Meet the Founders: Do It For Yourself Podcast

This week we talk to Manchester-based creatives Laura Frances Heitzman and Foxanne about navigating freelance life, female friendships and working in North.

Laura (L), Foxanne (R)

Lovely to speak with you both, can you tell us a bit about yourselves, what you do and how did you meet?

L: I’m from Manchester, I’m a freelance illustrator, mural artist and designer. I currently work from home, but I’m hoping to get into a really cool studio sometime soon.

F: I’m also from Manchester, I’m an artist,  illustrator, designer, just an all round creative gal. I always find it weird to introduce myself, if its creative, I’ll give it a go! I currently work from a studio and my little doggo studio assistant, Luna, comes with me.

L: We met online through Instagram. We slid into each others DM’s! 

F:  A few weeks after meeting on Instagram, we realised we both lived down the road from each other, such a small world! 

Laura’s Feminist Calendar inspired by the people and places of Manchester

The podcast sounds like a great idea, how did you come to the decision to make one?

L: Well, we realised we had so much to talk about. We were always talking in depth about the creative industry as we are both freelance designers, problems we’ve faced and great things that have happened to us. We also had loads in common and talked a lot about our lives and realised we were having a LOT of deep chats, so we thought why not have these conversations on a podcast.

F: We wanted to try something new together and we feel like we could help people who are just starting out in the industry. We’re both very open, sometimes too open haha! With being very present on social media, I’ve gotten used to speaking to an audience on my Instagram stories, but I felt like we had a lot to say so long-form content felt like the next step. I’d wanted to start a podcast for a few years now but after a deep FaceTime chat with Laura we both thought it would be nice to do it together.

What would you like listeners to get out of the podcast?

F: When I’m in the studio by myself I stick podcasts on so I feel like I’m not by myself. Working for yourself can be quite lonely. I find educational podcasts super helpful, but sometimes it can be very info heavy, I struggle with my attention,  I can’t casually listen to informational podcasts, I have to actively listen to them. But I wanted to create something that is Laura and I waffling about our lives and  our careers with little educational tips that people can subconsciously take in. 

L: For me, podcasts help me to feel less alone whilst I’m working at home by myself because being self employed can be really lonely. It would be really lovely to know that we could be that for other people in the same situation. We want to be as honest as possible, and for people to know that they will get full transparency when they listen to the podcast so it can be comforting to know that it isn’t all rosey and we have ups and downs too.

Design by Foxanne

What have been some of the positives and drawbacks of making a podcast?

L: For me, I feel like the biggest drawback is the time it takes to plan, produce and edit etc. Its very time consuming but it’s definitely going to be worth it for sure. I’d say the most positive thing is being able to connect with so many people. We’ve already connected with lots of creatives and business owners, and that list is only going to grow, especially when we get more guests on board.

F: Following on from Laura, the content creation and the planning is very time consuming as we produce, film, plan edit, schedule everything ourselves. Me and Laura are chatting everyday on voice notes about our lives or the podcast. Because we spend so much time together now I really think it has helped our friendship blossom. Crazy to think we only met each other in real life less than a year ago! The positives are definitely meeting so many people through it. The community we are already building through our podcast honestly makes the long nights and frantic FaceTime calls worth it. I couldn’t of chosen a better friend to go on this journey with.

What individual perspectives do you bring to the podcast?

L: We both have different design backgrounds. I studied fashion design at university whereas Foxanne studied contemporary art. I worked in the industry as a designer working for a supplier for two years before going freelance, and Foxanne went straight into freelancing so its great we have those different experiences.

F: Laura creates sassy illustrations of powerful women in fashion, which she then sells products in her shop, whereas I focus more on typography and funky random illustrations and I work with a lot of businesses on their branding, product design, surface pattern design etc. With us both coming from different starting points, Laura with her fashion and me with my painting and contemporary art I think we both give different perspectives. I’ve never worked ‘in industry’ so I find myself invalidating my skill which we’ve found a lot of freelance artists who have never worked in industry feel the same way too. It’s great to have us both share our own views on things.

A design from Laura’s newly launched Feminist Calendar

Outside of that, what are you both currently working on?

