The story of two accountants following their passion and creative instinct, because we are all artists! Thanks to them we can all get our “creative muscles”, often forgotten, pumping again!
What inspired you to quit your ‘real’ job / start a new business?
I was working full-time supporting startups in Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit entrepreneurial arm of the Virgin Group. It was great, but wasn’t quenching my own entrepreneurial thirst! It runs in the family, with my Dad and brother both setting up their own tech businesses. I’ve always wanted in, so quit full-time work in September 2016 and went on a bit of voyage of self discovery and startups. Can’t believe it’s been over a year now!
How did you make that jump? What was the process like?
I was on safari in Kenya, no joke. I remember it vividly whilst we were driving around trying to find a leopard. I kind of decided that, fundamentally, I like to help people and didn’t want to set up a tech business or do it through someone else’s company. Once I decided that, I quit the week after I got back. But, I did ask in my notice letter could I do some freelance work a day or so a week, which they thankfully said yes to – it’s helped me pay the bills. Thank you Mei and Virgin StartUp! I spent some time working on a co-creation space for musicians and music startups (The Rattle – check it out), but have now settled on establishing M.Y.O with Diana and we’re loving it! It’s fun setting up a business with your girlfriend, I feel we have complementary skills and she is super creative.
What are your next goals? And long-term aspirations?
We’re at the early stages of trying to create a flexible and accessible creative space for adults. We’ll tinker with things as we go. We think in the not too distant future, spending regular time expressing your creative side will be as regular to people as going to the gym or exercising. Train your body train your mind. Naturally, this may lend itself to M.Y.O having a monthly membership type model, where people pay and get a certain amount of studio time per month, free use of equipment, certain amount of materials, access to classes. An art gym for your creative muscles! For now, we do 2 types of sessions – drop in and make anything in the studio and more guided ones. We also do some off-sites.
What advice could you give to someone that wants to start their own business?
Follow your passion. It may seem like a cliche, but it’s true. Passion leads to persistence, which is crucial when setting up your own business. Once I decided that helping people in a tangible way and in a physical environment was what I wanted to do, we started gravitating more to the idea of a creative outlet for adults and really enjoyed the process of working through it. The feeling of empowering people through arts and crafts really gives us a kick and provided us with the focus and drive to keep building up M.Y.O. I wouldn’t be doing this Q&A at 1am in the morning otherwise :). It’s going to be a long road and we are right at the beginning, but I’m relishing it and looking forward to what the journey will bring!
What do you like most about being a creative?
Firstly, I wouldn’t say I am the stereotypical ‘creative’, as in, I haven’t worked as a creative professionally before. I’m getting to re-know my creative side. Diana is the same, she’s incredibly creative but hasn’t been expressing it regularly for years. Until now. Everyone is creative, but I think many people kind of lock that side of themselves in a box when they reach adolescence. I did. The intrigue of trying new equipment or techniques, the relief when a new colour enhances a picture – rather than ruins it!, the satisfaction of zoning out and spending a few hours creating something with your hands that you can stick on your wall or gift to someone. It’s all incredibly special and I love giving people the platform to do that.
Has your creativity and/or craft skills increased since you started?
Yes! 100%. Learn something new every day. Learning paper crafts is my next mission.
What is your favourite craft? Why?
I really enjoy ceramic painting – quick to get stuck into and produces brilliant results. Nothing beats eating your Sunday roast off a plate you designed, painted with your hands and which was fired in a kiln at nearly 1,000 degrees!
Do you think your workshops have an impact to the attendees?
Going by the feedback forms, reviews and smiles, definitely. Feelings of joy, relaxation and surprise at what they have made are regular. We get a lot of self titled ‘non-creatives’, (which I don’t agree with as everyone is creative, as I mentioned above), and they always love what they are able to make. Even just putting the phone away for a couple of hours can have huge benefits for your mental wellbeing.
What are the “keys” to creativity or to be creative?
Having the equipment, materials and some guidance (hint, hint), along with just a little pinch of confidence to try something you wouldn’t normally do. When people think of famous creatives, they are often drawn to thinking of painters like Picasso, Bacon, Basquiat – but crafting provides as much of a platform to express your creative side. Just give it a try and see what comes out. There’s no good or bad. You’ll be amazed!
Are you a messy creative or an organised one?
Organised! I use the 80/20 rule – 80% of my time thinking of what I’m going to make and 20% creating it quietly and neatly. Over time, I hope it’s the other way round! Diana is definitely the other way round! Haha.
If you were a colour, which one would you be and why?
Blue. Many reasons. I love (and miss) the sea near Dublin. Dublin’s county colours and my football team Chelsea are blue. More profoundly, blue can be the shade of sadness, but a clear blue sky is magical!
What do you do in your free time? Do you attend other workshops?
I like to exercise and play football, read The Week, go for walks and of course create! I recently went to a Pop-Up Painting workshop which was great. And nothing beats a few hours in the studio when it’s quiet, discovering new materials and techniques.
Do you have a funny/odd story to share with us? What is the most interesting thing that you’ve seen in a workshop?
Hahaha. Good question. A Hollywood A-Lister (we’re talking Oscar winner) came into the studio during the Pop-Up we ran earlier this year to make a birthday card for his mum! We were so surprised, we forgot to take a picture! That was pretty cool. But, we promised not to say who it was as we hope he’ll be back for that picture! Keep an eye on our Instagram.
Thanks, Sam and Diana! Make sure you check out the range of M.Y.O workshops, from painting ceramics, life drawing, making your own bag and t-shirt to tea tasting!