Strategy Plus

The Big Peg community is home to the fantastic Strategy Plus, one of the Midlands leading digital marketing agencies. We really enjoyed catching up with them and finding out a bit more about their business

We would love you to tell us about your business?

Strategy Plus is a small and perfectly formed Digital Marketing Agency established way back in 1997 by Marketing Consultant Keith Ricardo. Keith, or Ricardo as he liked to be called (I wonder why), envisioned massive potential in the internet; thus took a young web developer under his wing named Cris (who is still with the business today, operating from a separate office in Bucharest).

Keith's son and Marketing Graduate, Daniel, joined the Agency in 2001 and took over the running of the business in 2012. This change has been instrumental in evolving the Agency from a Web Design & SEO business, into a complete holistic Digital Marketing Agency for SMEs.

How do you build a successful customer base?

Daniel prides the business on it's strong Marketing roots and the understanding of SME’s need for real ROI. Whether it's a Social Media post, Video or Website Content, Strategy Plus understand that we only succeed by growing others.

When we started in the 2000s, we won customers by the good old-fashioned cold call. Fast forwarding a decade later, Inbound Marketing became our focus; thankfully we haven't made a cold call in nearly nine years!

Inbound Marketing has 5 clear steps to success:
Research
Create
Engage
Convert
Grow

What has been your favourite highlight to date?

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment or event, but the gradual development of the network we’ve built with local businesses, chemistry within our office, and skills we are continuously improving produce prolific instances of communal good faith, hilarity and success.

Do you have any predictions on trends?

We predict that AI will affect our industry eventually; as data becomes more accessible and advertising becomes more targeted, our industry will encounter challenges as well as experience benefits. There will be many changes in the future of Digital Marketing, but if you stick with the 5 steps of Inbound Marketing, you will be ok. Do remember though, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram will always expect to get paid by you at some point, we would always recommend that businesses be prepared to have some budget for paid advertising.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

For those starting out in business, we would say don't be afraid to continually try new things. Not everything will work, but you won’t find out what will without trial & error. Very little comes easy in life, so be patient.

For Digital Marketing particularly, there’s of course SEO, Web Design, PPC, Social Media, Email/Video Marketing and more fields of expertise (which will only increase in the future as technology develops), but we would recommend that you study marketing initially. When the service you provide is Return On Investment, it’s paramount that you understand the process of sales.

What is your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is being hard-nosed business people, we don't like issuing contracts and invoices, which are pretty important in business. If you don't like doing it, outsource to someone who does.

Digital Marketing is a challenging area for many reasons:

We stick to our guns. We don't tie people into fixed term contracts and never get involved in 'black hat' techniques, whether it's for SEO or Social Media.

Why did you choose The Big Peg for office?

We chose The Big Peg originally because it was in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, and having previously been in the Aston Science park, we were desperate for somewhere with lots of like-minded businesses with a bit of energy to the area. Since then we have seen so many more benefits, we have been able to move offices as the size of the team changed and gained lots of new customers and contacts. We've been here since 2006 and can happily see us here for another decade.

What do you like about being based in the Jewellery Quarter?

Aside from the bustling lifestyle, traditional ambience and variety of small businesses to network with, we love the Jewellery Quarter so much we created and still run a website for the area, along with lots of its social media.

Where would you recommend for lunch?

We couldn't possibly recommend just one place for food, but there are over 15 places available for discount with our JQ Card. As we’ve had a member of our team leave and another arrive recently, we’ve treated ourselves to lunch at both The Rose Villa Tavern and The Red Lion.

To find out more about Strategy Plus and how they can help your business visit their website.

 

Narce Media

We were delighted to have the fantastic Narce Media join our vibrant and growing community at The Big Peg, earlier in the year.

Formed by Aston University graduates Connor Watt and Joseph Housley last year, Narce Media is a video production specialist with its focus on highly ambitious B2B organisations. After winning seed funding from a Santander funded pitching competition, they finally had something to get the ball rolling – not a lot, but it was a key step to fulfilling their lifetime ambition of owning a business. They were fast tracked onto the BSEEN incubator and the growth has continued.

We caught up with Connor, to find out more about their business

Tell us more about Narce Media, what do you do?

