Female Founders No.6 - Alex Kelly, MAKE
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Female Founders No.6 – MAKE Liverpool

If you’re thinking of making something in Liverpool, then chances are you’ll need the indispensable services available to you from MAKE. Created by Alex Kelly and her two business partners, MAKE is a one-stop shop to help you create, craft and imagine bigger.

Situated in the iconic Baltic Triangle, as well as the North Docks – the city’s spiritual engine room, MAKE’s venues are open to members, residents and the public. Not only is it a space to work from, Makers can also run workshops, events, and exhibitions.  It’s essentially a creative’s dream – so make you read the inspiring story behind its female founder and how she came to create a lifeline for Liverpool’s creative SMEs.

1. Why did you start your business? What spurred you on?

It started out as a need for three of us to have a space to work from. My brother Liam was a remote worker and working from home was causing mental health problems for him. Myself and Kirsten had recently finished university studying creative courses and we wanted a space we could go and create work. We secured a space in Elevator Studios just as the Baltic Triangle was emerging. We sublet some of the space to friends to help pay the rent and discovered that there was a real market for people in the same position as us, wanting a place to work from. From there it became a business. Helping individuals grow their businesses and develop their ideas is what spurred us on. It’s been great to build a community of creatives and create Make Liverpool.

2. What are the unique challenges you have faced as a female founder?

All of the clichés. From people talking only to my brother during meetings or being asked if I have been sent on an errand when in a wood yard. Quite often people presume I’m going to be a boy because of my name, it’s quite fascinating to see how their language in emails change after they find out I’m a girl. It’s shocking how much you actually let go without realising you are doing so. It sometimes takes more to convince people (mostly men) that you are the expert they have been looking for.

All of the clichés. From people talking only to my brother during meetings or being asked if I have been sent on an errand when in a wood yard.

3. What were the steepest learning curves during your first year in business?

Expect the unexpected. We had no money to do anything in the beginning and it was really tough when we did get a bit of extra cash, not to spend it on something exciting. Without fail something would go wrong and we would have to spend our surplus on something incredibly boring, like a new light fixture or microwave. We learned a lot about the legal side of leases, renting and subletting.

4. What is your favourite thing about founding your own company?

No day is the same. I love the fast pace nature of everything, meeting new people and developing new ideas.

5. What is the best business advice you have been given by someone else?

“Put a third behind you, re-invest a third and keep a third”

Wise words from one of our residents, Ken the sign man. He always has great advice. He recommends that no matter what you earn, how little it might be, you should put a third of it away for retirement, a third of it back into the business and pay yourself a third. It’s worked out quite well for him.

6. What business tools can’t you live without? i.e. software

I find that less is more. I use Trello to manage project work and Tweet Deck to schedule social media content to multiple accounts. As an arts organisation we have found that not everyone is as comfortable with multiple social media platforms and project management tools. It’s amazing what you can do with just Google and the basic features on social platforms.

7. When you’ve got a tough business decision to make what would be your first steps to solving the problem?

When we are really stuck we try and collectively come to a decision that is based on our visions and values as a company. We ask advice from our board of trustees and try and engage our community. In the end, it is the community we are here to serve so if it’s not something they want we have to question why we are doing it.

8. Who are your heroines and why? Give us two.

Well, the first would have to be my mum. She’s a strong independent woman and I admire all her hard work. Make Liverpool wouldn’t exist without her support. It’s far too hard to pick just two, so I would also just like to mention all the women who have helped and guided us along the journey to creating Make Liverpool. From our female trustees and advisors to the women makers in our community. They are all always a constant source of inspiration and the work that we do at Make wouldn’t be possible without them.

9. What piece of advice would you give yourself if you were starting your business now?

Be patient, it’s going to take longer than you think. Go with the flow and don’t get bogged down in insignificant details.

10. What’s your go-to marketing tactic for your small business?

Telling our story and the story of our Makers through Instagram! As a small business, we have little to no marketing budget. Our main objective is to build a community of Makers that will use our services. As the Marketing and Communications Manager I have to utilise all the free tricks of building an audience. The best way I have found to spread the message of what we do is via Instagram. As an arts-led organisation, our audience tends to be more on the visual side and not very tech savvy. The constant content comes from the resident makers theselves, sharing their stories and helping sell their work. Ill then use the Instagram story to add a human element to what we do.