Creative Industry Hub
George Taylor is the founder of Creative Industry Hub (the website I guest write for). Last night I went to his event, Strictly Go Networking with Hannah Trigwell and Keith Harris (You can watch the interviews here: Hannah Trigwell and Keith Harris) who spoke about the new ways of marketing in this ‘new era’ of music and the importance of networking.
I’m honoured to be able to share this interview that I did with George as he is my business mentor as well a really talented and business driven guy.
Knewyu: It’s great to have a place to go where you can get high quality business tips, information and support but let’s start from the beginning. How did you first get into events and business? Did you always want to be self-employed, especially within the fields of fashion, film, music and art?
George: Thanks! My story is a unique one, and quite long really. I’ll probably write a book about it one day! But to put it in the most simple and shortest way possible:
I studied Popular Music Performance at Southampton Solent, and whilst I loved every minute of my degree and the experiences I had (and the people I met), I didn’t really feel as though I was given an accurate view on how the music industry really operated – nor was I equipped with the relevant skills, contacts and knowledge to build a music career.
When I graduated, I was unable to get a job in the music industry, which meant that I was forced to try other more ‘feasible’ avenues. I moved to London to pursue music, but ended up working in a whole range of jobs including recruitment to online ticketing, to venue sales and event technology sales – all of which I was either fired or made redundant from.
By the time it got to May 2013 (a year after I’d moved to London), I’d lost so many jobs that I didn’t want to go through all of that trauma again as my financial situation was pretty desperate, yet I felt I had learned enough ‘event’ skills by that point to go it alone so I set up my first business running networking events in the music industry which turned out to be really popular.
Bit by bit, word got out and people from other creative industries got in touch as they wanted the same thing in their industry (fashion, art, film, etc), so I started a similar event in those industries too. The one thing I learned quickly was that all creative industries are the same.
Sadly, it was too late and I lost my house, but I kept fighting through for a year and a half, because I believed in what I was doing and was desperate to make it work, but I couldn’t save myself and come May 2014 (one year later), I had been homeless three times so I had to move to Leeds as it was my only option at the time.
I then took on a role as Marketing Manager in Leeds (as I’d gained quite a lot of marketing experience through the business), but lost that too, and I had to move out of the flat which I had craved for so long to have. By this point I was at breaking point, so I started Creative Industry Hub out of pure desperation.
Luckily I now have a good part time job and I’m with the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Program, and both of these opportunities have allowed me to not only keep a roof over my head, but also to grow the business. What I am doing now is combining all my skills, knowledge, contacts and passion into a business which I am more passionate about than anybody could possibly ever understand. It saved me to be completely honest!
That dream and desire for more got me through some incredibly dark times which I never want to go back to, and which I know a lot of people will find it difficult to relate to. So in answer to your question, yes I am glad I am now semi-self-employed, as all of that hardship drove me to where I am today, and I love the creative industries so much.
K: How would you describe Creative Industry Hub in one sentence? Did you face any challenges starting it and how did you overcome those challenges/setbacks?
G: See my previous answer! I think I’ve probably gone through more setbacks than the average person to be honest. The biggest challenge for me has been starting it with no money, juggling a part time job and trying to make ends meet whilst I get all of the ‘trial’ events out the way.
I have no interest in taking out any funding until I have proved the concept works, and so far it is, but I’m keeping things small scale. It’s just difficult having to scrimp and scrape to keep it going, but I’ve been there and done it in much worse situations so it’s second nature to me now! I think my resilience due to my previous setbacks has made me stronger.
K: Do you have any hobbies outside of work? How do you balance your personal down time with a growing business? How do you find time?
G: I do have hobbies, but I’ve had to rediscover myself through all of this chaos, trauma and madness over the past three years. My main hobbies are playing guitar, writing music, going to gigs, reading, writing, watching documentaries and getting out to explore and switch off.
I’ve only really started to develop the work/life balance this year, but Arianna Huffington’s book, ‘Thrive’ has really helped with that. Work is quite addictive when you’re used to it and it’s all you know, but my advice is to set curfews. When you start to feel burnt out or it hits a certain time, just say no! You’ll be more productive if you take time out any way…
K: What is a normal day like in the life of George?
