapted during the pandemic, the impact of sisterhood on their journeys and their tips for fellow female founders.


This year has been one of change and of challenge – particularly for small businesses. According to research by McKinsey, 70% of small and medium-size businesses in Europe reported a fall in revenues, caused by the pandemic. More than half worry they may not survive another year.

Across the pond, the number of small businesses in America plunged 22% from February to April – the largest drop on record, disproportionately affecting BAME and female-owned companies.

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered lasting consequences for small businesses worldwide. But there is hope on the horizon.

Entrepreneurs including interiors artist Simone Brewster, illustrator Sakina Saïdi and fashion designer Edeline Lee have not only adapted their enterprises, but also paved paths to success during this challenging year. We learned how.

Simone Brewster, Artist And Designer

With an eye for beauty and a powerful message embedded in each piece she creates, craft entrepreneur Simone Brewster designs statement jewellery and furniture.

When the pandemic hit, Simone reacted swiftly, finding opportunity in a sea of uncertainty: “I’ve used lockdowns to create new work and make connections with people that I hadn’t before,” she tells AllBright.

“Coronavirus hasn’t stopped me. It’s forced me to adapt, which I think everyone should look to do. I used time away from my studio to start painting – something I only thought I would have time for during my retirement,” she adds.

“We should diversify and look at how skills we already have, but don’t necessarily use, can become secondary sources of income.”

Simone Brewster, Artist And Designer

Simone also shared her advice for female founders struggling to grow their businesses right now: “Any creative has probably acquired a whole number of skills, just to do their business. I’ve learned to use software programs, give presentations, public speaking – the list goes on.

“We should diversify and look at how skills we already have, but don’t necessarily use, can become secondary sources of income. Another way is to become extremely niche. By becoming niche, we can target and talk to our audiences in a very clear and precise way,” she advises.

While it’s tempting to crouch down and weather the storm during a crisis, for Simone, relying on her network opened her up to growth: “Reaching out to your community is integral when you’re an independent creative running a business… There are so many talented female creatives. I’ve learned by connecting with them, and from other people’s mistakes.”

She also describes the value of female connection throughout the pandemic: “I’ve had a crazy year with an amazing outpouring of support from women. I’ve been checked on by so many creatives. Especially during the pandemic, there is definitely a sisterhood.”


Sakina Saïdi
, Digital Illustrator

Drawing curved edges with splashes of colour and the occasional inspirational word, digital illustrator and freelancer-turned-entrepreneur, Sakina Saïdi, depicts themes of growth and womanhood in her work.

Describing the initial uncertainty of the pandemic, Sakina says: “In the beginning, I closed my shop for a month. I took time to think and see how the situation was evolving. When I came back, I was pleased to see people were still buying from me and sending [my products] to loved ones.”

However, although she trades mainly online, Sakina wasn’t immune to the pandemic. “I had planned to get a studio and expand my range to do more wholesale,” she explains. “Obviously it didn’t happen, so this year took me in a different direction. I want to continue to do commissioned work for causes that matter to me and independent, sustainable and ethical businesses, in parallel with my shop.”

“Be open. Look in directions you might have not considered before. This has been a year of adaptation and resilience – be prepared to change your plans and adapt to new, challenging circumstances.”

Sakina Saïdi, Digital Illustrator

Offering guidance for entrepreneurs afflicted by the pandemic, Sakina says: “It’s a crazy time. We feel more vulnerable, but our lives have also changed a lot. Now is the perfect time to try new things.

“Be open. Look in directions you might have not considered before. This has been a year of adaptation and resilience – be prepared to change your plans and adapt to new, challenging circumstances.”

Reflecting on the value of sisterhood, Sakina adds: “I’ve met some wonderful women since starting to work for myself. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm community feeling I got from both in-person and online interactions.

“I’ve also connected with many lovely people on Instagram. It can be a temperamental tool, but I’ve found a lot of support and a real feeling of sisterhood.”

Edeline Lee, Fashion Designer

Credit: Matt Walsh

For fashion designer Edeline Lee, each garment she creates is specially made for what she calls the ‘Future Lady’ – clothes that are edgy and modern with practicality, timelessness and sustainability at their heart.

Edeline sprang into action when coronavirus hit. “As soon as the virus reached the UK, I closed the studio for lockdown,” she tells AllBright. “I designed a mask and we prepared kits for hundreds of volunteers to make masks at home, which we collected and donated to frontline workers. It was a small way of contributing.”

Despite wading through the uncertainty, Edeline captured the mood shift in her fashion collection. “A lot of us want to dress up more on the infrequent occasions we go out now, and I responded to that. My designs for the spring season are a mixture of fluid, easy-to-wear pieces as well as bold statement pieces for the events we know we will get to go to again.”

“We each have power within us. Do whatever feels like play to you – it’s there that you will find the greatest expression of your personal power.”

