Helen Mitchell is a freelancer working with arts and heritage organisations, and running Small Publishers Fair. Here she explains how StartEast supported her in shifting the balance of her work so as to be able to invest more time in the book fair, helping it thrive and realise its potential.
‘Small Publishers Fair is an annual gathering of books by contemporary artists, poets, writers and book designers, and their publishers. It takes place in Conway Hall over two days each November and brings together some seventy small press publishers from across the UK and around the world.
I have been running the Fair for six years, fitting it in alongside other freelance work. The Fair is highly successful but there is potential to make it work even harder for the small press publishing community it champions. I was looking for help to take the Fair to the next stage – enabling it to develop, and become more sustainable; and enabling me to focus on it more, making it a bigger part of the work I do each year.
The one-to-ones I’ve had gave me the impetus and focus I needed, and provided practical advice, in particular on the legal entity side of things. Thanks to StartEast, Small Publishers Fair now has a new brand; a sixteen page programme has been designed, and there’s a new website too.
StartEast helped me test out ideas and made me do the business plan that will support its future development. And Small Publishers Fair now a great new look, and a new website too!’
For more information go to www.smallpublishersfair.co.uk
Becky Demmen works in the creative and charity sectors in a variety of ways to help support the work they do. She offers affordable and accessible ways for organisations to communicate their values, expand their capacity and share their projects. She also works for individual artists and other freelancers with administrative support, workshop facilitation and documentation through photography and video.
I had never seen any business support schemes that were specifically for creative businesses. I had engaged with other business development organisations but they didn’t have the insight into the creative sector that I needed. I was looking to structure the ad hoc freelancing I did into a full-time business but didn’t know where to start with business plans and structuring my offer. Although I was confident in my abilities I wasn’t confident enough to just go for it.
Through StartEast I have had support in business planning with the brilliant MetaValue, participated in a fundraising strategy webinar, I learnt about sponsorship as an option and financial forecasting, I attended the cultural leaders seminar and I received a grant for some new film equipment/software I desperately needed.
I have found the business planning and financial forecasting support was the most useful. It helped me shape my business into something sustainable and helped me to see that the mix of services I offer is quite unique. I gained an understanding of my business, what it could be, learnt how to forecast and set realistic goals. All of this has led to me getting my grant and understanding how to get future funding. It taught me to be honest with myself about how different areas are doing, which means you can get to solutions quicker.
My StartEast experience has been so positive. I have gained so much confidence as part of this process. I had been freelancing a bit here and there and was doing ok. But this has transformed the way I think about what I do and how I approach it. I value what I do and the way I do it far more now. I also understand more fully what value I can bring to others.
I am now a full time freelancer and it’s going great and I never would have had the confidence to take the leap without my strong business plan that I built through your support and the wider understanding I have of the sector and my place in it.
Image by Sam Sewell
Led by Lucy Enskat, Hocus Pocus Theatre make playful and thought provoking, interactive theatre. From bespoke walkabout entertainment and outdoor family shows with puppets to cheeky cabaret acts, pop-up installations and whole venue immersive take-over. The company combines colourful, comic characters with attention to detail and a touch of magic.
I have been a sole trader running Hocus Pocus Theatre for 10 years and the company was at a pivotal point in it’s growth and development when I heard about StartEast and the support they could offer. After having children I was finding a lot of barriers to returning fully to running my creative business especially around the administration of it from home and lacking capacity to move the company forward to where it needed to be and where the demand for work was. I needed to gain some new skills in order to meet the varied aspects of those demands, equipment and software for editing video and putting financial systems in place.
I went to an initial networking event where I met lots fantastic people working in the arts. I had some brilliant one to ones with business advisors Sue Lawther who helped me reflect on what I do, where I had come from and put some planning in place. I went to a fantastic practical day led by Helen Baggett from Gecko – Tools and Techniques for Planning and Delivering Creative Projects. I got to follow that with a 1-1 mentoring with Helen which was incredibly helpful. To speak to a professional from a thriving theatre company who understood my industry fully was so inspiring. Helen was extremely positive and practical and gave me a fresh perspective on many aspects of my work. I went along to as many of the training sessions as I could from ones about Brand and Marketing Workshop, Producing and Touring Theatre, What Does Your Website Say About You – all so good and informative. Webinars a 5 step guide to sponsorship Success online webinar and Planning a Fundraising Strategy were brilliant because I could fit them in easily around nursery and school pick-ups and I learnt so much in a short space of time with each of these. Alex Till gave me a very focused business mentoring session and at this point I felt I could see clearly what I and my company needed in order to grow and so I felt ready to put together my application for a StartEast Grant.
