The Darling Collective and more…

Hey readers,

Have you ever wanted to start a business? Its one of my personal dreams for the future, and whether its a patisserie or a media empire I can probably see myself going a similar way as Charlie Beall, who tried out a few different careers before launching online boutique directory the Darling Collective, where users can find quirky, high quality local businesses and services. After growing up in South Africa, Charlie moved to the UK in his teens and studied at Cambridge, after which he became involved in the arts rather than business. He worked as a musician and actor before mixing creativity with entrepreneurship to make what he describes as “a place for unique activities delivered by amazing, uncompromising people”. His background, which includes time working for a talent agency before retraining in marketing in the media and publishing sectors, means that Charlie brings an interesting skill set to his new business, which combines a fair trade approach and unique services. But how does Charlie’s business actually work? I found out from the man himself.

Can boutique chic convert Generation Pile Em High?

– How did the idea come about for the site? 
While I’ve always been interested in digital technology, I spent most of the time after leaving university doing one small-scale artistic project or another. I was an actor and played in a couple of bands. I organised club nights, DJ’d, worked on music videos and hung out with a lot of creative people.
A number of my friends were really skilled in areas such as photography, acting, jewellery making and wanted to use these skills to make a bit of extra money or to start a business. It struck me that they didn’t have a platform where they could market themselves… certainly not one that curated only the best.
Yes, there’s editorial and press, yes there are classifieds or listings sites, yes there are daily deal sites but we try to do something different – somewhere our users could come because its a trusted source of great things to do.
So that’s what we’re doing. We’re not there yet but we are creating a community of businesses (often individuals with a skill) that support one another under an umbrella of quality, loyalty and uniqueness. That takes time to build but it’s time worth investing.
– What is your personal favourite of the services up for offer on the site? 
That’s like asking a parent which is their favourite child – even if I have one I couldn’t possibly tell you which one it is 😉
Xanthe Milton (Cookie Girl) runs baking and cake decorating classes which can be booked via Charlie's site
– What has been the most fun to test out? 
Quite simple… the Chocolate Ecstasy Tour of Mayfair was pure indulgence. We were really lucky that there was some walking in between each venue, just to work up enough of an appetite to keep going. Here’s our review: http://blog.darlingcollective.com/?p=146
– Your motto is “nothing corporate, nothing standard”…how does this fit in with your own ideology as an entrepreneur, and what is your background business-wise?
‘Nothing corporate, nothing standard’ is as much my own personal ethos as it is the motto of the site and the types of things we list. I’m increasingly meeting other people who share this view – there is growing dissatisfaction about the one-size-fits-all high street shops that we have to shop in, the mass produced food we have available to us and the poor service we receive from people who have no vested interest in the job they’re doing. When people work on a small scale, for themselves or for a business where their personal input makes a difference, customers are treated better and usually they deliver a great experience or product.
Granted, industrialisation has commodified what were once luxuries, delivering economies of scale that allow more people access to things like televisions and washing machines at cheaper prices and I think that generally this is a good thing. However, the flip side is that more people now work in soulless call-centres or scanning barcodes rather than doing something that’s connected with what they’re producing or offering. The result is disenchantment, bad service, poor product quality and ultimately a bad customer experience.
I’m not advocating a return to pre-industrial times, just a bit more balance… I think we have been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, in that by increasing the efficiencies and processes that go into making and doing things, we’ve lost some of the personal touch that brings meaning to our lives.
That’s why I built the site- as a conduit for these types of people to thrive. You may not necessarily pay more for the artisanal services we list, but you will always receive a personal service of the kind that some people idealise in reminiscences of days when people knew their local butcher or tailor.
The Darling Collective allows you to shop with a clean conscience, knowing that what you’re getting is of a really high standard, but also supports a local small business by giving them the price they deserve for their service.
As far as my business background is concerned, I’ve always gravitated towards smaller organisations run by passionate people. I try to surround myself with dynamic, energetic, positive people. I’ve never been at home in the corporate environment. I am fascinated by people who have an idea and then make it happen.
– Finally, what’s next for the Darling Collective in 2012? 
We have four goals for 2012…
1. Expand the categories: we don’t have enough bee-keepers or gin tasters on the site yet!
2. Find more hidden gems: we have rigorous standards so can’t list every business out there, but I know there are more than the ones I know about so please do get in touch if you’d like us to review what you do.
3. Go national: we decided to test the idea in London first but my goal in 2012 is to expand to other areas in the UK.
4. Keep doing what we’re doing: we’re proud of the start we’ve made and my message to all of the Darling Collective team and our partners is to stick to our guns, despite tough economic times. The good will out.
*Business success or gone bust in 2011? I’d like to hear from more entrepreneurs in 2012 – mail me, hannah [at] hannahjdavies.com

