Updated: Dec 14, 2019
We can't tell you how much we admire local entrepreneurs and women who're not only growing their own ventures but are helping other women to expand their brands along the way. Meet Shona Chambers, Entrepreneur, Mother, Marketer and Power woman behind the creative hub "Space at 61"
"Women Who Slay" caught up with Shona to find out more about her entrepreneurial ventures, to learn why as a business owner you need to take marketing seriously and to find out how she balances work and family plus much more.....
You have over 10 years experience working as a marketer and you're also the owner of the creative space/venue Space at 61 situated in Nunhead, London. How did you initially get into marketing?
I graduated in 2001 with a 2.1 in Linguistics from The School of Oriental and African studies (SOAS) and afterwards started looking for commercial opportunities straight away, Seeking out a role working in Media, I began as a Media Sales Assistant in a busy Outdoor advertising team, and from there took my Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications with CIM and progressed from there into the Marketing function.
Why is marketing important for businesses and for smaller or start-up brands what forms of marketing could they undertake themselves to grow and develop their businesses?
The most important thing a company can do is to try and understand its customers. Who they are, what their motivation is in buying from you, who their competitors might be, and why that customer should use their services. Any business that wants to survive and also grow would do well to pit the customer at the heart of everything they do. In terms of Marketing activities for small companies, building a list of customers who really want to hear from you and communicating with them can be very useful. Focusing on building up visibility and brand value for potential customers is also important. Making sure you have a good coverage of social media, blogging and a decent website all help as does paying attention to Google for business and asking customers to leave a review which helps gain you more business. You're a mother and a woman in business working on not only your ventures but also helping other entrepreneurs in the process. How do you manage to find the balance?
I think you have to accept that work-life balance is something you will win at some times and then at other times you'll feel like it's all slipping through your fingers. You need to be fluid in your actions and not set rigid structures in place for yourself that then feel like constraints if you have to move something around. I take a day off every week, and I plan ahead as much as I realistically can.
Your brand Space at 61 is a creative space where brands can rent the venue to host their ventures at reasonable rates and it's likened to being an 'Airbnb of business ventures'. At what point did you decide that you wanted to use this space for this?
I opened and ran my current space as a cafe from 2012 to 2016. The business was popular but not financially viable. A friend suggested to me that I could do something else in the premises instead of give up the lease altogether and at that point an event space for hire started to form from idea to plan.
Growing a brand can come with road blocks from time to time. What setbacks have you had along the way when growing your brand and what steps have you taken to overcoming them?
It has taken some time for me to form an identity for Space at 61. As a generic event space it has limited appeal but shaping and presenting it as a space for entrepreneurs gives it a brand and a set of ideals. We also do a lot of private hire for other purposes but I focus on the business to business use when Marketing.
There haven't really been any dramatic situations with the venue other than the occasional client who doesn't use the space as you'd like. But I think all event spaces would sympathise with that.
What social media platform or mediums have you found has been the most effective in helping you to gain more interest in your brand?
A lot of people see Instagram as the be all and end all but personally I find different uses for the 3 main social media.
On Facebook I have built a successful Facebook group with 300 small business people helping and supporting other. These people have mainly all attended one of our monthly networking groups.
Twitter is very useful for local business community building and I use it to circulate my weekly blog 'Monday Mentions' which is a roundup of news for local businesses in the area. Anyone can request to be in it.
Instagram is a vibrant space for entrepreneurs and especially female business owners. I use it to show what happens at the venue and also advertise upcoming events.
So they all have a place for me in my communication strategy.
What drives and motivates you the most in your journey as a female entrepreneur?
I am driven to build a bigger and better business as time goes on, whilst respecting everything worth having is hard-work and overnight successful is a myth. I find I am motivated by listening to successful business owners like Sarah Tasker (Me & Orla) and Gary Vee on podcasts, and I read a lot of business interest books too, most recently Honest Mum. I also spend a lot of time communicating with my fellow small business owners in the local area, not many days go by when I'm not speaking to one of them.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical day would include child care, teaching workshops, attending events at my venue or elsewhere, producing content, answering enquiries and promoting my own events and others.
Who are your biggest cheerleaders?
The women I have met since setting up my networking group have been the best for keeping me on the straight and narrow. They all know what it's like to be trying to do something that is yours, whilst working around the constraints of life and often family.
What upcoming events do you have at Space at 61 and how can our readers get involved?
We have a new evening event called Show Up! Which takes our popular monthly networking event into the evening, and this time it's over dinner! We have limited numbers to 18 to keep it intimate and make sure people really get the chance to talk. This month's speaker is Liz Riley- Who is going to talk about how important photography is for entrepreneurs who are the face of their own businesses.
Our monthly daytime event First Fridays will meet again on December 7th for the last time this year. Coach Emma Fulton is our speaker and will deliver an interactive session for small business owners.
All our events are advertised on our Facebook Events page or our website.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
In the summer we had a TV commercial shot in the venue which involved the entire space being taken over for 2 days and dressed as a working cafe which then starred a Giant Panda. The ad for Cheeky Panda went out on Channel 5 and Sky recently. It was pretty amazing to see my venue on TV.
What do you love the most about running your brands?
Building out from the original premise all the time. It really is an organic process of thinking, that worked, they liked that, can we now do this? I'm forever scribbling notes on napkins and in notebooks thinking about what I can do next.
What advice can you offer other business/career women who are working on their ventures?
Look for as many opportunities to get with as many like minded people as possible. The energy you can get from other entrepreneurs is just amazing for moving yourself forward and for the support it provides that you may not get from your friends and family.
Things take time. Don't expect instant success, it doesn't exist no matter what TV shows you. Keep working on your vision every day and accept you will have bad times and will feel like throwing in the towel. Anyone who says they don't is lying!
Interview by @SashaShantel