Guest Blog : Where Inspiration Blooms
Introducing my first guest blog which I hope will become a regular feature bringing together people and businesses connected to art & design, nature, interiors and wellbeing to bring you fun, inspirational and informative content.
In this instalment we welcome Jules Bolsom of ‘Where Inspiration Blooms’, a wonderfully creative place which runs a huge array of courses and workshops to feed the soul - and it is the perfect name for this marvellous, community spirited venue run by great friends Caroline and Jules. Located in an acre of beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside in the grounds of Chartridge Lodge, you’ll find the barn, a fabulously inspirational place to house the events.
- What is your business called and where did the idea come from?
Our business is called Where Inspiration Blooms. Caroline and I came up with the name at her kitchen table. It is kind of a mixture of both of our other business names (Spire PR and The Hidden Gate Blooms) and our ambition to inspire everybody that comes to our venue. When we realised that WIB was also an acronym for Women in Business, we decided that it was the perfect business name for us.
- How long has your business been running for?
It probably started in July 2016 when we were both tasked with running the plant stall at our school fete… that’s when we first got to know each other and began dreaming a shared crafty vision but we officially started WiB and moved into The Barn in May 2018.
- What are your backgrounds?
<<Jules>> My background is almost entirely PR & Marketing. I started out working in PR agencies… 3 years in the City in financial PR, 5 years in media and entertainment PR and then as a freelancer for another few years looking after retail businesses. Then in the early 2000s I joined The Perfume Shop and set up their Marketing Department. I stayed there for another 5 years (during which time one of my crazy claims to fame is that I was one of Sir Alan Sugar’s special advisors on the final of The Apprentice) and then I set up my own agency and worked for myself for the next decade.
<<Caroline>> Having started my career in IT, to end up running a craft business isn’t the most logical of paths! I moved to the UK when my 2 eldest children were very young and I knew nobody in the country. It was very isolating, but I was lucky enough to get onto an adult learning upholstery course where I met some amazing, inspiring women. It opened up a world of creativity to me and I haven’t look back since! In the last decade I have dabbled in all sorts of crafts, and am always interested in trying new things. I started The Hidden Gate Blooms about 4 years ago, and my love of growing flowers has never waned. When Jules and I set up Where Inspiration Blooms, having an outdoor area to grow flowers was an important requirement. We were really lucky to find the Barn, where we have loads of area to grow flowers. This outdoor area has become more important than ever now that many people now only feel safe learning and socialising outside.
- What sorts of things do your courses cover?
Well the wonderful thing about our business is that they can cover almost anything! Art, crafts, wellbeing, business…we have run so many different workshops in the last 2 years. Everything from marketing to macrame, watercolour to weaving, ceramics to cider making and everything in between! Our vision for all of our workshops is that we want folk to leave feeling happier and more inspired than when they arrived, so any subjects that meet those criteria we will happily entertain!
- Who would your workshops appeal to?
We hope everyone! We try to run as many different subjects as possible really. Our mindset is that if there is something that we are interested in learning, then other people will be interested in it too.
- What’s your favourite part of running your business?
Being able to do what we love… I love the marketing, the admin and the organisation of running a business and Caroline holds our creative vision, the essence of our brand and luckily she also loves teaching and learning new crafts that we can share with our community. She’s a really generous teacher, sharing everything she knows rather than keeping trade secrets!
- How have you had to adapt your business to cope with Coronavirus?
I think a better question here may be ‘Is there any area of your business that you haven’t had to adapt because of coronavirus!’ EVERYTHING has changed for us, literally everything. When your business model depends on people coming together in a venue space, private hiring out a venue space or you going to teach in other venue spaces then it’s impossible to not feel utterly wiped out by the events of this year. From 4th March to the end of July our business sold less in total than it had done on Christmas Day (when we were very much closed!). Spring 2020 was a really distressing time for us, having worked so hard over the previous 2 years to build a business that was finally gaining some momentum. Once we had some wallow-time we got our thinking caps back on and began plotting new ways to work. We now are running all of our large workshops in a big conference room in the hotel next door…we are creating areas outside in our lovely grounds for folk to run outdoor workshops, even in Winter and we are turning our attentions this Winter to using our crafty hands to make our own handcrafted products to sell… we’ve both been making things for decades so we have a wide range of skills and are hoping that for this year people will want to buy our gifts and Christmas decorations. We’re also still running workshops but in new ways. Our ever-popular wreath making workshops this Christmas will be bookable in groups of 4…so one person books the workshop and invites 3 friends or family members to come with them. That way we hope people will feel safer within their own bubbles and not having to worry about mixing with strangers as we get into the depths of Winter…and finally we will be selling our limited edition apple juice… with apples that we’ve been picking from the 3 beautiful trees up at The Barn. We’re still open for private hire, but we know that this year we need to diversify as much as possible to keep the Barn roof over our heads, for hopefully when things return to a bit more normality.
- What’s the best feedback you’ve received from a customer?
We recently had a woman who came up to The Barn for an outdoor workshop just after lockdown rules began easing. She was a new mum and also had a very poorly close family member. She hadn’t really been out until she came on our workshop. She seemed so sad and somewhat lost, but by the time she left it was like a spell had broken. She was smiling and we chatted and you could see quite clearly how working with her hands for just a couple of hours had helped her feel a sense of calm that she hadn’t had in a long time. She emailed us both afterwards and her words were so touching, and honest and it just made us realise how important what we are doing is. Me-time is a well-used phrase but in this instant, in her letter, it was so clear how transformative the mindful practise of making things and using our hands or being in nature can be. THAT for us is why we are doing this, it is so amazingly humbling to be in a position to be able to help people and to be honest it was the energy that we got from her letter that has kept us both going over the Summer and into Autumn as more restrictions loom... If one workshop on one day can make such a difference to one person then we need to keep digging deep and carrying on with this!
- Where are you based and how can people contact you?
We are based at The Barn, in a lovely acre of Buckinghamshire countryside just outside Chesham. We love hearing from people… people who want us to put workshops on, teachers who want to work with us, people who want to hire our space or just people who want to be part of our little community of local makers and teachers. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook .
I highly recommend you take a look at the courses at this fabulous venue - click here to see what's on offer this Autumn/Winter and feed your soul with creativity.