Meet Our Community: Blick Founder Christine
Since covid we have been very busy with new residents and behind the scenes work in the studios. We are planning to pick things up again with more for the wider creative business community in Northern Ireland in coming months. So we thought it would be a good time to re-introduce the people involved with Blick. Who we are and more importantly why we do it, starting with Blick founder Christine.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How has your work at Blick compared to what you imagined you would end up doing?
I’m Christine. I studied fashion and textiles at Belfast School of Art and worked briefly as a textile designer for fashion in Italy before returning to NI to start my own creative business. I was one of the founders of Blick way back in 2007 with a group of other creatives. We were all struggling to find suitable workspace in Belfast, somewhere affordable and flexible alongside other like minded creatives. I will talk more about that journey and the story of Blick in future posts. I currently run Blick with my sister Rosy who does all our finance and operations with support from our board of Trustees as Blick is also a registered charity.
I always wanted to work in fashion for as long as I can remember, so working at Blick is very different to what I imagined in one way, but I also always dreamed of working for myself. I just didn’t think it was even possible. Not knowing any business owners and going to a very traditional grammar school starting a business just didn’t seem feasible to me when growing up. So I ended up pursuing a career in fashion. The reality of having to work in a big city, sitting at a desk all day, alongside the financial challenges of working within the industry led me to make the decision to return to NI to start my own fashion business. I struggled working alone at home and then met a group of creatives on a creative business course at Ulster University. We all realised just how important being with other like minded creatives on a similar path was for developing our businesses and we came up with the idea for Blick. I ended up then taking over Blick myself rather than my own business idea.
Did your education/ training/ background help in setting up Blick?
I think being a creative myself with experience of starting my own creative business from home I had an understanding of the needs of other creatives and what was and wasn’t important. For example when we started many people thought we were crazy not to have a receptionist and phone lines for each resident and that many different businesses would all be happy working in an open plan environment. I also know from personal experience of trying to start my own creative business here in NI before Blick how hard it is and how little support there is. I also know how little understanding there can be of the creative sector and how isolating that can feel.
On a practical level having studied textile design I also have an interest in interior design and have some transferable skills which have been helpful in designing our spaces. Studying any type of design I think gives you an eye for design and what works and what doesn’t for interiors, but also graphics and branding etc. I also think studying and working within fashion gives you a really good understanding of what makes brands successful and just how important detail is.
Studying fashion definitely gives you a taste of having to really hustle and put the time in to be successful and stand out. We did lots of allnighters during my final year at uni and you just expected to have to work very long hours and do all sorts of random jobs for very little pay to be successful. Which is very similar to starting a business.
Is there anybody or any business locally/ internationally who you admire?
I admire lots of local businesses for lots of different reasons. I think anyone with the courage, resourcefulness, tenacity and determination to run a successful business deserves respect and admiration.
What do you do in your day to day job in Blick?
My job involves everything from writing proposals and funding applications and pitches, organising events and projects such as Womenfolk, Share6, Blick Academy, Small Town Big Dreams and Belfast Design Week, to lots and lots of admin and emails, interior design of the spaces which I love but there is never enough time or money to really focus on, DIY and constantly fixing things that are broken, moving furniture, looking after the plants, painting and decorating and cleaning. I also do most of the sales and business development and marketing strategy etc. We have a very small team so everyone just has to be willing to do whatever needs done.
What do you like most about your job?
I love running Blick and it suits me much better than being a designer in industry. No day is the same, I get lots of variety and time away from my desk. I also get to work with and meet lots and lots of different types of people. I probably most like getting to work with other like minded creatives on the different projects we work on and getting to redesign and work in lovely buildings.
What are your future plans both personally and for Blick?
My future plans personally are to travel more now we are finally allowed to post covid. Keep trying to learn to get a better balance in my life, be more productive, so I can work less but achieve more. Generally do less things better and do more meaningful work that has a greater impact and try to be more confident personally about having and voicing my opinions, create better boundaries in all areas and have more fun!
Plans for Blick in the immediate future are to finish refurbishing our studio spaces. Get some new professional building photos, refresh our brand and website. Then start a new programme of events and activities this autumn. Focussing as always on making it easier for people in NI to follow their dreams and successfully run their own creative business.
We are currently developing some interesting projects that we hope will bring lots of value to creative businesses in NI. Covid has encouraged us to think differently about the support we offer and how best to deliver that support. We previously did a lot of events and workshops, which are fantastic for networking and community building, but don’t always offer the best return on investment or long term impact for the creative community. So going forward we would like to develop a more diverse range of support. Invest more in different mediums and methods, that balance community building and networking with learning opportunities and knowledge sharing.