Tell me a little about you and your project?
I’m Bea: in no particular order, I’m Italian, informally adopted Scottish for the past 5 years, deep-down-loving Irish with a slight soft ‘t’ in my accent as a tribute, a singer and musician, sushi fanatic, equality advocate, creative thinker and practical do-er, environmental and sustainability activist, a minimalist, innovation and audience engagement passionate, sun seeker, illustrator, and a hugger.
And I’m one of the Co-Founders of Equal Folk.
I’m Sandra: Irish, in love with Celtic culture, a musician and harmonist, spiritualist, poet, nature lover, tree hugger, history swooner, deep thinker and disorganised do-er, passionate about peace, a cyclist, feminist, old people enthusiast, environmental and equality advocate, community spirited, people helper, wholesome food eater, simple life lover. I like smiles and also enjoy hugs.
And I’m the other Co-Founder of Equal Folk.
Equal Folk is a movement that seeks to spread Equality and give a voice to the LGBT+ community. We collaborate with artists and organisations to produce cards and prints that represent and support LGBT+ people whether it’s to come out to family and friends, let someone know that you’re transitioning gender, celebrate same sex weddings, or to simply say ‘I love you’ to a special person.
Here’s a short video that sums it all up:
What made you make the leap into making a start?
It was needed and was about time. There was next to nothing out there (in the form of cards and prints) to specifically represent or celebrate LGBT+ identities, and we felt some kind of social responsibility to change this. We had the idea for a while and the seed grew for a little over a year before we finally found the time and space in our lives to get started.
We rolled up our sleeves and started putting together business plans, collaborating with artists, printers, outlining our main brand values and making things happen.
We get such positive feedback all of the time; whether it’s from someone who’s trans and used one our cards to come out to their family, a shopkeeper who’s delighted to be able to represent and cater for LGBT+ people in their store or from someone who was just walking down the street one day and had to take a double-take at their identity being celebrated in a shop window – it all makes the hard work, sleepless nights and the roller-coaster ride so far well worth it!
What change are you trying to make?
Our mission is one of Empowerment and Equality.
We want LGBT+ people to feel confident in who they are and to know that coming out/transition/love is something to celebrate and be proud of. Being true to who you are is a fundamental step towards being the better version of yourself and we want to make this step easier for people!
Creating awareness is another massive part of what we do. The messages in our cards, prints and social media content aim to open minds and teach people about identities that they may have never even thought about before – for instance, trans, gender neutral or non-binary identities.
We want to match the quality and choice that is currently on the shelves for our heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, so we’re constantly working on more ideas and designs.
Who’s helping you along the way?
We really believe in helping each other out and learning from others, so we’ve been seeking and giving support every – big and little – step of the way. There’s a really good creative community in Edinburgh, which really helped us find the right resources and expand our network. Personal connections have been and still are playing a very important role too! It can be surprising how much feedback and chats can help. But most of all, trying things is the most effective way to make things move – and hopefully move forward!
How have you adapted to being on your own personal innovation curve?
Bea: At the beginning – and perhaps this is still true sometimes now too – I didn’t think anything of it, I just did it. Working full time, I simply got home after my 8 hours day in the office and spent another 3-4 hours working on Equal Folk. I knew it was a personal project but I never thought of it as something that was also personal improvement. Then I hit my first obstacle: the lack of specialised skills in certain fields. Because of the different backgrounds, sets of skills and personalities, Sandra and I balance and complement each other quite well, but this also means that I couldn’t do what she does and she can’t do what I do; so if I can’t do it, no one will. I had to admit that I’m not an SEO expert, a web developer, a PR rep, an accountant etc and that I still have room to improve in my current marketing and project management skills, communications and branding expertise, logo design and creative thinking, which is what I work with every day. It wasn’t easy. It meant that I had to admit that I needed to work on myself and my skills as well as on the project – and boy, that felt like a mammoth of a realisation!
I guess I’m still trying to adapt to being on my own personal innovation curve, but I can see a change in the pattern that allows me to challenge myself, overcome the fear of not being good enough, doing the work, learning from it, embracing the learned lessons and building towards the next challenge from there.
Sandra: I’m great at coming up with ideas and feeling passionate and excited about something – but I’m not so great at putting my head down and working in an organised, productive fashion! At the start, it was a lot of me sharing my ideas, Bea sharing her ideas and then Bea putting these ideas into the form of do-able actions. She did a lot of the ground work which involved creating business plans, sourcing companies for us to work with, getting quotes, creating a website and many, many spreadsheets. When all of that work was done, it was time for me to use my skills. I’m good at getting out into the community and talking to people, so I do most of the outreach to stores, liaising with illustrators and meeting with people from other organisations that we’d like to work with. I also like to write and put stuff into words, so I do a lot of the social media and blog posts – Bea does a lot of sourcing materials for me to post about 😉 I’ve learned a lot about my capability when it comes to balancing workloads, getting things done in a way that suits my spontaneous and sporadic task management – I’m still working on it.
I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with people professionally as a business, while still retaining that warm and fun personal touch.
Over all, my business mind is definitely more developed and constantly expanding, and my outreach, professional and social media engagement skills are improving.
Any advice for others thinking of making the leap?
Do it, right now.
It’s certainly important to stop, think things through and plan your initial steps, thinking of what it is that you are trying to do; but all of these elements are only effective if they help you start, they are no good if they hold you back.
Listening is a very important tool: listen to your instinct, listen to the feedback you receive, listen to the people you work with, listen to the people you’re trying to talk to and listen to the result of what you do – if it’s good, learn to take a compliment and celebrate what you achieve.
How can the world find out more and get in touch?
We are aiming to build a platform for people to share their experience and voices, but for now, it looks more just like a website…you have to start somewhere I guess!
– You can find us at equalfolk.com to read a bit more about us and what we stand for, who we work with, read our blog about Equality and LGBT+ related topics as well as getting to see and buy the cards if you’re not living in Edinburgh.
– We’re on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/equalfolk/?fref=ts . Give us a like and spread the word (you probably know more people that could do with some support than you realise!)
– We’re also on Twitter at @EqualFolk and on Instagram at @equal_folk . Share the reaction and the pics/videos of people receiving our cards and let us know what you think!