The person-centred approach to business support is fantastic because in the arts we are often delivering many varied roles and rarely stopping to consider how to make a sustainable business from our art. To have an organisation take you seriously as an artist, to believe in you and invest in what you are doing is completely enabling and amazing. A bespoke approach is ideal for artistic companies like mine with so many quirks to the work we do. As individuals often working in an isolated way and wearing many hats we can easily burn-out but it has been refreshing and empowering to have such a passionate organisation offering so much to nourish us.
Obviously, the financial assistance has been a great boost that has enabled me to achieve my goals by providing me with equipment that desperately needed updating, software to efficiently run my business and a temporary place in which to work away from the chaos of family life. It gave me the administrative support I needed so that I could be released to upskill, learning how to edit video which is increasingly important in promoting and gaining bookings. I also did a course in excel and financial management from ITC which has enabled me to put financial systems in place. These skills have made a huge difference to my producing now. Without these key elements I would not have been able to achieve all the artistic projects that I delivered last year or create the promotional materials I needed to build the profile of the company and its work. The whole StartEast programme has been incredibly valuable in so many ways.
My experience of working with StartEast has been really fantastic. I have found the organisation to be extremely professional, supportive and energising. I am extremely grateful for all the support I have received.
I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to you all. You ladies are doing a cracking job and I think you’re all brilliant!
Image by Joanna Millington
Simon Floyd of Floyd Performance and The Common Lot makes theatre with communities – for, with and about the people of a place. He is curently making a Heritage Lottery funded show about Norwich Over the Water, and has been commissioned by the county council to make a community play about a nature trail and disused railway line called the Marriott’s Way.
After a successful career in Museum Development I was starting from the bottom again. I came to StartEast as I needed help with developing my business plan, my brand and my online presence.
I was also looking for an office base to begin things from and a bit of basic equipment like a computer and a reliable printer. I received a grant for around £7000 which paid for these.
The 1:1 advice I received from Sue Lawther was excellent! It was really helpful and tailored very much to me – she was an excellent and insightful listener.
Thank you to StartEast for helping me begin!
Image by Bert Eke
Adina Levay from Chalk Circle Theatre Company produces contemporary European drama exploring controversial issues of our society, opening new perspectives. The company creates transnational work in partnership with European artists and arts organisations and make multidisciplinary, experimental, inclusive and participatory theatre for local and international audiences.
Our theatre company was founded 2012 and since then we worked on a project by project basis. In order to survive and grow we needed to change: to think bigger, to have a sassy strategy, to feel connected and rooted in the region.
Our company is a recipient of the StartEast Grant and participated in networking sessions, workshops, webinars and one to one sessions organised.
As the producing artistic director I wanted to develop the company’s business plan and my one to one sessions with Sue Lawther were extremely useful because she was able to guide me and together we discussed possible solutions to the issues that were specific to the company.
The StartEast grant couldn’t have been more timely. It offered me the possibility to further develop the business plan and work with external consultants from the arts industry.
I would like to say a big thank you to all members of the StartEast staff not only for the efficiency and professionalism of their work but also for their enthusiasm and moral support. It made the project a truly enjoyable experience. I come away not only better equipped but full of optimism regarding the cultural economy in the region.
Image by Andi Sapey
Steph Townsend of Yodanga Arts creates and delivers fun, professional classes in Aerial Arts, Yoga & Dance in Norwich, Norfolk. Steph is proud to say that her company is the only one to offer weekly Aerial Yoga sessions in Norfolk! She is currently the only employee of Yodanga Arts and runs/manages everything herself.
I joined StartEast as I was looking to connect with other individuals and businesses in Norfolk/Suffolk. When I joined, I had only just moved to Norwich and didn’t know many people and felt quite isolated. Asides from that, I was looking for an opportunity to continue learning about new approaches to business.
I have received SO much incredible support from StartEast. I make a conscious effort to attend as many events as possible and was awarded a Grant in September 2018.