G: It varies. Some times it’s really boring and just involves me sitting on bed reading a book a day, and other times it’s working like crazy, then writing some music and then going out, and other times it’s a lot of travelling to and from events I’m speaking at or attending, or holding through the business!
In the future, I’d like to be able to have more ‘me time’ to focus on other hobbies like music, travel and writing.
K: Do you have any tips for small businesses on how to get sponsors?
G: Again, I could write a book on this one! My advice is: always make sure that you 1. have a very specific or niche target audience (i.e. just fashion designers), and look for companies that need your delegates, as they are their target audience too. And keep your initial proposition open. Don’t be too specific.
The reason I say this is because it’s all well and good saying ‘we can offer you x, y and z, but the company you approach might not want that – resulting in an obvious ‘no.’ So keep it open and ask them what they want. Be flexible so you can give your potential sponsor what they want and deliver it. That way, you’ll have a higher chance of them saying yes.
K: I’m thankful that I’m able to contribute every now and again to your website and have enjoyed watching it grow and see the site get completely fresh and exciting makeover. So with that said, what has been the highlight or your favourite memory so far of your business?
G: Yes! You’ve written some amazing articles over the past year, so I’m grateful to have you on board! It means a lot to be honest, and now you know why. My highlight so far had to be ‘Breakthrough in Fashion.’ I’ve done a lot of events, but it was the one that really got me buzzing in a way that I’ve never experienced before.
The whole vibe on the day was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before and to have such an incredible line up of speakers and such a kind, responsive audience really gave me a whole new love for what I do, and I hope that our next event ‘Breakthrough in Music’ will do the same, or even better – more!
K: You are helping to change the way people view fashion and music by sharing daily/weekly posts of the industry of both. Why did you choose to create an industry blog/website and what do you want people who read the articles on your site to take away from it?
G: There’s a few reasons: 1. Because it’s good for building and maintaining an audience, 2. Because it’s good for SEO (which is really starting to work now) and 3. Because there aren’t any websites out there that deliver high quality news and advice for ALL creative industries. I like to think that the news is a big part of what we do and offer.
In the future, I’d like to ramp up our news channel, and deliver more content and include video in that too, but it’s just finding the time and resources to do it at this stage – but it will happen!
K: What tips can you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
G: Another one I could write a book on! Here are a few tips that I think are really important:
1. Always stick to what you know and do best. If you’ve studied a particular subject or worked in a particular industry or discipline for a while, it makes sense to start a business in that, as the hardest and most tedious part is building a database, building valuable contacts, perfecting your ‘art’ (whatever that is), and building credibility.
If you’ve spent your whole life doing music and you have some expertise in that field, then to suddenly wake up one day and decide you want to start an accountancy firm is ludicrous. Stick to what you know! Whatever business I do in the future, I will make sure that it’s in the creative industries because I have the database, knowledge and contacts to pull it off…
2. Make market research the most important part of what you do. I made this mistake quite a few times. I organised an event and banged a price tag on it, and assumed that people would want to buy it. Don’t ever assume. Do people want to buy it? If so, how many people? What is it that makes them want to buy it? How much would they pay?
If you jump to conclusions without getting substantial customer feedback in volume and fail to build your entire business around what your potential customer wants, you are setting yourself up for failure, I promise you.
3. Ditch the business loan or the life-savings! People work their whole lives, save up a nice big sum of money, come up with an idea they believe in and then waste their entire savings/get themselves into debt over an idea that just isn’t going to work.
Don’t make that mistake. Always do a trial year first to gauge what the demand and success is/will be. Then get funding or spend some money once you know it works.
4. And last but not least, make sure you build a good understanding of the sales and marketing process. Having a tacky website or badly written copy or selling your idea over the phone in the wrong way is another sure-fire way to make sure that you don’t succeed. Get the principles right and hire a professional if you need to.
I hope that helps!
Thank you so much George!