Community Matters: In Conversation with Yas Banks, Graphic Designer and Podcaster

Image by Sophia Carey 

A University of Salford Graduate in Graphic Design, Yas Banks is a 21-year-old freelance designer from Wigan. Since graduating in 2019, she has been flexing her creative muscle as a freelancer and hosting the podcast Proper Talk , alongside friend and fellow Salford Univeristy graduate Jaheed Hussain.

Taking every opportunity that she can to learn more about her craft, Yas is also making sure to pass on the knowledge she has acquired since graduation and is helping those fresh out of university, who are just beginning to scope out roles in the creative world.

Having recently gone solo with the podcast, we wanted to speak with Yas about her first year as a freelancer, the realties of the working world and her advice for anyone needing a bit of encouragement when it comes to finding their place amongst other designers and creatives.

Affable and always brimming with ideas, this is a must-read for anyone interested in a career in graphic design and for those feeling a little lost in professionally and personally of late.

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you do?

I’m Yas. I’m 21. From Wigan. I’m a graphic designer and podcaster.

Image by Holly White

When did you first know you wanted to be a graphic designer?

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a fashion designer. I had an A5 sketchpad filled with drawings of my own clothes, drawing outfits together. That was my goal. In primary school, we had the opportunity to design and make our own slippers in an art lesson one week as a Christmas activity. I still to this day have this slipper – yes it isn’t wearable at all but it’s still a fond memory I have. 

That was until I got to high school and discovered something called graphic products, fell in love with the process and the opportunity it gave. I remember as part of my exam for GCSE, I learnt about the likes of Margaret Calvert & Jock Kinneir who are most famous for designing road signs and became completely in awe that the likes of design carried out such an important role in people’s day to day lives. This is when I found out this was my ‘calling’ in life – ha. 

How did you find the first six months after graduation?

Tough. I’ll be honest. Between graduating in July and starting back up in October, I’m not ashamed to say I had a solid two months off away from absolutely everything – having lived my life in education from the age of 4… I needed some time to think. That shift of every single day in education to suddenly in the ‘real world’, searching for a job… being an adult… having that responsibility held around you is weird. The security of education was gone! 

That’s what I feared, the lack of being secure… getting up to go sit somewhere with that comfort bubble over you of knowing what you’re doing in a certain place. I knew I was getting the train to see recognisable faces; knowing exactly due to a timetable I was doing. There was no fear of the unknown. No anxiety inducing situations. And leaving that environment was a weird adjustment.

However, I took every opportunity whilst still being a student to attend as many events as possible, connect with people, build a network. Which I am so glad I did as I now wasn’t this odd, new graduate trying to get my foot in the door not knowing anyone.

I got bored though, of having too much me time… deciding after picking up the odd freelance jobs during September that I wanted to explore what it would be like to be freelance. Straight from graduation, I’m aware I seem deluded but I wanted to take the risk. I wanted to see what it was like to be my own boss, not be scared of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and meet amazing people along the way.

What opportunities did you take up in those first few months?

Keeping a close network with the university I went to (University of Salford) I jumped in as a mentor on their amazing mentor scheme to help out the current final year students (big shoutout to Lily Duignan for being ace, I’ve now made a friend for life out of this). 

Furthering this relationship with the university, I took part in the Design Manchester x Extinction Rebellion takeover day. From designing assets for the screens around the university to leading my own badge-making workshop. All students from eight different universities came together in union through the power of design to listen, learn and take action for matters about Climate Change. It was an ace day to be involved with, seeing everyone grow in passion through the day and getting mega hands on with everything that was highlighted. 

From this day, I have just about wrapped on a mad publication of summary from the day highlighting everything amazing that occurred into one place for everyone involved to refer back to and see the magic of collaboration! It’s jam-packed full of amazing imagery, artwork and words. Keep an eye out for that release as it’s very nearly ready to go. I love working on editorial design, like this, with loads of content as it allows me to be as creatively free as I’d like for people to enjoy.

