You have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid

–      Arianna Huffington (Co-Founder, The Huffington Post)

The evolution of our business part 3 (read part 1 here and part 2 here)

At the heart of all businesses are people – connection is everything. There have been two very pivotal meeting places concerning the journey of Do What You Love, and in our case both of them have been creative retreats. The first was the Artful Journey Retreat in California in 2010 and the second was our very own Do What You Love Retreat in England in 2011.

These meeting places were to give Beth the opportunity to meet some people who have become hugely influential in our company’s development and some whom we certainly consider Do What You Love family. It is funny, whilst writing this post I have been sat here asking Beth details about how each of the collaborations came about and with every conversation she has become more and more animated, and her eyes have lit up. The enthusiasm, the magic, and the serendipitous nature of the meetings just add to our story. If you ever needed a reason to get up off your backside and go places, this is it. You just never know where things will lead.

Here’s the back story of how each of our collaborations came about – fascinating stuff!

Collaborator: Rachael Taylor

Collaborative projects: The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design, MOYO Magazine, The MOYO Directory

Beth first came across Rachael Taylor when she bought a piece of her art at a local gallery. After being so impressed by her beautiful work, and with the DWYL retreat on the horizon, Beth invited Rachael to join the event as a speaker, sharing an insight into her blossoming career as a designer.

In the months leading up to the retreat Beth was on her own creative journey of discovery and had visited a local university to enquire about doing a degree in Surface Pattern Design part-time alongside growing the company (as you do!) but discovered that the traditional model of higher education was not going to work for her at that point in her life. The course required attending at a fixed location, was hugely expensive, far too long and included less on the business side of the industry than she had looked for. (This is not to negate the value of a degree – Beth has two, and has a deep love of education. The course itself looked very interesting – it just wasn’t right for her at that time in her life.)

Following the huge popularity of Rachael’s talk at the retreat, Beth had an a-ha moment. She realised there was an opportunity to flip traditional education on its head, and deliver exactly what she had been looking for but couldn’t find in the mature education system – by creating an online course on surface pattern design that would allow women like her to study from home, in their own time, learning from a flourishing designer who has had real business success, whilst connecting with like-minded people from around the world..

Beth and Rachael met up following the retreat and discussed the possibility of creating an online course together, which would provide something that did not exist at that time. The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design was born, providing short bursts of intense learning through five-week modules, accessible from anywhere in the world at a time to suit a busy working person’s schedule. The modules were packed with insider industry knowledge and business development advice, with up-to-the-minute trend information, and giving direct access to a flourishing designer for questions, support and expertise. It was the course that she could not find but had now helped create.

From the beginning the courses have been a great success and most importantly have helped so many aspiring Surface Pattern designers to grow and find work. The graduates’ results have been quite astonishing (think new studios launched, design contracts secured, national competitions won, book and blog features galore…) and we are excited to unveil an advanced fourth module due to popular demand for 2014.

As both women have great vision and are hugely motivated, their story does not stop there. Together they have since created the first ever online magazine dedicated to surface pattern design – MOYO (which has been viewed over one million times), launched a new website Make It In Design as a hub of information for aspiring designers, and created the MOYO Directory to provide a place for all artists to profile their work irrespective of financial resources – and for clients to find them! I happen to know they have other exciting plans in the works for the coming months and years too. This is a collaboration which keeps evolving and expanding, as they discover new ways to serve their talented and enthusiastic audience.


Collaborator: Flora Bowley 

Collaborative project: Bloom True: the e-course

Having been introduced to Flora Bowley’s stunning work by a classmate from that very first retreat Beth went on in California, she was inspired to go to Squam, another retreat in New Hampshire, USA, later that year where Flora was teaching her first ever class. Beth recognized instantly that Flora had a natural gift for teaching, and felt an instant connection to the brave, inspiring woman who was teaching so much more than a painting class.

On a whim, at the end of class, Beth asked Flora if she would consider teaching in Europe. Flora’s response was ‘If you organise it, I will come.” Quite unexpectedly, the DWYL Retreat (which had been in the works for a while) suddenly had its first teacher!  This was to be the first time Flora had taught outside the USA, and was a real turning point for us. Once we had announced the DWYL retreat Flora’s workshop sold out in a matter of days. I cannot tell you how relieved you feel when people start buying places at your event. We were brand new, with no prior experience of creative retreat delivery, no reputation in this industry, and no testimonials. However we had a very clear vision of what we wanted to create, and with the help of teachers like Flora, clearly did something right in communicating that when we put the retreat on sale.

The ongoing success of Flora’s in-person workshops showed that there was clearly a demand for Flora’s very individual style and approach – gently nurturing people towards living a more brave, intuitive life. Beth and Flora agreed to collaborate to create Bloom True the e-course as a way to bring this approach to many more people all over the world, not restricted by location. Three years on and one course revamp later, the sixth run of Bloom True has just sold out!!