L: I’m working on some new products for my shop. I’m also booking in for lots of markets around Manchester too, I want to make sure I have at least one booked every weekend because I love meeting customers and other small business owners, its great to get that social element to the job. I’m working on some t-shirt designs with a new brand that’s soon-to-launch in the next couple of months, I cant wait to share what we’ve been working on soon. I also have a potential mural design in a bakery which is really exciting.

F: I’ve recently shut my online shop after two years to focus on client work. So scary yet so exciting. I’m currently working on my rebrand for my business and I’ve got a few branding projects for clients on the go plus repeat pattern designs for some international clients. I’m also trying to learn how to create art for me again, a big switch up in styles is happening. Its all go go go in the world of Foxanne at the mo! 

Both Manchester-based, what are some of your favourite things about the city?

L: Where do I start! I just love it here. It’s a very friendly city, I’d say. Most northern cities are I think. There’s a very arty vibe in Manchester which I love, the street art is incredible. There are loads of really cool independent businesses here. The Northern Quarter is my favourite, there’s so many cool bars, restaurants, coffee shops, vintage shops and boutiques there. I just love it, its amazing.

F: I don’t think I could ever move out of Manchester, when I have days out in different cities by the end of the day I just want to get back here. I love the people, omg the people are so nice! I think Laura has summed it up nicely, there’s something for everyone. There’s so many people from all sorts of walks of life and we all have lobby chats over a nice cold pint of craft beer.

Laura, you recently created illustrated calendar depicting a range of women in different parts of the city, do you find Manchester an inspiring place, creatively speaking?

L: Yes, I feel like every time I walk around town I feel inspired. Like I said earlier, there’s so much street art and there’s so many fabulous people wearing fabulous clothes too, everyone is encouraged to be an individual here. I love the architecture too, which is why I really enjoyed creating the illustrations for the calendar. 

How about you Foxanne?

F: Manchester forever inspires me. Manchester celebrates art like no other city (imo). Nothing ever stays the same, I’ve lived here all my life but each time I go into town I always see something new.

Where do you think are some of the best creative places to hang out or work in Manchester?

L: Again, the Northern Quarter is my favourite overall place. In terms of specific places, I love Feel Good club, Foundation Coffee House, Chapter One Books and Ezra & Gil are my faves to both hang out in and work at too.

F: Kiera and Aimie who founded the Feel Good club are amazing. I used to go to the Freelance Fridays they used to host when they had less than 10k followers. What they have built is amazing and if you are in Manchester do go and visit! Everywhere in Manchester is so inclusive and so calming, I suffer with social anxiety but whenever I go anywhere in Manchester I feel like people get it? Myself and Laura have our face-to-face meetings in Sale Foodhall, they always have cool independent food places and they allow doggos. So my little Rescue staffy luna comes along.

What’s next for you both?

L: We actually just released a podcast episode about our goals for 2022. Personally, I want to focus on growing my mural and window art portfolio this year, along with growing my shop and working on a consistent income for myself so I have more stability.

F: I’m really manifesting big things for 2022. This is a big goal of ours but we would love to do a live show of one of our podcasts and have a panel of guests on. How cool would that be????!! Personally, I plan to work with some big brands and add those to my portfolio, I would love to go back to my routes of painting and do some murals, but 2022 is going to be about making money, making friends and building a community we can be proud of. 

You can listen, like and subscribe to Laura and Roxanne’s podcast here, and check out their work here and here.


Getting to Know Megan Jones: Founder of Curated Makers

Words: Hannah Molyneux 

There is hope for the high street. With online shopping on the rise and empty retail units on every corner, Curated Makers offers a shopping experience with a difference. Championing northern makers, they are advocates for independent creative businesses, bringing handmade artisan products to the streets of the UK.

Working with retailers such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, and Paperchase, Curated Makers create a space for northern pop-up shops and outlets on the high street, giving shoppers the opportunity to purchase something lovingly handmade, while supporting a small business at the same time.

It’s been a whirlwind year for founder Megan Jones, with concession stands and pop-ups across Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester, as well as organising events such as Creatival – the creative business conference for makers and other small businesses. Recently, her efforts to showcase northern makers have been recognised with an award for North West Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year.

