There are plenty of things that make working from home an altogether cheerier prospect than being PAYE with your own phone extension and an ergonomic swivel chair. But solitude ain’t one of them. Well, not all the time, at any rate.
Because writing is pretty much everything I do at Ally Pally Poems – creating original poetry prints, personalised poems and rhyming speeches for special occasions from baby showers to weddings – I do need a certain amount of quiet. But too much quiet and too little creative input is not a good thing for my business, my sanity, or my Haribo habit.
Running an Etsy shop from home with only two cats and the occasional Nottingham Knocker for company isn’t the most socially invigorating job in the world. In fact, I’d say it probably ranks just above forensic pathology.
(The lack of client conversation, together with the requisite urban chic wardrobe, mind-boggling intellect and age-defying English rose beauty, is just another of those funny little quirks that convince me I’m the real-life incarnation of Silent Witness character Dr Nikki Alexander. I’m no psychotherapist (thank goodness – that’s certainly not a job I feel equipped for) but I don’t think I’m far off the mark when I say this could explain my long-term crush on Emilia Fox.)
Dr Nikki Alexander wondering if the white gloves are the kiss of death for her biker chick look
Anyway, from foxes to ducks and Henley-on-Thames’s totally brilliant networking group for creative professionals and small traders: The Creative Duck. Launched last year with the aim of bringing together the local creative community, it offers evening talks, heaps of different workshops, no-nonsense business advice and a pretty watertight excuse for expensing some of your daytime coffees and even the odd sneaky weeknight glass of wine. Oh yes, they’re all part of a good creative business plan.
The Creative Duck was started by three Henley mums who, as the Henley Standard recently reported, are now in the running for a Sue Ryder Women of Achievement award. Congratulations, ladies!
And, for what it’s worth, I hope they win it, too. The Creative Duck has been an absolute godsend for me when office tension is running high between me and the cats, I’ve run out of snacks, fancy a cappuccino or just need a bit of motivation and an excuse to down tools and ‘pop into Henley for a meeting’.
Sarah Gilbert runs Box of Smiles, which sells beautiful personalised gift boxes and other thoughtful treats; Joey McGinn runs a vintage china and cake company called Mrs Min’s Vintage; and Nicola Nott is currently raising two small humans of her own and looking to start a new business.
So far, thanks to the trio’s expertise, enthusiasm, fabulous contacts and event-planning prowess, I’ve been brought comprehensively up to date with that thief of time for any self-promoting small business (yes, I’m referring to social media) by communications expert Aspen Weatherburn of Hello Henley (at Hotel du Vin, where a complimentary glass du vin prompted some very fruitful networking) and an excellent product photography workshop by the awesomely talented Kathryn of Kathryn Fell Photography.
There also appears to be no shortage of ‘Creative Coffee & Chat’ get-togethers at various very inviting venues such as Hot Gossip, The Angel on the Bridge and The Bull on Bell Street. These certainly sound right up my street, although annoying things like work deadlines have so far prevented me from attending.
I’m determined to do whatever deadline sorcery is required to make it to the next one, though. Maybe I’ll see you there?
You can find out what The Creative Duck has planned for Henley’s creative community by checking out the group’s Facebook page.