Discrimination isn’t right, but the future isn’t necessarily orange…

           

French dating site Adopte Un Mec (Adopt A Guy), has just hosted a rather unusual promotion. It’s quite an odd site to begin with; women are invited to add potential dates to an imaginary basket, all of whom are ranked by tongue-in-cheek categories like “ease of use”. Rather than feeling like an exercise in female liberation, however, it smacks of gimmickry. As a result, unlike sites like eHarmony, which boasts of being able to match up couples so well that they often end up getting married, or even Tastebuds, which relies on the slightly more tenuous methodology of musical compatibility, Adopte Un Mec’s flippant layout is the Tesco.com of dating sites. Matchsticks.com, if you like. It’s so subversively stupid it’s gotta be a postfeminist joke, right?
I digress – the tagline for the site’s unusual promotion read “série spéciale carottes, cultivez-les avec soin” (carrot special, cultivate them with care), and encouraged women to contact redheaded guys “pour voir la vie en orange”. An obvious joke, the website banner boasted a picture of a Napoleon Dynamite lookalike and was an adept marketing ploy shared with the site’s 100,000 or so Facebook fans.
It was a campaign that aimed to laugh
with redheads rather than at them, but it left me feeling uneasy nonetheless. As a lapsed redhead (years of intervention to have titian tresses = less pre-Rafaelite, more post-apocolyptic), I’ve never understood the random abuse and ridicule associated with red hair. South Park’s “soulless” jibes circa 2005 are about as funny as eugenics, e.g not at all…
One thing I understand even less than unprovoked jibes, however, is overcompensating for this form of ignorance. X Factor’s ex-ginger Kitty Brucknell whining to the tabloids about being forced to dye her hair blonde was an insincere waste of column inches. Likewise, articles championing Lily Cole/Prince Harry/Christina Hendricks/Florence Welch (delete as appropriate) can seem saccharine when they reference hair colour in their opening paragraphs, and only two of those are real redheads anyway. People aren’t talented/pretty/interesting etc. 
because of their hair colour, but it feels as though the message is that they’ve succeeded in spite of it. Unnecessary pity only seems to undermine the egalitarian world (jk) we supposedly live in.
A note to Adopte Un Mec, then: 1. your concept might be inventive but subjecting redheads to positive discrimination is patronising and certainly not de rigeur. Imagine if the US brought back affirmative action towards African Americans – a slightly more drastic example here but a worrying regressive comparsion nonetheless. We should be judging people on their merits, not giving them a virtual leg-up they probably don’t want… or need. 2. A joke is supposed to be funny. Nul points. 

Lily Cole - supermodel, first from Cambridge: we shouldn't laugh at you Lily, nor give you special treatment

Happy 2012

Three years of hannahjdavies.com and counting. Major thanks to everyone I’ve worked with this year, and to you for reading. Have a brilliant new year.
P.s. I’m in Word magazine out on Jan 12th reviewing a fresh look at Bob Dylan, wahey!

HJ

xxx

Sexism rolls into a new year – – Teenage Riots on VBS

Happy February, two interesting topics to share…

(Bitter)sweet FA

Unless you live in a cave and require one of these to wake you up (yes, that is a Pokeflute, deal with it) then you’ve probably heard all about the Sky Sports sexism row.

In short, two overpaid individuals – lets refer to them in shorthand as Gropey and Dopey – decided to degrade a number of individuals, all of whom were fully qualified to hold their positions in the football world, or in the case of Louise Glass (see below), were just innocents. In light of this ridiculous stain on female capability and capacity, I do feel personally victimised.

1941: they cook, they clean. 2011: they cook, they clean?

Overreaction? You may think so, but as a sort-of-half-feminist I do find it troubling that so many sports professionals and fans gave come out in support of Gray and Keys, providing anecdotes of their “good work” in order to vindicate them…all in spite of the nature of their conduct. Replace the objects of their attack for a homogynous racial/national group, and (rightly) it would be the same type of racism which has plagued the sport for years. So, why is the defamation of women any different? Attacking people for reasons of biological predisposition and social “order” and “power relationships” is as primitive and vulgar as racism, but it seems that sexism is usually discounted because its so commonplace and usually relatively benign.

