Updated: Sep 17, 2020
The first interview feature on The Maker Narratives is a unique one. You don't often find a mother & daughter pair who each create their own beautiful products (particularly when the daughter is 10 years old!) but Emma and Leila are both brilliant examples of creativity and resilience: passionate about what they make and finding ways to make it successful, each overcoming different obstacles. It was an honour to find out more about them and their work.
Emma's business, Into the Gathering Dusk (also referred to as itgd), is a botanical drinks project. She runs pop up cocktail bars, events and workshops where people can share ideas and learn to make their own drinks. She also sells her drinks as gift sets.
Leila's business, Tag You're It, uses ethical products such as beeswax to make cruelty free skincare. She gives 10% of her profits to the Black Lives Matter movement and uses her Instagram account to spread awareness.
Tell us how you began your businesses.
Emma: The idea for itgd came from my interest in making things, any things. I’ve always encountered food, drink, furniture, art, clothing - anything really - and thought, “how can I make that?” with varying success. Making wild drinks is one of the things that worked and it’s easy to share with people. I’m also a complex trauma therapist which is really different, confidential and hands off, so I benefit from the contrast.
My dad and his family have always been in touch with finding free food out and about, although I doubt they would call it foraging. It used to be very normal to know what to eat and drink in nature, more from being hungry than interested! My dad thinks it’s pretty odd that I choose to dig up roots and climb trees when there are such good cheap shops these days, but he is an influence for sure. My first proper events were for friends, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start without their support and belief. the project has grown slowly with the help and advice of lots of great people.
Leila: I had lots of spare time in lockdown so I decided to use it to do something positive for myself and other people. I had no idea that it would be this successful!
My mum has helped me a lot - she is my main influence and will always help me if I don’t want to make something on my own. We share the same politics and values so I love working with her (and i help her lots too)!
Did you find there were many barriers to starting your businesses? If so, how did you overcome them?
Emma: The only real barriers for me were self confidence and time. I built up my confidence because my friends told me it was a good idea to just get on with it. Every time something works well I breathe a sigh of relief and then plan something bigger!
The time barrier is also a massive one. People who work and have other commitments in life really struggle to find time to be creative and to build a new project. I've found various ways to overcome this, sometimes I accept working very late nights and early mornings, sometimes I give myself a break. My children are amazing generous people and always help me out. My daughter Leila is also a maker and an inspiration, we work together a lot. Someone who is only 10 years old can really give you a fresh focus!
Leila: My age could seem like a barrier because there are lots of aspects about running a business that are complex (such as spreadsheets)! However, my age has also been an advantage because some adults might find making lip balms and body balms quite boring and repetitive, but I like making them as it is very fun for me. Also as a child I have been offered lots of help and advice!
Tell us a bit more about why you are so passionate about what you do.
Emma: I love every aspect of itgd. Sitting on my own researching ancient drinks and traditional recipes, exploring new high-tech methods, going out to find natural ingredients, meeting people and hearing their plant stories and knowledge, tasting and testing various methods and then building menus and offering them to people. The variety makes me happy.
Using the itgd platform to both raise money and awareness of human rights issues and opportunities is really important to me. Supporting grassroots local charities who work with people seeking asylum links my worlds together. I've seen many small creative businesses doing similar things during lockdown: donating, highlighting black makers and amplifying black voices, its hugely encouraging. Since the plants and recipes I use and the folklore that fascinates me originates in cultures from all over the world, it’s a privilege to offer something in return.
I’m also inspired by plants, whether growing in a natural environment or found in a beautiful asian superstore, we are surrounded by great produce in the city. Hundreds of years ago it was a status symbol to plant exotic trees and so now we have a variety of stunning mature trees in our parks. We’re also lucky to have a diverse population bringing their traditional flavours and methods to our community. In the more wild, unmanaged spaces in Manchester there’s an abundance of gorgeous medicinal weeds waiting to be noticed and used in the ways they were in the past.
A gingko tree, a nettle leaf and in fact probably all plants have fascinating stories and interdependent relationships with human history. If we value and use the plants around us, I believe we will be more inclined to care for our environment.
Leila: I am dedicated to making my products for lots of reasons. Firstly, because I love baking. This may seem odd but I’m using my baking knowledge to understand the measuring and the amount of time I spend mixing and melting everything down. I also love the photography because it's fun getting the perfect lighting and background and making a really nice final picture.
I am determined to keep educating myself, talking about and supporting BLM. It's the main reason I started this business in the first place. I had the opportunity to talk about it on North West Tonight and the radio which is a massive privilege and I am honored to be doing this.
What advice would you offer to makers who are thinking of starting up a small business?
Emma: I’d advise people starting out to begin by doing something, even if it is very small, and to build a habit of thinking about yourself as someone who does this rather than who wants to do this in the future.
I’d also advise people to ask for help and advice. Manchester has an amazingly helpful community of makers and I’ve found that people are usually pleased and willing to give their time and ideas.
Finally, when you are beginning a project it can be daunting to feel new and unknown. Maybe consider how few people you need to make it work, rather than worrying about how many people you can reach. If you begin with your friends your audience will grow naturally.
Leila: RESEARCH! I would not be anywhere without the magic of Google. It told me lots about the products I should make and the ingredients I should use.