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Heather Williams & Fred Russias, Entrepreneurs

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Heather Williams and Fred Russias are the co-founders of Sourcing Playground

We had the special pleasure of meeting the co-founders of Sourcing Playground, Heather Williams and Fred Russias. With their new platform, they set out to revolutionise the global trade industry…

The story that led to buyer Heather Williams and web designer Fred Russias to create Sourcing Playground is remarkable. Too remarkable to not feature here on Humans of Bournemouth. We met them for an interview to find out about their journey from the beginning.

WHERE ARE YOU BOTH FROM ORIGINALLY? WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO BOURNEMOUTH?

Fred: I am French, originally. Been living in Bournemouth for twelve years, now. I found a work placement after my studies – that was what brought me to the UK at first. And I stayed after being offered a job in Christchurch. I’ve been in Bournemouth ever since.

Heather: And I’m originally from Wales. I studied at Solent University in Southampton, doing a Fashion Management and Marketing degree. Very much in the headquarters side of buying and merchandising and the business of fashion. After those four years of study, I met Fred, who was based in Bournemouth. He worked for my uncle’s company, so that’s how we were introduced.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR RESPECTIVE BACKGROUNDS IN BUYING AND WEB DESIGN?

H: After I finished my university degree, I got a job in Christchurch. Working for a company called Kondor. They’re the UK’s largest distributor for electronic products. And I was based on their purchasing team, sourcing products for their own brand. So where they’d spotted opportunities to create their own brand in-house, they would source products from the Far East and develop them internally.

As a buyer, I was sourcing and developing these products; finding new factories, working with suppliers, negotiating. Developing a product from the concept to shipping and launching. So I got to see the whole process. We would usually find suppliers by going to trade shows twice, maybe three times a year. I realised it’s actually quite a difficult task; it can take up to six months to find a suitable supplier. And there was very little in terms of online resources to find factories.

F: As for me, I had been running my web design agency since 2010. So, doing websites and web marketing, mostly for SMEs around the UK and a little bit abroad as well. Plus running campaigns for all types of businesses – from hairdressers to massive companies.

HOW WAS SOURCING PLAYGROUND CREATED?

H: It sparked after I came back from a trade show in Hong Kong. I was thinking, “Okay, we do these trade shows, two or three times a year; aside from that how do I go about finding suppliers on a daily basis?” And for buyers across the board — from a start-up brand to an established company — there’s really only one well-known online platform to use, called Ali Baba. But this is predominantly a China-centric platform. So, if you’re a buyer or a start-up brand or anyone who’s looking for a supplier in your own country or outside of China, it’s quite difficult to find them! And Ali Baba doesn’t allow that kind of supplier on their site.

So, I did a lot of research, I was trying to find some new start-up companies or online platforms. Similar to Ali Baba that offered the same solution, and there really weren’t any. Quite astonishing, considering the size and scale of the industry. Wasn’t there anything to facilitate international trade communications and business introductions for the manufacturing industry?

In January last year, I went to Fred, whose background is in web design. I said, “Let’s make a marketplace! Let’s see if we can do something to help these introductions for buyers.”

F: And I said, “Oh, I can do that! I can bring users to your platform.” We bootstrapped it to start with, and it worked really well. And then I joined in as a co-founder a few months later. And now we’re both full-time on the project.

H: We launched in the May. I was still in my previous job at the time. We were on a shoestring budget, but we started to get users, we began to get lots of different buyers and suppliers from lots of different countries. From that, we really got a sense that there was an opportunity to develop the platform a lot further.

TELL US ABOUT THE TRIP TO DUBAI…

H: I had only just given up work, and there was a competition being run by a company called Enterprise Nation. They’re a really fantastic networking group for SMEs and companies in the UK. They were organising a trade mission to Dubai and offering a free space on a Facebook competition. So I thought, “Why not? I have time.” I entered, and I won!

It was a three-day trade mission, where we got to see companies of all different shapes and sizes. We got to find out how we could work with UAE companies, how we could set up there, a bit of networking. Lots of opportunities to meet different companies. And whilst we weren’t necessarily looking to go to the UAE, it was just a great opportunity to network.

