Liliana Morgan, aged 10, interviews her mum Michelle Clothier, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Livity.
My daughter has just had a term of ‘enterprise’ as the school topic – finally I thought! Homework I can perhaps actually help with! Interview me about my business Lili! I had perhaps been too hasty in my offer..!
Having to explain your business in plain English to a 10 year old, who to date thinks that your job is ‘doing emails’ is a great challenge. Especially with the idea of Livity not being traditional- but it forced me to simplify my response and explanation – so for all those who have wondered ‘what is it that Livity does?’ I hope this helps!
Liliana: What inspired you to work with young people?
Michelle: I think that our young people are inspiring! That’s what inspired me! I also thought that it was important to try and do my bit in the world to give young people a voice and opportunities.
Liliana: How did you come up with the name Livity?
Michelle: It was given to us by a youth worker in Lambeth called Fred Peters, we explained to him what we were trying to achieve in our business – helping young people have a good life. He said ‘That’s livity’. Livity is a mixture of the words Life and Positivity and originates from the Rastafarian language.
Liliana: Is it hard running your own business?
Michelle: YEAH! It’s really hard, but I tell you what, it’s really exciting as well. Being able to bring your ideas and ambitions to life, in your own way. It’s great! You just have to be prepared to learn a lot, and that might involve failing sometimes. But it’s ok to fail if you learn a lesson a long the way.
Liliana: What did you have to think about when you first started your business?
Michelle: Lots of things! Making sure we had a great idea that we believed in was the most important thing. But having an office, a phone, a computer, a name for the business and plan for how we were going to go out and tell people about our business – so that we could get clients, who would pay us money to make the business run properly and grow, were just some of the things we had to think about.
Liliana: Was it a risk you were taking or a difficult task?
Michelle: It was a risk and a difficult task! We borrowed some money from the bank to help start us up, we had to make sure our idea was good enough so that we could pay the bank back the money we had borrowed. The task was difficult because no one was quite running a business like our idea when we first set our business up in 2001. Now in 2014, lots of people are running businesses like ours, they are called Social Enterprises, where the purpose or reason of the business is to help or benefit people, but through a business rather than a charity. So you earn your money, not fundraise it.
Liliana: Were there any people that you had to hire to make it easier? Eg. a designer?
Michelle: Yes, as we began to win work for new clients we had to employ people to help us do the work, the first person we employed was a young woman called Kate, she came to help project manage the work. We are really proud that she still works at Livity, now she is one of the leaders of the business! We also worked with some designers and your Dad was one of them. That’s how we met each other!
Liliana: What was the hardest part of setting up Livity?
Michelle: Well, there was so much that we didn’t know how to do! It was all quite hard, but also lots of fun! The most important thing when starting up a business is to have a great idea that you really believe in, but, that doesn’t make you a brilliant business person! You have to learn about running a business along the way. Read books, get people who are already running successful businesses to mentor you and share what they know, put lots of time and enthusiasm into making it work and then you’re on your way!
Liliana: Was there anything really easy that you didn’t have to think about?
Michelle: There’s nothing easy, but everything is less difficult if you are excited, motivated and feeling really good about your business idea. That’s what gets you through all the difficult stuff!
Liliana: What have you learnt from it all?
Michelle: Well I’m still learning, every day, every week! But I’ve learnt how important it is to love the work you do. For me it is important to feel like I’m doing something that I’m proud of and that is useful and helpful to young people.
Liliana: Was there anything that you enjoyed doing whilst you were setting Livity up?
Michelle: Coming up with names for our business was lots of fun (there were lots of terrible names before we got to Livity and we laughed A LOT!). Although I’ve told you how hard it is to set up a business, I want you to know how wonderful it is as well. I feel so lucky that I gave setting up a business a go and I also think it’s important for you as my daughter to see my success in the business world.
Liliana: Thanks Mummy
15.04.14, Michelle Clothier, Managing Director of Livity interviewed by her daughter, Liliana Morgan (aged 10).
Livity’s Junior Producer Henry Houdini steps in front of the camera to bring you his fortnightly does of creative goodness…
Prepare to be entertained.
*Be warned, there is some strong language. Henry’s a passionate guy.
Check out Henry’s picks here:
More info on the This Is Not A Rave event can be found here.
Follow Henry on Twitter @Henry_Houdini
11.04.14, Henry Houdini, Junior Producer at Livity
Livity and somewhereto_ Account Director Athena Simpson (@heavennhellthy) gives us her takeouts from attending a Santander Breakthrough 50 startup event. Read on to discover 5 top tips on starting and growing a business…
‘I feel like a stalker’ I said to Amit Pau, the executive director of Ariadne Capital & Director of Entrepreneur Country as I hovered around him awkwardly waiting for my chance to speak to him.