At the same time as being involved with Design Manchester events; I had the privilege of working alongside Ear to the Ground as my first major freelance job, working in-house on campaigns for the likes of I Saw it First, Arsenal, Beats and internal marketing work. Working in-house amongst a fab team of people gave me a sense of what it was like day-to-day to come into a studio environment, even as my own boss, and quickly adapting to their way of working, was such a great opportunity for my first freelance role. 

I’ve joined the amazing PechaKucha team too. Being involved helping out where I can; designing the PoochaKucha event programme, helping out with workshops and working with the amazing team. 

What have you learned about working as a graphic designer since graduation?

Ironically, I’ve learnt that learning doesn’t stop. And I know everyone says this but it’s true. Every day is a learning curve, you will make mistakes but that’s okay, you won’t know how to do things, you will frantically Google how to do things. Skillshare has become my best mate at the moment especially diving into the world of After Effects a bit more.

What support did you receive after university?

I worked with the Design Manchester team through the end of my third year at university starting with an amazing project alongside Peel L&P, in which a handful of us designed murals to go up near Harbour City, with the focus on wellbeing and mindfulness. This project helped connect me with the team, with John Owens at the forefront of the project. The support given through the project pushed onto post-university, acting as a huge mentor figure giving me crucial advice on things like my CV to Portfolio, as he receives countless amounts a day. He’s given me guidance on so much when I was lacking motivation in struggling to find a job.

That’s something that isn’t spoken about, the frustration of working your arse off through education, high school to get to college, college to get to university, university to graduate and get a job. But then that job isn’t always there straight away and the fight still continues, of course it does, it isn’t handed to you on a plate ‘because you got a degree’ but the frustration of rejection is a real thing.

John helped me channel this and not let it get me down and lose my motivation, I’ve had down moments about it, anxiety was raised because I felt there was an expectation to get a job or else it wouldn’t have been worth it. But just know, that isn’t the case. Everyone knows how hard it is, especially during the current pandemic, but as long as you keep going, don’t let this define you, it isn’t failure — it’s a learning curve!

What would your advice be for those just starting out in the industry?

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is easier said than done, as you’ll be seeing your peers getting jobs or internships and thinking ‘wait, am I doing enough?’ and ‘why aren’t I being offered those opportunities?’ It’s an awful feeling, I get it. But that’s normal. Everyone will be thinking it, but don’t get tied up in these thoughts. You’ve got to take things at your own pace.

In these situations, you’ve gotta keep your head down and focus on you. And this goes for those you don’t know but are inspired by – it’s more than likely they’ve been doing what you’re just starting for a long time. You’ll get there – you’ve got to put the work in.  Imposter syndrome is real – I get it, everyone does. But it’s about channeling those feelings and working as hard you possibly can to get where you want to be and be your own biggest inspiration! 

What have been some of the highlights of the past year?

I think I’ve named quite a few already, haha! Some other things I’ve done which are mind-blowing for me… designing our Degree Show branding, graduating, having the best summer… turning 21 at a festival with ace humans, attending some inspiring events, connecting with the best people, being on the Creative Boom podcast (WOW!), being able to actually take a step away from education and realising that (okay apart from the current situation) the real world is actually quite exciting, yes utterly bloody terrifying too, but equally as exciting. 

Oh and of course, starting my own podcast! 

And any challenges?

Rejection from jobs. Anxiety about money. This has been a bane of my life. Especially being hit in a sudden pandemic, work drying out. Luckily I don’t have rent or a mortgage to pay, but I still have bills to pay and it’s a constant worry. 

Feeling like I’m back at square one. Learning doesn’t stop just because education stops – this hasn’t been a challenge as such but the feeling of being the newbie, a fresh graduate, there’s a connotation about it… new, fresh. Ok in some instances, it looks good as we have new ideas and have to start somewhere but from a personal thought it does feel that we could get looked down on as we don’t have experience so what the hell are we talking about. It’s a challenge I’ve faced and began to overcome after speaking to others in the industry, and I know there will be loads of graduates feeling the same too.