We attempted the impossible – starting a business with zero money. A year ago, we were two poor students on an extremely tight budget and had degree final year exams fast approaching. With the conclusion of university, we decided that this was the time to take action on our long-standing dream to start a business – Narce Media.

The overwhelming rise of digital media is here to stay, and with it comes a generation who spend significantly more time online which has undeniably changed the way we consume video. This radical shift gives you the immense opportunity to reach more people than ever before. Narce Media is a team who have been engrossed throughout the birth of the digital revolution, who deeply understand the value new media channels can bring and the ins and outs of producing a successful video. We love working with ambitious companies from all sectors who are driven to go on and achieve great things and we know video plays a huge part in that potential.

What projects did you have in the pipeline, can you tell us?

We have a few very exciting project currently cooking. One which stands out is TEDx. We are huge fans of TED and are currently working closely with the TEDx team to produce a range of promotional content leading up to the event as well as filming the event itself which will be published to over 18million people via their online channels.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

The hard part is done, you've taken that leap and started. You don’t have to have the final idea, a new idea or come up with the next Facebook or Amazon. People find it very easy to talk themselves out of getting a business going because it feels overwhelming and difficult. The truth is, starting a business isn’t a big difficult task, it’s doing lots of little tasks consistently. There is a great Ted Talk (funnily enough) from Stephen Duneier which I highly recommend everyone watch. He speaks of how an artist’s final masterpiece is an accumulation of millions of tiny shades of grey and in order to get the end result, you need to be patient and shade a tiny piece of grey every day. Work hard, be consistent and understand that things won’t happen overnight, but if you keep shading a little bit at a time, you’ll soon end up with a masterpiece.

What has been your favourite highlight to date?

Our favourite highlight is seeing the impact our videos have on our client’s success. It's hard to pick out one in particular, but, the satisfaction in knowing something you've worked hard to piece together through understanding their business and brand and seeing the results is a feeling which cannot be matched.

Do you have any predictions on trends in your industry?

I feel that video will only get more and more crucial to organisations. The way we consume content is very different to how it was a few years ago. People do not want to read white papers, instead, they want to be fed the content in an easily digestible manner. Personalised, targeted video is starting to feature more and more and I think that trend will grow in the next coming year.

Why did you choose The Big Peg for office?

When deciding on office space, we searched across Birmingham and after visiting The Big Peg we knew this place was the right one. It's in a fantastic location and everyone from the receptionist to the buildings team made us feel extremely welcomed and was passionate in wanting us there. The whole process was extremely smooth and offered us next to complete flexibility to manipulate our space.

What do you like about being based in the Jewellery Quarter?

The Jewellery Quarter is a hive of excitement. There is everything you could possibly need from meeting locations, businesses to collaborate with, transport links and of course plenty of places to grab a beer.

After work drinks and dinner. Any recommendations?

For a more chilled occasion, the button factory or villa rose tavern however if you want something where you can get dancing then St Paul's Square. Andersons is great for food, also situated in St Paul's Square.

What would you say to anyone considering moving the Jewellery Quarter?

Definitely shortlist it!

To find out more about Narce Media and how they can help your business visit their website

 

 

 

Heart Business Systems

We're keen to highlight some of the fabulous businesses that make up the exciting Big Peg community. Just as our wonderful city is going through a blistering period of growth and creativity, we too are developing and diversifying as we continue to attract some of the brightest start-up and established companies around.

One of those is Heart Business Systems Ltd, an innovative enterprise that offers cutting-edge IT solutions to other businesses. We wanted to learn a little more about the company and so we caught up with Heart Business Systems Ltd's founder Paul Moore to get the lowdown on the business.

Tell us a little bit about Heart Business Systems Ltd?

Our company is a specialist IT Support Services business providing a Managed Service for Midlands based SMEs. Some of our services include providing Anti-Virus solutions, remote monitoring, back up and continuity services.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

We have a client who suffered a substantial cyber attack and as a result had a ransomware demand of $20,000. Had it not been for the procedures and steps we were able to put in place for the client, it would have resulted in a massive loss of data, disruption and potentially even a complete failure of the business. Fortunately we were able to help and the grateful MD of the company was able to get a good night's sleep again!