‘You’re not a stalker . . . the woman who sat outside my house for two days was a stalker!’ He said referring to the story he told during a panel discussion at Google Campus hosted by the Santander Breakthrough 50 awards in partnership with Smarta yesterday.
Earlier Pau was speaking about the perseverance required to be an entrepreneur and told the story of a woman who despite having already sold three companies to Microsoft (and worth hundreds of millions), had a failed at pitch to sell her fourth. After the meeting, she sat outside Pau’s house for two days causing his nanny to ring his wife with suspicions of an affair! He arrived home from his trip to the distraught woman who after accusing him of ruining her business, broke down in tears. They later did an analysis of her pitch and she then went on to successfully sell her business. Though, Pau doesn’t necessarily recommend this approach, it does demonstrate determination.
The panel was impressive with an array of people in different stages of their business moderated by Shaa Wasmund, Founder of Smarta, which is a resource for entrepreneurs, that offers advice, events and a toolkit to help build a business. The room was packed with every walk of life to soak up the knowledge of the panel and network.
As Pau said, we are currently living in one of the most disruptive times in history, which means the opportunities to make an impact are endless. The time to start your business is now.
It’s hard to learn everything there is to know about starting a disruptive business in one hour. But the panel did give some fantastic words of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs, here are my top five pearls of wisdom from yesterday to share with anyone thinking of starting a business or is in the process.
1. Entrepreneurism is an obsession.
Pau outlined this in the story of the woman with no need to sell a 4th business, already being a successful multi-millionaire. Entrepreneurs have to absolutely believe in their product/service to be successful and perseverance to get it out there!
2. Make it easy for your targets.
General manager of Uber, Jo Bertram, says she gets requests for meetings all the time. Often the requester fails to offer insight into the relevance of the request for coffee, which then makes it easy to say no. If you want to try to get some face time with someone who can help your business, give them background on you and why you want to meet them. Most importantly make it easy for them to say yes by suggesting a time, and even a place near them. That way, your contact can easily and quickly agree to see you!
3. Take your customers on your journey.
Greg Duggan, co-founder of Wheyhey: The Protein Ice Cream which is in its second year of business, has got his product into Holland & Barrett, Wholefoods and Ocado. Recently they’ve started international distribution and are moving into a new office after starting the business from their kitchen. Duggan said the key to their plan was involving the customers in the journey and blogging about it along the way. Because of this, they were able to get die-hard supporters before they even launched their product. Doing this before your product is available means you will have customers the moment you launch and retain ‘fans for life’!
4. Keep all of your ideas.
Al Gosling, Founder & CEO of EXTREME keeps a ‘crazy ideas’ folder. Every idea that he has, he sends an email to himself, no matter how crazy. Later he sends his list to a small group of people to later run through at a meeting to decide which to action, save for later and which to disregard. This is a process that is also known as ‘green lighting’, which is a tool for innovation. Rather than stopping the flow of ideas by deciding whether they would work or not, jot every idea down. At a later point you can decide the merits, but when it comes to you keep it. You never know which ‘crazy idea’ can turn into the next big thing.
5. Be different.
One of the best parts about being an entrepreneur is that you get to break the rules and differentiate yourself. The panel agreed you need to ‘own your space’ meaning you need to define your market and be different with the product or service you offer. Being different also means that you can try new ways to be heard. Wheyhey sent a poem to a buyer after multiple attempts to get a product listed and succeeded. Duggan said, remember, your targeted audience whether it be buyer, investor or customer are people too. You can use that to your advantage.
Need a place to start? If you are between 16 – 25 and are thinking of starting a business or already have one then check out somewhereto_. You can get access to free space to do your thing. You can also come along to workshops where you can learn skills to develop and grow your business or find out about events where you can sell your stuff.
10.04.14, Athena Simpson (@heavennhellthy), Account Director at somewhereto_ and Livity
somewhereto_ , delivered in partnership with youth engagement agency Livity, is a UK legacy project which offers a free service to help young people aged 16-25 access unused spaces for community and entrepreneurial projects across the UK. Funded by a £7m injection from the Big Lottery Fund, somewhereto_ acts as a space brokerage for young people looking to get a project off the ground. Whether it’s an old warehouse to curate an exhibition, a closed shop on the high street or an unloved office block, somewhereto_ unlocks those doors enabling young people to make their ideas happen.
Downing five a day got a lot more do-able since half a can of Heinz came out as healthy, and while I don’t really believe them, it does mean I say yes more often to chips with my fish pie, as long as I have beans on the side.
And I’m not alone. Five a day goes deep with lots of people. It works as a concept, and it should: it began life as a marketing campaign for a consortium of US food companies intent on getting American people to eat more. It worked.
