Meet our Creatives: Fay Cannings, founder of Seekd
This week we caught up with busy entrepreneur and honorary Creative Works member, Fay Cannings. Fay runs Seekd, a curated marketplace that celebrates beautiful jewellery by ethical and sustainable designers. Her previous experience in property placemaking and local regeneration meant Fay was able to consult on our own strategy in the early days, and she subsequently shared her startup story at our inaugural networking event earlier this year.
Hi Fay! Tell us a bit more about how Seekd came to be…
Seekd actually started out as an online project to connect consumers with local jewellery businesses and designers. But the more research I did, the more I realised that there’s a growing demand for ethical and eco-friendly products.
Sustainability is also something that brands and designers are really starting to take into account in terms of how they source their materials, as well as the design and making process.
It took me a long time to conduct research, get everyone on board and get the website up and running, but when I finally launched it it was brilliant. Website-wise, there’s a lot to learn and put in place. I worked with an agency on the website and branding side of things.
When did you decide to explore pop ups?
It became apparent quite early on that the online sphere is quite difficult to crack. So because I have a background in commercial property placemaking, I came up with a plan to work with landlords to transform their vacant spaces into pop up shops.
A big opportunity came up with a property developer who owns major outlets like Brent Cross Shopping Centre and the Bull Ring Birmingham. In a moment of serendipity, it turned out they had an empty space last December – just in time for Christmas shopping!
They offered me a really good deal on it and being the festive season it was the perfect time to trail how things sold in that kind of environment. I partnered with one of my designers on that event and we mobilised everything very quickly.
It went really well and we followed up with two more pop up events: one around Easter and one in July. I’m looking at another pop up in a really exciting Central London location, and if it goes ahead it’ll be running for four months!
I’m also working in partnership with the Goldsmiths Centre who are hosting my two-day pop up around Christmas this year. We did an event with them last year but this one’s going to be bigger and better, with lots of exciting features and interactive events.
All being well, we’ll also be taking part in an exciting Christmas market in a very prestigious arcade which’ll run for three days in November and December. Lots of interesting people are involved – including an international artist who’s designing a light installation.
How do you go about selecting the designers you work with?
The selection process is driven by the aesthetic as well as the designer’s approach to ethical trade and sustainability. I always want to work with people who are interesting, up-and-coming and have really unique and beautifully made products.
I’ve come across some great designers through my own independent research as well as word of mouth.
Can you give us an example of a designer who has a particularly interesting style or technique?
Ooh, yes, there’s a good few to choose from. One that springs to mind K:ss creations, a designer who uses concrete with a sustainable element. She makes everything in her own home and doesn’t have a background in design but learnt everything from scratch. The concrete has a low carbon component and that’s something she’s explored through the process.
A lot of interesting designers are working with upcycled products, like Love & Salvage who make bags out of leather that’s bound for the landfill. It’s about keeping things circular. A lot of designers also use their own techniques such as wax carving where they make the moulds for their pieces from wax.
Many use recycled silver or gold as part of the process too.
So how did you get involved with Creative Works?
I used to run a small startup charity called Startup Kitchen, and that’s where I first met Alexis, MD of BCE and Creative Works. I did some consultancy work around strategy, how to build the community and getting the word out there through marketing.
…And finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business like yours?
I’d just say think about it very carefully because it does change your life. For me it started out as a passion project because I was already really immersed in the world of startups, but turning it into a fully fledged business is tough.
You need to decide if you want to keep it as passion project or put all your energy into making it work. Also, everything takes a lot longer than you think, so having a cash buffer is vital!
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