If you had one piece of advice to an entrepreneur just starting out, what would it be?

Get somebody else to do it! You cannot do everything yourself although naturally you are inclined to try in the beginning. But delegating the workload and trying your best to have people that specialise in the different areas of the business will ultimately make it far more effective.

Do you have any predictions on industry trends?

End of Life for Windows 7 and Server 2008 are big challenges for supporting the less affluent companies as Microsoft will no longer update these systems. And Cloud Services will continue at pace. However Cyber crime and protecting companies against that threat will continue to be at the forefront of the industry - the statistics are terrifying! 80% of companies who succumb to a cryptolock or ransomware attack will fail within 2 years of the breach occurring. Fortunately Heart Business Systems are fully accredited to carry out Cyber Essentials and GDPR assessments so are at the leading edge of protecting companies against those growing threats.

What do you like about being based here in the Jewellery Quarter?

I love the history of the place and the small town vibe, yet knowing that you are at the beating heart of the city. Birmingham is the place to be right now and we're so happy to be right in the middle of it!

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in the Jewellery Quarter?

The Red Lion for both - anywhere that serves Batham's Bitter is ok with me!!!

Find out more about Heart Business Systems Ltd and the services they provide on their website.

Meet the members of our vibrant business community

Our city’s continuing emergence as a centre of creative business and innovative industry is leading companies from all across the UK, Europe and even from further afield to choose Birmingham as its new home. Here at The Big Peg, we have a lively hub of diverse and vibrant businesses, spanning a wide range of sectors and specialisms, that make it the perfect setting for companies looking to expand and grow. One of those exciting businesses is Zest Education who have been part of The Big Peg community since 2015. We caught up with the company’s MD Brad Johnson to find out more about their business journey.

Zest Education

Tell us all about Zest Education and what the company does.

Zest Education is an education-centered recruitment business, providing high caliber teaching and support staff to schools and learning provisions across the Midlands.
At school I was the type of student who was easily distracted and disengaged and so in order for me to want to learn, I needed teachers that had the ability to bring lessons to life and make them as interactive and fun as possible.

On leaving school, I fell into recruitment (in the Healthcare sector), which seemed to compliment my traits perfectly – it was multi-faceted, fast paced, demanding and rewarding.

After a short amount of time in this sector, I decided that Education recruitment was the field I really wanted to get into, as I wanted to help make a difference to the learning of young people, and particularly those ‘harder to reach’ students like my younger self.

So, after almost a decade of honing my aptitude in education recruitment with two established and well-respected agencies, I decided to take the leap of faith and set Zest Education up in 2014.

For anyone that is wondering, the word Zest was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it holds a special place in my heart, because it was the name of a club night that I used to run back in the late 90s (all those years ago), and also because of its more obvious connotations with vibrancy, enthusiasm and zeal.

What was the inspiration that led you to that decision to start your own business? Do you still feel the same way?

Whilst setting up and running a business is far from easy, as most business owners will agree with I’m sure, I would not change anything about my experience of doing so.

There is no greater sense of satisfaction than creating a brand that people choose to buy in to, and then seeing it grow and develop over time, and ultimately become a successful, sustainable organisation.

How do you build a successful customer base?

Our customer base is built via a number of channels, including CV job boards, social media channels, and our website, however I feel that much of our success can now be attributed to a substantial increase in client and candidate referrals, which is achieved through continuing to deliver an exceptional service from start to finish.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Aside from the fact that the Zest Education brand is still operating four years on from its inception (which we are incredibly proud of), our biggest cause for celebration is gaining the prestigious Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s Audited Award – The Gold Standard for Recruitment, which in turn allowed us to apply for and secure, a place on the Crown Commercial Service’s Supply Teachers and Temporary Staffing for Schools Framework. This accreditation and the framework demonstrates our ongoing commitment to operating to the highest industry standards possible.

Why did you choose The Big Peg for your office?

We chose the Big Peg for Zest HQ for several reasons. Mainly because of its location, and ease of access for candidates, but also because the Big Peg gives us the option to expand our office space if and when needed.

The rates are reasonable and competitive, which is particularly important when starting a business up from scratch, and the Jewellery Quarter itself is steeped with charm and a vibrant hub for small and creative businesses. Plus there are many great places to eat and drink at – a great benefit where ‘team meetings’ are concerned!