Now everyone understands Five a Day as a simple and motivating message to shop and eat healthier; it’s an excellent shorthand that’s neither patronising nor preaching, entirely general and somehow deeply personal.
But now absolved of guilt / indecision / can’t be arsed today about Five a Day demands on my diet thanks to Beanz, I’ve wondered where else the successful sauce code could be replicated, and I’d like to suggest for your creative consideration, the Livity Creativity Five a Day Diet for your mind.
Coming up with ideas, freeing your mind to think, daydreaming, doodling, noodling and allowing enough breathing space in your brain for the occasional almost-a-eureka-moment, requires effort and exercise, just like avoiding a third chin.
Following a Five a Day dietary discipline reduces risk of a variety of medical conditions that range from Cancer of nearly everything to a nasty case of acute Lardychops, as well as increasing well being, life expectancy, emotional, mental and physical strength. What if we could mirror the effects on our imagination, our power of innovation and our freedom of thought?
We know bridge, backgammon, crosswords and the pools kept Granny so sharp she haunted us until well beyond last orders at the Pearly Gates, but in an economy where intellectual property – a.k.a. having good ideas – is increasingly the most valuable asset any of us can have, being able to conceive, articulate and shape a good idea isn’t just competitive advantage; it’s essential currency, and there must be similar exercises to help that part of our mind.
According to our esteemed clients, colleagues, outside observers, journalists and an independent survey of our own team, it seems Livity is far and away one of the most creative, stimulating and inspiring working environments in the UK: our methodology of sharing our space with the same young people we we aim to serve, every day, creates genuine diversity of experience and in turn, genuine different thinking and innovation. It was Chief Planet Brain Charles Leadbeater who said ‘diversity breeds innovation’ and Livity’s multi award winning way of working proves just that to be true.
So, to stay in shape, I’ve been trying to bottle and share the Livity Creativity Five a Day Diet for your inspirational imbibing. To give away a little bit of what makes Livity the MAA’s ‘Marketing Agency of the Year’, One of The Observer’s 50 New Radicals, a favourite of Prime Ministers, an agency to some of the world’s biggest brands, from Tesco to Barclays to Google as well as the Queen – her very self’s Award winner for Innovation in business – not to mention all the other wonderful accolades we’ve received in recognition of our creativity, I thought I’d share a little bit of what we’ve learned when it comes to having ideas.
It’s by no means the list that will work for everyone, and that’s sort of the point. But I’m more interested in a conversation about the concept of applying the Five a Day discipline – to exercising creative thinking – than I am in dictating a daily routine. So this is five of my best thoughts on what makes thinking more interesting, I’d love to hear yours.
For what it’s worth, stick to this simple Five a Day diet, and just as your belly, blood sugar and bum benefit from those five fruit or Baked Beans portions a day, so too will your creative juice get loose, your ideas get inspired and your creativity will get some Livity…
To quote the real Five a Day website, “A few small changes can help you and your family get the recommended five portions a day, here’s a handy guideline for you to follow”:
1. Read a small amount of something unusual.
It doesn’t have to be the works of Proust, and half a chapter of Potter would probably do, as long as it’s not your usual business / self help / parenting manual or holiday reading. It should be something you have to focus on, think about, read a paragraph twice, the sort of thing you catch yourself mouthing the words to. It could be an analytical blog, a critical column, a profound poem, a shamelessly avant garde screenplay, a mindbendingly complex recipe, anything that’s not the Metro, Buzzfeed or the Sidebar of Shame: just something that you can feel engage the gears of your brain, that makes you think (and sound) more interesting. As short as it is, it has to be something that you have to chew on before you swallow.
2. Hang out with a young person.
Ideally someone anywhere between the ages of 12 and 20ish, preferably that you don’t know, and definitely someone from a different background and set of experiences than you. It doesn’t have to be a mentoring thing, it doesn’t have to be worthy in the slightest, in fact go the other way, ask them to help you with something really tough. Talk to a teenager about a challenge you’re facing at work, try to hold their attention about it and show you a solution you’re set way of thinking would never have reached. But whatever you do, do spend more time listening than talking.
3. Argue a point you don’t agree with
There are less annoying (for others) ways of achieving this one. The point is just to get good at seeing things from an opposite perspective to the one you think is right. But trying to understand the point of view of someone you think is really wrong is really incredibly hard, so a shorthand way of achieving it is to argue hard against your own point of view for half an hour, until you’ve nearly won, then just as you’re winning yourself over, revert to your original opinion, or change your mind: either way it’s as annoying as f*ck for everyone else, but brilliant for your brain. It’s an even better exercise done in teams. It’s even better for your teams if you just do it in your head.
