This month we hear about Sarah Purchase and Claudia Van Rensburg, Directors of Borrowed Light Floral Studio and Zoe Watson, Director of Make and Create who have shared a space at CRATE St James Street in Walthamstow.
Sarah, Claudia and Zoe tell us about the services their businesses offer, the challenges - and advantages - of running a small business and their passion for Walthamstow. We discover how a Hive event helped create this powerhouse collaboration and why they’ve never looked back…
We are really pleased to tell you that Borrowed Light's shop in CRATE St James Street is now OPEN for business again. Please help support them and other local businesses and pop in and buy something if you can, they have all had it really tough!
Hi, we’re Sarah Purchase and Claudia van Rensburg, the Directors of Borrowed Light Floral Studio Ltd.
As we often say for short, Borrowed Light is a floral design company who specialise in event and installation design, from corporate clients to wedding couples. We started our business in 2018, deciding to do so after attending The Chelsea Flower Show in May 2017.
We both live in Walthamstow; Claudia has lived here for 20 years and Sarah used to wonder why she lived so far out at the end of the line, until six years ago she visited and realised how great it is! It’s accessible to both the City and the countryside, with Epping Forest literally on the doorstep. Even within Walthamstow itself, there is a mass of activity and culture to experience, attracting a very creative population.
We provide a range of services with local businesses; including Walthamstow Wetlands, even though they are not directly our clients. We approached them when we first started as we wanted to build a portfolio and loved the site. We pitched the idea of taking part in a large festival The Chelsea Fringe and creating a botanical sculpture trail inspired by the water cycle and local flora of the Wetlands. The aim was that it would be marketed by The Fringe and help bring a wider audience to the Wetlands. It did this, gaining coverage in national press such as Time Out, The Financial Times and Metro. It increased audience numbers and some visitors came from all over the country to see it, based on that press. We were unprepared for how big it would be in terms of audience and learnt a lot from that first year on how to run it.
Effectively, we came to them with work we wanted to make and an idea of how it could help them. We have since become their provider for botanical workshops as well as suppliers for their shop and affiliate partner for weddings.
We first discovered Hive Collective when we were about 6 months old as a company; this was a great time to get involved as we needed help with lots! Between us, we’ve attended most Hive sessions since and have been working with Nat on Hive’s Coaching Group, The Next Level, which really helped us to focus and find a direction. Carmel has also privately done a fair bit of photoshoot work for us, which has been instrumental in building our portfolio and marketing material.
The Hive events have been a brilliant platform to hear inspirational speakers talk about topics that we are trying to grapple with ourselves, and they are relevant. The networking has been really useful in several ways; we have found collaborative work from them, new clients and suppliers and have got to meet lots of other local business owners who are like us, with whom we can discuss issues.
The Next Level was a great opportunity to learn some key skills in depth and discuss our business at that time, which was so helpful as a start up.
One particular Hive moment stands out for us; when we listened to Victoria Cozens from Perky Blenders speak about their journey. It was really inspiring. She was brilliant at charting how a small idea grew into their successful and growing business. She was open about challenges and making mistakes which was really refreshing. It was hearing her speak that prompted us to approach her to collaborate and we have loved working with Perky Blenders since.
The challenges of being a small business owner include:
Time – there is so much you can do! Working out what is a priority and when, then learning to outsource what you can, has been a learning curve. We have become more efficient; we now don’t do everything together all of the time but instead each take on different projects and roles. We have also outsourced things that we have minimal skill in and aren’t keen to learn such as accounting and web design.
New skills – learning about areas that some people train in for years has been challenging, especially when it’s in an area where you’re not comfortable or not really wanting to work on. For us, sales - going out and bringing in the work that we want to do has been a challenge and taken a while as we needed our confidence and portfolio to grow. We attended the Hive and Forge events to help us with these . We also spoke to lots of other businesses and just got on with it, hopefully learning from when it didn’t go well.
Undercharging – we have to remember that we are two; therefore we need to cover the both of us, and factor that in when we both work on something together. Learning to value ourselves, and remembering we have a lot of experience in our craft, has taken us too long. It has improved with our growing confidence, through working with more clients and being confident to feel we can back up what we do through our portfolio. We still have a long way to go on this though.
The advantages have been great though! These include:
The flexibility of running our own hours. We both started on this part-time, and have families to support and spend time with, so flexibility has been really important and a driving force to do it in the first place. The fact that there are two of us is also brilliant as it has helped with flexibility.
Getting a work/life balance has been a priority and sometimes we know that it will go one way when its busy and the other when we get holidays, - but ultimately we get to decide.
We’ve got to know other local businesses through Hive. We met Victoria from Perky Blenders through a Hive event and have loved working for them. This was the second year we were able to do their Christmas installation work and they have really supported us in creating fun work that has also allowed us to challenge ourselves.
Laura Tulloch, founder of Digital Marketing B&T Ltd has taken on all of our web design work and hosting following The Next Level sessions together. That has been great for us as it was desperately something that we were wanting to hand over - it’s not our skill set! (You can read Laura’s Success Story here).
Our Hive Success Story is… we met Zoe from Make & Create at a Hive event and have never looked back since. We have opened a shop together, run workshops and generally supported each other through business life. It has made it all that little bit more fun. Our businesses are different but complimentary and we share a similar audience.
Neither business had intended to run a public premises but when a opportunity fell into our laps we took it on because we knew that we could do it together. Zoe was in early pregnancy and we were both only working for Borrowed Light part-time, so it was certainly a risk to upscale like this! However, because we were collaborating we felt that we would manage, and it has worked out so well.
Our businesses have grown in ways that we never imagined and we have been opened up to a new audience as well as becoming part of a small and supportive community of businesses that form CRATE St James Street.
We got speaking to Zoe when Claudia and I were both at the Hive event and Zoe stood up and introduced herself. Her business sounded fun and had an ethos that we could really get behind. So we approached her at the end and said hello. We all love to laugh and that came out straight away!
We arranged to meet up to discuss a collaboration project and were at one of those coffee meet-ups when the shop opportunity came up. We actually saw the shop and made the decision to do it on that same day. Impulsive, but we were all ready to take it on.
Hi, I’m Dr Zoe Watson - Director of Make and Create Ltd.
Make and Create runs creative workshops to promote mental wellbeing as well selling DIY craft kits for “creative meditation” projects that can be completed at home.
We also make and sell our own aromatherapy candles (named after neurotransmitters as a nod to my medical background) and hand stamped positive/feminist phrase jewellery to further promote self care and mental wellness.
We like to help people tap into their inner artist by showing people that creativity is a verb - not a god-given talent. All you need to be creative is time, tools and teaching - and we have all that on tap! We call it the Make and Create effect, and it’s infectious.
I started my business in October 2018 officially - but the idea has been bubbling away in my brain for years!
I live in Walthamstow and have done for the last 5 years. My husband and I ended up here as we were looking to buy our first home together and had heard great things about Walthamstow. Since moving here, we’ve utterly fallen in love with the place. We were lucky enough to move here just as the Art Trail kicked off, and we were bowled over by just how much creativity there is running through the veins of Walthamstow.
I’m inspired by Walthamstow every day - by the beauty of the Wetlands and Epping Forest, by the incredible businesses popping up all over the borough, by the street art that adorns our walls, and so much more.
My business name is actually inspired by the glorious, glittering God’s Own Junkyard mural just opposite Blackhorse Road tube station, which reads: Welcome To The Home Of Those Who Make And Create. When I first saw it I thought, “Ah…I’m home.“
Make and Create is all about wellbeing; personal wellbeing, community wellbeing and planet wellbeing. We are driven by a desire to help others, and to help Mother Earth in any way we can. We try to be eco-friendly and sustainable by avoiding plastic packaging and re-using packaging where possible. We already run a candle “return and refill” exchange programme, where locals can bring back their empty candle jars and exchange for a new candle at a discounted price.
We ran some Eco Friendly Christmas Cracker workshops for Oasis this year, as well as the all female members club, AllBright, in Fitzrovia. This year we are hoping to make connections to provide wellbeing programmes for companies who want to look after their employees and promote a sense of calm and feeling looked after.
Being a GP as well as a creative, I offer a unique service in this area. My workshops are fun to do but also have a bit of science behind them, and I always try to incorporate a bit of science and medicine into my workshops. My area of interest in medicine is mental health, which means I am uniquely placed to help support others with maintaining good mental health through creative meditative techniques.
I first discovered Hive Collective just after officially starting my company in 2018. I stumbled across an advert for a Hive event on Facebook and decided to go along out of interest. I find Hive Events inspiring and friendly. When I first went to an event, I knew no one and nothing; I felt like an impostor as I’m used to being in the world of medicine which is quite different! But Nat and Carmel were so welcoming and encouraging. I felt like I was part of something bigger, and that we were all there to give each other a helping hand as opposed to competing in the world of business. All of the Hive events stand out for me - they’re brilliant!
There are loads of challenges of being a small business owner! I’ve only been going for a year, so it’s a steep learning curve! A few of them are:
Estimating my worth - or in other words, undercharging! I’m used to valuing my time in the world of medicine, but this is all new to me - so working out what to charge for my time as well as being mindful of keeping things at an affordable price point is my biggest challenge.
Time management - juggling Make and Create with being a GP - as well as being a mum to a 4 year old and 7-week-old baby is challenging! In theory I should be on “maternity leave” but in reality I’m squeezing in social media and PR posts, networking and chasing invoices at 3am whilst breastfeeding a newborn. There’s no such thing as maternity leave when you run your own business!
I’ve gotten to know so many local businesses in the last 12 months, it’s been amazing. Through Hive, I’ve also met the amazing Hannah Khaleesi who runs Greener Habits Co. at CRATE and Laura Tulloch who’s now helping me Siri my website and marketing!
My Hive Success Story is…. I met Sarah and Claudia at my first ever Hive event. I had followed them on Instagram for a while and really loved all of their floral installations and wedding flowers. They approached me about collaborating on a DIY terrarium kit, which then quickly evolved into taking on a Crate together at CRATE St James Street where we now sell our products and run workshops.
It was instant chemistry! We just clicked. I think we have a similar mindset, goals, outlook on life and mischievous sense of humour. I can’t imagine doing Make and Create without them now - we have a lovely synergistic relationship.
Lockdown’s been a really difficult time for us! Closing the shop was hard; but in some ways it spurred me on to finally sort out my online shop, which I had been putting off for ages!
The main way that Make & Create has been impacted by COVID-19 is that I’m unable to run workshops, and won’t feel comfortable running workshops for some time. I’ve also really struggled in general with running the business from home whilst on lockdown caring for my four-year-old son and six-month- old daughter. Finding time to post to social media/develop products/fulfil orders is virtually impossible and extremely stressful!
Sadly all of this, including the fact I don’t feel comfortable running workshops for the moment, means that I’ve had to take the extremely difficult decision to leave our little shop at CRATE for now.
However, Sarah, Claudia and I are still planning on keeping our businesses linked together through collaborations on various things. Plus, more than anything, we’ve all become such good friends, that there’s no way you can keep us apart now!
For now - I’m going to try and streamline and simplify life for a bit; concentrating on the online shop and looking at doing some online workshop offerings, as well as developing new craft kits and other products.