Wendy Paintsil founded @sixtyseven communications, a PR and social enterprise in Wrexham (North Wales) two years ago after being made redundant. @sixtyseven is now a successful PR establishment that helps community cohesion projects as well as taking on PR projects. Their most successful project to date is The Wrexham Community choir, aimed at breaking down barriers in the community; the multi cultural choir has over 160 members and has performed at music festivals all over Wales.
1. What made you choose to start up @67 communications? I had thought many times about setting up my own business but when I was made redundant in 2009, I decided to give it a go and put my effort in to making it work. I had worked previously in the field of social affairs broadcasting, media training, community development and press office work and wanted to combine all of these areas of interest into a company which worked to break down communication barriers and give access to the media to voices which are not usually heard or to those who find it difficult to do so. As a social enterprise, I wanted to create a company with a difference – one that sole’s objective was not pursuit of money but had people at its centre. I also aimed to provide training and create long term job opportunities to people living in Wrexham who have incredible talent and skills who often have to leave the area to find work. I wish I had started years ago!
2. What were the difficulties? The main difficulty in setting up a business without capital is that there are no financial resources available to assist new start ups based in Wrexham town centre. Whilst there are a plethora of government funded agencies that advertise services to assist business – unfortunately, these are mainly sign posting services and in reality fail to deliver real support. I spent many months visiting many of these services to find myself back at square one. I felt I had wasted a lot of time and the main thing I learnt was I was taking time and energy away from focusing on developing the business and doing actual work.
There is a personal financial sacrifice to be made which does impact on your family life. Working to create a successful company means you learn to do without what you were used to, sacrificing holidays and other things which it used to be easy to waste money on. It also means you never switch off from work, being ill is something you have to work through and there is always something to do. There is a plus side though, it means you can work to drive forward what makes your heart sing, you keep your integrity and whilst some jobs are mundane – you set your own goals, you meet fabulous people, have the opportunity to act on your ideas and work on fantastic projects and there is never a day which you dread seeing your boss.
3. What is special about @67s approach to PR? Whilst atsixyseven provides usual PR services, we are also specialists in the field of multi-cultural PR – engaging with many organisations and issues which affect the diverse communities living in the area.
4. What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? Tough question as I have been given so many pieces of advice by business advisors, followed them and realised that I’ve been sent down the wrong path. I think one piece of advice given to me many years ago was that “it’s better to regret the things you’ve done rather than regret those things you never did”. So whatever the future holds – I had a go!
5. And what would be the best piece of advice you would give to anybody that would want to start up their own social enterprise company? It is not for me to advise anyone – I can pass on my experience but anyone who insists that there is only one way to do something is probably someone I’d ignore. You are the best person to advise yourself. This is what I try to do but know there is always room for improvement – Treat people well. Trust myself. Be open and be willing to learn. Never thinking my job has more value or significance than someone else’s – I’m lucky at the moment but never take it for granted – we are more than a job title. Take time to think and plan. Take a walk every day and have time to switch off even for a short while – it’s amazing what great ideas I have when I’m away from sitting at a computer screen. Laugh. Talking to people and being engaged and aware of what’s going on around me. Being curious and never forgetting the importance of my family and friends – they’re my biggest support for when things are good or bad – why I am who I am and why I do what I do.
Here is a video bonus where Wendy answered the question – ‘In what ways did you generate an income to help you first start out in freelance PR?’
Hey Elexu community. I’m David, a recent college graduate and a new member of the Elexu team. I wanted to share my thoughts with you about why I got involved and how this new platform can help others just like me.
I majored in Broadcast Journalism – Mass Communications, and my dream is to one day start my own media consulting firm because I believe mass awareness of a problem is the first step to fixing it. I want to use my firm to assist low budget organizations and charities to help them get their message out so that people can more easily receive help. This is particularly close to my heart because it affects my immediate family as my mother was diagnosed with MS several years ago. I would hope that my media firm could one day work with groups like National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Elexu was a perfect fit for me because they get everyone plugged in and directly connected with great brands and charities through their exciting competitions. Until I get to the point where I can open my own media consulting firm, I can at least get further involved with the MS Society by launching a competition of my own to help them raise funds. It will give me a chance to take my career into my own hands, gain the attention of industry professionals, and become more directly involved with a charity important to me.
