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Spotlight on: Creative Lifestyle CIC

There are many voluntary and community organisations that Hackney CVS has helped to develop. In the fields of health and social care, safe guarding and general capacity building Hackney CVS has helped lead the way.

We are particularly proud of the work we have done with BAMER communities. We want to celebrate that work and encourage other groups to come to us for support.

This is the first of a series of case-studies focusing on such groups. Celebrating achievements and looking at challenges.

Creative Lifestyle CIC is a local organisation that provides creative workshops in the community. They work with various organisations from Children’s Centres, Hackney Council and the Learning Trust.

We spoke to their CEO Oleander Agbetu to hear about the organisation and lessons learned from their time of working with Hackney’s communities.

So how long has Creative Lifestyle been going? 

I suppose the original germ was set in place around 15 years ago. I was pregnant with my daughter and due on 11 months maternity leave. I knew I wouldn’t want to be just sat at home. Then I got a leaflet through the door promoting a local course on soft furnishings. I went along with my 3 month old daughter. I met some wonderful women there and we all did a City and Guilds qualification together. After that we decided that we wanted to set up a business initiative that would support local women.

How did you get involved with Hackney CVS?

Because of my voluntary background I knew I wanted to use all the new skills I had learned to give back to the community. We got a business advisor who told us how we could help set up a Social Enterprise. But we needed money. That’s when I discovered Hackney CVS and approached them to help with funding bids. We got funding that helped us to deliver a pilot project. A series of creative workshops. We started with 4 week courses in internal design and fashion.

Hackney Learning Trust began to support us and we quickly went on to offer courses in soft-furnishing and cake-making.

How did you grow from that?

It certainly helped when we took part in the Hackney Giving Live Crowd Funding event. We very quickly raised nearly £3,000 which we used to develop a pop-up shop in Shoreditch.

This was a great initiative that helped skill up local women in customer service, taking orders and other business related opportunities.

What challenges did you face?

I think on our journey the most obvious challenges were retaining students. Many had mental health issues or learning difficulties. Many had low-confidence. They had been told all their life that they wouldn’t amount to anything. Their self-esteem was shot and it showed. Some just didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

We addressed this by calling them the day before workshops and the morning of the workshops. It took work but got results.  

Other challenges included raising funds, and we made the decision that we would have to ask users to make a nominal contribution to cover materials. That also helped with them committing to the whole project.

How did you reach your audience in the first place? 

We always realised we would have to promote ourselves heavily to get the students through the door. We printed flyers and visited libraries, GP surgeries and community centres. Word of mouth was also crucial.

What courses have been most valuable to you as a deliverer?

There have been many, but I would say that Delivering Change, run by Hackney CVS has been one of the best.

It gave me a chance to meet other great people delivering good projects. Also a chance talk to others who understand the challenges. Sometimes in terms of delivery you can feel isolated. It is a great place to share the burden.

What are you proudest of?

We have been building this organisation for years. I am proud to say that over the last year alone we have touched over 100 people.  Some have gone on to further learning, others have used our courses as a way of self-development. Over a third have gone on to start up their own Social Enterprises which is really great.

Our beneficiaries gain so much from our workshops including an increase in their self – esteem and confidence in themselves. They have new skills set; and an increase in life choices: a chance to improve their social mobility opportunities. They become great role models for their children, family and friends. They also gain the ability to generate income to self-sustain. Many make new friends and break the isolation cycle.

Tell us about some of your users.

Martha came to us to learn how to bake and decorate cakes. She lacked self-confidence especially after recently having a baby girl. She did not even know what ingredients went into a cake. Now that she has finished with us, she bakes for community cafes and takes part in her children’s school’s bake offs  – which often wins. She has many customers whom wait patiently to put in their orders through schools; her church and word of mouth.

I caught up with her several times and she said ‘Thank you so much Oleander, I now feel so confident with myself and my ability to create tasty good looking cakes. I feel more financially independent and am able to pay for my family’s holidays.’

Then there was Julie who came to us to learn sewing. She had a few mental health issues including depression. She also disclosed to me that her daughter had issues which impacted on her own mental health. We offered her the chance to make a variety of creative projects which in fact featured in our pop up shop. She was able to take note of and learn about customer service; taking orders for her cushions – which were very popular.

However, her mental health was a constant challenge for her and there were times when she was unable to come to the shop or judge issues in a balanced way, which led to her losing her confidence. We supported her though, encouraging her to take part in our wellbeing sessions which helped to calm her. We did encourage her to continue and she has made several sewing projects for herself and family.

Any last thoughts you would like to send to other voluntary organisations?

If there is one thing I have learned is that the future is partnership working.  I love working with grass roots groups and if we pull together we will be stronger. That can only make for better delivery. 

To find out more about Creative Lifestyle CIC email: or call 07538 321 416

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