Can you tell us a bit about your Podcast and the inspiration behind it?

Proper Talk spiralled after featuring on Creative Boom – seeing the positive outlook from other creatives in the industry when briefly discussing topics that we face as graduates in the industry inspired an idea. I noticed that, yes there are amazing articles out there.

Proper Talk is from the perspective of a graduate navigating the working world as a new designer. It’s support for emerging designers. A platform to share tips and advice that I’ve learnt and continue to learn along the way, with conversations with guests in the industry too! Giving graduates a voice. 

Bits of advice I’ve welcomed and engaged with from people who have also been in my shoes at some point but there’s nothing from recent graduates to spare that advice of ‘in the now’ issues that people are concerned about. I know I won’t be a ‘graduate’ forever but for now I am a recent graduate. 

For others thinking about launching their own podcast or side hustle, what do you think are the foundations for starting your own venture?

Research. You’ll have a starting point as the reason you want to start a podcast or form a ‘side hustle’, but it’s important to delve further into it. Find your niche and that slot in the market, so you’re not repeating content that’s already out there.

Using your voice successfully. Figure out what you’d like people to get out of it, if that’s just entertainment, a sense of escapism, information, that’ll help to give you a distinct direction on forming the narrative behind the project. Know what you’re doing! It’s a lot of work to build up a platform, especially using a slightly different avenue in the form of your own actual voice.

What has been the best advice you have received over the past few years?

This is difficult to choose but there was a time nearing the end of college where my mental health took a major spiral. It was hard. I despised college. Loved my friends, hated the work! I went mute, lost faith in myself. It wasn’t good. But my family noticed this, helped me out and during that time I was gifted a wooden plaque that’s still on my wall today, in god awful typesetting I may add but it’s the message and meaning behind it that matters. It reads:

“You are braver than you think, stronger than you look, more talented than you know and twice as brilliant as the brightest star!”

How to find out more about Yas and her work:

Instagram: @yas.banks

Podcast: Proper Talk

Interview: Jenna Campbell


Community Matters: In Conversation with Danielle Rhoda, Illustrator, Animator, Designer

Originally from Poland, Danielle Rhoda moved to Manchester via Nottingham to study Illustration and Animation and has considered the city a home away from home ever since.

An extremely talented artist and illustrator, Danielle has worked with some of the city’s most exiting emerging creatives and agencies from Fuse Manchester and Yolk to cultural institutions including the People’s History Museum. Alongside creating her own prints and greeting cards, Danielle also runs The Big Drink and Draw, an online meeting place for creatives to connect with one another during lockdown.

We caught up with Danielle to talk about her love of the north, what it’s like for young creatives entering the workplace and the projects she’s proudest of.

Can I start by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m originally from Poland where I lived until the age of 13 at which point I moved with my family to Nottingham. I came to Manchester to study Illustration and Animation and stayed here since. I like to think of myself as a northerner at heart which you can tell by the way I love chips with gravy!

Did you know you always wanted to be an illustrator and artist?

Like many, I’ve had a strong interest in art and drawing since a young age. I’ve always loved making things, whether it was a painting or creating 3D shapes out of paper or clay. I’ve always had a thing for recreating things I saw around me. 

Although since I can remember I fancied the idea of one day creating illustrated books it wasn’t until coming onto a foundation course that I was guided towards illustration.

When approached or commissioned for a piece of work, where do you start, what does your creative process look like?

Much to my surprise I have found a new passion for research! While I do begin drawing and noting down ideas as one of the first steps I cannot progress without finding all that I can about the subject. Having developed my practice around observation I need a good set of visual prompts which ground my style. My favourite way to do so is to go outside and draw from life. Even on the day to day (before lockdown) when out and about I would often have my phone at the ready so that I could capture interesting characters. They could then evolve and merge into illustrations. That and really trying to memorise people’s quirks and funky outfits. 