For those of you out there with a dream like me but are lacking the means to reach it, Elexu is here to help. Through many different outlets, such as competitions, networking and soon to be Internet TV, Elexu can empower you too…and here’s one of my favourite parts, Elexu’s events are driven by users like you and me (that’s why it’s called “elects you”).
Elexu would like to introduce Orna Ross, a talented writer (see her recent book After the Rising) and founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors and today she will be sharing her insight with us. She touches on the struggles and dedication it takes to becoming a writer.
A writer is a person who writes.
A writer is a person whose writing is worth reading.
If you want to be the second kind, the kind who is writing for something more than self-expression, the kind who keeps up the good name of this activity of ours, then you need to be willing to work.
To put words through your fingers, like a musician practices scales. To lay down sentences like an athlete lays down miles. To kneel to the mysteries of creation, like a priest before the altar.
You need to prove to yourself that your writing is more important to you than publication or money or fame.
And you need to have practices that cocoon your creative self, that softie within who needs protection from from assaults by the outer world (including your very human longing for money and publication).
The Perils of Publication
Writing and online publishing is the latest way to sell millions, one young writer told me recently. And I meet many new and aspiring writers who have barely put pen to page but can talk for hours about the money their writing will make, about author and publishing celebrities, about the relative merits of traditional and self publishing.
Not so much putting-cart-before-horse as sitting-into-cart-without-troubling-to-harness-horse.
I understand. I was once like that myself. I can still give into such moments. Harnessing a wild horse is never easy. And foolish as it might be to sit in a horseless-cart, it can feel more sensible than admitting the truth.
That we don’t know why we want to tether our wild spirit into words.
That we don’t know where it’s going to take us if we do.
Becoming A Writer
As you forge your connection to writing, you find yourself making vows: “I’m going to write every day”; “I’m going to write 5000 words every week until I have a first draft”, “I’m going to finish this book by Christmas”.
Vows you inevitably break.
You work harder than you’ve ever worked at anything and see yourself fall short.
You read back words that took weeks or months to get right — and hate them with a nauseated disgust.
You feel in your core what Iris Murdoch meant when she said: “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”
And you resent that it is so hard. That nobody seems to care.
But you come back round again.
Because nobody does care, not really. Nobody out there asked you to do this. The call came from inside and that’s the bond you must strengthen.
That’s what enables you to forgive yourself for the broken vows and the work that never lives up to your vision. That’s what brings you to a true understanding of what writing gives — and what it asks in return.
And that – not getting a publisher or an agent or even an audience – is what makes you a writer.
Community is vital for anyone who seeks support in a career that has unexpected challenges. Today we have an interview from Amy Bloom, one of our budding interns, and a musical theatre aspirant, Ben, who shares with us his journey and struggles in his career.
Amy: I hear you have landed the part of Warner in Legally Blonde in Colchester, Essex Congratulations. What drew you to singing (what do you love about it)?
Ben: Thank you very much. Well when I hurt my leg back in 2007, I decided to start singing again, as I had previously been in my school choir in Junior School. My Grandparents showed me a DVD concert version of Les Miserables, which inspired me to try and sing the song Bring Him Home. It has taken me about 5 years to get my voice to the point where I can finally sing the show stopper but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Amy: Are there any obstacles or struggles you face in your career that would cause you to stop pursuing musicals?
Ben: I think there is definitely a pre conception in life that everything is just going to fall on your lap. I believe if you are disciplined in any field and learn your craft through hard work you will get there eventually. However I do feel that there are some great artists that are not picked up by record labels purely on the basis that they “DONT FIT THE MOULD” or that they are not what the label is looking for at that moment in time. I think that is where we all struggle as artists.
