Nikki Allan speaks to Felicity Hoy, founder and director of Common People – a community interest company made to support, promote and encourage independent creative enterprises in Sheffield.
Common People was founded by Felicity in 2013 after she received a grant from an enterprise scheme which helped her set up a shop on Division Street for 6 months. At the end of the six months the shop was taken over, however “the council saw how good the shop was and how it was giving people opportunities so we now have the Winter Gardens pop-up shop,” she said.
“Common people is about common people coming together to create a stronger force with people with common interests.”
Felicity believes that the city centre independent community needs to be stronger as the council now have plans to demolish Devonshire Street, a hub of independence in Sheffield city centre. “There have been no talks about putting an independent quarter in the city centre and that’s what we need to be fighting for, otherwise there’s not going to be any places left for independent people.
“Independent businesses are the only thing that make a city interesting. Independent culture is the culture that people who live in a city bring and it’s what connects people together and strengthens the local economy.
“With larger chains you’re just taking the money out of Sheffield and putting it back into the hands of bigwigs.”
FELICITY’S TOP TIPS:
1. ASK AROUND TO SEE WHETHER THERE’S A GAP IN THE MARKET
“If you have an idea for a service, product or shop make sure you ask around to see whether there’s a gap in the market. Look at other local businesses doing similar things so you can see what’s working and what isn’t.”
2. TEST YOUR MARKET
“If you decide to get started then test your market as much as possible in lots of low risk ways. Markets are the best way and there’s lots in Sheffield to choose from. When you’re ready to have a pop-up shop, meet the public and gauge their opinions. Don’t just ask your friends as they’ll just be nice to you.”
“Our Winter Garden pop-up shop allows people to test the market and hopefully that will push people to take on their own shop. The Winter Gardens is one of the most affluent places in Sheffield so if it works there it could do really well.”
3. DO WHAT YOU LOVE
“The most important thing when growing your own business is to love what you do. You will have to work all hours of the day for little to no money for a long time so you have to know that you’re doing the right thing. If you don’t feel passionate enough then you won’t make it through!”
4. BE INNOVATIVE AND DIFFERENT
“Stay true to your independence and innovate constantly. Work out what makes you different and then think of ways to create new products or new services that can expand your business but still represent your brand.”
5. NETWORK AND COLLABORATE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
“Networking doesn’t have to be boring and uncomfortable, it can be as easy as getting in touch with someone you admire on twitter and grabbing a coffee to find out what they’re up to. Collaborating is a great way to innovate and think up new ideas, it keeps things fresh and you can create something really amazing!”
“Collaborations are really important. A network has been created around our Winter Garden pop-shop for collaborations such as Sheffield Skincare Company collaborating with Birdhouse Tea Company. Everyone meets each other, gets to know each other and carries on working together and that is really promising.”
Common People is a partner in Union Street, a co-working space in the city centre. Next year on Independence Day – July 4th – Felicity hopes to start a citywide independence event. “We want the businesses to celebrate their independence and for them to able to thank their customers.”
Common People is holding a female networking event of May 14th at Union St for £4. “It’s going to be very cool, creative and chilled out with donuts, booze, talks and live music.”
Felicity is now offering social media support to new start ups and advice sessions on social positioning and opportunities in Sheffield. http://www.felicityhoy.co.uk/