Wednesday 29 October 2014

2Inspire Network Interview: Writer, Filmmaker and Poet Lauren Kaye

Lauren Kaye is a Writer above all else, she writes poetry, scripts and about food. She studied Hospitality and Food Catering at college before moving onto Media at university. During and post her studies of a BA in Media & TV Production she wrote, directed and produced over 30 productions. She still freelances as a Filmmaker to this day. In 2008 while she was still a student she founded Infiniti Promotions which hosts events throughout the year. In 2010 she set up her food blog Deevah's Cravings to get back to writing about the food industry as it is one of her first loves. She has written and performed poetry since she was 7 years old and is currently writing her soon to be released book of poetry.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
I get asked that question a lot by people as they find it fascinating that I am self-employed working in creative industries. I am a Filmmaker, I run a multi-service Events company called Infiniti Promotions and I am a Writer (Poet, Author, Screenwriter). Therefore, any day is based on the project at that time. If I am putting on a promotion event which is most likely to be my Infiniti Reels Film Club or Poetic Justice Showcase, then I will most likely be venue scouting, contract writing, budget writing, holding auditions for acts, going through film submissions, holding a team meeting, video or photo editing, promoting at events or on the streets, booking and hiring freelancer’s.

If I am working on a film project I will most likely be spending the day doing pre-production work which is not as glamorous as it sounds as it is full of written work, research, phone calls, meetings and emails. Auditions are fun for the most part but hands-on production is where I find my joy but it often takes months of pre-production depending on the budget and the project itself. It is long hours either way. Film production and event production do not differ too much, which is probably why I find it so easy to bounce between the two, as stressful as it can get.

With regards to my poetry performances and writing, poetry events are mostly held in the evening typically on a Thursday, Wednesday or Sunday however, on Saturdays hours vary depending on the job. I love performing. I get to say what’s on my mind, share my creativity, make people laugh, cry (especially at weddings) or blush. Much of my poetry is “edu-taining” and thought provoking. I am self-publishing more than one book right now so that is dominating my day to day work at the moment. Like most entrepreneurs and creative freelancers, I practically work 24/7 with no average set-hours unless I was on a film set. I typically work all through the night no matter what I am doing, as in literally till the sun rises. I am one of those people who wish there were extra hours in the day and I would clone myself if I could.

What made you start the business and what steps did you take to start operating as a business?
When starting Infiniti Promotions, I was a university student living in my own apartment, who really wanted to make quick money on the side to live better than I was while benefiting socially and professionally from it. For me the most appealing option was to become an Event/Club Promoter and get cash in hand. I tried to work directly with Night Clubs and independent Promoter’s to be a part of their team for just some part-time work and the experience but that wasn’t working out. It’s a very closed crowd where many Promoter’s do not want to share the attention, credibility or money for that matter.

I then decided to put on a rave myself but it flopped, which I blame on my approach to not taking it seriously enough. I was excited, na├»ve and driven so it was devastating and embarrassing for me to say the least but it made me extremely determined to try again with a more business mind set. I thought of an appropriate company name, there was no one but the Infiniti car manufacturer’s that I knew of carrying that name at the time- not even BT Infinity had come out yet. I wrote an informal business plan, brought the idea to two of my closet friends who I could trust to work with and bring my vision to life and moved forward from there. Raves turned into poetry & music events, which branched out into charity fundraisers and film clubs. Promotion events is a high risk industry as you are not  guaranteed an income that exceeds your expenses let alone efforts, so I added extra services in order for more money to be generated and so that the brand can stand strong.