Edeline Lee, Fashion Designer

Offering her guidance for women business owners, Edeline says: “We each have power within us. Do whatever feels like play to you – it’s there that you will find the greatest expression of your personal power.”

Contemplating the impact of sisterhood on her work, she adds: “A lot of the women who wear my clothes are friends, and it gives me the greatest joy to see them living their lives in my designs.

“My autumn-winter 2019 collection was inspired by Professor Mary Beard’s seminal text Women & Power. I was lucky to have Mary open the presentation, for which we gathered a group of 35 prominent women from a range of professions and viewpoints. It was a wonderful moment and really encapsulated the spirit of the brand.”

It’s clear to see that, despite the pandemic, there is hope for small businesses to survive and even thrive. For entrepreneurs like Simone, Sakina, and Edeline, embodying the values of nimbleness, resilience and sisterhood have truly made all the difference.

de-stress

Top 10 tips to de-stress yourself

Check out MY BLOG POST FOR THE COLLECTIVE:

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and we’re kicking stress to the curb. We’ve been indulging in self-care on the regular this year at The Collective. Our Self-Care Sundays series have brought us different workshops to unwind, where we’ve made our own natural skincare, meditated mindfully, brewed kombucha tea and more. Now, our members and team are sharing our favourite self-care practices to relax and reduce tension. Say hello to your less stressed self!Here are our top 10 tried and tested self-care tips to unwind this month:

1. Indulge in a sauna session with a honey face mask

Honey has anti-microbial properties that – although a bit sticky – will leave your skin feeling fresh and new. Our favourite place for dry heat is The Collective Old Oak’s spa and sauna.

2. Short spurts of yoga and meditation

Set aside 10-15 minutes for a quick yoga session in the morning to warm up your body for the day ahead, and again before bed to reset your body before a night’s rest. Spend 5 to 10 minutes in the afternoon for a calming meditation during work.

3. The magic of morning music

Our member Michaela said: “As soon as I get up, I put on my favourite song and dance and sing to it.” Nothing better than dancing like no one’s watching.

4. Read a book and switch off your phone data

It’s rare to give your mind a break from constantly being plugged in. Sometimes we like to take it old-school, with a worn-in hardcover book for comfort – without the constant interruption of a work email or text.

5. Catch up with close friends over a pot or two of herbal tea

Lately we’ve been digging turmeric for its healing properties, including anti-inflammatory effects. Cosy up with a cuppa in front of the library fireplace at The Collective Old Oak.

6. Send yourself roses!

Who says roses are only for Valentine’s Day? If you need a pick-me-up or reminder that you’re loved, treat yourself to a bouquet delivery to brighten up your room or office space.

7. Set up the ultimate relaxing ambiance

Our community manager Jenny said: “My absolute favourite way to unwind is to grab my best smelling candle (currently Pumpkin Trifle by Yankee Candle), switch on the fairy lights and vibe out to some music. Works every time.”

8. And more meditation

10 minutes of meditation to some calming music, to set the tone and energy for the day ahead. We’re fans of meditation app, Headspace.

9. And more yoga

“If I don’t have access to puppy therapy, it’s yoga for the win. It always helps me to relax and close my mind,” said our community leader Tia. She leads our Rise and Shine morning yoga and Wind Down evening yoga classes at The Collective Old Oak.

10. Red wine, home-cooked food and jazz music

Need I say more?

What are your favourite ways to relax and unwind?

amy tez

6 tips to pitch your business like a boss

You’ve got a brilliant idea, and now it’s time to convince others. But how? From prepping your start-up elevator pitch to signing a new client, it’s crucial to pitch with confidence so you can win the business you deserve. I had business coach and communication strategist Amy Tez reveal her top tips to pitch your business like a boss and own any room – no matter what. Say hello to your more marketable self.

“Your ability to inspire is the single most important factor in determining the success of your pitch. Either you truly excite your investors or plunge them into eternal tedium as you drone on like everyone else,” Amy said.

Statistics show that most venture-backed startups will fail, so the odds are stacked against you. However, you can beat the odds by crafting an attention-grabbing pitch that puts you ahead of the pack and wins the funding you need.

– Amy Tez, business communications strategist

Here are 6 essential tips that will give your pitch that crucial edge:

1. Craft a compelling story

Business isn’t only about facts, it’s also about feeling. If you focus on delivering hard data at the expense of an exciting story, your audience will switch off. As much as we like to believe humans are rational, decisions are mostly based on emotion rather than reason. This means you must tell an epic story that triggers positive emotion in your investors. And you do so by detailing how much money your product will make them within the next five years – and it better be enough to make them rich, or they’ll move onto someone more ambitious.

