Meet Shannon Reed, the creative mind behind Mockingbird Makes, a business that started as a hobby before she saw the potential to turn it into much more. Shannon has long been a champion of creativity, for both business and wellness, and she helps people reclaim that aspect of their lives through workshops and speaking events. She puts her own creative talents to work making just about anything you can imagine from crochet.
Read on to find out more about Shannon, what drove her to leave a job she loved to carve her own path, her favourite small business advice and how she keeps herself motivated when it comes to social media marketing.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
SHANNON REED: I believe we outsource our creativity too easily and this can compromise our mental health and engagement in all areas of our lives. I help people reclaim their creativity in a few different ways – by creating crochet, knitted or embroidered pieces they have designed, by teaching them to Make for themselves and, ever more frequently now, speaking on both Creativity for Wellness and Creativity for Business.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
SR: My “Why’ has always been about creating safe spaces for creativity to flourish – and that includes my own space too. So all of my Makes come from a strong place of connection and mindfulness. Oh, and it’s an outlet for my perfectionism, so the quality is super high and attention to detail exquisite. I love making people feel delighted, so when my Makes where described recently as “sunshine in product form” I couldn’t have been be happier!
LO: Share a bit of background on yourself and your business.
SR: I’m based in East Dulwich, South East London and live here with my husband and two sons. Before having children I was an innovation consultant where I helped organisations with creative problem solving by facilitating workshops. I really loved it because ideas are such precious things and we need to be very supportive of ourselves and others to bring them to life. I found I had the emotional intelligence that was perfectly suited to creating safe spaces for such exciting new beginnings and it made my heart soar. However, it’s a big, energy-consuming job doing that internationally, and not something I wanted to be “juggling” once I had children. Very soon, my body and mind made that abundantly clear to me after my first son was born.
The small episodes of depression and anxiety that I had probably always experienced before becoming a Mum, and had been able to manage with time on my own and quiet periods in nature, soon became much more a feature in my day-to-day life and there was no longer any escape.
I soon started therapy, which I continue to this day, and also started creating for myself instead of just facilitating others ideas. This took the form of knitting and crochet and people loved what I made. They soon wanted to buy it and so I needed a brand name. My dear friend and local ceramicist Sophie Howard Jones suggested Mockingbird Designs, which I changed to Mockingbird Makes (“designs” was far too much of a stretch for me at that time!).
Within 24 hours, I had a logo, an Instagram account and a deadline – a line of hats for an upcoming clothing brand launch! For the first time in my life, “good enough” was my mantra as I didn’t have time for my usual level of perfectionism – it’s held me in good stead! And the benefits of giving myself permission to call myself creative, take risks and just give things a go have been breathtaking; I want to give everyone a taste of that freedom and joy.
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well invested? Any tips for newcomers?
SR: I’ve always loved Instagram and given my all to it – far too much really. There can be times when I can feel like I’m giving and giving and my reach is just getting smaller and smaller. I can also feel resentful for having to upskill all the time just to keep up. And then I remember what a strong, loyal and warm following I have, how it’s all free exposure and how many new skills I have learnt and the confidence that has come with that learning. I then have a little word to myself and carry on!
I would suggest to anyone to look at how to work smarter not harder at these things. I am rubbish at planning and so could save myself so much more time and be much more strategic if I was more disciplined (argh, I’ve said that out loud now, haven’t I – no excuse now! I’m thinking of my wonderful marketing coach Shona Chambers of Space at 61 when I say that, having received so much of her terrific training and not taking the time to implement it!)
LO: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today? And your favourite resources for small business?
SR: Be you because everyone else is taken. I know that’s a clever little saying, but it’s really what makes us small business owners stand out. Authenticity is key for so many reasons. It means you are sustainable, because it takes so much more energy to be someone else. It means you are attracting the people you want to work with and so you are all so much happier and more efficient. And people are buying YOU and there is not another you, so be you as much as you can! Sara Tasker of Me and Orla is fabulous at promoting this – her book Hashtag Authentic is great as are her podcasts – I just binge listen to them all!
We need to look after ourselves to be authentic, so make that’s your first priority, mentally especially. When you know yourself deeply, you can make decisions that support yourself and, in turn, support others. Find someone to talk to that has your back 100% – and know that that might not be your mum or partner.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as a small business owner?
SR: As a Maker, when you create something a little piece of you goes out into the world and if people don’t like it, it can be heartbreaking. And then when people love your work, it’s the best feeling ever. Learning a little detachment from these two extremes is essential for one’s sanity and ability to continue.
LO: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short-term goal? And long term?
SR: I’d like to create some more fun workshops and teaching programs in the short term and, in the long term, look at how I can use my experience with innovation in the corporate world to helps small businesses grow and respond creatively to this fast-paced world in a super supported, heartfelt way.
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
SR: A delightful visit to Alexandra Nurseries this morning just for myself for tea, cake and two little plants; my new Neal’s Yard Organic morning facial routine (thanks to independent consultant Emma Innes) is amazing; and my monthly massages with Vanessa Afful of Made By Pure Hands keeps this Maker’s hands and body going!
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