Creative Business Mastermind Groups: Bringing Accountability, Encouragement, and Structure for Freelancers and Business Owners in the Creative Industry
You may have seen on social media that we've recently developed a new programme -- Creative Business Mastermind Groups! This page covers a lot of what you need to know, but I thought I'd do a bit of a blog about the why behind it and what our vision is for these groups.
At the end of last year, I decided that a big focus for me in 2018 was going to be my personal development as a leader, so that as Cheerfully Given grows, I grow with it. Confidence is something I've always struggled with, and sometimes I look at the community attached to Cheerfully Given and how brilliantly amazing everybody is, and I and just feel completely overwhelmed that the Living God has chosen me to lead it!
So I enrolled in a group coaching programme aimed at helping entrepreneurs and high level business owners get the most out of their working weeks -- looking at the core parts of your business, helping you to get laser-focused, and helping you put routines and processes in place so that you run your business and not the other way round. The programme finished with a brilliant 3-day conference in San Diego which covered everything from examining your sales and marketing processes, to hiring a virtual team, to serving your audience well online.
It's the first time I've taken some dedicated time out of the day-to-day to reflect on where Cheerfully Given is now and recalibrate after the busy year we had last year getting the new website sorted out and going to lots of different events in person. It was so special to be able to go to these exceptional seminars and sessions, and then go back to my room and pray about it all and really ask for God the Father's guidance for where He wants Cheerfully Given to go!
It's All About Creative Community!
The heart of the vision for Cheerfully Given has always been creative community. It's always been about working together, serving each other, encouraging each other, equipping each other. We aren't trying to be successful for anything other than to lift one another up -- as the (at this point, cliched) quote goes: a rising tide lifts all boats.
We want to use the unique gifts that the Living God has blessed us with to build His kingdom, and part of that is building His people to do His work! So we all do the things we're really great at, knowing that we are working for a bigger purpose, knowing that there is no real gain in working for ourselves and our own successes.
The Seven Pillars of Business
At this conference in San Diego, one of the conference sessions I really enjoyed was around the Seven Pillars of Business. Todd Herman was speaking about his seven core pillars of business and the reasoning behind them, and gave us space and prompts to think about what our own core pillars are. Some of Todd's include things like mindset (so much of what we believe about ourselves isn't based in truth), cost vs investment (paying for access, e.g. coaching, is an investment in your personal development; paying for advertising that doesn't work may be a cost but it's actually an investment in your own learning), finding your genius zone (knowing what you're great at), thinking fast (removing decision fatigue from your day), tiny circles (I honestly don't understand my own notes on this one!), imperfect action (done is better than perfect) and mentorship (being teachable).
I came up with seven for Cheerfully Given, and thought I'd share them with you. I like all of Todd's and so there is some crossover towards the last few, but thinking through priorities for Cheerfully Given as an organisation, this is what I came up with:
- Relationships: with God and others. Our relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the most important part of who we are as a community. Renewed by the Holy Spirit and made more and more like Jesus each day, we live as loved children of our Heavenly Father. We live knowing that Jesus has conquered death and sin, and will one day return to renew all of creation and reign in peace and justice. Our hearts and minds hold on to this sure hope, and we live in the joy of knowing the wonderful God-Man, Jesus. As we look at our God, we see relationship and community, and we want to reflect that in everything we do. We want to love the people we come into contact with in the way that God the Father loves them -- enough to give up His own Son. Every. single. thing we do comes out of a desire to bring people into joyous relationship with our wonderful, loving, generous, kind God.
- Vision: without vision, the people perish! When we know Jesus, the One for whom the whole universe was created, we can dream big! We can get excited about the smallest things, we can see potential in everything, we can approach life filled with passion and enthusiasm. Our vision here at Cheerfully Given is to proclaim Jesus through the creative arts, and to do it in a truly excellent way. We want to be pioneers of excellence, to work in our various disciplines with all of hearts as working for the Lord. (Verses for this from Proverbs 29:18 and Colossians 3:23 respectively.)
- Generosity: with our time, skills, and resources. We want to equip artists, designers, and makers to create a sustainable income from their creative skills. We want to serve them in any way we can. We want to equip churches to run great quality events that non-Christians will love to come to. We want to be generous hosts and generous teachers and generous with our finances. When we see the generosity of God the Father, we want to pour everything out for Him!
- Mentorship: we want to be teachable in every way, and we want to grasp opportunities to learn at the feet of people who are more mature Christians than us or who are more experienced than us. We are so grateful for the Body of Christ and for all of the amazing people who influence us, who take us under their wings, who pray for us, and who have caught the vision for what we're doing. We're also so grateful for all the amazing business people whose paths we've crossed, and for the opportunity to get insight and learn from leaders who have grown international, multi-million pound businesses and who are generous enough with their experience to answer endless questions.