You can craft a compelling story by knowing the answers to these questions:

  1.          Who is the hero of your story?
  2.          What is the hero’s problem or need?
  3.          Why is it so important that you solve their problem?
  4.          How exactly will you solve the hero’s problem?
  5.          How will you do this better than anyone else?
  6.          What is the exciting future in store for the hero once their problem is solved?
  7.          What opposing forces could put your hero’s journey into serious doubt?
  8.          How will you overcome these obstacles?

Once you answer these questions clearly, and sprinkle in a few sexy metrics, you have the beginnings of a solid story – one that will create all the drama and excitement necessary to turn investors’ heads your way.

2.  Tell the story like you mean it

Now that you have your killer script, you must tell it with conviction. Otherwise your words, no matter how well crafted, will fall flat. And sadly, most pitches tank due to a lifeless delivery. As I said before, humans are not rational. They care more about how you say what you say, rather than the actual content.

In fact, over 90% of persuasion success has nothing to do with your words at all and everything to do with your body language and ability to elicit positive emotion in others. This is where actor training is extremely useful. The best actors bring their scripts to life. They inject passion into what they say, so that you believe their every word and want to follow them on their journey. As an entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily need to learn your script by heart. However, it is crucial that you tell your story with every fibre of your being, so that people buy into you.

And the only way to do this is to show how much you believe in what you are saying. There is absolutely no substitute for self-belief. People instinctively know when you’re faking it and when you’re being real. Always aim for the latter.

Having the guts to show how much you care about what you’re doing is an extremely admirable trait. It makes a statement about who you are – someone who will make their dreams happen with or without investors’ help. When you have conviction, investors will more likely want to be a part of your success story. 

3. Keep it simple

Next, make sure your language is always kept simple. The art of being simple is difficult. Yet simplicity is the only way to ensure your messages not only land, but also take hold in people’s imagination. As Tom Hardy’s character in the movie Inception says:

“You need the simplest version of the idea in order for it to grow naturally in your subject’s mind. It’s a very subtle art.”

If you’re in the habit of delivering overly complex data along with fussy slides, then stop. You’ll overwhelm people, because if you can’t explain what you do in a few simple terms and visuals, it will sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your listeners will drift.

So, cut the linguistic fat and distil your pitch down to its bare essentials. Sometimes even a single word will convey more meaning than a hundred. Brevity is power. The less you say, the better.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Practice your pitch over and over, till you know it inside out and can speak it with spontaneity. No actor would dream of setting foot on a stage without having rigorously rehearsed their material. But unlike an actor, you don’t need to get the words exactly right.

It’s much better for an entrepreneur to sound authentic and conversational than like a scripted robot. However, you should rehearse how you will handle the inevitable pressure as you speak your words. Through rehearsal, we practice facing the very fear public speaking creates. This includes rehearsing how you will navigate difficult audiences and tricky objections.

Think of every possible question that could trip you up, and rehearse answering in a calm and assertive manner. With practice, you’ll start to look like a serious contender on top of your game. Better still, if you dare to be playful even in the most contentious moments, you’ll come across as a supremely confident person.

Contrast that to a founder who clings to their script, reciting it word for word for fear of making a mistake. They appear weak, as though the slightest obstacle could knock them over. That hardly inspires faith in their ability to lead a company! So rehearse, relax and let yourself play. Because when you do, you’ll look and sound more solid.

5. Stand tall in the eye of the storm

On pitch day, trust that you have done everything you possibly can to prepare. Now all you need do is forget your prep and just go for it. A thrilling pitch is founded in your capacity to step boldly into the arena, stand tall in the eye of the storm, face your fears and stick to your guns. So play all in, speak with spirit and show your investors that you’re a force to be reckoned with. Because when the heavens rain down and business gets tough, your investor needs to trust in your ability to pull through and make your ideas happen, no matter what.

You’ll help yourself to this end when you care less what anyone thinks. Some people won’t rate you whatever you do – just ignore them.

6. Be unique!

And most importantly of all, embrace your individuality. In business where most people compete and try to copy others, your uniqueness could be the secret weapon that turns the game in your favour.

So trust your own instincts. Don’t follow some prescribed recipe to delivering the perfect pitch, as that will merely turn you into a dull pitching robot. In fact, don’t even listen to me; the best ammo you could possibly have is to be fully and audaciously you.

This means trust yourself and your unique, spontaneous responses in any high-pressured scenario. With self-trust, you’ll be able to seize the stage, leap into the unpredictability of the moment and face the dangers necessary to win. Only then will you move from droning on like everyone else with the same mediocre spiel, to actually inspiring your audience and pitching like the boss you really are!

As Walter White from Breaking Bad memorably puts it:

“I am not in danger; I AM the danger!”

swing dance feet

Learn how to swing dance in 5 easy steps

Check out MY BLOG POST FOR THE COLLECTIVE:

There’s nothing like a good boogie, and at The Collective, we love any opportunity to let loose and dance. That’s why this month, we’re all about the shimmy, shake and swing – tomorrow night at The Collective Old Oak, we’re taking swing dancing lessons with choreographer Nancy Hitzig, co-artistic director of Swing, Sister, Swing. To get you in the swing of things before then, we’ve put together a simple how-to, so you can learn how to swing dance in 5 easy steps.