And at one networking evening, we were meeting British businesspeople who had moved to Dubai years ago and set up companies there. I got speaking with a guy who was interested in Sourcing Playground; he was asking why we were on the trip, I explained I was looking for investment. And after a 20-minute conversation, he handed me his business card and said, “I’m interested in investing. Send me your business plan when you get back to the UK and we can chat further.” Long story short — they invested. Him and his brother, who’s based in London.

IF YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

F: I think it’s important to have a real vision as to what you want to achieve. Especially with start-ups. But you also need to be very adaptable. You can’t be too inflexible, because your market and your users constantly tell you what they want. You need to listen to that.

H: Adding to that; when you start up in something like a tech company, you have to expect problems. And see them as a series of things that you have to solve one-by-one and just get through them. When things go wrong, it’s not necessarily a case of, “Oh, that’s gone wrong,” or “That wasn’t meant to happen.” There will be problems every single day; you just need to tick them off the list and keep going until you get to something that’s a workable solution. Lots of people get to one hurdle and see that problem as a blocking barrier. They think, “Oh, I can’t do that,” and give up. That’s not the attitude or the mentality to have if you’re doing a start-up. You have to enjoy the challenge and be happy ticking off those problems. If you don’t like problems, don’t do a start-up.

F: Enjoy the ride, in short.

HAVE YOU REACHED THE DREAM OR END GOAL WITH SOURCING PLAYGROUND?

F: If Sourcing Playground was a series, we would probably be starting Season Two now. And we’re hoping that we’ll get at least five or six seasons. I would say, in the spirit of what I just said about enjoying the ride, we are proud of what we have done so far. It has been very enjoyable, but we’re very much at the beginning of the story. We still have a lot to do. The dream is at the end of Season Six, as it were. With a happy ending, hopefully.

H: And Season One is hard. The hardest for anybody. Because when you’re first starting, you don’t have anything material. You’re literally just you shouting an idea around to people. Saying, “This is a really cool idea that I have,” and no one cares. I think the big turning point was people wanting to work with us or be associated with us. First we had advisers on board, then investors. And slowly but surely, you sort of mould this team of people and it becomes an actual thing. And once you get to this stage, it becomes a lot easier to sell and promote. But in the early days, it’s a struggle because there’s nothing tangible. Getting that off the ground is so hard.

F: It’s still hard now, but at least we have something to play with!

If you want to know more about Sourcing Playground, take a look at their website or on their Facebook page. And keep an eye on our Humans section for stories from more of our local talent…

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HUMANS

Hannah Elkins, Musician

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Musician Hannah Elkins
Photo courtesy of Hannah Elkins

Ahead of releasing her first single, we had a chat with musician Hannah Elkins. Where did her journey in music begin and what are her hopes for the future?

Dividing her time between the hustle-and-bustle of London and the Bournemouth music scene, we were lucky to have a few words with musician and singer Hannah Elkins. As she goes to release her first single, it seemed like a good time to hear about her beginnings in music…

ARE YOU FROM THE BOURNEMOUTH AREA?

Yeah – I grew up in Bournemouth. I studied at Leeds University, and then came back to Bournemouth, before moving to London last summer. But most of my life has been spent in the area.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST DECIDE THAT MUSIC WAS WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO?

My mum is a singer herself. She’s very musical and runs a choir in Bournemouth. So, in a way, I had no choice. I grew up singing and it was just what I knew to do. But it was really at secondary school that I realised that it was what I wanted to do for a career, and what I went to study at university.

DO YOU MODEL YOUR STYLE ON ANY ARTISTS IN PARTICULAR?

My favourite artist is Lianne La Havas. She has very delicate, beautiful vocals, with quite hard guitar sounds. For me, it was the first time I had heard that kind of contrast in music, which I fell in love with. Another one is Jessie Ware. I just found out that she was classically trained, and I studied classical singing at university. I think that’s why I love her stuff so much – you can hear she’s just got this amazing voice in there. She’s a huge inspiration to me.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST GIG…

I started writing my own music probably quite late in comparison to others. A lot of them, you hear they started writing when they were 12. For me, that didn’t happen until I went to university. Because I studied classical singing, and then I went for a year abroad in the Netherlands to learn to play piano. And it really changed my perspective of music and how I wanted to approach it.

