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BossAss blog


Thoughts, ideas and experiences of building and growing a BossAss creative business

By Devon Pop Ups, Jul 30 2018 07:48AM

A few weeks ago I saw a post on a business forum where a fledgling entrepreneur was very upset and thinking of throwing in the towel because one week after launching her business she’d had no customers.

One week. I kid you not.

All the friends and clients who had promised to support her business while she was training … and offering free stuff … suddenly disappeared when she graduated and started to charge for her services. And it completely threw her. Luckily she received lots of useful and supportive advice from other business owners on this particularly friendly forum.

We all do it though, we all have that moment when it just seems a bit too much of an uphill struggle. That the odds are stacked against us and our ‘get up and go’ has done a runner.

I remember several times in the run up to the first Devon Pop Ups Ceramic’s Festival in June last year, I had these crushing feelings of self doubt. So many people had told me that I was wasting my time, I started to question myself. A lot. Those feelings of self doubt re-emerged big style 10 minutes before the event officially opened and I was thinking in no particular order:

What the flip am I playing at?

Who am I trying to kid? I’ll never pull this off?

I was totally crapping my pants and thinking that I’d be the laughing stock of North Devon and I’d have lashings of ‘I told you so’ from people who thought I was way too big for my boots trying to set up an events business.

Thankfully the venue was rammed by 10.15am. A big fat phew. And a few sneaky happy tears.

The thing that we business folk need to learn very early on is resilience. It’s flipping tough out there!

We have all sorts of dreams, ambitions and expectations when we throw caution to the wind, pack in the day job, and go it alone. And those dreams CAN be achieved, they really can. But we have to work hard, take action and be open to opportunity. We must stay unafraid of making mistakes because frankly we will make a shed load of those along the way. We also have to be open to learning and have the hides of several rhinoceroses to cope with negative wittering of others.

The image I chose to accompany this blog was Northern Grit by Vinegar&Brown Paper.

You don’t necessarily have to be Northern but you definitely need some grit to stay the distance. I love this little piece of inspiration from the brilliant mind of its creator Andy Poplar. My brother bought it for my birthday last year and I LOVE it.

It’s so easy to get lost in the day to day gubbins of running a business that we often lose sight of why we are doing this in the first place. We need to check in with our dreams on a regular basis to reconnect with our creative vision, stay on track, stay fresh and excited about our work and the direction we are heading in. To grow a business means not staying in the same place. Heaving yourself up off the floor when things aren’t going the way you planned and asking some pertinent questions.

What’s working? What’s not?

What do I love about my creative business? Why?

What don’t I like? Why?

What makes me unique?

What gaps do I have and what do I need to do or learn to fill them?

For my Benton’s Menagerie business as a maker of felted sculptures, for example, I will be launching a new initiative in September because I’ve been asking myself these very questions. I felt stuck in a rut and was beginning to feel under pressure to churn stuff out and that’s just not how I work and that’s not where the love and pleasure of making resides for me. I needed to re-think and move in a new direction. The new idea came out of both reflecting on what I really want out of my business as well as responding to a gut feeling that this is a good direction for me. Gut feelings are TOTALLY your best friend in this game. Not to be confused with the gut wrenching feelings of fear. Making a decision based on fear is not the best idea, except if you are booting fear up the back end and doing it anyway. Trusting your gut is simply about trusting yourself. Trusting that you totally have your own back.

I digress, to launch my new initiative and to grow this business, I’m aware that I have skills and knowledge gaps. So I took myself off to the bright lights and big city of Bristol to brush up on some business skills with a workshop from The Design Trust and came away with new ideas, tools and lashings of inspiration. I’m also acutely aware that I really need to look at harnessing social media in a far more proactive and creative way to reach new customers that might be interested in my business. The thing is I just haven’t really got much of a clue how to do that. So I’m looking for help and looking to learn from people who are way better at this than I am.

And that’s it in a nutshell. If you want to learn, look at those you admire. Learn from those who are already doing what you’d like to do and doing it better than you. Don’t ask your mate who is in the same position as you because if they had the answer they’d be doing it already and growing the heck out of their own business instead of moaning down the pub about how nobody ‘gets them’.