The Charleston – the basic step

1. Tap forward with the right foot.
2. Step together.
3. Tap back with the left foot.
4. Step together.
5. Repeat, and go faster!
High five a friend, you’re doing the Charleston!

The Charleston – the swivel step

  1. Raise your right foot and tap it forward
  2. Bring you feet together and step on the right foot.
  3. Raise your left foot.
  4. Tap it back.
  5. Raise your left foot and step together. Repeat.
Add a twist to your feet for that irresistible swivel and you’re doing the Charleston!
olivia aspinall

Inside the world of interior design: a chat with Olivia Aspinall

Check out MY BLOG POST FOR THE COLLECTIVE:

In the age of Instagram, it takes a truly remarkable image to stand out on your endless feed. Designer Olivia Aspinall’s terrazzo tile pieces are enough to stop you from scrolling and admire her handcraft. With their bright, attention-grabbing colours and smooth, purpose-built surfaces, her bespoke design pieces are an Instagrammer’s fantasy. Tonight, she’s teaching us to cast terrazzo tile coasters, to glam up our living spaces and level up our wine nights. Before we get our hands dirty, our new head of interior design Thomas Downes got to know Olivia, and take a peek inside her colourful world of interior design.

Thomas: I would like to understand a little more about about your working environment, tools, uniform and daily routine. Paint the picture for us.

Olivia: We work in a studio with 3-5 of us on a normal day. Jobs vary quite greatly between designing, sampling for new projects, casting and sanding. There’s lots of colour everywhere; we have a big colour wall where we keep samples of all our colours that we use as reference points or as tools for designing. One of the rooms we use mainly for mixing materials and casting, we have a separate room for sanding and another space for finishing and packaging work. Much more time is spent preparing for a casting day than actually pouring a cast. We spend time preparing aggregate, making moulds, working out reinforcements and checking measurements. We also spend lots of time sanding work; this is to reveal all the pattern we have cast into the surface, and to create a really nice refined finish to our surfaces.

Handmade terrazzo tiles by Olivia Aspinall

What narratives exist around the origin of your mixes? 

Everything starts with colour. When designing a collection, I’ll find inspiration from all over, and really focus in on a colour palette. I’ll then put these up in the studio and work on them, making changes and subtle tweaks, while constantly reviewing the palette and making sure I still love the combination. Once I have a colour palette I’m happy with, it is then about about working on colour ratios, sizes of aggregate and density.

Something unusual is always good; something that pushes us to develop as a studio and learn new methods or techniques for making.

– Olivia Aspinall

Do you consider yourself an artist or artisan? 

I would consider myself a designer or an artisan. Everything we produce in the studio is handmade from start to finish, and is often a one-of-a-kind piece or design. We are constantly evolving and perfecting techniques in the studio. Our aim is to become masters of these techniques.

Today’s interior spaces are being pushed to challenge and blur the lines from their traditional title or functions. How do you feel your product can enhance this development further?

Because the works we create are usually loaded with colour and pattern, they often become the focal piece of a room. This can be a useful way to create a constant or a centrepiece in a space that is transitional. Additionally, some of the materials we use are suitable for both outdoor and indoor use – a great way to create furniture that sits in these overlapping spaces.

Who’s on your bucket list of designers, makers, brands you wish to collaborate with?

I wouldn’t say that I have a bucket list of designers or brands I’d love to work with, I generally get more excited about the types of projects that are brought to us. Something unusual is always good; something that pushes us to develop as a studio and learn new methods or techniques for making.

nat mady

International Women’s Day: Our favourite female entrepreneurs

This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the groundbreaking, glass-ceiling shattering, talented and resilient women that have built their own businesses and brought their skills to The Collective. We’re spotlighting our favourite female entrepreneurs, a mix of our members and creative collaborators that have graced our corridors and shared their craft with us. Here’s to the women makers, shakers, artists and entrepreneurs all over the world.

Maxine Thompson, founder of PolkaPants

What is your craft?

I am a trained chef and also trained and work in fashion as a designer for Betsey Johnson, and as head of customer relations at CHANEL in New York.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Stop, breathe, reflect. I think it’s really important to get perspective on what you are doing by taking one step back. We often get so caught up in our day-to-day operations, the running of our business and what is the best step, that we can often reach a stalemate or creative block. I find the best way to get over this is to take one step back. This way you can see what you could improve, whats going well, and what the best way to move forward is.

What did you do with us at The Collective?

PolkaPants is working with The Collective to create bespoke uniforms for their staff.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have worked with us?