The semantics of everyday life lend themselves to the 1000 BC power relations, despite the day and age we inhabit. It literally is a man’s world, but generally that’s fine, we can deal with the reminders of ‘the way it used to be’ because to do otherwise would be madness. We can’t revise the OED in its entirety, re-write history (herstory?) and Dickens and rename manholes, but we can look towards the less benign elements, i.e.: the gross physicality with which female sexuality is described. Women are still described as “blonde”, “buxom” or “single” in seemingly irrelavnt circumstances. You know the woman who Lord Strathclyde “romped” with? Yup, she was blonde, buxom and single. Oh, and she was a single mother. Bonus points for the prude patrol there. “Single” is inter alia just a  way of implying all kinds of promiscuous, careless, non-virtous things. So, the media plays a game of quid pro quo…shame a government official and also shame his mistress to! Of course, being a poor single mother who lives above a chip shop, Birgit Cunningham was unlikely to turn down tabloid money to talk about her sex life with the peer in her flat above a chip shop. See how this humiliating strategy works? In fact, I might go and re-write that Dickens novel on second thoughts. Calling Ms Cunningham a homewrecker assumes that the Lord was truly the man of the house…

I digress. Then there’s the little things. Facebook pages have sprung up in recent years commanding women to get back to the kitchen and make sandwiches/do the washing up/perform sexual acts on men in between their endless gaming sessions.

Club Sandwich: its a club to which we're all invited apparently, genomes permitting

Facebook pages are hardly the next Communist manifesto, however with so much virtual support garnered for these ‘niche’, ‘ironic’ views it seems that laughing AT women has never been so popular. Oh, just make sure you call it banter.

Of course some women don’t help themselves…

…however, the Gray/Keys situation is thus much less innocuous than the media outlets which are going into ‘3 the Sky Sports 2’ mode would like us to believe. Blame it on a Madonna-Whore complex or whatever, but the fact that these men have the support of their wives doesn’t absolve them of their disgusting behaviour. That aforementioned banter is apparently of the “lads mag” sort. So thanks for helping to advance sexist views to the next generation as well, along with openly misogynist individuals like Danny Dyer who also claim to be “just kidding”.

Case in point 1: Gray and Keys ponder over why assistant referee (operant word there being referee) Sian Massey can understand the offside rule. Perhaps because she’s a q-u-a-l-i-f-i-e-d sporting professional, lads? The bitter twosome also made bitchy remarks about successful businesswoman and Apprentice judge Karren Brady.

Case in point 2: In footage which has only come to light as a result of the comments about Mss. Massey and Brady, perv Gray asks co-presenter Charlotte Jackson for some suggestive help. Classy content as always… Ms Jackson’s nervous giggle will act as a key part of Gray’s defence. Apparently an (obviously tense) smile at a lewd comment from a station heavyweight is a get out of jail card for dirty old men everywhere.

Case in point 3: Keys embarrasses himself with vulgar, dated sexist immaturity which isn’t even thinly-veiled enough to qualify as innuendo. Worse still, the woman at the centre of is a completely random muggle so can’t hide from the public humiliation. But hoorah, common sense prevailed, she’s suing BSkyB!

…so, my question is this. What can the FA do about sexism in football? Should we just accept that the culture of the sport facilitates such problems as this scandal? Ok, perhaps that’s more than one question but whatever. In addition to these questions, should we also be ignoring sexist comments in the media/social media spheres? I’m not talking about some crazy, Utopian equality which can suddenly erase the past and all those rude Facebook pages, but give us a break. Eve caused the fall yadee yah yah, but “keeping women in their place” seems to show a lot more about the type of males our society is producing. Moreover, moving back to Gray and Keys, mourning the loss of a seven-figure salary shouldn’t mean that these men’s wives are desensitised to the real problem here. It’s a game of two halves, and they should be wholeheartedly behind the girls. Family ties and patriarchy are so 50s.

Here come the girls: 5 Forgotten Favourites from the femmes*

*mostly artists sadly no longer recording

– Post-binary gender chores is the chant du jour.

– Question the relationship a bit Man and Machine a little bit with this as a cynical soundtrack.

– ignore the Omen-esque boy and the cake iced with “All Hail Me”. It’s purposely creepy but a powerful anthem.

– best Madonna song. Subjective, moi?

– had this on loop at the age of 14. J Pearl appearing on Gossip Girl didn’t devalue the Adventurous quality of this debut.

*you can get them all in a Spotify playlist here, apart from All Hail Me which for some crazy copyright reasons was probaly only available in the 90s as some import 45″ from Asia.

Love from your feminist-in-training!

Teenage Wasteland?

VBS.tv is releasing a new part of Teenage Riot each day this week. The story starts here, with the “siege of Millbank” and escalates through the week. Quality documentary, as diverse perspectives focus the debate around insightful and saddening questions of education and politics.

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