As part of my chat with Deborah Humphrey from The Wellbeing Story, we explored her creative motivation and how she incorporates it into her coaching business. This became a blog in my Exploring Creativity series. We went on to discuss the similarities of our businesses and I talked about the driving force behind Open Stage Arts, and how it’s evolved from the early days.

Both Deborah and I have a business now that looks quite different to how we envisaged it would be. Our customer base is different to our original thoughts and we have adapted our services accordingly:

“I just wanted to do something that utilised my dance background and bring in some singing (I wasn’t bothered about the drama back then!) The people who come to Open Stage Arts are all very different and not just like me, they come for all sorts of reasons.”

Deborah asked me what made me start Open Stage Arts:

“I was at a low place in my life. My dad was very ill and I suffered with anxiety. In a counselling session I discovered that I actually did nothing for myself, my life was full of work and family.

“I looked for things to do that were just for me – I tried some activities that weren’t right for me – I envied my children for the activities they enjoyed, especially the theatre school, but I couldn’t find anything like that for adults. So I thought I’d set one up! I advertised for teachers and started the classes four years ago.

“I purposely didn’t want to offer traditional amateur dramatics where there’s pressure to get a part, learn lines, be competitive and put on shows. All my customers feel this way too and we all understand that we’re in the same boat.

“It was something to focus on during the tough times and helped me put aside my anxiety. I didn’t really see it as work, I enjoyed the challenge. Open Stage Arts evolved along with the needs of my customers. Most wanted to concentrate on singing and drama so I dropped the dance element and went in that direction.

“And to keep up with my first love of dance, I teach two Fitsteps classes a week at Rose Hill Community Centre and do a street dance and a contemporary dance class during the week, which is something just for me!”

Deborah and I take huge pleasure from seeing what people gain from a coaching session with her or a drama class with me. Looking at the benefits of our businesses helps us both to promote our services more accurately and plan where we want to take it next:

“People grow in confidence and self-esteem by trying something new at Open Stage Arts. Facing your fears is a big theme for some, they find it scary at first but warm up and let themselves go. People worry that others might be trying to be actors or show-offs but it’s entirely the opposite.

“I keep things fresh and lively by changing the teachers and each brings a different specialism. The teachers are intrigued to work with adults who aren’t trying to be actors – we can be more nurturing and get to know people better. I join in every week but not as a teacher, I facilitate for others.”

Deborah asked me if developing my business helped with my wellbeing:

“Yes it did in lots of ways. I realised I was lonely, being a freelance editor and working from home. My children were older so I wasn’t so focused on them. I began networking to meet other business owners, get advice and share experiences, which has been remarkably helpful. I thought I was quite insular and would feel awkward in a networking environment but actually I love going out and meeting people.

“Running Open Stage Arts and my FitSteps classes has given me more confidence and I’ve opened up much more. I never thought I’d be a teacher, up in front of a class making them laugh, joining in, steering it if needs be!”

Deborah had 30 years in the NHS as a nurse and educator in mental health so had a strong identity as part of a team with a common language. When she stepped out of that she realised how much effort you have to put in to developing a business network, but now she meets lots of people and feels enriched. She asked me where I see Open Stage Arts going:

“I’ve no idea, I have no set plan! This year I’d really like to do more standalone workshops out in workplaces, they’re great fun and a unique way to improve wellbeing and teambuilding at work.”

Deborah agreed that many organisations are looking at wellbeing and people want something that doesn’t just tick the box for ‘wellbeing strategy’. My challenge is how to approach these organisations with my marketing material and create interest. For both of us, we are still surprised at the time it takes to promote our businesses, thinking that would be the easy part!

We concluded that we need to trust in what we do and even when it’s not going brilliantly, to keep going and work through the challenges.

“During my first year I could have easily called it a day, but then all this wouldn’t have happened so I’m delighted that I persevered!”

If you’d like to discover your inner creative spark as part of a fun, pressure-free singing and acting group in Oxford, visit the Bookings page and sign up for a taster session.
If your company/community group would like an engaging drama workshop to enhance a social gathering, teambuilding and networking, check out the Travelling Workshops page.