Partnering with The Collective means that we’ll be able to provide members, diners and guests with a unique collaborative effort of both PolkaPants and The Collective – an overall experience. Through this partnership, we will work with the staff and the team to create a uniform that they are excited and proud to wear, and is also ultimately functional, allowing them to get on with doing a great job.

The Collective is as much as about the people who work there as it is the people who live there.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Believe in what you are doing, or trying to do. That is the most important thing – if you don’t believe in your idea, no one else will. Starting and running a business is hard and getting out of bed and getting motivated can be really tough some days. But, as my dad always says to me, if running your own business was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Natalie Mady, founder of Hackney Herbal

© Miles Willis 2017. Image was shot by Miles Willis Photography for International Women’s Day 2018, as a wider project focussing on women and innovation in farming. See the full set: https://www.mileswillis.co.uk/m/-/galleries/women-who-farm

What is your craft?

I’m a permaculturist with a passion for finding creative ways to connect people with nature. I show people how to grow and use herbs to improve their health and wellbeing.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Commitment, dedication and patience.

What did you do with us at The Collective?

I’ve run a few workshops at The Collective, showing members how to use herbs to make their own products for wellbeing. So far we’ve done sessions on herbal skincare and self-care, teaching them how to use herbs to make lip balms, bath soaks and sleep sprays. I’m looking forward to our next workshop, which will be on urban gardening and growing herbs at home.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have worked with us?

It’s been great to work with The Collective, as their model for co-living is really interesting. Unlike many new residential developments where people living next to each other don’t know their neighbours, the ethos at The Collective is a refreshing approach to communal living. I’ve always been amazed by all the activities that are organised for their members, encouraging people to come together and get stuck in! It’s been great to be a part of that and run our activities for such an engaged audience!

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Make sure you are clear about what your purpose is. It’s so important to be able to clearly explain why you do what you do in a way that engages and excites people.

Aden Eyob, founder & CEO of Mind Medication

What is your skill?

I am a clinical neuroscientist and author of the upcoming book, Mind Training: The Secret for Positive Living, that will help you to uncover your ‘why’, unlock your potential and free limiting beliefs to achieve the impossible.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Faith. Passion. Purpose.

What do you do with us at The Collective?

In addition to living at The Collective, I delivered a mind training workshop last year, as part of The Collective Community Festival in January. I also organised and facilitated a series of interactive talks that addressed money, time and stress and mind management in June, which was attended by both residents and members of the public, I most recently provided mindset and peer-to-peer coaching for members through The Collective Grow Programme.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have lived and worked with us?

Working with The Collective has been a true blessing both on a personal and business level. My inspiration to set-up Mind Medication was largely due to The Collective and its ethos of limitless possibilities through collective unity and community.

This was further demonstrated through the resources, events, and community vibe that helped me to overcome my fears and embark on entrepreneurship. The Collective has played an instrumental role in my personal development and the organic growth and success of Mind Medication.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

The entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster, with extreme highs and lows. But in the end, what matters most is the community you share the ride with. Don’t ride the rollercoaster alone.

Ruby Larimar, energy healer and founder of Holistic Ruby

What is your craft?

My skill is the ability to help bring transformation using my knowledge wisdom and expertise in life coaching and energy healing using crystals, sound, voice, Reiki and traditional shamanic practices.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Reevaluate, adapt and persevere. No matter how good our product or service is, or how much we believe in ourselves, our world keeps on changing like the seasons and the years. As a result I have learnt to constantly revaluate, adapt and persevere.

What did you do with as at The Collective?

I hosted a workshop last summer on crystal healing for members, to help them connecting with crystals and sound for optimum health and wellbeing.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have worked with us?

Working with The Collective, I witnessed the energy of positivity, teamwork, love, nurturing, support, harmony – in essence, all the positive qualities associated with being in a community environment, working together as a one. I found the whole experience to be inspirational and refreshing.

I experienced firsthand that we can achieve more as a collective, than in isolation.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Hard work is the ultimate key to success. Invest your time and energy in creating a strong foundation to reap the rewards in the future, and most importantly, remember to enjoy the journey embracing the process fully!

Keziah Brown, founder & director of Heaps + Stacks

What is your craft?

Heaps + Stacks is an event programming business. We work with the events team at The Collective to add to the programme of curated member events and special press events.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Love, energy, push.

What did you do with us at The Collective?

Ooh, we’ve done all sorts in the past year! The highlights: life casting kisses for Valentine’s Day, Kintsugi – traditional Japanese technique of reconstructing broken china with beautiful gold foil grouts – and the art of napkin folding.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have worked with us?

It’s wonderful to be working with such a forward thinking business that allows us to explore some of our more wild ideas, amongst such a varied and interesting crowd.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Wake up early and get the important things done before everyone else is up to make sure they get done, and you are constantly moving forward!

Jennie Webber, illustrator and founder of Wild Life Drawing

What is your craft?

Illustration, conservation and events management. Wild Life Drawing is a drawing class, with a special difference – our models are real animals.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Kindness, hard work and attention to detail.