To that end, I would absolutely recommend The Big Peg to anyone either looking to take the plunge with a new business venture, or is simply looking at moving to a premises and part of Birmingham that offers good value within a lively and supportive business community.

The Big Peg is extremely proud to have highly-regarded sector-specialist companies like Zest Education among our bustling community. We aim to provide a setting for businesses to grow and prosper right at the heart of Birmingham, so if you’re interested in following in the footsteps of Zest Education, why not take your place here at The Big Peg – get in touch now. Email tara@thebigpeg.com to find out more.

You can find out more about Zest Education and its services by visiting the website.

8 Tips To Help Improve Your Wellbeing

2019 is the year in which many of us are putting an increased focus on our health and wellbeing.  At work, employees are being encouraged to sign up for activities such as walking and running clubs, exercise classes and on-site yoga while simultaneously being urged to put a greater emphasis on their nutrition and mental health. It can only be seen as a positive step that staff health and wellbeing is increasingly a priority for so many businesses.

Our passionate team at Urban Training  and The Health and Wellbeing Company know all about the importance of individuals taking ownership of their health and wellbeing. Ahead of our visit to The Big Peg in March, here are 8 Top Tips from our expert team on how you can improve both your own and your employees’ health and wellbeing.

1.Getting a good night’s sleep

Sleep is something that many people neglect. Almost all credible studies show that an average adult should be having between 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but ask yourself – are you regularly achieving that? The benefits of regular and healthy sleep include reduction of stress, better concentration and improved blood pressure.

  1. Having a healthy nutrition plan

It really is true that the better the quality of food you consume, the better you will ultimately feel! We all enjoy a naughty treat every now and again but there really is no comparison to how your body feels when it has fresh or organic foods. Having better quality and healthier food will improve your mood, give you more energy and leave you feeling more positive all round.

  1. Drink plenty of water

This one of the simplest tips we can offer, not just for those hoping to improve fitness and lose weight, but to everyone because water really does boast lots of health benefits! If you do struggle to consume water an easy way to improve is to begin with a reasonable daily target – say 750ml, then every 7 to 10 days, simply increase it by around 150-200ml. You will barely notice that you are drinking more but over a period of time it really makes a great difference. We would generally recommend that eventually you’d be drinking between 3-4 litres per day.

Water carries great health benefits such as Increasing brain power and energy, flushing toxins out of your body, as well as helping to boost your immune system.

  1. Constantly learning

With long hours and busy lives, it can sometimes seem like a chore to take time to read a book or exercise your mind. But challenging your brain to learn new information every day is a great way to improve mental health. Giving your brain new stimulus gives it a chance to break out of its daily cycles and keep it active and healthy.

  1. Socialise

Meeting up with friends is always a tonic to a tough day. Having an opportunity to relax with your besties is one of the finest ways to improve your wellbeing. It’s a simple tip that can certainly help to reduce stress and anxiety.

  1. Keeping Fit

Probably the most prescribed method of helping to relieve stress of any kind is exercise. It doesn't really matter how you choose to try and keep yourself fit; perhaps it’s walking the dog, maybe yoga at home or even spending your spare hours at the gym. The key is that you try and find time in your busy working week to dedicate a few moments to your physical fitness. A healthy body invariably leads to a healthy mind and a much-improved sense of self all round.

  1. Rest & Recover

Taking time away to yourself and COMPLETELY resting is a fabulous way to improve wellbeing. We are all guilty of this – you take a day off work to spend with a loved one but there’s just that little email you need to send, oh and just a document you need to type up and before you know it you’ve spent half your day off working!

If possible, turn off your phone, close your laptop and relax in whatever way suits you!

  1. Talk To Others

It should never be seen as a sign of weakness to open up and talk to others when you are struggling. If anything it’s a sign of your strength to go and ask for advice and support! There is always somebody to talk to, whether it’s a service your company provides, work colleagues, family or friends. Don't be afraid to talk!

So there are our 8 simple tips to improve your health and wellbeing. Take some or all of them and try to slowly implement them into your day. Often, small changes to your routine can result in significant improvements to your quality of life. Remember, we are coming along to The Big Peg on March 7th to share much more of our expertise and guidance. We can’t wait to see you there!