Looking at your career to date, what have been some of your favourite projects that you have worked on?

To date it would have to be working with the People’s History Museum to create a visual language for this year’s set of exhibitions all around the theme of Migration. Having only been freelancing for a short time up to that point it was the first ‘proper’ brief I worked on. Such a great experience working on a topic that is so close to my heart. The team gave me pretty much total freedom and trust so I could really get playful with my style. It was also the first time seeing my characters play out in a live situation like this and on a range of scales. Of course, unfortunately, due to the lockdown, the museum has shut its doors and many events have been postponed so it won’t be until later in the year we’ll really get to delve into their exciting programme. 

You currently live in Manchester, where else have you lived and work and what impact did these locations have on you and your creative output?

Before moving to Manchester in 2015 I lived in Nottingham where I did an Art & Design Foundation course. During that time, my first ever job was working as a GA at the Nottingham Contemporary. For several years the gallery felt like my second home. I became a member of their youth program at the age of 15 and it was one of the best things I could have done. It gave me a real insight into the world of art. The team was very welcoming and I got to see many of the backstage processes to putting up exhibitions and creative events. That was a big influence for me at the time and spurred me onto pursing art. 

What are some of the challenges of your profession, or more generally in the creative industries?

Not enough information. Very soon after graduating I realised how little of the business side we got to see or understand at university. Although it seems to be slowly getting better, the industry often doesn’t seem all that welcoming to graduates with many opportunities still happening in closed circles and behind closed doors. It’s incredible to see more and more people realising this and speaking out but more needs to be done in order to make the creative industries more inclusive and less privileged.

There are so many brilliant new creatives trying their way in every year and I strongly disagree with the mindset of ‘they need to learn the hard way because we did’. Of course when first starting there are lessons to be learned but I think we all should feel a collective responsibility to make the learning as easily accessible as possible. Sharing tips, discussing experiences, introducing people, shouting out about new talent, getting real about finance (!)  and all in all feel a bit less protective of our knowledge and instead passing it on. That’s where the real progress can start, right? 

Have there ever been any barriers for you as a woman in the industry? Or generally speaking do you think the industry is diverse enough?

The workplace in general, within and beyond the creative industry is not diverse enough. I cannot believe that in 2020 one might not be able to get into a certain role because of their gender and or background. However, it does feel like right now we’re in a very important moment where this is becoming part of daily conversation. I remember sitting in a lecture where the speaker explained how the majority of creative positions are taken by white men and I being neither white or male was prepping myself for a much tougher journey than many in this field. Saying that, I’m a strong believer in marching on no matter what and having the work speak for itself. I might be mixed-raced but beyond that and more importantly ABOVE that, I am just an artist. 

What do you like about Manchester and its creative network?

The main reason for why I came to Manchester in the first place was because I’ve heard so much about its creative community. It is such an exciting place to be in right now, there’s a real sense of togetherness which is totally in line with the vibe of the city overall. I love the fact that we’re not as big as London; it really does feel like after a short while you start to recognise many faces.

The city is constantly evolving, especially in recent years, and more and more stripped back, real-talk events are taking place and I can’t wait to see what’s more to come. A little shoutout here to people, teams that made me feel more part of the community: Fuse, Yolk and of course NRTH LASS!

Do you think it is possible to have a fulfilling career in the north?

I think it is definitely possible to have a fulfilling career in the north, there are many creatives who already do and have done so for a while. We are beginning to see a real shift of focus which is coming with talks about diversity and mental health. It is no longer imperative one has to move to London in order to have a great creative career. Technology is playing a big part in this but also the general want of representing more than one voice.

With this in mind, I still believe it is harder to get yourself going outside of London or the south in general but good things don’t always come easy do they! What’s interesting is seeing how other cities in the north are rising up to the challenge and the connections we’re all starting to build. There is real creative power here and the more people realise it the better it will get. (You wouldn’t be able to tell I’m not from here, freaking love the north).