This is about looking at best practise business skills. To grow your business you need to grow your business skills. It’s the very reason why I launched Build a BossAss Creative Business in the first place. There are things I need to learn and people who can teach that stuff. I figured that there must be other creatives out there who need to learn stuff too.

I look forward to meeting some of you at a BossAss workshop or networking event.

And if there’s something in particular that you’d like on the agenda – drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

By Devon Pop Ups, Jul 23 2018 05:44PM

Last week I went to a brilliant business development workshop in Bristol hosted by Patricia van den Akker from The Design Trust

The focus was on making your creative business more profitable and I came away with lots of ideas and inspiration for my felting business as I'm about to take it in a new direction (for those of you who don't know ... when I'm not organising events I make stuff!).

Aside from making me totally re-think several things about my business as I take it forward, a few key themes emerged that reflected many of the things that James from Josie's highlighted at our networking event The Leap of Faith a couple of weeks ago.

Be unique - no matter how weird, goofy or niche you are, totally own it and make sure your business reflects it. It matters, it really does. Customers can sniff out the real deal at 50 paces.

Marketing matters - make sure you know who your customers are so that you can develop strategies to reach and interact with them.

Money Mindset is King - Patricia reiterated something that has been fascinating me for several months 'Your thoughts around money influence your behaviour'. If you are not earning the money you think you should be earning, there's a good chance that you have some weird shit going on in your head around self worth or fear of following your dreams dating back to Lord knows when.

The magic is totally in you to change your mindset, rethink your business goals and dream the biggest most bodacious dream you dare ... and then flipping well go for it.

If you are interested in investigating this further we have a Money Mindset workshop planned to deliver a little bit deeper into blocks, fears and old self sabotaging behaviors that could be holding you back.

We'll also have a Marketing 101 workshop in the New Year to get your business and marketing plans ship shape and Bristol fashion for 2019.

By Devon Pop Ups, Jun 27 2018 05:44PM

Today I’m going to shock the living daylights out of y’all and use the ‘C’ word.

Yup – Cash

Oh Lawdy I’m so filthy. Mentioning money in public and everything.

Anything to do with money is a bit of an emotive word for us creative folks. Right? But why? Without a decent living we can’t really call our creative endeavours a business. Being skint is definitely not BossAss. We need to earn money to buy materials, look after ourselves, buy awesome art from other creatives and do tedious things like pay the bills and, you know … eat … and buy weekend supplies of merlot … or gin.

Why do we get so hung up on money? It’s just a word. And yet it’s availability to us, or lack of it, can often be a reflection of deeper issues around self worth.

I’m not known for being woo woo, I’m not a floaty kind of creative. I am, in fact, a very practical person; highly organised, with various tendencies that lean a tad towards being anal. After some soul searching this past year I realised that, at some weirdo level, I do not have a healthy relationship with the old spondoolies. And it’s deeply embedded in my head. It’s an old script that has set limits and rules so secret that even I don’t know what they are. It includes patterns of behaviour that I learnt as a child that make no sense in a world where I have to do adulting on a daily basis. They’re buried deep within and I’m in the process of digging the blighters out and banishing them for good.

Don’t get me wrong, I earn a decent living and have managed to carve out a full time career running two creative businesses. I also get to rent an awesome studio space so it’s all pretty cushty really. But there are months, when I am embarrassed to admit, that it’s all a bit uncomfortably tight on the financial front.

Of course it could be that I’m not as great at the business side of things as I think I am. Or it could be something else that’s holding me back from really raising the financial stakes in my creative business. It’s known as Money Mindset. And having a healthy one can give you a very healthy bank balance. It can also have a deeper, far reaching impact that links to self worth, self care and even self love.

Years ago, before I got all arty farty, I had a proper grown up job as a freelance PR and was paid very handsomely. I’d often bill way over £6K a month. Each month I kept waiting for something to happen. To be found out. It is completely insane to admit this but it felt very uncomfortable to me to be earning this kind of money. I literally had no idea what to do with it beyond having a nice time, treating myself, my daughter and my family, buying great clothes and going on holiday without penny pinching. But instead of enjoying it, I worked hard to prove to everyone that I was worth it. Like REALLY stoopidly hard. In hindsight I think I was mainly trying to prove my self worth to my very good self. To cut a long story short I worked myself to the ground and made myself ill. Very ill. I could have just enjoyed that level of income and had loads of massages and holidays and bought shit loads of stuff. But I didn’t, something was stopping me from enjoying it. Me and my blipping money mindset and lashings of self sabotage thrown in for good measure.