Find out more about Urban Training www.urbantrainingpt.co.uk and The Health and Wellbeing Company www.thehealthandwellbeingcompany.co.uk . For more information about their upcoming session at The Big Peg, email tara@thebigpeg.co.uk.  

2019 – Happy New You!

Incredibly we’re now almost a full month into 2019 already. The familiar routines and patterns of life have reared their heads once again and the magic and glitz of the festive holiday has faded to just a dim light at the back of our minds. This week marked a day in the calendar that it’s claimed is the most depressing of the year – Blue Monday – a day when the post-Christmas excesses catch up with us and we feel out of pocket, out of shape and out of cheer.

But rather than Blue Monday being a cause of consternation, why not see at as a milestone that heralds the REAL start of a new you? January 1st is traditionally the time we profess our well-intentioned aims and targets for the new year, but the very nature of this month: cold, dark, that hangover of indulgence, mean that these resolutions fall by the wayside as we try to adjust to normality again. So it makes more sense to get the oppressive 31 days of January out of the way and then spring into action with Spring firmly on the horizon.

A crucial part of achieving a healthier you is the much-vaunted Work-Life Balance – a concept that sounds good as experts chat about it on TV and in magazines, but often has no tangible meaning to those of us striving at the coalface each day. So what makes a good Work-Life Balance, and how can you achieve ‘Wellness at Work’?

It can be quite difficult in the modern busy workplace. Long hours, sporadic and sometimes non-existent lunch breaks, sitting still for hour upon hour – these can all put a strain on your mental and physical wellbeing, at a cost to the individual and the workplace at large. So it is very important that, whether you are an employee or an employer, you take steps to counteract these issues and cultivate a workplace culture that relieves some of the stresses of modern life.

When considering wellness at work, it is important to nurture the different aspects of a person’s wellbeing:

If you’re able to create and partake in a working environment that allows space to address those five facets, it will greatly increase the likelihood of a happy and productive workforce.

The fantastic Urban Training will be hosting a lunchtime session on Health and Wellbeing on the 7th March starting at 1230 until 1315 hours right here at The Big Peg.  They will be discussing various aspects of Health and Wellbeing during the session and are on hand after to answer any questions you may have on their Personal Training offering or Corporate Wellbeing Scheme.  So let’s write January off and make plans to really get 2019 going. Make the coming year a real positive one by being well at work, happy at home and fully fulfilled. A very happy new you!

To reserve your place or for further details please email : Tara@thebigpeg.co.uk.

To find out more about Urban Training visit their website www.urbantrainingpt.co.uk

Pump Up The Volume… Could music improve productivity in your office?

Are you supposed to be working right now? Struggling to concentrate? Distracting yourself from the task at hand by browsing the web? Well the answer to the productivity malaise could be to whack on your favourite tune… well, maybe.

Decades worth of research broadly suggests that listening to music can boost productivity and help to stave off negative emotions like stress and anxiety. Great right? But don’t go dusting off the Queen LP and belting out Bohemian Rhapsody just yet. There are caveats to the theory of performance-boosting tunes. First of all, most of the studies suggest that songs with lyrics will prove to be a distraction for many of us. The urge to sing along or the tendency for lyrical songs to evoke emotional responses could actually end up hindering your productivity rather than aiding it. And someone bellowing along to ‘Wonderwall’ in the office will almost certainly affect everybody else’s performance too!

The key seems to be then to play music that is spiriting, yet monotonous. Perhaps an up-tempo dance tune, a majestic piece of classical music, or perhaps even some good old-fashioned ambient noise – the babbling brook, the crashing waves, the sounds of the rainforest.