What do you love about the north?

We could be here all day! I love the people, such a warm, friendly bunch. Chips with gravy, but I think I already mentioned that. I love finding out stories about the rich heritage of the north. Especially being based in Manchester, there is so much that’s been forgotten about and is coming to light again.

I’m a real sucker for the architecture as well; layers upon layers of different styles, giving the cities a gritty but beautiful texture and acting as physical time stamps. Also have you been to a northern city in sunshine? No one has the same appreciation for sunlight as a warmth-starved northerner, the whole place comes to life.

Where are some of your favourite creative places to work and socialise in Manchester? 

Before the lockdown it was the endless list of all the beautiful cafes, like Foundation Coffee House, my fave being the one on Whitworth St, Ezra & Gill and TAAK to name a few as well as hidden bars such as Double Down and the downstairs bar in Sandinista! I’ve always been a foodie. Socialising for me means eating so I’m very much looking forward to eating out again and hope Manchester’s food scene will thrive once again. 

Outside of work, what are some of your passions and hobbies?

A trick question for any creative! Outside of work I still love drawing and art in various media be it film or music. As mentioned above I LOVE food, but in addition to eating I really enjoy cooking, it’s a great way to relax. 

Have you pursued any new pastimes during lockdown?

I’ve taken up a bit of gardening, feeling a bit wiser than my age of 24. I’ve also gone back to some forgotten, abandoned hobbies of playing the guitar and piano and have been trying to read more. A book I’m currently reading is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?

To worry less and say yes more. 

Are there any new projects or pieces of work that you would like to give a shout-out?

Currently, I’m tugging away on a collection of greetings cards I have officially become gold foil obsessed. On top of that I’m working on some very exciting collaborations and will be sharing them soon on my ig! 

To see more of Danielle’s work and check out some of her latest projects head to her website or Instagram.

Danielle will be speaking at the next PechaKucha Night Manchester, Vol. 31 on the topic of ‘Migration’ on the 9th July, speaking about her work with the People’s History Museum and their programme on Migration.

Interview: Jenna Campbell

Images: Courtesy of Danielle Rhoda

The Future of Work with Rosie Manning, Founder of The Greenhouse Leeds

The ubiquity of co-working spaces in the capital city is no great secret, but what about the increasing number of flexible office spaces opening across the rest of the country? We spoke to Rosie Manning, the founder of Leeds-based co-working community, The Greenhouse, which welcomes remote workers and small businesses, as well as those working across the creative industries, about why she set up her own space, the rise of nomadic workers and why locating her business in the heart of Meanwood in the north of Leeds was a no brainer.

Rosie Manning, The Greenhouse, Leeds. Co working space. Portrait and lifestyle photography by Joanne Crawford

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name’s Rosie Manning and I’m from Leeds, born and bred! I’ve lived here pretty much all my life. I’m the founder of a co-working space called The Greenhouse in a northern suburb of the city, which I run alongside my main job as a brand and web designer.

I recently joined the team at a Canadian agency called MetaLab . They’re based in Vancouver and have lots of tech and media clients like Uber, Slack, VICE and Google. So it’s a good balance – I work for them remotely from Leeds, which means I get to do what I love with a really amazing agency whilst also managing the day-to-day running of a coworking space. 

What were you doing before you founded The Greenhouse?

After graduating from the University of Leeds with a degree in Graphic and Communication Design and a placement at Saatchi & Saatchi under my belt, I worked in-house for an educational company in Halifax based out of a beautiful old mill, which involved commuting daily from Leeds. Once I grew tired of being on the M62 every day, I decided to spread my wings and move down to London for a bit. I worked at a health and abuse charity in Kings Cross, managing their brand and helping get their digital presence up to scratch.