So I started sitting at the piano and writing my own stuff. And then when I went back for my final year at Leeds, I just thought, “I’ve got to do this!” Took a lot of courage, but I booked my first gig at Hyde Park Book Club. Lovely little intimate venue – it was actually quite terrifying because it was so intimate. We had about 70 people in this room. I just rocked up with my notepad (with my lyrics on it) in one hand and my little keyboard and sat in front of these people, who were the most attentive audience I’ve ever had. And that was it – I was hooked.

NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING FIRST SINGLE…

It’s called After the Midnight. I don’t have a set writing method with any of my music. Normally, I’ll find this idea, work around it and build the song, but with this one, I had just a chorus – two lines and two chords that I knew I loved. Had no idea where I was going with it. Even when I stepped into the studio, I didn’t have the song in full! Bit risky, I know, but I like a challenge. I don’t know if I’d recommend it…

So, I worked with my friends Elliot Wenman, who plays guitar, and Niko Battistini, who is a Bournemouth-based producer. With those two, I created this song.

When I started writing this, I had started a different mind state of how I wanted to write. So, it was included in a couple of other songs I had written. There was the theme of this midnight, the stars, the universe; it just fit into this collection that I was working on at the time.

WHY HAVE YOU DECIDED TO LAUNCH YOUR SINGLE SPECIFICALLY IN BOURNEMOUTH?

I am really excited to come back and do the launch here. That’s because After the Midnight has been a collaboration with a lot of Bournemouth musicians and artists. The artwork was done by a girl called Amy Leonard, who is studying at the Arts University. She’s done some brilliant artwork for me. Plus the photography has been done by Alice Parmenter, who’s also Bournemouth-based. And then, as I mentioned earlier, the production from Niko. There’s such talent in Bournemouth, and that’s where this single has come from.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THE BOURNEMOUTH MUSIC SCENE?

In Bournemouth, there is this real market of music-lovers. There is something called Sofar Sounds, which is run in Bournemouth. I performed for them a couple of years ago, and then I volunteered for their team afterwards. It’s a brilliant event where they basically get three acts and take them to an intimate venue. Audiences can apply for tickets, and they don’t know where the venue will be or what the lineup is until they’re emailed a few days before. They tell you at the beginning of the gig that they want you to pay attention to the artists and give them that respect, which I think can be lost in some of the bigger venues. London, for example, can be slightly saturated.

WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU AS A MUSICIAN

Ultimately, it’s to write music that people can relate to and want to listen to. As long as there’s someone there who is listening and says that they like it — that’s the dream, really.

Read more amazing and inspiring stories from the talent of Bournemouth in our Humans section. And find out more about Hannah on her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

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Stephanie Wyatt, Miss Earth 2019

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Learn more about Stephanie Wyatt, 19, from Dorset, as she has been crowned the new Miss Earth 2019…

At the end of last month, Stephanie Wyatt was crowned Miss Earth England 2019 at the Arden Hotel in Birmingham, sponsored by Millennium Balti in Leamington Spa. She got in touch with Humans of Bournemouth with full details on her story and what it’s like to be “Miss Earth.”

WHAT ARE YOUR DUTIES AS MISS EARTH?

As Miss Earth, I will be representing England on an international platform of millions of people around the world. Since I have also been rewarded with the title of ‘Beauties of a Cause Eco-Ambassador’ for my accomplishments, my duties include working with environmental, eco-activities and other social causes.

WHAT’S YOUR ADVOCACY?

My main aim is to advocate the preservation and restoration of Mother Earth. From a young age, I remember being exposed to the harsh reality around me and knew I had to make a change. When I found out that I could make a difference, I knew I had to carry on doing what I was doing.

DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS A STIGMA ON PAGEANTS?

Despite the stigmas, Miss Earth is different to your everyday beauty pageant. It is an environmentally-focused competition. A platform for change. For example, one of our challenges that was judged was to create an “eco-warrior” outfit. I decided to make mine completely out of real flowers. I believe that we are sending out a message here, showing the public that we all have a responsibility to preserve and attend to what the world we live in needs. Which fights against any stigmas.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GOING TO THE MISS EARTH FINAL?

I am extremely honoured to be put in the position to attend the final. Which is the third-most prestigious platform in the world to represent England. I’m also privileged to meet so many like-minded women. I’d like to thank the Miss Earth England organisation and I hope that I will do my country proud. This really is a dream come true for me.

