I have a mission in Stoke to complete, it’s why I felt drawn back to the area.
I feel drawn to the blank canvas, the history of creativity and the possibilities to create great things here; art, businesses, communities and more.
I’ve been thinking about civic action, community spirit, pride in your place. I’ve thought about buying, protecting and regenerating heritage buildings through a community backed property vehicle.
I’ve thought about an independent bookshop promoting childrens literacy whilst sustainably upcycling books.
I’ve thought about a civic organisation that matches volunteers with brands to pick litter, plant trees, provide public transport. Whatever the community might need.
I’ve thought about a literary/arts festival that brings brilliant people to the area and celebrates art, entrepreneurship and creativity.
- I want to create opportunities in Stoke & Staffordshire
- I want to create jobs
- I want to promote creativity and entrepreneurship
- I want to create wealth
- I want to increase Stoke-on-Trent’s reputation nationally and internationally
- I want to foster a shared purpose and sense of community
- I want Stoke to be a leading example of community, sustainability and creativity
Writing this down I don’t particularly feel too strongly about what exactly the business or opportunity might be. It can be one thing or many things. As long as they achieve some of the above. Perhaps it will be many things. Perhaps I’ll be the facilitator.
I don’t feel strongly about it all being me that does it. I don’t need to start a global conglomerate. I don’t need to build the best brand in Stoke. I don’t need to start the next Carphone warehouse, the next Wedgwood, the next Spode or Bet365. Ideally, someone else will.
I’m not sure I want to run another business. I don’t want loads of staff and the weight that can come with it.
What I truly want is for the people here to believe they can build anything.
That they can be that person. I want to create the environment for others to build. I want to give others confidence. I want to support others to create great things, to know they can. That’s the legacy I’m interested in.
Create confidence. Give energy. Give love. Hope. Support. That’s it.
What makes me want to do this even more is that many people don’t believe it’s possible or that we can do it. The sceptics and critics laugh at me, they scoff, they look at me funny. What Stoke? Yes. Stoke. Let’s have it. I'll fucking show you.
I’ve gotten started already and this mission for me currently consists of two parts.
1. Add fuel and fire to the Startup Community here.
That’s under way. I’ve partnered with Staffs Uni and The Peter Coates Foundation to create a one year entrepreneurship course to provide community, support and guidance in launching a company. We’re under way with a brilliant cohort of 31 entrepreneurs beginning to experiment with their products in Stoke and Staffordshire.
Around the course I’m creating the wider community and ecosystem needed to support founders and a thriving startup ecosystem.
I’m creating communities and groups that support entrepreneurs at all stages.
- Free monthly startup events
- Intimate groups for business owners with employees that need a shared space
- Startup story telling events
There’s more to do, but we’ve made a good start here.
2. Rebrand and reclaim the narrative on Stoke
Stoke has a bad reputation internally and externally.
“Shithole” and “Dump” are words used regularly to describe it. I’m not having that, we have to change the narrative and provide a new story for us all to tell. If you think where you live is a shithole, it’s no good for your confidence, self-esteem, mental health and identity.
I’m working with Made in Stoke to create a community organisation that plays it’s part in telling new stories and providing opportunities for Stoke alumni (Stokie’s living outside of the area) to come back and contribute to this change in narrative.
I’m also playing my own part by being a champion for Stoke and where we live and work. Being proud, seeing things in a different light, welcoming others here. Being public, being loud.
I’ve changed my own internal narrative about Stoke, if we all change that and see more light than dark, we can change an entire culture.
I’m not too sure why I’m sharing this. Actions speak louder than words so I’ll just keep on doing it. I want it to be known though. I want to put my stake in the ground. This is it. This is me. This is the mission I’m on.
When me and the others who are on this mission together, look back and see a new, brighter, healthier Stoke-on-Trent. We’ll know.