And so this inner script played itself out: lots of money is scary and uncomfortable. To earn it you have to make yourself poorly. It’s a pattern or a script that I have unwittingly played out several times since. It began to dawn on me that I might very well have something to do with it. And if so I could change it.

I’ve been using a technique called tapping to address my Money Mindset and steer it in a more expansive direction. Tapping – also known as emotional freedom technique – literally taps into some of the visceral feelings we have around money, and helps to identify blocks and self sabotaging behaviour linked to events or patterns of behaviour from the past. Once we know what they are we can start to get rid of them and tapping helps with this too. So, for example, if your parents argued quite a lot about money, when you were a child, your 7 year-old brain would have processed this as ‘money is bad’. Money causes hurt and upset. The idea that money is not a good thing would have been stored away deep in your subconscious, where it may very still be lurking and pulling at your purse strings. Or it could be that, as an artist, you create for the pure love of creating and the whole money thing is just, well, a bit unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. It’s ugly and to think of it sullies your beautiful creativity. Wrong. That smacks of not valuing your talents. Why the heck shouldn’t you receive bounty from the universe in exchange for your awesome creative talents?

I really can’t tell you how important I think this head stuff is in terms of growing a BossAss business. You need BossAss business skills. Sure. In spades. But it doesn’t matter how cracking your marketing skills are, if your Money Mindset isn’t in the right place, financial freedom ain’t never gonna happen.

As for me, I’ve been tapping away and digging away and I’m beginning to see the benefits. I’m far more focused, less prone to procrastination, and my bank balance is looking pretty darned groovy.

So, as part of my Building a BossAss Creative Business workshop offerings, I wanted to build some of the head stuff into the programme. Shift the shit and get ship shape for success. I met with Karen from Red Oak Coaching and loved the fact that she totally spoke my language and totally got where I was coming from. She uses tapping to address all sorts of ‘head’ stuff and is already working with the corporate world to use tapping as a technique to build better businesses.

So she’s designed a tapping workshop just for us. Money Mindset for artists and makers. It will take place over two mornings. One in September, after which you’ll have homework. There will be a follow up workshop a few weeks alter in October to address issues that come up when tapping at home.

Let’s get our shit together and build some BossAss creative businesses. I totally organised this workshop for me btw, so I’m hoping others out there want to join in too.

By guest, Jun 16 2018 11:13AM

- BossAss -

A word defining how totally awesome something is in a sense of being purely, utterly and ridiculously brilliant

When I set up Devon Pop Ups I can't tell you how many times I heard:

'Nobody will climb up that dirty great hill and come to your event'.

The venue was at the top of the steep High Street in my home town, Bideford. I ignored the naysayers, ignored my own doubts and self sabotaging thoughts, trusted myself and did it anyway.

Guess what?

People flippin' well did climb that big 'ol hill, not once, but three times.

Has it been easy building an events company? Not. Even. Slightly. There have been obstacles and challenges along the way. Many tears have been shed and many socks have been worked well and truly off. I've learnt so much along the way - growing this and my other creative business Benton's Menagerie (a maker of mixed media sculptures).

But I have so much yet to learn. I mean what the flip is Instagram Stories? I know I'm supposed to use it but I don't get it. I don't get Etsy. I am just working out how to use Eventbrite and link it to my social media platforms. I know I need to blog, but I don't know where to start. And as for self sabotaging beliefs - I have them in spades and work every day to overcome them.

I figured that I might not be the only creative entrepreneur needing help in certain areas so I'm hosting networking events and business workshops under my Devon Pop Ups umbrella. I'm gathering together people that I have learnt loads from, people I'd love to learn from and people I think are bloody brilliant at what they do, to help us all build some seriously BossAss creative businesses.

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