Don’t Run. Not that people who run are annoying at all. Lycra geeks. And of course any exercise is good for creativity, but if you want the catalysts to spark in your brain, you don’t need to give your calves all that pain: make time for a stroll, mooch between a meetings, leisurely loll to lunch, walk to work, or hustle home, something’s better than nothing, even getting off a few stops early. Set your feet in motion, free yourself of distractions and let your mind go into neutral. Which is where most minds start to work for themselves, and that’s how you engage the 90% you don’t use most days. It sounds easy, and rightly so, but from Mozart to Moliere, by their own word, a daily constitutional did more for their marvellous minds than all the Opium in the Orient.
5. Play with yourself
We humans do the most accelerated learning of our entire lives when all we do is play: even Einstein strongly held the view that the most powerful tool in any form of research was play. And you can do it anywhere, anytime and in any setting. There aren’t many meetings that couldn’t do with being a bit more playful, or offices that couldn’t do with a bit of a game that helps the day along. You don’t need anyone or anything to invent a game and the fewer ‘toys’ the better. And play doesn’t have to be a mission – it can just be a bit of a laugh. I’m very suspicious that any meeting with no laughter in it is similarly short on ideas. It’s not necessarily the content, but beware boring meetings: they rarely lead anywhere good.
And that, I propose as the first incarnation of the Livity Creativity Five a Day Diet. For your peace of mind, there’s a cast iron guarantee, if you follow the Livity Creativity Five A Day Diet, for a minimum of thirty days, I personally guarantee your open minded, objective, creative and inspired thinking will reach new levels, or your money back.
I shall be putting my money where my mouth is. I’m off on holiday today but on return I shall return with the promise that I will spend a minimum of 30 days myself ensuring I get my five a day every working day, and I’ll post an update, hopefully with some measurable results of the immeasurable genius world saving multi-million pound earning piece of innovation I’ve come up with as a result. Or not. TBC. Terms and Conditions apply.
In the spirit of inspiring creativity, I’d be really interested to hear what makes your ideas flow, if you think there’s anything in the ‘creativity diet’ concept, and your suggestions on what to include from your own experience or get rid of from my ramblings. Either way, it’s a concept I’d like to explore and expand. Please post a comment, or drop me a line direct at email@example.com.
Originally starting out as a Geocache adventure (a real world treasure hunt that uses GPS devices, e.g. smartphones, to find objects in hidden locations), the Livity Intern team – Ramelle, Cherokee, Frances, Sam, Bradley and Daniel – set off for the day on Friday 21st March with Beulah, Youth Co-Ordinator, to three different client meetings.
Despite technology failing us fairly early into the trip (causing the treasure hunt part of our activities to fall flat), we travelled around London (Brixton, Tower Hill and London Bridge) without the aid of the Geocache app.
Our first stop was just by London Bridge, where we headed to Teach First to meet Associate Director of Network Management, Jay Allnutt.
Charity Teach First is a unique avenue for graduates to become teachers, in which they are carefully selected through a comprehensive recruitment process to be paid while they train and teach at schools across the country.
Jay showed us around the headquarters and provided an interesting insight into a charity that is both innovative and effective.
After lunch we headed over to News Corp, aka Murdoch ground. We met the Digital News Development Editor for The Times, Joseph Stashko. Joseph a previous Live Magazine contributor, managed to pull some strings and get us a meeting room on the 13th floor – the view was amazing!
He spoke to us about his journey and, because he is still so young, we were all able to relate to him. His persistence and passion is what got him referred to his current position, and is a story we could all learn from.
The only downside was that we didn’t have enough time to complete the tour of News Corp, though visiting The Times was truly surreal! Massive shout out to Joseph for arranging it for us – it was very inspirational!
The day was a gradual build-up to the final meeting…back in Brixton, and near the Livity offices, our last stop was to see Rob and Nick at The Stereo MC’s studio.
With two BRIT awards in the bank, there was a lot to be learnt from Rob and Nick who had plenty of nuggets of wisdom from their time in the music industry. Their hunger for music is how they have been able to make a living from it for over 25 years.
They taught us that you need to experience things for yourself and not others; never looking back or regretting anything you’ve done, but looking to the future is key. It was also obvious that they’d been involved with music for a long time and enjoyed being creative. They were more than happy to swap contact details with us and keep in touch too, and their support made us feel valued (we also heard a couple of sneak preview tracks!)
After a day of meeting many engaging and motivating individuals, we headed back to Livity with fresh outlooks on all the ways that we can make a name for ourselves in the industry of our choosing.
1.04.14, The Livity Intern team – Ramelle, Cherokee, Frances, Sam, Bradley and Daniel