I have been making films independently since I was 19. I did a summer course at New York Film Academy and came back much more aware of the industry than before which prompted me to build my profile so I started entering film competitions and gaining work experience with production companies. When I was 20 I started my first business as a Wedding Videographer. I began directing Music Videos for up and coming Artists as well as Music students which was good practice, attended high profile film festivals and began freelancing. Since leaving university I have been working on my professional short and feature films under my production company in development. I love business and I plan to be a mogul to be reckoned with in the future.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Nothing can top the feeling of your first sold out product or event which I have experienced. When I launched my poetry & music event series Poetic Justice, not only did it sell out on the first night but it was what I continue to describe as a “night of perfection.” I had wanted to organise and host my own poetry event long before I knew I wanted to become a Promoter. I was always a Poet. I have been writing poetry since I was 7 years old. I have been performing since my early teens but kept that to myself. Till this day I only like to perform to strangers but doing this event gave me the nerve to invite my friends (I still prefer not to perform infront of family). I killed it! So to speak, my great line-up of underground Poets and Musicians killed it, the vibe was perfect, my friends and new contacts were telling me how proud they were of me. It also meant a lot because I did not have my team to help me for that event, I had to organise everything by myself and prove to them that my vision still had value regardless of previous losses. The whole experience gave me more confidence as a Performer, Host and Event Organiser.  

My favourite accomplishment to date is my custom poetry greeting cards that I launched via my Infiniti Promotions. The brand was always going to include merchandise and I long had it in mind to have greeting cards be a part of that as I am obsessed with them, so it was only fitting to incorporate my poetry into it. The handmade, custom written cards that I have made so far have had an overwhelming response of emotion. The way that I have touched people with my words, the wonderful, priceless feedback that I get is why I do what I do. Few things make me happier.

I was exceptionally proud of myself when I made a commercial for Emporio Armani back in 2008. That was actually an international competition set by the fashion brand for independent filmmakers to compete at the chance of having their ad broadcasted on television and winning €8-10k. I was a media student at the time working on several other freelance projects as well as my coursework. I had no budget what so ever to make my ad but I made it work with my determination, ideas and gift of the gab so that one always makes me feel good about myself and my portfolio.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

Raising funds for such an expensive industry and I mean that in regard to both film and promotion events. In the early days I really impressed myself and audiences who did not know better, with making a micro budget look lavish. Time Management is problematic to say the least when you do what I do. Another challenge that would probably always provoke me is finding creative people who are both talented and professional. Ego’s come before professionalism in the world of creative minds far too often.

What are your future plans for the business?
I am expanding the retail sector of Infiniti Promotions. The promotion events will continue although in a different direction than before so all changes are currently in development. Publishing in general is my current way forward for business in all aspects of what I do and this will include my books and greeting cards. I am all about synergy and developing my brand. A poetry book from me has been high in demand for a while now and I am happy to say that I am finally self-publishing my debut collection of poems, while starting an online crowdfunding campaign. More details can be found on my poetry blog LK Knows Her Writes.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Plenty of things. I would start my business at a later date. I’d still freelance early but would post-pone starting Infiniti Promotions because I did allow its full-time demands to consume my life, affect my school work and jeopardise parts of my film career when that should have been my only focus at that age. I do wish that I enjoyed my youth more and was not so set on chasing paper and trying to prove myself to family, friends or professional peers. I think only people who have a tremendous amount of financial struggles or the few young people who live on their own would understand that kind of pressure.

I would most certainly not underestimate the extent of sexism and racism in business. Prejudice is apparent in a social setting but in business it’s just ridiculous and in the nightlife of Club Promotions there is no PC, for the most part it is blatant. Other than the common issue of money, the battles I faced as a Black person and as a young female were unbelievable. There were many incidences I was not prepared for but it is the reality that we live in and should not be sugar coated or ignored. The Promotions world is hands down a butch industry and the film/entertainment industry of course is male dominated too. I thought it didn’t matter at first since there are many women doing it who have paved the way for me but no-no-no. Thank-goodness that I’m tough otherwise I would not be able to handle it. Bottom line, I would be more aware, sceptical and less trusting of people I work with or share things with not matter how close we are, because as truth has it not everyone wishes you well.

What’s the best compliment you could receive in business?
That you are good at what you do. Having regular customers is also a silent compliment within itself that speaks volumes.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
I take the empowerment of women very seriously. Most self-esteem issues start at a young age and most of us have had experiences of being told things like “You can’t…” or “A young woman should….” Females of any age are constantly being put down and it’s disgusting, we must fight against that everyday to change this mind-set and break this barrier. Regardless of what country or culture that they are from that tells them otherwise. I also think that it is more important to inspire young women today than 10 years ago because evidently we have relapsed. What was once a progressive movement with significant change has significantly back-tracked in recent years, this is even in regard to the Western World. So much so that last year new quotas were introduced in the UK to make sure that a woman is to be a part of the board of a company that is of a particular size.