We caught a quiet moment with Megan to chat about her passion for bringing indie business to the high street, the realities of running a one-woman business, and her future ambitions for Curated Makers.

What was the inspiration behind Curated Makers?

I was working for large online retailers in digital marketing, selling mass-produced items that had no real meaning, and I wasn’t fulfilled whatsoever. I was always visiting local artisan markets and started to realise how much I loved the artists and makers there. I wanted to work with these people and see how I could use my skills to help small businesses. So then I started taking four or five makers to the market, trading on their behalf using a commission-based model, which normally doesn’t exist for small businesses.

After a while I started to realise that markets are unreliable, and the logistics involved even for five makers were almost impossible to manage. I saw an art gallery in the window of Debenhams in Manchester one day and thought, “I want to be in there,” so I approached Debenhams and pitched a pop-up shop to them. The window wasn’t available, but they gave me a space on the third floor between the café and the loos! I decided to give it a go and set up a market stall in there. 2 weeks turned into 3, and then finally they gave me the window spot. This was in June 2018 – it was my first taste of high street footfall and that’s when I made the decision to focus on the high street.

You’ve made the decision to focus on physical, tangible shopping rather than online selling – why is that?

There’s so much competition in this space online in terms of marketplaces, and I don’t really want to take them on. No one else is doing this pop-up model on the high street, and I’ve seen real success with it. The retailers want to stand out and the makers have the opportunity to sell their products on the high street. It’s important to me to create a personal shopping experience and tell the stories of the makers. I’m here to offer something different and to tempt shoppers away from mass-produced products made overseas in favour of local talent.

What is your relationship like with local makers? Were they on board from the beginning?

The makers have received it really well, especially because the footfall is so reliable. I just asked them to trust me and I’m so grateful that they did. I have a really personal relationship with the makers and that’s possible because they’re local. Even though I can’t work with everyone, I still want to build a community, so I’ve done two meet-ups this year with speakers, workshops to provide opportunities to connect with other creatives.

What do you find challenging about running this kind of business?

The sacrifice is real! The past year has been so full on and I’ve not been able to spend as much time with friends and family as I would like. There’s just me in the business and I’m responsible for every single aspect of it. Even the shop fixtures are designed by me and then made at home by my boyfriend who is a joiner. 

People tell me I’ve achieved a lot so quickly but I’m not running Curated Makers part time or even full time – I’m running it double time at the moment! Everyone’s concerned about me burning out, so I need to look after myself and work out a way of running Curated Makers that isn’t so reliant on me. At my last two pop-ups I’ve had a rota of shop staff to help me out – they’re all makers or freelancers themselves and it’s been life-changing for me to have them about.

My next challenge will be how I could run two shops at once, then three, then four, because ideally, I’d like to be in as many cities as possible all at the same time.

And if money was no object?

There would be something like this in every city across the UK. I don’t know whether it should be pop-up or permanent – the former is more exciting but logistically heavy with the added elements of moving around and storing stock and shop fittings. I had my heart set on getting into John Lewis and Marks and Spencer and I’ve managed to achieve that. I’d love a pop up in Selfridges and if Liberty would every have me that would be the dream! It would be amazing to take northern makers to the south.

I’ve got something interesting in Curated Makers and I’m starting to get emails from interesting people who want this in more places – it’s so exciting and genuinely all my dreams are starting to come true.

What is special to you about working in the north and particularly with creative women?

There’s so much going on in the south and makers are already well-represented, so I want to shine a spotlight on northern makers. The quality is so high and I’m spoilt for choice. Northern pride is fantastic and, in all the places I’ve been so far, people are so proud of being northern and that’s why I like to focus so much on local products.

I work with a lot of women and it’s great to be able to represent them. I’m really pleased to be able to contribute to a flexible style of working that suits women and their creative businesses and family lives. To be honest, the proportion of women that I work with is so high that I’m actually looking for more men to work with to create some balance!

I’m inspired by so many of the women that I’ve come across and worked with, and lots of them are good friends now. The community aspect is so important to me and I’m becoming more involved in supporting creative women in the North through events and meet-ups. I definitely find that filling a room with other creative people helps to keep me going too!

Curated Makers announce all upcoming events on Instagram @curatedmakers