SB: I have a portfolio career, which is essentially because I really enjoy dabbling in different things. I am a writer, blogger, and author but I am also a performer, public speaker, and producer. On top of that I run workshops and masterclasses in schools, colleges, and universities focusing on demystifying feminism, women’s and girls’ empowerment, raising black consciousness, (un)learning, and also improving self-esteem. In terms of why I founded No Fly on the WALL, I simply felt invisible and disillusioned after I graduated from university in 2013 and I needed to create a platform for Black British women like me because that platform simply did not exist at that time. I founded the Haus of Liberated Reading because I was sick of the gatekeepers in the mainstream (and actually, the more established corners of the indie) publishing world. I had people interested in my work but the process was taking too long and/ or they wanted to strip me of too much of my creative autonomy and integrity and I just could not bear it. Then there were the people who kept telling me to wait because I was not ‘ready’ yet. It is not for anybody to tell you that you are not ready, especially after you have committed to putting work into something for an extended amount of time. I had been working on ‘Elephant’ for over two years before I founded the Haus. It was an experiment I guess, but I brought an idea to life and managed the entire process from start to finish and on my own terms. I am very proud of that. It’s not for everyone but if you have the motivation then do what you can with the resources you have. I founded Haus of Bangz Digital because I needed an extra source of income, mostly. Freelancing, especially in the creative industries is tough so you need multiple streams of income. I’d been making blogs and utilising social media successfully for over ten years so I decided it was time to make some money from those skills in a more formal manner.
SB: A few major challenges I came up against were lack of money, resources, and the time to do things the way I wanted and deliver at the level of brilliance I wanted. So I had to make some very tough decisions. This time last year I left my last ‘traditional’ job and half-heartedly embarked on self-employment. It was a really bumpy ride and I think to some what I was doing didn’t make any sense but I think people have learnt by now that every move I make is deliberate and I pay attention to detail. Even if I don’t know all the ins and outs of ‘how’ I’ll do something I just commit to finding a way regardless. Also, we creative people are often seen as having poor business sense. But actually creative thinking and lateral thinking are vital no matter what sector you’re in. Innovation and problem solving are necessary. I do know lots of creative people who don’t know how to market themselves (not a dirty concept at all even though lots of creative folk hate the idea of ‘selling’ themselves) and so they miss out on opportunities. Then I thought to myself well over the last three years I have developed a very strong personal brand and so maybe I can help other creatives like myself do the same. But it’s an ongoing process. I have found formalising my skills and getting people to commit to paying me for my services at Haus of Bangz Digital to be more challenging that I first anticipated. But I’m always analysing and refining my model, whether that be my business model or how I deliver my poetry, write my articles, whatever. Everything I do is linked and compliments the other projects and endeavours I’m involved in. I overcome all my obstacles by thinking creatively and keeping a strong hold on my motivation and belief in myself and my vision. I believe in myself a lot.
SB: My greatest influence personally, which then impacts how I navigate my career, has to be my lovely mother. I say this all the time but it’s true. She is my main motivation, my mentor, my champion, my number one fan, my number one support, my everything. Her practical support has meant I am able to freelance when other people would not be able to. I don’t come from money but I have lots of the kind of support money can never buy. People always think of big names, celebrities, the rich and famous when they talk about influence but the everyday heroes are important. Those are the people, like my mum, who are the foundations of our societies and who often get very little, if any praise for their toil. Their many sacrifices mean that the rest of us can make our dreams a reality.
SB: In five years I will be almost 30. By then I’d like to find financial stability, job satisfaction, flexibility, and have a work-life balance. Right now I feel I can’t have all of those things and actually, right now not all those things have the same amount of importance. Right now job satisfaction, fulfilment, flexibility, and time are really important to me. That’s not to say money is not but it would never be the only thing fuelling any career decisions I make. But by 30 I’d like to not have to worry about money anymore. I want the Haus of Liberated Reading to be a well-established radical publishing house and to have launched the careers of some very bright and interesting voices that we’d otherwise have never heard of; I’d like No Fly on the WALL to be an official social enterprise helping Black British women and girls through our Academy with a variety of things, but mostly to continue creating that network and safe space for them to be carefree, vulnerable, happy, and to (un)learn in. I’d like No Fly on the WALL to have enough money to help others through bursaries for community projects and personal development. As for Haus of Bangz Digital, we’ll see how that goes but I’d like to reach a stage where I’m just overseeing that and I have a small but reliable core team of people to run things for me. I hope my public speaking career and performing continue to go from strength to strength and by 30 I’d like to have nine more books to my name following the success of ‘Elephant’. These will include more poetry but also short stories, pamphlets, a play, and a reader on Black British Feminism. I hope in five years’ time ‘Elephant’ will be on, or on its way to being, part of the English Literature curriculum in schools across the country too. I might even have time to get married and start a family but we’ll see!