What did you do with us at The Collective?

I ran a Birds of Prey life drawing class for The Collective members last summer.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have worked with us?

I’m so pleased to have been a part of a new, innovative and obviously very successful way of living, and making memories for your members.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Find your niche, and try to do things differently.

Cindy Lin, founder of Staged4more School of Home Staging

What is your skill?

Home staging – We provide education for home owners and real estate agents on how to stage and style their homes for sale and to live. I was working in America as a home stager for more than 11 years and started my company when I was 25. In 2017, the company was fully transitioned from a local home staging business to an international online school, where we teach all things home staging. We also have business courses for home stagers on how to build successful home staging businesses that align with their core values.

What do you do with as at The Collective?

I just moved in about 3 weeks ago! Excited to be here.

What are three words you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Do good work.

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to live with us?

I think networking is extremely important. Being new to London, it is important for me to meet others and find possible collaborative partners. The Collective has been so supportive and amazing in introducing the members to each other, which adds a tremendous value to living here.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Really sit down and evaluate what is it that you want out of your life and your business. Your business should serve your lifestyle, not the other way around.

Your work should also align with your core values and your ‘why’. Once you have clarity on your core values and your ‘why’, the other stuff will start falling into place. Lastly, be patient. Business building is a long game that requires persistence and strategies.

Clara Heimerdinger, comedy club producer at Nice N’ Spiky Comedy

What is your skill?

Curating bespoke comedy line ups for venues and producing the live shows.

What do you do with as at The Collective?

Stand-up comedy gigs for The Collective Old Oak members.

What three words do you live by, as an entrepreneur?

Collaboration. And be nice!

At The Collective, we’re passionate about bringing people together to create a shared experience. What does it mean to you to have worked with us?

I love building communities through my comedy shows and that sits in parallel with The Collective community of members. To see people bonding over a laugh and a drink in their home is magical.

Give us a piece of advice for aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs, trying to make their mark.

Your network is key.

 

Happy International Women’s Day! 

london raw wine week

London Raw Wine Week

It’s Raw Wine Week in London, and we’ll take any excuse to sip in the city and cheers together. The raw wine movement is all about making organic wines that are natural and biodynamic – no additives and minimal intervention. No sulphates means no hangover – or at least, a less brutal one, and who’s not on board with that? The Collective’s head of cultural programming Jade Coles moonlights as a sommelier in training. Partial to raw wines of the orange variety, she spills on her favourite wines for all occasions – and best of all, where to go for a cheeky glass yourself.

Jade’s sommelier selection

Pheasant’s Tears

My absolute go to, Pheasant’s Tears was born out of a love of authentic tradition, and culture and endless creativity” by a family-run vineyard in Georgia. These wines are produced in the most traditional way: fermented in large clay pots, lined with beeswax and then sunk into the ground for months to mature. A real acquired taste, and one for only the bold of spirit. Expect amber and citrus notes.

Momento Mori Fistful of Flowers

Big on texture and taste, a highly floral bottle with notes of stone fruit, musk, and vanilla. Momento Mori’s Fistful of Flowers wine is fermented in stainless steel which offers an extremely light, fresh texture and ultra clean look and feel. Great choice for a first timer, or anyone looking to get into the natural wine trend.

Baby Bandito Stay Brave

This orange raw wine is a favourite of mine – no, it’s not made from orange, but rather white grapes that are fermented with the skins left on. A South African wine produced with “grapes and absolutely nothing else,” Baby Bandito is best with a hearty Thai curry or fish, as it evokes strong aromas of spice with a dry finish.

Col Fondo prosecco

Need something more celebratory? Why not try a natural prosecco such as Col Fondo, the sparkling, but far more tart, cloudy little sister of your classic prosecco. Some say it even tastes a bit like cider. Cheers!

Where to drink raw wine in London

Raw Wine Fair

Check out London’s Raw Wine Fair for a wide selection of offering’s from Europe and beyond. On from 6th – 11th March, 180 The Strand

Noble Rot

Noble Rot started life as a trendy wine magazine for millennials and has since grown into a stand-alone restaurant on buzzy Lambs Conduit Street. It’s the perfect place to try a number of limited edition wines paired with a modern British menu. 51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB

Elliot’s Cafe

Bermondsey is known as a foodie hotspot but for a glass of something red, white or orange (yes, orange!), stop by Elliot’s at the end of Borough Market. Happy sipping!

Mindfulness playlist to zen out to

In 2019, we’re taking self care seriously at The Collective. That’s why we’ve started our event series Self Care Sundays, bringing the best of meditation, mindfulness, hand craft and soothing skincare to our Sunday workshops. One of our favourites is Mindful Meditation with Levitate, a drop-in meditation studio in London, a monthly Self Care Sundays sesh at The Collective to help us get centred. Following last Sunday’s workshop, Levitate founder Ryan Nell curated for us a mindfulness playlist of songs to to zen out this week. Grab your meditation mat and let the calming vibes wash over you.

