It’s no secret the internet has made things much easier for entrepreneurs, especially small business owners. What makes it a win-win for professionals with the knowledge that entrepreneurs are so badly seeking, is the fact that they get to share their expertise in exchange for “influencer status,” and sometimes even an additional stream of income. It’s become so lucrative that many influencers have been able to quit their day jobs and turn their “side gigs” into full-time careers. At this point in time, I’d say becoming an influencer and/or starting an online business is the way to go, if you’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. Just ask lawyer-turned-designer-turned-blogger Sarah Scriven. Shortly after changing career paths and starting her own business, she launched online community Creative and Coffee. Scriven created it as a place for female small business owners and bloggers to connect with each other, as well as “learn the fundamental principles of running an online business.”
Full Name: Sarah Scriven
Current Title/Company: Founder of Creative and Coffee
Educational Background: Has an undergraduate degree in “Law” from the University of Exeter, and a post-graduate degree in “Legal Practice” from Cardiff University.
How did you come up with the idea for Creative and Coffee?
After months of working on my own online business, I realized how important it was to have a supportive group of business friends. Although my family was supportive, they didn’t understand about 80% of the things I talked about. Discussing marketing strategies, PHP codes and vector programs was like speaking gibberish to them. So I really wanted to create a place where new business owners & bloggers could come to, and not only learn how to put all of these things in action, but also receive support and encouragement. We have a lovely community on Instagram, where we all hang out and chat with each other. I always encourage people to share any issues they’re dealing with, so I can create specific content to help them out. The main goal of Creative and Coffee is to provide [business-related] assistance — both practical and emotional — so our readers can gain fresh information and leave inspired.
What were you doing before Creative and Coffee, and how does it relate?
While at university I specialized in business law, so early on I was immersed in the technical details of running a business. However, while studying I also worked for a charity whose focus is helping people with financial difficulties. It was from there that my love of business and finance really collided with the desire to help people solve their problems.
When I decided to leave my legal job a bit further down the road, I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted to do. I knew that I loved art and design but didn’t feel confident enough to make the leap just yet, so I undertook and completed two marketing diplomas with an emphasis in e-commerce and social media. Eventually, I decided to take the plunge and start my own design business. It was a super steep learning curve, but when I finally opened my business and got my first group of clients, I knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do.
After switching career paths, I remembered that I had all this knowledge relating to marketing and entrepreneurship, and I felt it would be a shame to not share it with others. So, while starting Creative and Coffee with the purpose of creating a supportive community, I knew this would be a perfect outlet to share everything I had learned over the years (and convince my parents that four years of tuition fees weren’t being entirely wasted)!
Tell me about the Entrepreneur Club.
Signing up for the Entrepreneur Club gives readers access to the library of business resources available on Creative and Coffee. It’s a constant work-in-progress and I have a lot of fun new things being released in February, including another eBook. At the moment it includes printables filled with relevant hashtags for Instagram, a workbook to go through whilst figuring out your niche, and more. As it grows I’m hoping to expand it into a dedicated community where members can chat, relax and find business friends to brainstorm with.
With social media being so new and fresh, when did you realize how big of a deal it was?
When I started my very first blog — while I was still at university — SEO had just come in fashion. Social media was still coming into its own, but all people really talked about was the vast importance of SEO. Studying law and then working at a legal office gave me very little time for social media myself (or like, daylight). So while I enjoyed trawling through Pinterest, the fact that social media was such a crucial part of your business didn’t properly strike me until I started my social media marketing course.
Whilst I knew then — practically speaking — how important it was, it wasn’t until I started my Instagram account that I realized the cruciality of social media for my business. I made so many friends on Instagram, and many of those followers became my first subscribers/tireless promoters. It was then that I realised that engaging with people and building relationships through social media was the absolute lynch pin of any business. Also, it helps maintain your sanity by having fellow business buddies to chat with, that actually understand what you’re going through.
Have you connected with any big-name bloggers/online business owners as a result of Creative and Coffee?
I’m very lucky to have connected with many fabulous bloggers since Creative and Coffee launched. In terms of encouragement, Maru Ramirez of Fashiony Fab has been super supportive of me on Twitter and Instagram.
