And what if we dropped everything to live out our real passion? Too many constraints, too many risks, no time… Yet here is someone who jumped the gun with a certain idea of the cool attitude. After 12 years spent working as a press attachée in a leading events company, Audrey Keita fell in love with couture and Do It Yourself.
She anticipated the slot and launched her blog The Funky Fresh Project, a real “ideas box” with tutorials, an e-shop and even recipes. A few balls of yarn later, she continues with creative animation workshops to teach Parisiennes how to do something with their ten fingers. Her latest project? Blooming Bees, a collective that sets forth well-being inside the company thanks to manual work. Encounter with an inspiring entrepreneur always moving full speed ahead, which nothing predestined really to become a DIY queen.
You had a full-time CDI contract before launching entrepreneurship. What was the trigger to drop everything?
The events world was a big war machine, with stockholders and lots of pressure. I did spend 12 years there, of which seven magical ones. But the trigger corresponded to a moment when I felt kind of lost in terms of my professional life. I was bored. Always repeating the same things, asking myself every day: “Why am I here ? What am I doing here ?”...
So how come you switched at that moment towards slow fashion?
Everything began six years ago, when we bought a country house in the Sarthe with my boyfriend. Since we did not want to spend a lot on furnishing a weekend house, we began picking up used stuff. We grated, painted and went vintage hunting …
Today, our house is filled with lots of small objects, each one with a story. That’s what makes it even more charming! And since I was on a rampage, I began sewing curtains, tablecloths, place mats etc… with recycled materials and thanks to a few sewing lessons with my mother and a stylist. But you should know that before I was NOT AT ALL manually oriented!
Thus was born The Funky Fresh Project…
Yes, the blog was the departure point of all this. In addition, I happen to have a real passion for small toiletry kits to slip in your bag. I found myself in front of a boutique with a €45 sales tag. Highway robbery! So I started making objects myself.
At the beginning, I created my collections alone, then I tried to find a partner who had good sense in order to delegate the actual making, which takes up a lot of time. I went to the ESAT of Ménilmontant (an association that helps young handicapped workers integrate through their work, note from the editor) which today has become a full partner of my textile creation activity.
For the DIY workshop animations, the first place that gave their trust, is La Recyclerie, since three years. We share common values: consuming differently, slow fashion with La Textilerie, the bohemian factory that functions like a co-working… This is the kind of work I like.
Tell us about this new concept of creative workshops inside the company ...
My new Blooming Bees project is only one year old. The idea is to bring creative leisure workshops, particularly textile art, into companies. Based on the principle unity creates strength, there are several of us, with different qualities, hence a complete catalogue: hypnotherapy, art therapy, sophrology and naturopathy for the time being. We are a collective of “well-being practicians” who want to promote happiness at work. We even intend to launch a pop-up In September… To be followed !
Can textile art be therapeutic?
Take knitting for example ! The repetitive movement and the meditative state lead to concentration. Actually, you often see in the media, headlines such as: “Knitting is the new yoga”. There is a soothing aspect when you place yourself in a bubble. When I have a hard time concentrating, I take five minutes to knit a few rows—this allows me to think and put my ideas in order.
Doing things with your hands brings personal satisfaction, self-confidence, self-esteem and helps to concentrate. For example, with textile art, you are forced to acquire a technique with repetitive points or stitches. This requires a moment of concentration to assimilate it, which means you need to focus on the action undertaken.
How do you explain this come-back of our grandmothers’ favourite leisure activities?
First, I think we all want to consumer differently. Doing things with your hands is an alternative to over-consumption. Sewing when making your own clothes, knitting your own pullovers, socks or plaids…
Today in active life, one is completely swallowed up by a frenzied rhythm. Sometimes there is a feeling of loss because all this lacks sense. Using your hands is concrete. One touches materials, one sees things build up … It’s quite different from being an employee in a company that has a more global project whose final outcome one does not necessarily see.
Any advice for those wanting to launch into textile art ?
It’s better to begin by taking courses, for several reasons. First, with the 15,000 tutorials on Internet, of course it’s possible to learn by yourself, but asking questions to someone who can give answers enables to save time in the terms of practical training. Even it’s one or two courses to learn the basics.
In addition, it’s important to spend some time with people, make encounters, exchanges… More pleasant than being alone in front of your computer.
To begin, since we are now in the Springtime, I suggest investing in a knitting kit with organic cotton, small bamboo needles, sitting by the pool or in your garden on Sunday, what happiness !
Is knitting a fad or a long-lasting passion?
Indeed, I think there is a fashion effect, but it’s a healthy trend which would be nice if it lasted in time. For example, I organize knitting workshops but also trapilho, at La Recyclerie notably. Trapilho entails using jersey cotton thread reels, created with old t-shirts.
I ask my students to sort in their closets, bring me back old t-shirts, and thanks to a cutting system, you can create reels. You obtain a material that is so elastic, you can knit it to make poufs, crochet for small baskets … All that in an approach of recycling, slow fashion. If you want to go further in the world of different consumerism, the fact you choose materials and their provenance when you sew or knit, that also affirms a certain position.
What would you recommend to a person wishing to venture out but who does not dare going into entrepreneurship adventure?
Being scared is normal. Especially when it entails a big financial change, on a daily basis, it requires adjustments in real life. But it’s important to believe in your idea, in your project. Difficulties simply allow to readjust the project and to take another direction which was maybe not the one initially planned.
If one has an idea for an entrepreneurial project, it must be tested. There are many ways of going about it! In my case, when I launched out, I was on company leave, which gave me the possibility of going back to my old job if at the end my project did not work out.
What does a typical day of an entrepreneur such as you look like?
I wake up, I drink my green tea and I answer my emails since lots of partnerships are falling into place. Since I also have an online boutique, I make, I manage my stocks, send my orders…
I spend a good part of my day looking for places where my nomad workshops can take place. I generally dedicate my Wednesday to tutorials and creation. The rest of the time, I co-animate a creative group on Facebook called “Project DIY”.
Is this a profitable business?
Yes, in the sense I have no rent to pay each month, so there is less pressure in terms of profitability and turnover. My real job is press attachée, but my missions of communication consulting are fewer and fewer, which is a good sign!
Also discover the interview of Claire Chicoine, the successful founder of Seize.