Several entrepreneurs use the Hornsey Vale Community Centre to run their small businesses. We spoke to two long-time hirers, Janitzio Moreno of Pantera Taekwon-Do, and Julia Colmenares of N8 Nu Arts, for their advice on taking the leap to work on their passions fulltime and invite the community to join in.
What is the most rewarding aspect of running your business?
Janitzio: The best thing about running your own business is the freedom you have to explore different avenues to be able to shape it to your own needs.
Julia: On a social level, I would say human interaction and communication. There is a sense of collaboration with the students themselves and hopefully a reciprocal sense of well-being and achievement.
What has been the most challenging aspect, and how have you overcome it?
Janitzio: One of the biggest challenges was to take the decision to leave my job. I knew things were not going to be easy at first so I saved some money to see me through the first few months since many small businesses fail in the first six months, not because the idea isn’t good enough, but for lack of planning.
Julia: Over the last two years, Covid impinged upon our meeting in person, However, thanks to Zoom and the willingness of the students to try this new medium, we excelled with learners producing so much exciting work. We were an art community online, more so than a tutor with a course. The recent challenge is instilling confidence in learners to come back to the venue and live teaching: move forward and focus on now, as well as new concepts and skills to be curious about. Partly, I’m finding I must reinvent my approach, pull some new rabbits out of my hat, and ask them directly, what they want or wish to learn, revisit or discover.
What advice would you give small business owners looking to run a community business?
Janitzio: Running a small business means that you have to be there all the time and stay in touch with your customers. If you want people to use and rely on your service, your product needs to be first rate.
Julia: Ask questions. If you don’t know the community, how can you engage them? I was fortunate as I initially taught through Haringey Council short courses. I discovered so many learners eager for instruction in the arts, in the practical sense and enjoying the art historical context of the concepts. These students were from all ages, backgrounds and walks of life.
Any marketing tips in particular?
Janitzio: When I first started there was no social media, so I used to deliver leaflets in the area every so often as well as put adverts in the local papers. As my school started to grow slowly, I made sure that I kept promoting. Nowadays a good number of students join me through word of mouth. You need to realise that a good review could bring you one new customer, but a bad one could cost you five times as many.
Julia: I am a nearly full-time artist at this point in my life. I use similar marketing strategies for the courses as I do for my own personal practice of painting/fine art. I use online resources such as Instagram, Facebook and Mailchimp for advertising. Word of mouth is also useful, and the students can be good emissaries to draw new people. Good old-fashioned flyers can also reach those that are not computer savvy.
What has been the value to you of using the Hornsey Vale Community Centre?
Janitzio: Hornsey Vale Community Centre has enabled my business to become what it is today. The spaces are great and the people who run it are fantastic!
Julia: New people joining us. It is convenient for the local residents to reach on foot and especially now, I am seeing new people wandering in or contacting me about the courses. Our group is evolving. What started as the formation of a community group (N8 Nu Arts) amongst a familiar, continuing crowd, is developing, continuously diversifying. We enjoy the large airy space big enough for our equipment and models. I must mention the surrounding area, just next to Stationers Park, where there is an excellent little coffee hut with friendly service and the best homemade cakes!