I applied for Middlesex University during my Lifelong Learning foundation course back in 1996, as I'd heard from various individuals that this was a great university for the arts. I did apply for another university, but I had my heart set on Middlesex.
I only discovered my love for graphic design during my college years. I really enjoyed typography, logo design, corporate identity and photography, and naturally wanted to explore this new found interest. So when I read about the Middlesex graphic design course, it seemed like an ideal way for me to advance into higher education.
Going back to where my raw talents are, I really got a kick out of using a pencil in technical ways; life drawing, typography and grid layouts were the most enjoyable aspects of the course for me. I always felt in my element. I also enjoyed being able to work in groups, with the illustration side of the course.
Meeting a lot of students from a diverse range of backgrounds, including many students that had transferred from different countries! I loved living in Trent Park halls of residence, where I met and became friends with the other residents and I have many fond memories of being out and socialising with them.
Mancinism is an eco-wear brand with an educational and social mission. It aims to make positive and empowering statements through the equality and diversity images and words expressed on its clothing. Mancinism hopes to raise awareness of equality and diversity and all that is encapsulated within the government's nine protected characteristics, while at the same time, practising a sustainable lifestyle by investing in eco-friendly, ethical purchasing. It is designed to provoke a double-take, broaden minds, tear down stigmas and break down barriers!
I've always believed in having a personal definition when it comes to arriving at a name. A fellow entrepreneur I'd met on Freecycle actually suggested "Mancinism" to me, as she'd discovered it meant left-handedness, which of course was appropriate for me, being left-handed. I also felt it was a good chance to give a deeper meaning to my new brand, as I wanted to have key values based on equality & diversity, (E&D); being different, going against the grain, as well as enhancing the positive, but stripping away some of the negative clichés that I feel are associated with left-handedness. The original logo came about really naturally, as many of my ideas do once I have a theme. I spotted a font I really liked during some previous work experience, so I used that to illustrate my idea, which was to break the word mancinism down into syllables, keeping them left-aligned. It turned out that the font style made it fit perfectly and the word "design" tessellated in an ideal way.
The current trademark also came very naturally by taking my own left hand in its drawing posture, then making an icon from it. The E&D brand mark took me a little longer to come up with. Using the font I'd used for my company trademark, taking the letters "E" & "D" and fusing them to create a very versatile icon, as well as highlighted in associated words consisting of "ED" e.g. "UndividED".
Growing into the type of eco-wear company I wanted, really wasn't that hard, seeing as I'd already established a firm presence within my networks, personally and professionally in Gloucestershire. I also piloted a "Don't Label Me" campaign range of tees while in Cheltenham, this was inspired by my involvement with my housing project's equality and diversity group, so people already associated this with me and my brand. Continuing from the connections I made, and the new ones I was making in Surrey, I just continued doing what I would proactively do; introducing myself to the local council, getting my name on email lists, attending networking events, and of course utilising social media and the e-marketing I'd previously set up.
Being a "lefty", we're known for being very creative, intelligent, great multi-taskers, very practical and hands-on individuals. I'm not sure I would say that any or all of these are the most important, but personally, with my creative gene, coming up with imaginative ideas and visualising them is the easiest part. I also enjoy online research, but where I don't excel as much, is the business and financial side of things. Having a few years of previous self-employment experience, also helped a lot, and with the advice, constructive criticism and support I continue to receive, I have learnt valuable things from those who have much more experience than I do.
I only set this part of the company up in January 2014, so this part of the business is still in its early days. However, I have many great product ideas, collaborations and partnerships with other ethical companies which are included in my five-year business plan. Since education is key in raising awareness of equality and diversity, I also have educational, social enterprise and charitable ideas of how to grow the venture.
I was awarded a £1,000 New Enterprise Allowance loan back in February/March 2014, I wish I'd known about my initial supplier's poor customer service as I have spent over half of my loan on them. Now I'm forced to provide my customers with different products and can't afford the stock I need, but I suppose learning who your reliable contacts will be is part of the journey. Knowing more about the retail and distributor way of operating a business, as well as having some fashion design skills would have been a great advantage. As a sole trader, all the pressure is on me, I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all I have to do alone. But I have obtained a few key supporters who aid me in certain ways, on top of the few individuals I have free service exchanges with, who I have dubbed "Team Mancinism".
I still have a way to go before being where I need to be, but I would say get as much (free) advice as possible, I've had this from Business Link, Enterprise First and Let's Do Business, all of which have great resources and templates for completing your documents and spreadsheets. On that note, research the best fit for your business, don't necessarily take the first piece of advice too literally, take heed and compare with others. Research not just online, but read relevant books when you're away from your PC and in bed, stay focused and don't do it half-heartedly. If you're serious about setting up your own business, detach yourself from distractions like negativity, habitual and costly socialising, TV and perhaps even your full-time employment – in my opinion, you can't give both your full commitment. Most of all don't let anyone bring you down and tell you that you can't do it – only surround yourself with like-minded and supportive people!
To find out more about Mancinism visit www.manciniwear.com