L-R Fiona Simpson and Alex Muller-Nicholson
After leaving careers as a solicitor and a primary school teacher, Alex Muller-Nicholson and Fiona Simpson set up Storified Art, to empower children's love of writing through art. They spoke to BQ about why they have entered their new business into this year's If We Can You Can Challenge.
What did you do before setting up your business?
Storified Art is the brainchild of Alex Muller-Nicholson, a former primary school teacher who is passionate about helping children to achieve their full creative potential. She is joined by co-founder and director Fiona Simpson, a former solicitor who founded ARTventurers in 2011, delivering art classes for babies, toddlers and children. Working together, our joint experience, skills and most importantly passion are a winning combination and we are excited to be launching Storified Art as a nationwide brand delivering creative literacy workshops into schools and beyond where everyone has an opportunity to become a Storified Artist!
What inspired you to set up your business?
We met during the Nat West Entrepreneurial Spark programme in Newcastle – we had both entered the programme with our respective existing businesses! Fiona was excited and inspired hearing Alex talk about her vision for Storified Art workshops in schools which at that point was a part of her existing business Rosarts, producing storified art prints for sale. On talking further, we realised that we shared the same vision for Storified Art – that it had the potential to really transform classrooms across the country with fun, creative curriculum-inspired workshops where all children could fall back in love with storytelling and creative writing. Our shared passion for creativity and inspiring children is what drives Storified Art forward as we launch on a national basis!
What makes this business different?
Storified Art delivers a unique product – curriculum inspired workshops into schools and other organisations, working with groups of children to produce and illustrated a piece of creative writing, their own piece of framed Storified Art. Storified Art is a new business, founded in April 2017, but we are already receiving incredible feedback from the schools and organisations that we have worked with and there is huge potential to develop the brand further into working with special needs groups, corporate team building and more – in fact we recently delivered a session to a group of entrepreneurs in Newcastle and it was very well received!
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
We heard about the If We Can You Can Challenge last year and saw some of the social media posts and promotion about it so when it came around this year we jumped at the chance to apply! It’s a great opportunity for us to reach out to more people, tell them our story and spread the word about Storified Art!
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
We’re excited to have reached the end of our validation and launch stage at Storified Art! As north east based entrepreneurs it made sense to test our Storified Art workshops in our own local area initially with a small local team of Storified Artists. The response has been brilliant and we are now expanding our team of Storified Artists who receive a fixed fee for delivering sessions on a freelance basis in their local area – looking to recruit individuals with a teaching or creative background who share our passion for bring creativity back into the classroom!
We have also launched an innovative Partnership Project - carrying out ongoing research with a pioneering group of creative-thinking schools as part of our continuous improvement strategy.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
Seeing how the children react to the Storified Art workshops and the sense of pride and achievement on their faces at the end of the day when they display their finished piece of Storified Art.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge we face is establishing links with schools and other establishments so we can tell them about Storified Art and what we can offer to their school. It’s all about getting a first foot in the door!
Who/what gave you support or advice?
We’ve been really lucky to have lots of great help and support from the team at Natwest Entrepreneurial Spark who have helped us with practical things like banking as well as guidance and support as we’ve set up and launched the business. We also work closely with other businesses in the same programme – it’s great to have a network of like-minded people you can share ideas and advice with, people who are all facing similar challenges in running their own businesses as we are!
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
Just go for it! If you’ve got a great idea and the passion to go with it then don’t keep it to yourself. There’s lots of business support and advice out there to help you. But also don’t expect it to be all plain sailing. Setting up and running a business really is a rollercoaster ride and we’re lucky to have each other as well a great support network around us. Lastly – tell anyone and anybody about what you’re up to! You never know who could be a potential customer or who will know someone who could be!