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER PROJECTS BESIDES FROM MISS EARTH?

I want to be socially and environmentally responsible for our earth. That’s why I created my own project in 2017. I investigated how I could tackle the world’s second-largest polluting industry, which is clothing. I thought of several ways to reduce this problem and also need those in need at the same time. That’s why I decided to aid those whom are struggle with period poverty. My first steps to making a difference were deciding to set up workshops at my local library, where the public could donate their unwanted clothes. Once generous individuals had donated, I was then able to up-cycle them into re-usable sanitary wear for girls in Kenya. This can make a big transformation on a girl’s life in Kenya since they can go to school now in comfort and not have to worry about their period getting in the way of their education.

WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO DURING YOUR REIGN AS MISS EARTH?

I hope to set up a lot more like-minded projects, similar to what I have done before. I’m particularly interested in helping Third World countries; they are one of the main reasons why I put my heart and soul into the work I do.

Find out more about the Miss Earth pageant on their Facebook page. And for more inspiring stories about the locals of Bournemouth, Poole and surrounding areas, check out our Humans section.

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Jack Lenton, Personal Trainer

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Personal Trainer Jack Lenton

Meet Jack Lenton. His lifestyle is his career. As a personal trainer, he owns his own business and is able to train clients worldwide.

Learn more about how he decided to become a personal trainer and how his passion for fitness began. Jack also desires to help others develop their own career in the fitness industry…

ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM BOURNEMOUTH?

No, I grew up in the south of Somerset. Then I decided to go to Exeter University, so I lived there for a while. After that I lived in America for 18 months. I’ve lived in Bournemouth for the past year. My girlfriend lived here, so it made sense for me to move here with her.

WHAT DOES YOUR PROFESSION INVOLVE?

My day-to-day job is mainly online coaching and training. I also employ people to help with my business and coaching — I love being able to give people the chance to do what they love as a job. We mainly coach one-to-one sessions, giving the clients personal advice on themselves and how their body works and what suits them. Nevertheless, we also coach in groups as well; they don’t tend to be any more than 40 people. An individual’s ability determines what group they are put in. As a group, they will be supported as much as possibly needed.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO FITNESS?

Fitness was the only thing that kept my attention; I didn’t really enjoy school. All my efforts went into fitness and sports instead of education. Therefore, when choosing a university course, exercising science caught my eye. It was the only course that for fulfilled my desires at the time.

WERE YOU INTO SPORTS AT SCHOOL?

Of course! It wasn’t weightlifting or strength training — I was too young for any of that. I tended to play more standard sports such as football, basketball and I tried a bit of trampolining. As a kid, just being active was my priority. Fitness has always been a key aspect of my life.

WOULD YOU SAY YOU LIVE A STRICT LIFESTYLE IN TERMS OF FITNESS?

I have made my fitness lifestyle strict because that is the how I prefer it. My mental and physical health has improved by working out daily. Although it never limits me in terms of my lifestyle, since I enjoy it so much, it’s more of a hobby than a chore.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO START SEEING RESULTS ON YOUR OWN BODY?

I was looking at photos of myself the other day. From when I was about a year into my training and my body was so different. It took me about two years to see a massive progress. For a long while, I wasn’t very sure on what worked on my body type in terms on fitness wise. I found that, I noticed what I was doing wrong before finding what I was doing right. Over the years, I’ve increased how much I train. Before fitness and training was part of my daily routine, I was working out about five times a week. My personality is quite addictive, so that certainly helped keep myself on track.

IS SOCIAL MEDIA IMPORTANT TOWARDS YOUR CAREER AS A PERSONAL TRAINER?

Social media makes a significant impact on my career since it allows me to coach worldwide. My personal trainer career is no longer restricted to local people; because of social media, anyone can reach out to me. It also benefits me in terms of meeting like-minded individuals from anywhere and everywhere. Those who share the same passions as me and are part of the fitness community.

WHAT IS YOUR END GOAL?

Right now, I hope to carry on what I’m doing and making money from it. I also hope to keep employing more and more people for my business. This means I can help them gain experience and earn money from doing something they love as a career, just like me.

Don’t forget to check out Jack’s Instagram and website to learn more about his coaching!

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