Generally, women earn at least 23% less than men in the corporate world, while working at the same level or job role as their male counterpart. In India and China it is still common to abort female foetuses and they largely consider girls to be of little to no worth. This day in age is also one of the worst times of underground sex trafficking of under-aged girls. Bear in mind that this is not just referring to developing countries but America, Poland, Italy, France and England. Although these are corrupt, international trades of organised crime, truth has it that lack of encouragement and inspiration within girls and young women does lead to low self-esteem, dropping out of school, under-aged pregnancies, unhealthy relationships, promiscuous behaviour and prostitution. It is common and unfortunate but it can be helped. Installing confidence and encouragement to young women is imperative. We must tell our girls and women that “You have worth!” Once you have life you have purpose, do something with it and don’t let anyone tell you different.

On a less political yet debatable note, we all know that females often look each other as competition hence why jealously and bitchiness often follows suit with our behaviour towards one another and it’s embarrassing. There’s really no need. Not that my words are going to change the world but it’ll make some of us check ourselves. Not everyone is going to like each other or appreciate someone’s work and if you don’t then just leave each other alone and move on. However, when you do appreciate what another woman is working with or you admire their goals and dreams do not put them down about it, discourage them, try to tarnish or take away what they are doing. Encourage them! Praise and collaborate or be quiet is how I see it.    

I don’t feel that we need to keep proving that women can achieve their dreams, can do it as good as, if not better than our male counter parts or what have you because it has been proved numerous times before and for centuries (fact). There has already been and you can very well be; a female Astronaut, a female President or Prime Minister, Film Producer, Fashion Designer, Graphic Designer, Editor In Chief, Song Writer, Plumber, Mechanic, Soldier, Architect, Judge, Hotel Owner etc. Even more so, you can be a mother, wife and business woman. As a matter of fact, ‘Mumpreneurs’ are a big part of what is holding up today’s economy in UK and USA by contributing £7.4 billion to the British economy alone. If you don’t believe me do your research.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Self-confidence and research is key. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes just be willing to learn from them. In fact, I have a poem called ‘Lead the Way’ that gives plenty good advice on this, furthermore one of my up and coming books goes into this much deeper. Look out for it on my blog. Convenience is expensive so be prepared to make some great sacrifices to get what you want. Film and events are incredibly time consuming and often go into late night hours and weekends so be aware that it will effect and overlap into your social life. It’s all about balance.

Being an entrepreneur or freelancing for a living is never easy but it can be a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding. Have a side hustle because while you are chasing your passion you will be broke and you won’t enjoy it. Either start your business part-time while paying your bills with a full-time job or go into your business full-time while you manage a part-time job.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
It’s very seldom that I have one answer for questions such as these so I’ll put it like this; my biggest inspirations in business are Donald Trump, Hugh Hefner, Kimora Lee Simmons, Russell Simmons, Diddy, Richard Branson, Tyler Perry and of course Oprah Winfrey. This is obviously a diverse, distinct group of people but what they all have in common is that they are innovators who have put themselves above everyone else in their field because they knew or came to know how to develop their brand, branch out into ‘the unknown,’ knock down barriers, sustain longevity and become a profitable, relevant, mogul force to be reckoned with.

The people who inspire me creatively, which in turn effects some of my business decisions are; Spike Lee, Maya Angelou, Steven Spielberg, Terry McMillian, Natalie Stewart, Hype Williams, Chris, Diane Martel, Brett Ratner, Dave Myers, Shonda Rhimes, Ed Libby, Jennifer Saunders, John Singleton, Quentin Tarantino and F. Gary Gray. These people are at the top of their game with what they do, I admire and respect their work immensely. I would be lying if I said that their work does not inspire me or that I would not want my creativity to emulate the creative genius of theirs. There are others but I’ll need more time to think and that will take up too much print space.