While I tend to meditate in silence, there is a huge place in my heart for music which has the power to transport me to a beautiful mind space. This playlist I’ve assembled is a selection of music that I listen to when I want to chill out, take my foot of the pedal, and enjoy some restorative down time.

Ryan, Levitate

Ryan’s picks:

Silvio Piesco’s “Contemplation” – I fell in love with Silvio’s soundtrack of Michael O’Neill’s gorgeously shot film, On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace. The film itself features some of the world’s finest spiritual teachers talking about what meditation and yoga mean to them. It’s on Netflix, so if you haven’t watched it, I reckon you might want to add it to your list.

Field Works & Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s “Kinematic Wave” – At 9 minutes long, just let this wash over you as you zone out completely. Smith’s vocals and glitchy production merge beautifully with Stuart Hyatt’s (Field Works) field recordings of natural sounds.

Fourtet’s “Two Thousand and Seventeen” – The virtuoso producer’s back catalogue contains many gems, but I’ve picked this from his most recent album, for its ethereal looped instrumentation and the sonic world he creates with it.

Max Cooper’s “Fragments of Self” – A gloriously glitchy piano loop fully capable of transporting the listener somewhere dreamy, with its accompanying bed of natural sound and pared-back production.

Susumu Yokata’s “Tobiume” – It puts me into a zen-like state every time I hear it. Taken from his 2000 album “Sakura” (cherry blossom), I’ve been listening to and admiring the otherworldly beauty of this track for almost two decades. This is the ultimate winding down tune to be played late at night, just before you climb under your duvet.

MC Yogi’s “Shanti (Peace Out)” – The perfect way to end this playlist. Northern Californian native Nicholas Giacomini fuses his love of hip-hop and yoga for a global sound that defies categories and transports me to a totally zen, blissed-out place.

napkin folding

The art of napkin folding

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Bringing people together is always at the core of what we do at The Collective, and we’re always discovering new, creative ways to do that. Who knew that napkin folding or ‘napery,’ could be one of those art forms? Kate Colin, an artist by trade, tells us about the deeper joys of folding napkins as a way to liven up a dinner setting and show your guests how special they are, ahead of her workshop with us tonight at The Collective.

How did you get into napkin folding?

Kate: As an artist who works with fold and colour, I’m always on the lookout for ways to apply my skills in new contexts. My interest in napkin folding came about when I found an old book in a charity shop and realised what an exciting art form the tradition of ‘napery’ can be. The infinite number of designs and techniques felt like a natural progression which would utilise and develop my existing skills and allow me to experiment with different types of paper and fabrics.  I really enjoy bringing this traditional craft up to date and am now completely hooked! 

What does it mean to you?

A beautifully folded napkin is simple and effective way of enhancing and bringing joy to a table setting, and also makes a wonderful first impression. People feel special when they sit down with a napkin that someone has taken the time to fold for them.  It is a fantastic hobby, easy to learn, accessible to everyone and has dozens of possibilities. I am passionate about folding and the three dimensional forms which can be created using just a few simple folds.  Working with napkins is an accessible way to pass this interest on to other people, so that they too can discover the joy and sense of accomplishment achieved when folding something for the first time.

People feel special when they sit down with a napkin that someone has taken the time to fold for them. A beautifully folded napkin is simple and effective way of enhancing and bringing joy to a table setting.

Tell us about the skill of napkin folding. Does it have any links to origami and the Japanese art of folding?

Surprisingly, napkin folding isn’t directly connected to origami and it came from Europe rather than China or Japan. Individual napkins were first used in the French royal courts around 1400, having originated in the city of Reims, France which was known for its fine cloth. Dining customs and etiquette were set by the Italian and French courts, but their practices quickly spread to northern Europe and Britain.  By the 1770s, napkins were commonly used at the table and by the late 1800s. With the Victorians’ love of ornate decoration, the art of folding napkins was widely used to enhance the look of place settings has become a fashion that is still highly valued today.

napkin folding

How does it feel to share your interest by teaching others, in workshops like ours?

I love folding as an art form, as well as teaching and sharing folding skills with others. In today’s climate of computer screens and mobile phones, I think it’s really important to introduce people to new skills which enable them to create something with their hands.

A simple folded napkin can be immensely satisfying to make and it’s always so worthwhile to take an hour or so to learn a new skill which you can leave with and continue at home for years to come. It’s great fun to learn in a group setting, meet new people and try something completely different!

What can members of The Collective expect from your workshop?

The workshop will be a fun and contemporary introduction to the art of napkin folding. Members of The Collective will learn some basic folding skills and create several impressive pieces to take away with them at the end of the evening. I will bring along a wide range of folded sample designs and will demonstrate, step by step, how they are created. As a group, we work through the process of folding several piece starting with various classic ‘flat folds’ and moving on to more advanced models such as the ‘Artichoke’. Participants will have the opportunity to practise with an unlimited number of coloured paper napkins before moving on to experiment with high quality fabric napkins.