Amy: Do you think if you had more (Content, Capital or Connections) it would be easier?
Ben: Without a doubt, money and connections would help tremendously. For example if I had more time to gig more and get my teeth into more hearty productions and train my voice more regularly I am sure I could progress extremely quickly. I love my job at the moment but it is not what I want to be doing when I am 30. My goal is to sing in the Royal Albert Hall and bring the house down.
Amy: When Elexu is up and running is a competition (Endowment) something you would be interested in joining?
Ben: Of course, I would love the chance to further my career.
Amy: What sort of endowments would you like to see for an aspiring singer?
Ben: An endowment that gave someone like me the chance to meet an already well-established singer would be great, so I could get advice on how to progress in my field or the chance to spend a day behind the scenes of a music video being filmed or backstage at the theatre, would be great!
For more information about Ben check out: http://www.benbrunning.co.uk or Twitter: @bbrunningmusic.
Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a bit from the life of one of our aspirants. Elexu is always looking to help those just like Ben and anyone with a dream who needs access to $ (capital), info (content), or connections. Sign up for the Elexu newsletter to become on of the invite-only members on our site!
Today The Elexu Foundation would like to share a day with our community that was developed by one of our followers, Abigail Stafford. She initiated Invisible Disabilities Day because at the time there wasn’t a general umbrella to raise awareness about disabilities that may not have the publics attention. So if you’re on Twitter, tweet with the hash tag #invisibledisabilities this Friday and learn all sorts about conditions you didn’t even know existed, yet affect people’s lives on a day to day basis.
I’m Abigail Stafford and at the age of 16 I was diagnosed with a hereditary joint condition called hypermobility syndrome Ehlers Danlos Type. After years of suffering with pain and HMS symptoms, I started to wonder why had it taken so long for me to be diagnosed with a condition I was born with? Simple, such little is known about the rare condition in the UK and around the world. So now, at the age of 18, I’m trying to help make the ‘invisible visible’ and raise awareness about #invisibledisabilities.
After attending an inspiring workshop with blogging professionals organised by 4talent, I set up my own blog to help raise awareness about invisible conditions www.hideandseekdisabilities.blogspot.com. The blog was set up as a platform whereby people from all over the world could interact by educating others about their invisible conditions and go to for advice and support from those that are in similar situations.
After the initial success of the blog, I set up a Twitter and Facebook account where people can regularly access short snippets of advice and info. I soon realised, that whilst there are months, weeks and even specific days dedicated to raising awareness about certain conditions, there is no awareness date for the umbrella ‘invisible disabilities’. Therefore, I decided to dedicate Friday 4th may as #invisibledisabilities day! This hopefully will coincide with my HideAndSeek Disabilities Blog reaching the 10,000 hits mark as it’s not too far away from hitting this milestone! On twitter and on the blog, I’ve promoted this day and have got people involved to help raise awareness about all #invisibledisabilities! So if you’re on twitter, tweet with the hash tag #invisibledisabilities this Friday and learn all sorts about conditions you didn’t even know existed, yet affect people’s lives on a day to day basis.
Since its launch in September 2011 I have had an overwhelming response from people across the world, many of them contributing to blog by sending in video clips, links and inspiring stories. Many people, including myself, have already learnt a great deal about disabilities we never knew existed, yet there is so much more we still need to realise and discover.
I have since realised that there isn’t enough support out there for young people, like myself, to help us to persevere in achieving our goals. That’s when I came across Elexu online. I was immediately taken in by the appeal and intentions of the new social platform that will be launching in the near future. A support network whereby the youth of today can access the help they need in making their dreams into reality!
I’m certain that this initiative will reach out to and inspire many young people, like myself to pursue their dreams and showcase their talent by offering resources and competitions for financial support and I’m privileged to be involved with Elexu in its early stages, to witness the whole process of how Elexu succeeds in helping young people achieve their dreams and aspirations.