- Mindset: we want to have minds that are set on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we want our thoughts and our mindsets to be shaped by His Spirit. We want minds filled with Truth, and we want to step out in faith knowing that we are safe in the Father's hands and He is directing our footsteps. We want a Kingdom mindset that understands the Living God's hand in everything we do. We want a mindset that believes the impossible because He is in control, a mindset that is fully devoted to God because He is faithful and good and cares for the minutiae of our lives.
- Thinking fast: every challenge we meet is a decision point. Some of them take more prayer and patience than others, but we don't want to waste time over-analysing things and worrying about our decisions. We are wholly abandoned to God and we trust that He will guide and lead us by His Spirit. We want to save our energy for the bigger things and we want to live each day in freedom, setting our hearts on things above, and knowing that if something doesn't quite work out, it isn't the end of the world.
- Action: as Christians, we are really good at sitting around and reflecting, but action isn't necessarily our strong point. This fits in with pillar six above, but to quote Todd Herman again, "learning happens on the field of play" and nothing we do is going to be flawless (however desperately our perfectionist personalities might fight against that rational logic!). Action takes courage and freedom -- freedom from the fear of failure, courage that you might look like an idiot once in a while. We're going to try things and see what works, and if it doesn't work then that's ok, if it does work, then super!
How do these Seven Pillars of Business impact Cheerfully Given's day-to-day?
Going to San Diego gave me space to really think about how we live this out now that we have a great website platform and we're able to focus on building up the people around us. If the heart of Cheerfully Given is creative community and a generous hospitality that welcomes people into the Kingdom of God, how can we extend this to those beyond the Cheerfully Given Seller Community now that we're a bit more established? How do we get more people excited about our vision for creativity and for all of the exciting ways it can lead us to Jesus?
In the immediate future
Workshops and Craft Kits (see more about workshops here and craft kits here)
As you may know, we've launched a Workshops programme in the past month or so -- this has been on the cards for a long time, and is one of the key ways we are working to bring creativity into local community. Emma, our Workshops + Design Manager, came on board specifically to launch this project along with a range of craft kits that help people be more creative in their day-to-day, whatever their day job looks like!
Local Craft Clubs (see more here)
Another way we could create community and opportunities to build relationships was with local events that are just about hanging out. While I was in San Diego, Emma and I had a WhatsApp conversation that has since become the Nottingham Craft Club! This is a free event that brings people together for a couple of hours a month to enjoy some creativity and a bit of socialising. We'd love to run these in other parts of the UK, and have a couple of other locations planned -- so watch this space (and if you'd like to be involved in organising it in your city, pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Creative Mastermind Groups (see more here)
One of the hardest things about being a creative, whether it's a freelancer like a videographer, web developer, photographer, or graphic designer, or whether it's a creative business owner creating and selling products, is working on your own. In the business world, elite Mastermind Groups are widely utilised -- they help push people on and keep people accountable, and they help people make money.
This kind of structured support is extremely tricky to find in creative business circles. Sure, you can hire a coach or you can go to networking events and hope that you meet someone who might be a good business friend, but good coaches cost a lot of money and networking events are a slow burn relationship builder.
During my trip, I spent a lot of time thinking about how these types of groups could be implemented for creative business owners. What if we had small groups of people from different (complementary and non-competing) disciplines coming together to support each other. People who feel safe enough (and who are willing enough) to be brutally honest about the challenges they're facing, and who are self-assured enough to seek wisdom from a carefully chosen group of their contemporaries.
That's where these groups have come from. They're designed to be accessible for people at all levels -- if you're a graphic designer with an agency background, you'll be matched with other people working at that kind of level. If you're a stay-at-home-mum thinking about opening an Etsy shop, then you'll be matched with a group of people who are dreaming up their businesses. You'll be in groups that are designed to serve you where you are, and who will build you up to where you want to be.
We'd love you to join us, so if it's something you'd be interested in, you can read more and register your interest on the Creative Business Mastermind Groups page.
But why are you doing it? Who do you think you are, some kind of life coach?
Emma and I have a really incredibly great skill set for this kind of support, and I don't say that lightly. I mean, we're British AND Christians so that's basically a double whammy of not being able to admit to our strengths without wanting to crawl into a hole. But it's true. Emma is an illustrator and product designer with a number of years' experience working in an agency in London. You will have seen her work in some of the biggest retailers on the British high street and beyond. I am beyond blessed that she has chosen to work for Cheerfully Given and share her immense experience with our community!
Meanwhile, I'm an all-round business ninja -- my specialism these days is SEO and social media (I work with agencies as a freelancer a few days a month), but I've got a background in accountancy and I also ran a creative business for a couple of years, selling on Etsy and wholesaling to independent shops. I've also been setting up and running Cheerfully Given since 2015 when I first began researching it, and I know what it's like to run a (successful) Kickstarter campaign.
So we're not by any means setting ourselves up as business coaches, but we do want you to know that as far as facilitating these groups go, we're pretty much qualified.