It turned out that London wasn’t a good fit. Not only was the cost of living through the roof, I just never felt 100% comfortable there and I really missed my family. I stuck it out for a year before the siren call of home lured me back to Yorkshire. Once I’d returned to Leeds, I worked at a couple of different agencies for a bit, but I felt I was ready to carve my own path. That led to me doing web design on a freelance basis for the next seven or eight years. I worked with startups, social enterprises, music venues and a variety of other businesses, developing their online identities and designing their websites and apps.

How did The Greenhouse come to be?

My years as a freelancer taught me just how isolating the lifestyle can be. Over the years I worked from various places – at home, in coffee shops and even at a few different co-working spaces, but none were a good long term solution. So I decided to set up a space myself – one that felt as far as possible from a traditional corporate office. I wanted it to be somewhere people would feel instantly comfortable from the moment they stepped through the front door. I also wanted to create somewhere that could double up as an events space and act like a sort of community hub.

The Greenhouse, Leeds. Co working space. Portrait and lifestyle photography by Joanne Crawford

What are your thoughts on the growth of co-working over the last few years and how does The Greenhouse fit into that?

There’s certainly been a huge surge in co-working over the last few years, and – at least for now – the trend seems to be continuing. When it comes to the giants of the co-working world, they’re still figuring out the best way to dominate the market. WeWork is probably the most famous example – it got too much money too quickly and went from one of the highest valued start-ups of all time to having to be rescued by its biggest investor . But there are plenty of other examples of really successful co-working companies with more sustainable business models.

So I think we’ll see more and more co-working businesses popping up in towns and cities. It’s not just individual freelancers and remote workers looking for a flexible working environment – a lot of small businesses are keen to set up base somewhere they don’t have to worry too much about overheads. They’re kind of like an evolution of those early skills incubators.

I don’t really see those slick city centre co-working spaces as direct competition though. For smaller independent setups like The Greenhouse, the main drive is generally something other than profit and growth. I have completely different motives – I don’t aspire to open a dozen locations or get listed on the stock exchange; I just want to be able to keep the lights on and make sure all our residents are comfortable and happy.

I belong to a generation of people who graduated into a world in the aftermath of a global financial crisis, followed by years of successive Conservative governments forcing local councils to make huge cuts. Leeds has weathered all this relatively well, but the ripples are still being felt. It’s why the independent business revolution continues to sweep across the post-industrial northern cities – people my age and younger are taking neglected spaces and turning them into places where locals can come together.

Gentrification isn’t just about modernising an area and attracting affluent people – it’s about making the best of the hand you’ve been dealt. It’s why I think we’ll continue to see a rise in multi-functional venues – to survive, you have to be creative with the space you’ve got. And in an increasingly online world, it feels like people are really starting to crave those physical locations where they can hang out together. So I reckon we’ll see more and more nooks and crannies being transformed into beautiful, useful spaces. 

Did you have any support getting your venture off the ground?

Yes – I couldn’t have done it without help! When I first took over the space it was an empty shell of an industrial unit with grey concrete walls – a completely blank canvas. But I had loads of incredible support from my friend Becci and her partner Rik, and we were able to slowly transform the space into what it is today.

I called in lots of favours from my amazing friends, and we spent weekend after weekend painting walls, hanging lights, plumbing the toilet, buying furniture, finding plants, erecting trellises, making signage and building tables. We also had loads of invaluable support from our local joiner, Chris Blakeham , who did an amazing job.

I also spent quite a bit of time getting a brand in place. Luckily, I had the help of the extremely talented Eve Warren (currently a brand designer at Robot Food) to create our logo, our colour palette and the rest of our visual identity. Last but not least, my boyfriend supports me with the marketing side of things – he helped get our brand values and tone of voice sorted, which is a massively useful thing to have in place when writing web content and social media posts. 

The Greenhouse, Leeds. Co working space. Portrait and lifestyle photography by Joanne Crawford

What differentiates The Greenhouse from other co-working spaces?

