[7 mins] Recently i’ve been writing a set of blogs sharing my start-up story. The aim is to practice being less awkward at writing, but at the same time – inspire those out there wanting to start a crazy awesome project that with enough vision and passion can make it happen!
I’ve called Story 2 Work hard and be nice to people, because being able to recognise the awesome individuals taking time out of their busy lives to give good advice, is a vital part of the start-up process. Take those people for coffee, implement their good advice and work hard to make your project a reality.
I’d like to dedicate this chapter to all my mentors who filled me with confidence, helped me get the best out of Kollektiv and let me do my thing, my way. Without these amazing individuals, it would’ve taken a lot longer to find myself and Kollektiv.
So! Back to the story. I met Tom Nixon at the Fusebox, his enthusiasm for my project was infectious. First, he gave me a list of inspirational people to speak to, and secondly encouraged me to take my idea and make it physical somehow.
At the top of his list was Matt Weston, Founder of Spacemakers, a utopian regeneration agency whose studio was in the same building. The mission, find Matt and ask him for some pop-up advice.
“He’s a busy man so give him this gift.” Tom donated a nut bar from his lunch.
I found Matt’s studio. He opened the door which already felt like a small victory. I explained Tom had sent me and handed him the nut bar. Some months later I found out he had a nut allergy. Still, he kindly accepted my poisonous gift and gave me some pop-up advice and people to speak to. The roots of Kollektiv were growing.
Next on Tom’s list, Charlie Davies from The Wild School – a wonderful prototype for a new radical community school. You go in order to learn, but in order to learn you should also teach. I remember the first morning I was meant to meet Charlie, hungover – I almost didn’t go. But I’d made a promise to myself that Kollektiv came first. I sucked up my hangover and turned up to an incredible and emotional poetry class.
At the end Charlie said,
“So, what will you teach?”
“I’m not a teacher.” I explained.
“Why not? What’s your thing?”
“I like singing..?”
“You should teach a singing class then.”
Years of stage fright came flooding back to me..
“Oh no, I mean it’s not my thing, my thing is art.”
“But you said singing.”
Baffled by my own decision to mention singing, I agreed, “Yeah… I did.”
“Lets write the class up on the website now, shall we?”
“Christ, I think I need some time to think about it.”
“Okay, you have a think and i’ll be back in a few minutes.”
I’d meant a couple of days. But Charlie returned a few minutes later and began interviewing me and typing up my answers. It went like this:
So, what’ll happen in this workshop?
“Everybody will be given instructions on how to loosen up their body and their mind and their throats. And then we will begin moving around in a circle and we’ll listen to each other humming and we’ll sing different notes and listen to each other and we’ll hopefully become a whirlwind of beautiful humming. Something like that.”
Why should I come?
You should come to give your voice confidence and to be more relaxed. I want people to walk out of this place humming and having a tune in their life.
What will I get out of it?
New friendships. A warmed-up voice and body.
And who are you, why are you teaching this class and what have you been up to recently?
My name is Sophie Goblin. I’m an artist. I’m teaching because I want to learn from the class. I’m a singer (although I haven’t sung for a long time). This is my direct route to getting back into it. I just finished my degree. I’ve been a recluse for the last year.”
Keep in mind, I’d struggled for years to sing to an audience. The week before the class I was freaking out, in total honesty I over prepared and manically practised my lesson plan. I get like that when I’m nervous.
The night had finally arrived. There were 5 students, from 4 year-olds to teenagers to parents. I introduced myself, suddenly a wonderful calm feeling came over me. I went on to teach the most awesome experimental humming class ever. I was surprised with how well it went.
I’d been fascinated by achieving a sense of “flow” for years. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about achieving the flow state when you’re doing something you love. Everything snaps to grid perfectly and time passes by quickly. Thats exactly how I felt. Teaching helped me to understand myself. A kind, authoritative voice suddenly emerged, and it felt surprisingly comfortable to use.
Imparting knowledge to another human being is wildly rewarding, especially when that human being wants to learn. That was the lesson I learnt from Charlie, act on impulse and share a skill with someone. Later I fused that philosophy into Kollektiv’s ethos by asking all the participating artists to teach a workshop to the public, and it was remarkable, but more of that later.
Going back to the list, Tom also told me to make my idea physical. I didn’t know what to do for a while, but bit by bit I created a workshop called Fast Art. I’m not gonna lie, it was an unpolished workshop at first.
I invited 10 friends to join in and 4 turned up. We sat in a cafe with our coffees, teas and hungover eyes. Everyone put £1 into a budget. We collaboratively came up with an idea. We’d become opticians for the day, giving people eye tests from alphabet boards we’d put tracing paper in front of to blur the letters.
We’d let our customer choose from a small range of spectacles we’d made from coloured cardboard. They’d try them on and miraculously we’d remove the tracing paper and voila, they could see.
We shouted cheeky salesy one liners in the centre of Brighton. “Buy 3 get none free!” We sold the glasses for 50p a pair, but most people gave us £1 or £2.
I had no idea at the time, but Fast Art would become the 3 hour version of the three month course I would offer at Kollektiv. Fast Art is now a creative entrepreneurship exercise giving teams the opportunity to create, make, deliver and sell a concept to the public. We concentrate on developing entrepreneurial skills, idea generation, risk-taking, collaboration, communication and resourcefulness. I teach it all over the country at creative studios, youth centres and universities.
I went back to Tom, impressed by what I was getting up to, he invited me to take a start-up entrepreneurship course called the Fusebox Amp. It was a month long course which would take me up to the beginning of Autumn. During this time I could shape Kollektiv and answer questions which would help make it a reality. There were 25 different mentors who would come in, tell us their start up disasters and life changing stories, the dos and the don’ts.
On the last day, one of my mentors said, “Christmas is coming, you should open your first gallery immediately.”
I knew he was right, but I didn’t want to begin. Everything up until now was safe, practising, learning and shaping. Guided by mentors, drinking coffee, there was so much time in the day to discuss Kollektiv’s future benefits. But it was time to pounce, Strike while the irons hot right?
Scared but completely committed – the countdown began. T-minus three months. I got in touch with illustrators, artists and makers. I knew enough people who were bored of working in retail and bars and making posters for bands. People said yes, and introduced me to their friends who were illustrators, artists and makers. Before I knew it, we were an army of 21 early career artists who wanted to take on this project.
All we needed now was the money. To be continued.