Collaborator: Kelly Rae Roberts

Collaborative project: Hello Soul Hello Business – The Business Soul Sessions (Re-vamped course COMING SOON!)

This story gives me goosebumps. If I didn’t know it to be true, I’m not sure I’d actually believe it.

I shared a bit of background on how Beth came to meet Kelly Rae in this post. Having taken a class from Kelly Rae at The Artful Journey retreat, Beth then took Kelly Rae’s first e-course Flying Lessons and was impressed and inspired by how she had grown her business whilst retaining her unique identity. At no point had she ‘sold out’  in order to be successful.

The following year Beth returned to San Francisco for the second Artful Journey Retreat. Due to very bad jet lag she found herself wide awake wandering around San Fran in the mist at 5am on her first day there. From the mist came a very clear vision. She wanted to build on her existing ‘Do What You Love’ online course to offer tools and support for people wanting to take it to the next level to build and grow their own creative business. Beth’s past experience in the corporate world had huge relevance and she knew she had a lot to offer, but she was also aware that at this time she was still a relatively unknown entity in the creative world. Her experience was from the world of sport, so she knew she needed a partner to bring her knowledge and expertise to the creative industries – someone who had already had significant business success as a creative, and shared the same values and outlook. She asked herself who her dream collaborator would be – and Kelly Rae was the first person she thought of.

You have to realise that at this point Kelly Rae was already something of a celebrity in the mixed media art world, and Beth felt a bit like a groupie admiring her work from afar. She had absolutely no idea whether Kelly Rae would even consider it, but decided to go ahead and ask her anyway.

Now we come to the magic – After she had worked on the idea for a while, Beth finally decided to just be brave, and went to send Kelly Rae an email – but serendipity intervened. When she opened up her email to send the note, there in her inbox was an email from Kelly Rae herself, asking her about the possibility of a collaboration. It turned out that Kelly Rae had been thinking along the very same lines. The forces of the universe were too great to keep these two apart.  Hello Soul Hello Business!!

 Lilla Rogers

Collaborative projects: Make Art That Sells (Part A+B), The Global Talent Search

Beth and Kelly Rae had interviewed Lilla for their Hello Soul Business course. Beth was hugely impressed by Lilla’s attitude, savvy and understanding of her industry, paired with a deep appreciation for what creative people have to deal with to juggle their lives. After the interview Lilla sent an email to Kelly Rae mentioning that she wanted to teach online and asking for some advice on how should she go about it. Kelly Rae’s answer was a very simple one – ‘Speak to Beth!’

The initial discussion via Skype was just before we went to Japan for six months, so the course was developed over the course of a whole year, across three continents!  Lilla’s enthusiasm for and dedication to the course has been astonishing considering her status and experience – but that is just the kind of person she is. After three very successful decades in business, Lilla was seeing a whole new career chapter unfold with the launch of her book (a timely coincidence), along with the creation of Make Art That Sells and the groundbreaking Global Talent Search.

The Global Talent Search has possibly been the most exciting event we have done to date. It provided huge technological challenges and many headaches but it has been so worthwhile. Just ask Zoe Ingram and Daniel Roode who were picked as the winners from over 1500 participants. Their lives have been changed forever – and that is what it is all about. What a wonderful thing to be a part of.

Collaborator: Rachel Hazell

Collaborative project: Some papery goodness to be unwrapped shortly!

For all of you who love all things ‘paper’, Beth has formed a collaboration with Rachel Hazell, one of the other teachers from the inaugural Do What You Love retreat. They have many shared loves – travel, chocolate, paper – and are the only two people I know who have both been to the world’s southern most post office, on an island overrun by penguins in Antarctica. (Being postmistress there was one of Beth’s dream jobs, and Rachel actually did that job!)

Together they have created a brand new online course exploring the wonder of paper (think words, books, boxes, mail and more). I initially thought this was a guilty pleasure and indulgence for them both – an excuse to buy paper even! But after watching the course development and website build from behind the scenes, I know you will all be blown away by it (a perfect Christmas present perhaps?). Prepare to unwrap some papery goodness (launching in November!)

So what is next? 

Having run the Business Soul Sessions with incredible feedback and some amazing success stories from participants, Beth and Kelly Rae are completely revamping the course to bring it up to date with the many changes in their own businesses over the past couple of years. In addition to this they have two very secret creations forming. I’m sure you will all find out about these when the time is right! It is all very exciting…

The Art of Business and Surface Pattern Design is adding to its suite of courses with Module 4 and I am sworn to secrecy about the other things on the horizon, but we have lots in the works for 2014. Watch this space!

We have learnt so much from each of our collaborators, and know that our business is stronger and more dynamic as a result of working with them. If you could collaborate with an industry leader who would it be and why?