So much of the StartEast programme has been useful! There is almost too much to choose from. The beautiful connections, friendships and collaborations that have come out of the workshops/events that StartEast have organised and the fresh perspective on business. I completely believe that this perspective has had a positive effect on the growth of my business.
I have found every workshop/event/talk incredibly useful. The value of having business orientated discussions with people who also work within the Creative Arts sector is AMAZING! It’s so great to feel understood and heard within the community that you work in and StartEast have made this possible for so many of us.
Image by Yasmin Strong
Tom Appleton and Ellie Bowers-Jolley from CASC bring people together in song. They believe that when a community of people sing together, amazing things happen.
We work with a variety of clients including businesses, schools, festivals, community hubs and choirs to spread the many health and wellbeing, educational, and societal cohesion benefits that singing can offer.
Although highly experienced performers, neither of us had ever launched a proper business. As sole traders, we had individually toured the globe singing in some of the world’s finest concert halls, cathedrals and opera houses. With around 25 years of experience in performing between us, we knew how to perform at an international level….What we didn’t know about was how to effectively brand, market and business plan or new venture. We launched CASC at exactly the moment when StartEast was launching and jumped at the chance to receive advice, support and funding from industry leaders to help us on our journey.
We have had 1-1 sessions, online seminars, group presentations and workshops through StartEast on topics as wide ranging as marketing, funding sources, diversity and both our online and offline image.
In addition, we have received around £7500 in grants through StartEast to help us purchase a variety of equipment (PA System, piano, microphones, branded clothing) and services (photography shoot, branding, website building etc.). We are equally grateful for the financial backing as we are the time and advice from our mentors.
One of the most useful parts of StartEast is feeling part of a community of likeminded people who are also going through a similar journey. It is lovely to have such generous support for arts organisations. We’ve also received support from more ‘businessy’ organisations such as Menta/Chamber of Commerce, but working with StartEast has meant that as soon as they answer the phone, they know the world in which you’re operating and can offer well-informed, often tailor-made, advice and support.
We are so proud of the little empire that we’ve created. In the last 18 months, we’ve delivered projects to around 10,000 adults and children across the UK and abroad.
StartEast turbo boosted us at the beginning of that journey and we will be eternally grateful!
Image by Alice the Camera
Story Machine Productions bring books alive. Sam Ruddock, Director of Story Machine Productions, offers authors, publishers, prizes, and exam boards a unique, creative, and professional promotion opportunity for books, helping them stand out in a crowded market-place and driving engagement and sales. The company collaborates with dancers, actors, musicians, artists, filmmakers and writers to create experiences and shows that are every bit as immersive as reading a book itself.
StartEast gave me the impetus to found Story Machine Productions. I had an idea and plenty of experience, but I needed assurance that my plans made sense, and guidance in the areas I had least experience of. I needed the push to give me confidence, and the safety net that I could call out to as challenges arose.
I have received one-to-one mentorship from Suzie Campbell, Sue Lawther-Brown, Robert Pacitti, and Meeta Thareja. I attended group mentoring around business planning, social media, and website development. A particularly big shout out to Meeta Thareja who offered expert guidance in creating our launch Press Release, and Genine Sumner who showed faith in the idea right at the outset.
I also received funding to develop high quality promotional images and films for each of the shows we made in our first two years.
StartEast provided a context for Story Machine Productions to develop, and the dedicated support to help it grow quicker, and bigger, that would otherwise have been possible. At every point, I’ve felt nurtured and encouraged.
I am so grateful to StartEast and the team for the support I have received. It has made the world of difference to the development of Story Machine Productions.
View trailers here:
Image by Edinburgh International Book Festival
Virtually There Studio, founded by Emily Godden, provides bespoke commissions, 360 filming services, education work including workshops on all things digital and the environment. The company continues to work with virtual reality technology and other media to create positive behaviour change towards the environment and support wellbeing through; events, educational opportunities, experiences and exhibitions. Virtually There Studio has built everything from a bitcoin arcade to a custom rickshaw and a VR rollercoaster around Mt.Everest.