I always like to describe it as a bright and friendly space filled with leafy plants, relaxing tunes and beautiful décor. We offer a vibrant, welcoming backdrop for focused work, tea-drinking and community events. Apparently the space is “quirky”, or so people tell me! I didn’t used to like that word, but I’ve come to realise its one people reach for when they’re trying to describe how different and unique it is.

It’s the opposite of corporate. I knew from day one I wanted the atmosphere to always be friendly and chilled. I also wanted to keep rules to a minimum, and just have an environment where you feel looked after; a place where everyone cares. We wanted the kinds of events we run to reflect this too. We’ve had a great mix so far , including watercolour classes, yoga, paper flower making, first aid training and Makaton sign-language workshops. One of our residents – Hannah Spruce – also runs a regular non-fiction reading group called Bookish.

Moving forwards, I really want The Greenhouse to live up to its name. Aside from filling the space with plants and supporting nearby local businesses, we use energy efficient light bulbs throughout the space, replenish our soap containers at The Refilling Station in nearby Chapel Allerton and recycle all our plastic, glass and paper. All the paint on the walls was sourced from the amazing Seagulls , a fantastic organisation that specialises in reprocessing and distributing unwanted household paint.

But we want to inspire more green behaviours – bike parking facilities, for example, would encourage our residents to leave their cars at home. We also have plans to install walls of moss on the front of the building to help absorb air pollution from passing traffic. Everyone understands the battle we’re facing when it comes to climate change – as a public workspace, I think we need to lead by example and be as sustainable as possible.

The Greenhouse, Leeds. Co working space. Portrait and lifestyle photography by Joanne Crawford

Why did you decide to base it in Leeds?

I guess the main reason is that I live here! But there was always a specific draw to Meanwood itself. It’s one of my favourite parts of Leeds. In estate agent speak, it’s “up and coming.” And the so-called Waitrose effect has certainly helped it thrive, with independent cafes, shops and bars opening all the time.

We’re right in the middle of the action. We’re nestled behind Terminus, home to the Meanwood Brewery . You’ll find us up the alley between two other local gems – The Hungry Bear restaurant and Alfred bar. There are so many great places nearby. Tandem does amazing coffees and brunches, Culto is a really cosy Italian restaurant and HanaMatsuri has some of the best sushi in the country – genuinely!

It’s not just about the bars and cafes though. There’s an amazing urban farm just down the road with alpacas, goats and sheep! And the beautiful Meanwood park is just a few minutes away, perfect for afternoon dog walks.

And then of course the city has such wonderful digital and arts scenes. I knew there were always going to be plenty of people with circumstances similar to mine who would be looking for somewhere to work. I guess in the end I didn’t really go looking for The Greenhouse. It just sort of found me. And after so many years of moving around, it’s the most settled I’ve felt in ages.

What people do you seek to attract with your offering?

We welcome anyone! At the moment, we have a lot of designers, photographers, illustrators, and copywriters. We also have a phd student and a couple of people working for charities. So any creative freelancer would find it a good fit. But really, it’s open to anyone that’s nice and friendly who needs somewhere quiet and relaxing to work. 

People can hot desk daily or buy a monthly pass – some people really like the flexibility of just turning up when they like and grabbing somewhere to sit. We also offer desk rental on a full time or part time basis. We have all the usual stuff you’d expect – a kitchen, storage lockers, printing and wifi access. All bills are included, so you don’t have to worry about any additional costs.

We also have a private studio, but that’s currently occupied by my friend Becci – she runs her tattoo business from there, called The Aviary . It’s really popular – she’s such a talented artist! We’re dog-friendly too – which means I get to bring my beautiful golden retriever Sol with me every day! If people are interested in learning more about what we offer, they can book a tour on our website . 

What challenges have you faced in setting up your own business?