The consensus between experts seems to be that the more complex the task you’re trying to complete, the more simple and generic the background music should be. However, there are a couple of anecdotal anomalies to this notion. We often hear stories of surgeons playing pop and rock music in their operating theatres to aid concentration during procedures – hard to think of many more complex duties than life-saving surgery! To a lesser extent, we are told that long periods of revision for students are often soundtracked by their favourite iTunes playlist. So maybe a blast of Oasis could be the answer to your creative brick wall after all…

Ultimately, it all comes down to the individual. For some people, listening to music at work will result in a stellar performance, with them firing on all cylinders. For others, it is a complete and utter distraction that renders their very presence in the office absolutely pointless. Whichever category you fit into, you should probably think carefully about which tracks you load onto the iPod tomorrow morning. Now, altogether after three… ‘I see a little silhouette of a man…’

Here are our top three Christmas tunes for the workplace:

  1. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty McColl
  2. Merry Christmas Everybody - Slade
  3. All I want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey

Belvedere Collections

If you are looking for something unique and personalized for Christmas, Belverdere Collections have a fantastic range of gifts available.  From personalised antler napkin holders to dress your Christmas table to gift tags for your presents.

They will be exhibiting in The Big Peg Reception on the 9th November from 1100 hours until 1400 hours.

We asked Will from Belverdere to tell us more …..

We design and make personalised gifts and decorations for the home and special occasions. We use a laser cutter and engraver to make such items as wedding cake toppers, place settings, memory boxes, engraved chopping boards, bookmarks, key rings, whiskey tumblers, slate coasters and personalised LED lights.

On Friday 9 November we will be exhibiting in the reception area of the Big Peg where we will be showcasing our selection of personalised Christmas decorations and gifts along with our range of Christmas Eve boxes.

Orders can be placed on the day for personalised items and turned around very quickly, completing them over the weekend ready for delivery by Tuesday 13th November!   We will be running a ‘buy one get one free’ deal on our Christmas tree and hanging decorations priced at £6.00. Card and cash payments will be accepted. We can deliver orders to those who work in the building for free or send them out via Royal Mail for a flat fee of £1.50

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

As with any new system we encountered some initial teething problems with our new machinery. It was however incredibly rewarding once we learned the new software package which runs the machine and settled into a daily rhythm once orders started to come in.

Last year was a learning curve for us. We could have been better prepared and did run into some small problems regarding stock levels and product lines.  We didn’t estimate how busy we would be! Despite pulling a handful of 7 day working weeks we managed to fulfil all our orders in time and chalk whatever mistakes we made down as experience and had a lot of very happy customers.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Always have a ‘Plan B’ in place just in case you have to throw the towel in and don’t be ashamed of failure, learn from your mistakes and use that knowledge for you next project.

Why did you choose The Big Peg for your office ?

I rented a studio here before so I’m familiar with the building, the staff and location. It’s ideal for me because the post office is next door and it’s close to where I live.

What do you like about being based in the Jewellery Quarter?

Location. It’s only a 10 minute walk into town. However there’s a lot going on in the Jewellery Quarter in terms of bars and restaurants that sometimes you don’t to go into town at all.

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in the Jewellery Quarter?

The Pig and Tail, Rebel Chicken and 1000 trades

 

 

In November the Big Peg will be exhibiting local photographer

In November the Big Peg will be exhibiting local photographer, Chris Fletcher’s fantastic work
In 2018, Chris started a photo project capturing the doors, windows and buildings of the Jewellery Quarter. In fact, he enjoyed exploring the area so much that he became a JQ resident himself in September – meaning that more opportunities to capture shots in this area are now – quite literally – on his doorstep
We caught up with Chris ahead of the exhibition to tell us more about his work

How long have you been a photographer?

I bought my first DSLR camera in 2011 for a safari holiday, but it wasn’t really until around 2014 that I started to take what was just a hobby initially a little more seriously. It was during the next 12 months that I reached a level that I was pretty happy with, and I started to wonder if there was more that I could do with my photography, particularly in terms of getting it seen by a wider audience

How would you describe your style?

Many people tell me that I have quite a recognisable style, particularly when it comes to my canal and woodland shots. I do try and create a soft, painterly style for these, but I’m also not afraid of trying something a little different, particularly when shooting architecture and in cities. I’m not really one for harsh contrast through, subtlety and soft edges is definitely more my preferred thing

A study of the many beautiful doors and windows of the historical Jewellery Quarter area of Birmingham, UK

From your point of view, what makes a good photograph?