Having worked with charities, arts organisations, schools, colleges and universities across East Anglia and beyond, my current focus is delivering virtual eco therapy services that work with virtual reality technology to assist in wellbeing and encourage green exercise and respect for the environment. A typical week at the studio could include developing a virtual tour of a forest to be used in a care home to running workshops in a school introducing students to coding or running sessions for artists to develop digital skills.
I remember attending the very first event to launch StartEast, I was about to start an MA in Printmaking and wanted to gain some real world know how because I knew being an expert etcher wasn’t going to help me decipher a tax return. There were so many people at the launch event who were carving creative paths in East Anglia. Without sounding cliché it was inspiring, it made me believe that there was a chance that I could cut the mustard as a creative practitioner in my home county of Suffolk (and not have to elope to the big smoke!). All I had was an idea and I knew I had challenges to overcome and StartEast helped me a) not to be scared and to figure out what the challenges were and to b) fix or avoid them.
I went to group sessions at the beginning such as; Brand and Marketing and Tools and techniques for planning and delivering creative projects. They all proved so useful and none had any socially awkward ice-breakers either. I had a super 1-1 with Alex Casey from Suffolk ArtLink this is when I realised I had something and wanted to make a real go of it so I dived headfirst into all the webinars, learnt what a cash flow was (I thought it meant watching your money sail away) and wrote my first ever business plan with the ace advice from my advisor Natalie Chaplin.
What attracted me to the Starteast programme was meeting other humans! Everyone has a story to tell and words of wisdom to share and there is a great sense of equality and a strong sense of being all in this together (I hope I haven’t got High School musical lyrics in anyone’s head from saying that).
Finally, I just wanted to give a shout out to Kate’s weekly green tips. The environment is at the heart of everything I do with Virtually There Studio so its always great to learn some new tips 🙂 On a another note I don’t think I’d be where I am without StartEast so a big thanks to all the humans that have helped Virtually There Studio grow from a project working with VR to create positive behaviour change towards deforestation to my full time job.
Amber Onat-Gregory and Lucy Garland of Frozen Light create innovative, bold and exciting multi-sensory theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities which tours theatres nationally.
We joined StartEast at a time where the company was growing (administratively as well as the demand for our work from audiences) but as artists we didn’t feel we had the capacity to facilitate this growth without some support. StartEast was definitely there at the right time and provided the support we needed to grow the business.
We have taken part in some group sessions, had some 1-1 support, and been successful in gaining a grant to support the development of our fundraising strategy.
The most useful part of the StartEast programme has been receiving the one to one support that is tailored especially for our needs. This allowed us to work with an advisor who was specifically matched to us to support our specific challenges. We had two particularly useful sessions and out of these we recruited a board and developed a creative business plan.
It was also wonderful to have a grant that you could apply for that would specifically cover the business development of your company. As artists we know where to get money from to support our art but finding money to support the business growth can be impossible. This grant allowed us to bring on a consultant who is working with us to put things in place so we are in a position as a company to apply for larger pots of core funding, something the company desperately needs to move forward.
We have really enjoyed being part of the community that StartEast has built around the programme and it has been great to know that there is a team of people who you can turn to for help. Having that backing of support for the business side of our artistic practice is amazing as no artistic training programme teaches you (or tells you) that when you become an artist you will also need to be a business person. Having a team of mentors or just people to turn to who are specialists in running arts businesses (businesses like no other) is an invaluable thing to have.
Image by JMA Photography
Red Cactus Media, run by Remi Morrison, is a video production company within the health and wellness sector specialising in music videos, as well as digital marketing services for clients.
I joined the StartEast programme as I hoped to get a focus on my business. I was looking for a more creative-minded business support network. Also to increase my network in Suffolk and I needed to begin to take my business to the next level.
I have received 121 business advice and a grant of £5000 for specialist video production equipment. Also the course on social media and finance were useful. I found I was great at doing it for others and their businesses but found it hard to look at my business with the same eyes.
The 121 support and the grant have been the most useful parts of StartEast as I can now pay myself a wage from my business and I’ve increased my camera skills as I now have a camera and don’t have to rely on others with equipment.
My StartEast experience has been very positive. Overall the workshops and advice you get is great and I would really like it to continue. I feel you’ve started something and should continue. People now feel their creative business matters.