The biggest challenge was probably doing the place up from scratch. It took months. We were paying rent before we’d opened the doors to the public, so it really felt like we were working against the clock. The Greenhouse is a complete labour of love – it’s been entirely self-funded from the very beginning. I’m really pleased we managed to get it into a position where we were able to open, but we didn’t quite finish everything.

We’ve recently launched a Crowdfunder so we can get everything sorted and take the space to the next level. We’ve called in yet more favours to put together some really nice rewards, including illustrated postcards, bespoke prints, jewellery – even a tattoo! If people want to see all the exciting stuff we have planned for the future, they can take a look at our Crowdfunder page . 

The Greenhouse, Leeds. Co working space. Portrait and lifestyle photography by Joanne Crawford

Do you have any advice for people looking to do something similar?

Yes. Trust your instincts. It was all completely new to me, so I had to feel my way through the dark. You come to realise who genuinely cares about helping you – and I don’t mean in a transactional, “you scratch my back” kind of way. I mean people who want to support you because they care about you and want you to succeed. You can’t just wing it though – you need to have some kind of plan in place.

You also have to understand it will take up a lot of your personal time, so make sure you have a strong support network around you. I think you have to be the kind of person who really wants to invest themselves in creating something new. If you are, you’ll get to reap the rewards when it finally comes to life. 

And I’ve said this before, but it’s always worth repeating – never underestimate the importance of a strong brand. You need to have something consistent and concrete you can fall back on, especially if you don’t have huge advertising budgets. When you’re relying predominantly on social media and word-of-mouth it’s vital you have something to hinge your communications on.

What does a typical weekend entail?

I love taking my dog out for long walks. I’m a big fan of yoga, spinning and muay thai – all really good for mental health as well as physical. I also enjoy reading, baking and playing on my Nintendo Switch. I try and spend as much of my free time as I can with friends and family, making sure it involves a pub lunch whenever possible. 

The Greenhouse, Leeds. Co working space. Portrait and lifestyle photography by Joanne Crawford

What do you love about the North of England? 

The amazing countryside! The scenery is just so much better than down south – that’s just a fact. I love how close Leeds is to the Yorkshire Dales; within minutes you can be out in the open air, walking through rolling hills. And because Leeds always has a lot happening, you rarely feel you’re missing out on anything being based here. As a city, it’s very supportive of artists, illustrators and jewellery makers – it’s not hard to stumble across a decent print or craft fair, and you’ll find bars and pubs are always featuring work from local creators.

It’s generally less expensive to live up north, especially when compared to London, where people end up spending most of their wages on rent. I think more students from further afield are starting to stick around after they graduate and make the north their new home, which is a huge benefit. It’s not difficult to see why there’s been such a huge surge in tech agencies, media companies and the design scene in general.

At the end of the day, the north is home. I’m a northern lass at heart, although for some reason people don’t think I have a particularly strong Leeds accent! There’s just something comforting about being in Leeds, and I think, on the whole, people are generally really friendly. Having said that, my boyfriend is originally from Sheffield, and he says people are much friendlier there. We’re always arguing about which city is best!

Do you have any recommendations of cool places to see, eat and drink, or visit in Leeds?

Leeds has a fantastic calendar of events. There’s always something happening – whether it’s Light Night , Leeds International Film Festival or Leeds Indie Food . It’s packed with amazing restaurants; you can always find something delicious to eat. It’s also a city that’s passionate about good beer – the annual festival at the town hall is always a lot of fun, and there are loads of amazing local brewers based here, such as Anthology , who open up their Armley-based brewery to the public every month or so.

It’s also a great city for gigs, plays and films. The Leeds Playhouse just recently had a massive refurbishment. And we’re so lucky to have the Hyde Park Picture House – it’s over 100 years old and a really special place. As you can probably guess, I’m a big fan of green spaces, and you can’t get much nicer than Roundhay Park – it’s one of my absolute favourite parts of the city. Whatever you’re into, there’s always something to see and do!

To find out more about Rosie and The Greenhouse Co-working space, head to their website or have a nosy over on Instagram.