What are your favourite inspirational quotes?
It’s not the load it’s how you carry it.
Entrepreneurship is spending a few years of your life living the way that most people won’t to spend the rest of your life living the way that most people can’t.
Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
The biggest enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
@LK_ReelDeevah, @Infiniti_Pro

Thursday 23 October 2014

Spotlight on Post Natal Depression - Short Film "Am I Not A Mother?"

HONA AFRICA is a boutique production company that saw the need to elevate awareness on the often misdiagnosed and misunderstood condition of Post Natal Depression, particularly in the African community. The focus of the film is on Zimbabwean mothers who have suffered from the stigma of having this condition. The aim of the film is to share the stories of these women and to inspire others to speak up and seek support. Please watch, share and leave your thoughts and comments.

Monday 13 October 2014

Please vote for 2inspire Academy to win funding to motivate and inspire young people in Schools

Please vote for 2inspire Academy to get funding to deliver an inspirational and motivational programme titled “Anything is possible” to young people in schools. It is a tour of  secondary schools with a panel of young role models who achieved great things with their life despite adversity. The panel will discuss what they have been through and how they made it. We would particularly like to target years 11, 12 & 13 just before the revision period (study leave) starts at schools so that it will help to motivate the young people to make the best use of this time. 

Please spread the word and show your support by casting your vote on the link below:

Background information on 2inspire Academy:

The 2inspire Academy is a personal development and life skills programme for young men and women aged 16-30 that is run by a committee of young people. It was set up in March 2013 and was formed to help young people focus on what's important for them now and in the future, providing them with access to positive opportunities and role models.

With increasingly limited options, young people have been unable to find genuine opportunities to support their progression and more and more young people are becoming demoralised and disenfranchised. They therefore decided to come together to be part of the solution for their current and future generations and take responsibility for their own development and that of their peers.

Since Their formation they have been able to achieve their aims and objectives by engaging with a range of philanthropic inspirational people and organisations, who share their core values and have helped them to support their growth and development. They have managed to provide them with the necessary advice, guidance, knowledge, education, experience, wisdom and resources to support the development of their various projects with little or no budget at all. Organisations that have supported them to date include Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Birbeck University, Westfield Shopping Centre (Stratford), Novotel hotel (Greenwich) and Think big 02.

Academy Projects:

1)Inspire the Youth Summer programme (August 2013):

A range of training and development workshops which were selected and co-ordinated by the Academy steering group and held at the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in Lewisham over a 2 week period. Workshops covered entrepreneurship, music, filming, employability skills,motivation.

2)Young, gifted & talented (October 2013/June 2014):

Musical showcases which were held at the Fashion Meets Music shop in Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford and at the Novotel hotel in Greenwich in June 2014 . These events aimed to raise awareness of the 2inspire Academy and the amazing performers who were under the age of 30 and are aspiring artists actively pursuing a career in music. The event has proved to be a great opportunity for them to get exposure and provides a positive platform for expression for the young people.

3)Ready, Set, Go:Prepare for success(August 2014):

Birkbeck, University of London hosted the 2inspire Academy event 'Ready, Set, Go', funded by Think Big with 02. The workshop was a great opportunity for freshers and students, to start the academic year with insight that motivated and inspired attendees.  The event was designed to give students a headstart and support young people with their career aspirations, while ensuring that they develop the necessary life-skills to excel whilst at university.It included
  •        A panel discussion with a panel of successful university students who have made university work for them.
  •         A presentation and Q & A session with representatives from top organisations, highlighting: tips and advice on employability after university, additional activities that companies look out for, advice on writing a winning graduate application/CV.
  •          A 'Preparation for Higher Education'session for attendees.
  •          A session that looked at managing your student finances run by MyBnk, titled "Uni Dosh".

4)Project “ I AM” which is targeted towards young parents. The project was devised to meet the needs of this group to ensure they address some of the issues they face and work towards positive goals for their families. The project will produce results in attendees life's in areas such as Family, Relationships, Health, Finance, Safety, Leisure, Work and More .

 Please spread the word and show your support by casting your vote on the link below: