Womenfolk: A Collaboration for Daring Entrepreneurs with Creative Flair

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This image and all consequent photographs are from the author’s LinkedIn.

Shauna Graham, Contributor.

Womenfolk – a sub-organization of Blick Shared Studios, headed by Christine James – began as a project solely to celebrate female design entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland. The project aims to encourage more women to start up their own design businesses by showcasing the work of local designers in the area. This project was devised to invite designers to write their own guest blogs and to conduct talks and workshops, bringing together a diverse range of specialized individuals with their own brand of artistic flair. This is in collaboration with Creating a Space, a multi-faceted company run by fellow freelancers Esther Mogada and James Gitari, which deals with fashion design, film-making, photography, music production and events management. Mogada and Gitari began the venture as a way of branching out into the local arts scene within Belfast. The brand seeks to showcase local aspiring creatives through the medium of interview and film. Both of these leading design communities in the heart of Belfast have decided to come together in an on-going project to help those fledgling entrepreneurs, both men and women, to craft their creative stories and to form their empires through their own visionary direction. Ultimately, this is a platform for both budding entrepreneurs just starting out or more experienced individuals in the middle of their journey who could inspire others to begin their own.

The idea for ‘The Time is Now’ project began with the creative industry beginning to flourish within the city. As more and more women began to pour into the design sector, it inspired others to pursue more artistic aspirations in the community. ‘The Time is Now’ is a platform designed to provide a space for growing and developing these creative sparks and for those who want to challenge themselves, open themselves to more vulnerability in showing their experiences within their particular industries. The project aims to open up a conversation between a diverse group of individuals, who are both beginning and middle of their chosen careers, willing to provide a range of insights on their journeys so far. The goal is to grow this project to reach different groups of people who, for reasons of their own, might have decided not to follow their dream but pursue a route of practicality instead. This is a more sensible but less fulfilling choice, especially for those with the burning desire to create for themselves. The organisations want to expand the in-depth conversation on the topics of creativity, the creative process, life experiences and honesty and to include the outer reaches of Belfast and eventually all corners of Northern Ireland. People of all races and backgrounds may share their experiences as part of the project to let everyone see the reality of entrepreneurship, versus the romanticism of starting one’s own business. Entrepreneurship, like any other venture, comes with its own particular set of stresses, anxieties and worries that can be overcome through perseverance, talent and hard work. In facing these struggles comes the development of a community of creatives and a sense that you’re never truly alone when faced with these universal problems.

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A panel of all women designers, brought together by Esther Mogada, gave talks on a series of issues facing the modern entrepreneur and those contemplating taking the exciting next step of building their own business. I attended this as part of Belfast Design Week and was inspired to see a group of powerful female figures who lead the way in the arts and design industries across Belfast and the outer regions. Among these leading ladies were Donna Collins from Dot Projects, Roisin McCann from Marshall McCann Architects, Emma Johnston from Hunter Paper Co. and Rebekah Johnston from Lines and Current. The topics covered really resonated with those seeking to create something for themselves, such as what employment landscape looked like in the creative industry, how to take that leap from working for others into making contacts and working yourself, how to gain confidence in what you do, and how to create that all-important work/life balance.

I’ve seen an inclusive community come together of NI-based designers to instil a sense that the vision for your creative career can be achieved. It will take dedication, planning and a degree of chance in your execution of whether it will take off or not. However, it’s finding what works for you as an artist and then producing a product/business that will effectively sell your work to your ideal target market. It’s identifying them first, and moving forward in the knowledge of those you really want to reach. Through The Time is Now comes a project that solidifies why you want to be a creative, your dreams and aspirations in doing so and grounding these in terms of your financial expectations. If failure comes, then use this: evaluate and adapt to another possibility for your business. The importance of building this community is to create solidarity on the journey and to remember that no matter what business you build, there are others out there in the same position as you who are willing to help. In other words, give it a try and who knows where the opportunity may lead you.

The Time is Now // Womenfolk 5.11.19

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[The project] affords us a space to check in with ourselves, and in turn to be inspired by others. I have a panel of four amazing women with different creative backgrounds who will be giving insights into their careers, shedding light on the things they have struggled with, but also emphasizing how they are strong and powerful within their creative industry.” – Esther Mogada

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You really have to love what you do because it is hard. And when you aren’t making enough that month, or that quarter, it’s hard to keep going. But you have to ask yourself if it’s what I really want or would I be more fulfilled in a job that has financial stability?” – Emma Hunter

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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