Mary Strickson - The Picture Whole
Mary Strickson is the founder of creative enterprise The Picture Whole and one of the artists behind two of The Mighty Creatives projects – Emerge and Splash!discover more >
They were also one of the first creative businesses we supported through our Bank of TMC project for young entrepreneurs. We caught up with founder Emily Jackson, who set up Moving Together while she was at university, to find out what it takes to grow a successful creative business and how dance can change lives at any age…
What inspired you to launch Moving Together?
I studied dance at university, including community dance, and whilst there, my co-founder Rachel and I ran a project with a women’s refuge. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve done, but also one of the most rewarding. Many of the women felt really nervous at first and we had to spend time building up their trust and developing a rapport with them. It took a while but once they knew they weren’t going to be judged or critiqued in any way, they could just go for it and dance, as much or as little as they wanted to. They really enjoyed it, especially as a form of release and self-expression. It made me realise that as someone who’s always been able to access dance, I took it for granted that everyone knows dancing makes you feel fabulous. The reality is, you need a certain level of confidence to go for it at first, especially if you’ve never done it before.
“The project inspired us to start-up Moving Together and we officially registered as a company three months after graduating. We wanted everyone to be able to access the benefits of dance and felt we had the skills to create safe spaces for people to do that. I was also curious to start a company and see if it worked!”
How did you get started?
Within the content of our university course there wasn’t a huge focus on starting a business and how to do it. We had to get the feelers out and start to build contacts. We also had to get our ideas down on paper and work out what our offer was. We spent a lot of time trialling and testing our ideas to find out what kind of dance workshops people wanted and needed, and researching our sector, including things like Arts Award.
“We applied to The Mighty Creatives ‘Bank of TMC’ project in our third year of university – it was the first thing we did after deciding to start Moving Together. ‘Bank of TMC’ was a scheme designed to help young people set up their own creative business and The Mighty Creatives gave us a grant to help us develop our ideas, build up our partnerships with key organisations and pay for equipment. Beyond that, they helped us grow our business plan and provided mentoring to guide us through the process of becoming a fully-fledged company. They were our support network and really helped us refine our offer – by giving us the confidence and know-how to keep at it and keep tweaking until we had a package of provision we were 100% happy with. The Bank of TMC project gave us a year’s worth of support, but The Mighty Creatives have continued to be there for us.”
How have things progressed 9 years on?
We’re now a team of six and Rachel, my co-founder, has moved on to a different project. The great thing about Moving Together, is that everyone here has helped to shape our journey. As a team we all have different strengths and areas of expertise, which means we have the right people delivering the right projects. At the moment, we run 30 dance projects every week – including Arts Award for 5-18 year olds in schools and community settings and dance classes for older people around Leicestershire.