Being that we give a lot of advice for start-up businesses at Creative and Coffee, I’ve also had the pleasure of connecting with may small business owners like Alison Burke of Blissful and Bold (who just launched a super inspirational site), and Triinu of Surprise Box Club, who just launched a jewelry subscription service. I also have to give a special shout-out to Jen of Practically Default, who is one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. She’s awesome!
What do you feel is your purpose in life?
Not too long ago I would have said: learning. There isn’t a time in the day where I am not trying to teach myself more about this world. Of course, I spend a lot of time learning about new and better ways to run my business and blog. But I spend all of my downtime devouring books on every subject I can get my hands on. At the moment I’m pretty obsessed with the War of the Roses.
More recently I’ve begun to discover just how much I love teaching people. I recently taught some of my followers how to code a button into their blogs for newsletters, and the response I received was amazing. It literally made me feel on top of the world when people sent me links to their new buttons and I saw how awesome they all looked. There is something incredibly satisfying about teaching a skill to someone. So, I feel my purpose in life at the moment is learning and passing that knowledge on to others.
You’ve crossed over from working a 9-5 to running your own business. What was the transitioning process like?
It was a massive adjustment. Having come from working in a busy law office, with hundreds of stressed people running around and important deadlines to meet every hour or so, suddenly being at home was really disconcerting! At first it was a pleasant change, but it soon became a bit isolating. This is why I totally recommend getting out of the office and re-connecting with the real world as often as you can!
I also had to deal with most of my friends and family thinking I’d literally lost my mind. I’d known for a long time that law wasn’t really for me, but expectations and practical reasoning kept me on that path until I just couldn’t do it anymore. So I had to learn how to have complete confidence in myself and not lose faith in what I was doing, even when it seemed really tempting to give up and go back to the world of employment.
I’ve written about it on the blog, but when I left the 9-5 it was very abrupt. I HAD to quit Which, for someone who carefully plans and weighs the pros and cons of everything before acting, was a terrifying thing to do. I’m glad that I did it that way however, because the fact that I had no money coming in made it crucial that I learn everything and set up my business as quickly as possible. I know that a lot of people who work from home sometimes find it difficult to structure their days and stay motivated, but I found that I had a powerful need to eat, which kept me focused! Now I’m thankful to say that I have plenty of work to keep me occupied.
How does your design business tie-in with Creative & Coffee?
It’s extremely useful to be able to do all of my own design work! My design business, Stray King, has recently sharpened its focus on book cover designs and websites (especially for authors), so in terms of niche it’s somewhat removed from Creative & Coffee.
With the new focus of Stray King I will no longer be offering art prints or design products for sale. That being said, I’m hoping to open another Etsy shop specifically for Creative and Coffee, to sell brand-in-a-box graphics and other fun stuff for girl bosses. So stay tuned!
What’s your #1 word of advice for aspiring bloggers/online business owners?
Whilst a professional-looking, on-brand business is a crucial starting point, the best way to actually grow your business is to start networking on social media. It’s really easy to lose sight of what social media is all about, especially with all of the tools that are available to automatically promote your posts. You absolutely have to talk to people AND build real relationships with them. Sharing your knowledge/products/service offerings on social media is a great start, but you need to do more to make an impact. All of the followers in the world won’t help you if they’re not engaged.
I know it seems time-consuming, and it might feel [unproductive] since you’re not doing something more concrete (such as creating a product or writing a blog post), but I put so much effort into researching and writing the best possible posts when I started blogging. I made sure that I was posting something new at least three times a week, as well as posting it straight to social media. But I was hardly getting any traffic. There is nothing worst than blogging “into the void!”
It might be difficult to keep this kind of momentum up on every single social media platform, so I really recommend picking one or two to concentrate on. This should be a combination of the platforms you feel comfortable using, plus the ones your followers hang out at the most. For example, most of [my income] from my design business comes from self-published authors, so for them I spend a lot of time on Twitter for them. For Creative and Coffee however, the majority of my audience is on Instagram, so I make sure to post there daily.