Participants will leave with 3 folded napkins, equipped with the skills and knowledge to to experiment and create their own variations at home.

katie kirstie the workbench london

Sitting at the Workbench: a chat with founders Katie and Kirstie

Check out MY BLOG POST FOR THE COLLECTIVE:

Being a maker at its core is about working with your hands, an age-old tradition that these days, is seen as a novelty. The art of handicraft survives in the digital age through artisans who are both passionate, and business savvy. Katie and Kirstie, best friends and founders of The Workbench London, are two of those rare, modern artisans. Their art? Carving bespoke rings and bringing people together. We had a chat to get to know the artist duo before their ring-making workshop this weekend at The Collective Old Oak.

Tell us your story – who are Katie and Kirstie, and how did you get here?

We met on the first day of our jewellery degree and we’ve been best friends ever since. We have partied together, holidayed together and lived together. While trying to set up a craft night with our housemates, we had a lightbulb moment of having our friends make a ring with us and the rest – as they say – is history. The Workbench was created in 2014 and has snowballed into a lot of fun and hard work but we love it!

What’s it like being modern jewellery crafters?

It’s what we’ve always wanted, and now it’s amazing giving people a little taster of a widely-used process within the jewellery industry.

What’s the story behind your name: The Workbench?

Jewellers make at a workbench and we wanted to people to know instantly that this is a making workshop. We though of so many, very cringeworthy names, but kept on coming back to this.

Inside the Workbench workshop. Photograph by Harleymoon Kemp
What does it mean to be a modern artisan?

A modern artisan is a great combination of working with age-old processes and tools. Lost wax casting has been done for centuries and when you look at the tools used, they have barely changed over that time. It’s great to be able to put such a traditional process into a modern workshop. Our events are held in bars and cafes around the UK and we don’t want everyone to follow the same step-by-step rules and all leave with the same ring. We encourage people to have a cocktail or cuppa, and catch up with friends over their carving. We are proud to say that this business model hadn’t ever been offered before The Workbench.

As well as artisans, you are also entrepreneurs. What’s the most challenging part of having your own business?

The main challenge is balance. Balance between running our own jewellery brands when we aren’t running The Workbench – Crux London & Kirstie Maclaren Jewellery. There is also the balance between work and down time. Running your own business means you’re thinking about things 24/7, checking emails before bed and as soon as you wake up. We also get a lot of people Instagram-message us and even though it’s a great way of communication, it means we can never switch off. That’s something we’re trying to get better at dealing with.

And the most rewarding?

The best part of the job is working with each other, bouncing around ideas and sparking new ones from one other. We love what what we do and we get so excited about new ideas. Every day is different and we get so many incredible opportunities. This month, we are hosting an event at the V&A Museum and we just can’t believe it. It’s where we used to go for inspiration and education in our own work – it’s incredible.

Although rings are bespoke and for the individual, your workshops are in group settings. What does it mean to you to bring people together, to make something special for themselves?

Running these events give us so much more than just making a ring – there are unexpected elements to it. We meet so many people and hear about why they are making the rings: celebrating the birth of a child, making wedding bands, creating 30th birthday presents… the list is endless and it fills us with so much happiness that people can create something with such a lot of sentiment and joy. We really want our events to be fun and a big part of the night is ensuring that everyone has a great time. We’re always bouncing about the event and making sure everyone is smiling when they’re ring carving!

It fills us with so much happiness that people can create something with such a lot of sentiment and joy.

Ring-carving with Workbench London. Photograph by Harleymoon Kemp
From all of your workshops, is there a particular ring-making story that stands out? 

We actually get some really lovely stories behind our at-home kits, The Workbench Box. People write us letters when they send their wax carving back to us. Some people have carved because they thought that doing something would help them with their depression. Someone made a ring at home while they were going through chemotherapy and couldn’t make an event. Another girl ordered a kit for her friend, as she had all of her jewellery stolen in a burglary. It really does mean so much to us that we have created something that is about so much more than just making a ring.

The Workbench and The Collective are partnering together. We share similar values of creating more than just a product, but an experience that’s both functional and memorable. What does it mean to you to work with us?

It’s great to work with The Collective, because what we’re both trying to do is very similar. Creating something fun, bringing people together and not the run-of-the-mill situations that both of our industries can so easily slip into. We’re always trying something new and it seems our main objectives are the same. We always want to work in exciting places and this is a perfect match.

What would you say to those budding entrepreneurs out there who are struggling to get their start?

Just do it. Do it and tell people. Socialising is networking and the first ripple of custom comes from your friends – and soon, this ripple reaches further. If it’s your dream, why wait?

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