Image by Melissa Beer
Holly Sandiford and Melanie Tilford from ArtAtWork CIC run visual arts for wellbeing projects and sessions in the community and for businesses. Working mainly with women with mental health issues but also with employees, young people, people with dementia, students, learning disabilities and with families. They love to incorporate walking, nature and heritage into their projects whilst delivering training in using the arts to promote wellbeing.
We were a start up when we joined StartEast so we were looking for guidance and support about how to sustain this. The financial side of running a community interest company was completely new to us and we were anxious about getting it all right.
We have had so much support and it really has been invaluable to us growing as an organisation. We have been to networking sessions and various training sessions and online seminars. We had a one to one financial advice session which was just brilliant as it was so tailored to our needs. We also had a one to one looking at our business as a whole and this was just fantastic too, having such quality advisors really does make a difference as poor and misguided support can actually hinder your business. We also received a grant for website development and copyright, an A3 printer and two laptops which was extremely helpful.
It has all been so helpful. I do think that having our website developed has really helped us. It really showcases us and what we do. We have so much experience in using the arts to support wellbeing but I don’t think people really knew that and we now have a much clearer brand and image and also confidence in ourselves and our experience and ability.
Also the quality of the one to one sessions was like gold dust, the advisors were really focused, experts in their fields and saved us so much time by guiding us in the right direction. There is so much to think about when running your own business and your really do need this clear vision from the outside.
I don’t think we would be where we are now without StartEast, we had lots of experience of doing what we do, lots of passion and determination but we really needed them to guide us in the right direction in terms of the business side of things. I am always recommending StartEast to other creatives!
Image by ArtAtWork
Cordelia Spence from Stuff of Dreams runs a small rural touring theatre company which specialises in new writing based on East Anglian History. They tour to remote areas of the region performing stories about the region. As a company they are interested in performing in unusual spaces. They also undertake a summer tour of well- known classics playing in parks and gardens each summer and aim to provide sustainable employment for local creatives.
We applied to StartEast as we were anxious to develop and expand our skill set and look at ways to make the company more sustainable. We seemed to be good at creating opportunities but we wanted to learn how to develop them.
StartEast have been incredible. The team have gone out of their way to support Stuff of Dreams and give us the help we need. I have had individual mentoring from different members of their team on things like business growth, business plans and funding applications. I have attended courses on social media, participated in networking days, Arts Council training and conversation sessions, project planning and they have even helped me to focus on myself as a creative practitioner, something I did not expect.
I had a brilliant session on rural touring led by a leader in the field. I found that session very relevant and inspiring. The guidance given during the process of the application for a grant was really helpful and very supportive. The team also ensured I received an extra support session at that point which I was really grateful for. The programme has helped us to re-evaluate the company and the direction we want to take.
Thanks to Start East we now have a fantastic, highly skilled, specialist producer working with us who is having a very positive impact on our work and supporting and facilitating our growth.
Image by David Hannington
Angela Dawn Wright from Way Arts and Communications is primarily an artist currently working on a prototype of creating Memory Boxes as part of ‘Making Art Making Money’ semester online. She is inspired by the campaign for more arts in education, and engaged in giving talks and workshops, mock interviews and events through ‘Inspiring The Futures’. As part of this happiness in public speaking Angela has set up her own online course in public speaking.
Its vital to be part of my community, I do a lot for my local community and being part of Start East was important for me to connect to people who are professional, creative and business minded. It’s also supporting me in achieving my dream of being as independent as possible. Yes, it is a contrasting statement but we all need some encouragement and a step up… We have to start somewhere!
I so far attended the the StartEast Network Jam last year, 4 webinars, one-to-ones, and a social event.
The most important part of the programme for me is learning about what I do want and what I don’t, within that being able to open my first business account and planning financially what I can do without upsetting my disabilities.
I think I would be very stuck had it not been for StartEast, not only have I learned more about what I want and what I don’t I am among professional people who have successfully charged up their own businesses and direction, not alone and not without help themselves. I have to commend Suzie Campbell of MetaValue who helped me to see my strengths and to move forwards. I have so much to thank StartEast for.
Image by Adam Barnes of Platform Ticket
Karen Pratt, from Karen Louise Dance, is a Suffolk based Dance Artist that works in community and educational settings, delivering and creating high quality dance work. She provides a safe, honest and social environment to create and explore movement. Karen runs a Youth Company, an older movers dance class, teaches in schools, delivers workshops and works on large scale community projects.