For me, the two main elements are light and balance. If a photo is nicely balanced then it will be pleasing to the eye; the rule of thirds is an important thing in photography and it means that the eye is automatically drawn to the main subject of the photo, whilst your brain is scanning the entire image. Light is extremely important – without good light it’s impossible to get a good photo. For me, light is as much an essential tool as the camera itself, and making light as part of the overall composition is something I love to do

What it is you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

I want to showcase the beauty of the world, even when the beauty comes from somewhere unexpected. Beauty can come in many different forms, from small flower petals to huge buildings, and even bigger mountains and sprawling landscapes. Finding beauty is not always easy - this is where using light well comes in, as does a little bit of skilful post-processing. I’m also not afraid of different angles and different shots in order to capture a shot that others may not even consider. Not all beauty can be seen head-on!

Which is your favourite photograph you have taken and why?

I have a photograph which I called Left To The Elements that really kicked off my love of the canal network in and around Birmingham. It’s a shot of a canal boat taken on a beautiful autumn morning, and it was one of those rare occasions when everything came together – the light, the colour and the subject matter. It also hints at a story or a mystery – I love to be able to draw a viewer into an image and make them think.

Modern photographers have to embrace social media these days – which is your favourite?

I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram but the platform which I enjoy most at the moment is Twitter. It may seem strange for a photographer to favour a platform which is more about words than images, but for building relationships and networking it has yielded more opportunities than any other

You’ve recently moved to the Jewellery Quarter – how did this come about? And has it inspired your photography?

My wife and I decided to make the move to a city centre apartment temporarily whilst we consider where we would like to live long-term – and we spent so much time in the JQ area already that it made sense to make this our base! I’m fascinated by the history and heritage of the area, and the stories that the buildings seem to tell. There is some wonderful architecture around, and the doors and windows of the JQ formed the basis of a summer project of mine. I look forward to capturing more of the area in the coming months and changing seasons.

What’s next for CPF Photography?

At the moment I’m still fitting photography around full-time work – although it’s almost like a second job in itself. Often there doesn’t seem enough hours in the day to take photos, edit them, maintain my website, keep engaged on social media, network, arrange prints and frames for exhibitions… but it’s all vital in working towards what will hopefully one day become a full-time profession.

The Big Peg will be showcasing Chris’s work, which is also available for purchase, from the 1st November. For further information please contact Tara@thebigpeg.co.uk

School of Master Jewellers

In 2016 the School of Master Jewellers opened. Cassandra Reed the Founder and Principal Lecturer has a wealth of experience and is passionate about “feeding” the UK’s jewellery trade with excellent and highly skilled new craftspeople.

The School of Master Jewellers will be exhibiting some of their excellent work and showcasing their talent at the Big Peg on the 26th October between 10am – 3.30pm.

We caught up with Cassandra to learn more about her business and why she chose the Big Peg and the Jewellery Quarter as the perfect base for her business.

 

Tell us more about your business?

The School of Master Jewellers are a provider of high quality of training, of traditional goldsmithing skills, age old techniques that have been passed down through generations, I am passionate about giving students the skills needed to work, contribute and have a long career in the jewellery industry.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Over the years I have made many amazing pieces of jewellery but none of those have ever felt as satisfying as seeing my own students produce beautiful work and seeing them succeed in business and find their place in the jewellery trade.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Get professional training! Don’t set up a business before you are ready, learning to make jewellery is the easy bit, learning to design, develop, utilize designs, weights, costs, knowing what is your job and when to use another person’s skill sets such as engravers, setters etc, also being in a workshop with other jewellers is invaluable for feedback and advice.

Do you have any predictions on industry trends?

Yellow gold is back. Simple, smart, clever design will always win.

Why did you choose the Big Peg for your business?

I chose The Big Peg for the location of our school after realising that unfortunately many workshops in the JQ were uninhabitable! The Big Peg ticked many boxes as a great base for a school with centrality of the JQ, security, concierge front desk, room to expand, and the sky lounge is perfect for students to relax and take a break.

What do you like about being based in the Jewellery Quarter?

I love the JQ, I have been here most of my life since I left school at 16. We are a family, a very talented family of casters, polishers, setters, bullion dealers, stone dealers/cutters, enamellers, watchmakers, engravers and of course goldsmiths and silversmiths. We have to preserve that.

We are very excited to be hosting the exhibition on the 26th October.

For further information on the School of Master Jewellers please visit their website