In the future
We want Cheerfully Given to be the place to come to for Christian gifts, encouraging cards, and all things creative. This year, we're going to be doing more video-based content including interviews with the designers and makers on the site so you can hear more about them and their businesses, including how they came to know Jesus.
Our Craft Clubs will start to roll out in other cities in the UK as we get more volunteers (they're free groups so we don't have a budget to hire people to run them at the moment). As I mentioned previously, email email@example.com if you're interested in getting involved with this.
We're going to be doing more content that inspires you and your church to have parties and celebrate. Because after all, what's a gift and a card if not a marker of some great occasion?! We want to encourage easy hospitality as well as inspiration for more #extra affairs for when you want to pull out all the stops. We want to make it as easy as possible to hang out and encourage each other in person.
We want to improve our website so it's as easy as possible for you to find the beautiful card or gift you're looking for, so that you can create a wishlist and have something to send to your mum at Christmas, and so that our sellers have the best possible platform for displaying their beautiful products. We still have a significant chunk of work to do on the website to get it to where we'd like it to be, so it still needs about £10,000 spending on it to add these features. Jehovah Jireh!
Part of our website updates will include a space for church craft groups to get inspiration, tutorial videos, and resources so they can run the best possible community groups. This is a big project close to both mine and Emma's hearts, and we would be so grateful if you could pray with us about this! If you have any questions about it, feel free to email us and we'd love to chat to you more.
There are a couple of other really exciting things in the pipeline that I can't say too much about at the moment, but I promise you'll be the first to know when I can tell you!
These things are just the tip of the iceberg -- our community is full of inspirational and talented people whose stories are just wonderful. We've got a few ideas for collaborative projects that highlight them in different ways, and we can't wait to spend more time sharing their stories and work with you!
"You talk about generosity, but you still charge churches for your workshops, and you have to pay for the craft kits and the Mastermind Groups?"
I just wanted to add a little note about finances and generosity.
So often, we associate generosity and stewardship with money. Stewardship is seen as finding things for the cheapest price, or only spending finances on "essentials" but it would be great if we could think about stewardship in a much bigger way.
Generosity and Our Seller Community
What if stewardship was also about the cost to the environment and the cost to humanity? We might save a few pounds financially, but does that choice have a much more damaging effect to humans in other countries, or to the way the earth is treated?
When we say that generosity is a core pillar of our business, one of the things we mean is that we want our sellers to be paid fairly for their labour. We want our designer/maker community to be honoured financially for their skills and expertise. We want them to work with production partners and manufacturers who honour their staff, who pay at least the living wage, and who make ethical and environmentally sustainable choices about the way things are produced.
It's said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. When you see the products on Cheerfully Given, they're made by people who have committed their lives and their professions to becoming experts in their fields. It's not a hobby for them, it's the way they provide for their families.
Generosity, Funding Growth, and Paying It Forward
When Cheerfully Given makes money, it's reinvested into growing our seller community in a number of different ways. We started with two brass buttons and my husband's student payments (cheers, C of E!) and with incredible generosity from individuals and then collaboratively with the Kickstarter for this website, we've grown to where we are today. There are other businesses at a similar stage to us who have had literally hundreds of thousands up to millions of pounds of investment from venture capitalists and angel investors! They have 8+ staff, Cheerfully Given has just had me up until recently when Emma joined me for a day a week. This is the power of the Living God! He takes our tiny offerings and He multiplies them for His kingdom.
We charge for what we do because the Bible tells us that a worker is worth their pay. But that's not all!
We've outlined above some of the incredibly exciting things we have in store for this year and the near future, and none of this is possible without money to grow. As mentioned, we need to spend £10,000 on our website in the next few weeks!
The more we grow, the more we want to serve. The more we serve, the more we will grow! It's a wonderful circle of mutual flourishing. We want there to be a way for anyone to be a part of Cheerfully Given, whether it's because we're helping you build your creative business by having a shop on our website, or whether it's equipping you to run a crafternoon ministry in your church, or maybe it's just about getting you excited about Jesus in a way you hadn't thought of before.
When you buy a card, a gift, or a piece of artwork from our website, you are contributing to our mission. You are directly improving the lives of designers and makers who are passionate about sharing Jesus. You are helping us provide affordable workshops to churches so that creative community can flourish around our country.
This has been a really long letter explaining more about why we're doing what we're doing, but thank you for bearing with me. I want to run an exciting business that has a transparent and open community, and I want you to be part of it. Thank you for your patience as we grow, and for being gracious with me as I've been the only full-time staff member since we launched!
It's always great to hear from you and to get your feedback, so please do pop me an email. Sometimes my inbox gets pretty overwhelming, but I love chatting to people more about what they're up to and it's great to connect with people one-to-one. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more general stuff or the Creative Business Mastermind Groups, and for anything connected to workshops and Craft Clubs, pop an email to Emma at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading and for being on this journey with us!
With love in Jesus,