Due to the fact I’m still an emerging artist, I joined the StartEast programme as I wanted a space which provided expertise in being able to help me flourish and achieve my goals. For example, networking with other artists of various disciplines as I like collaborative work. Skills I didn’t possess in marketing and strategising. Confidence to put my business out there and really chase my goals. An organisation which believed in my work and skills to help me push myself further – for example helping me achieve a grant to run a summer school, something I’ve wanted to do for years and hadn’t the support or finances to be able to.
I have received one to one sessions with a variety of skilled people; Amit from Gecko, Tom Hobden, Sue Lawther, MetaValue, Joff from Gecko to name a few! Grant support. Network jams. Seminars and group work to build on particular skills.
The most useful part of StartEast for me was probably the one to one sessions with Sue Lawther. She has such a wealth of knowledge and was able to pick apart elements of my business that I was least confident in and question the route I was headed and what made the most sense. It really pushed me to work hard on elements of my business I was scared to attempt to work on.
StartEast is a great organisation that is so happy to support and boost local creative people and their businesses! They have really kick started the next step of my journey running KLD.
Image by Mikaela Jade Photography
Justine de Mierre, founder of So… What’s the Story? is a live performer working with stories, music, improv and dance.
I’ve been a professional performer for over twenty years but I wanted to really take some time to explore the different live performance arts I work with, how they all might come together, how I’m presenting my work and to who. Therefore Start East was a good opportunity to make new connections, learn new skills and explore the possibilities.
I’ve been to a social media course, an open space meeting and had a mentoring session, as well as a couple of networking/social events.
The most useful part of the StartEast programme for me has definitely been the mentoring. Martin Gent really helped me think of myself as an artist and that gave me a whole new perspective on what I do and how I might develop it.
Image by J.S. Watts
Georgina Hanser set up Fairview Farm Enterprises CIC to provide meaningful and aspirational day care activities for young adults with disabilities or mental health challenges. She uses the Arts as a key part of the delivery.
I went to the launch, just because I had been invited. I had no idea what support I may receive!
During my support period I received around 12 hours of one to one support and attended 3 workshops. I also have received a £10k grant to help me start up!
The one to one financial forecast planning sessions with Sue and Andy were amazing. This new knowledge is something I have used almost daily since and I really can’t express how helpful this was. I really can not praise this aspect of the support enough.
Laboratory Media Education, run by Paul Weston and William Wilson, simplifies technology so that it can be used creatively to achieve positive change in Education, Health and Social Inclusion. This typically involves discussion with groups or facilitators of groups about how they would like to realise this positive change and our team presenting tools and techniques and strategies for them to achieve this.
We became part of the StartEast programme as we were about to make the transition from Limited company to Community Interest Company and wanted an outside perspective on our business model and direction. We were also interested in identifying tools, contacts and organisations that would support the development of our work. We often spend a lot of time with people who want to support us just getting them to understand how and what we do, as it is a unique model. We were looking for someone to help us identify the next steps and help with the everyday financial and administrative processes involved. We also were looking to continue with developing new ideas in our practice.
Following an initial networking session we received two consultation sessions looking at the structure and aims of our organisation. We were also fortunate in being successful in our application to visit a relevant trade fair. We visited Music Tech Fest in Stockholm.
Attending Music Tech Fest has been the most fruitful part of our engagement with StartEast as we returned with an enthusiasm gained from our peers that what we are doing is valuable and that we are moving in the right direction. We spent a whole weekend with people who instantly understood what we do. Some want to visit us, the organisers would like us to contribute to the next event and one equipment manufacturer was so interested in our work they gifted us some new tech’ to take home. We had the opportunity to explore how we might develop new applications for technology.
We would not ordinarily have been able to afford this and definitely not for two of us to go. Often when one person returns with ideas they have to then translate what they have experienced and often the energy and understanding of the event gets lost or diluted. This time we had the rare opportunity to be creative and develop new ideas together in a unique environment. Since returning we are still discussing and developing ideas that were hatched at this event.
Giving us the financial support and trusting us to identify the people and events that we need to help us grow has had the most impact on our growth and development. Helping us to engage with existing events and for us to integrate us into existing international communities of practice has enabled us to gain a better perspective on our work.