Inspirationals // Linzi Rooney

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dotted throughout my post schedule in my little bloggy notebook are what I'm going to dub "Inspirationals" where I've planned to meet with women who I am inspired by and who I think reflect what it means to be clothed in strength. 
Linzi Rooney the CEO and founder of Studio Souk Belfast (originally situated in Spires Mall, now on Castle Lane) had the faith in her own dream and her own passions, enough to make it a reality and over the space of two and a half years and with a lot of ground work, it has grown dramatically - it is truly a sustainable business concept benefiting creatives, the local surrounding community and bringing local talent and thier products to the high street in the middle of the hustle and bustle. 
Be sure to check out the website for more: 

Linzi, as an artisan and creative herself, saw the need for more support and community, as well as seeing a big gap in the market to bring local craft to the high street - she believed in her own passion and is bold with it. 
Not only has she created a vibrant working space for individual artisans, to have a place for community and support (as being a crafter and running your business solo can become quite lonely after a while!) she has also created an amazing retail space, making the top locally produced products easily accessible, all in turn, raising the profile of the talent here in Northern Ireland and what we have to offer.
Supporting local artisans/brands in your local area I think is so important and beneficial as a consumer, you get the quality, design and the love put into every item.
 The Studio Souk has now made that even more accessible than it ever has been. You now don't have to wait for local craft fairs and the weekend markets to access a locally produced range - recognising that the big brand names aren't your only option on the Belfast high street anymore is key, and there's so much to see, smell and touch in this space.
It is so wonderfully packed with the most individual and creative gift ideas, unbelievable paintings and pottery, homewares, skin care ranges, vintage clothes, and products would never think exist as well as yummy foodie treats. You have pretty leather satchels, homemade candles, baby clothes, cushions galore, restored and up cycled antique/retro furniture... the list goes on.
 You also have artists working on sight, painters painting, sewers sewing and framers framing - they are there to chat to you and give you an insight into their business and product, meanwhile you get to see them work right before your eyes. It's just such a totally unique space and vibe (with the best music soundtracks playing in the back round may I add!) in the centre of Belfast - definitely give it a try this weekend. (you can grab a coffee in the cafe souk while you're at it too!) 

So I wanted to meet with Linzi to get to know her a little more and feature her on the blog because I think she is an example of a local inspirational woman, with a strong entrepreneurial streak and not afraid to bring something a little different to the table. 
She is now also my boss, since I was given the job as an Apprentice (eek! couldn't be more excited about it!) and I've really enjoyed learning and working with her already, it's definitely going to be an adventure for the next two years, I can't wait!

*Just to set the scene, this blog interview took place immediately after I was interviewed by Linzi and the retail manager David, for the Apprenticeship myself. So we essentially swapped roles once my interview was finished, it was all so surreal/strange but hilarious at the same time!

To start -
Favourite food of all time? Goats cheese - (she said this was a pregnant answer, she is due in seven weeks with her second girl!) 
Favourite alcoholic drink? Prosecco
Best thing about being a mum? Cuddles
Favourite item of clothing in your wardrobe? My Kimono, definitely!

Whats schools and Uni did you go to and did your education benefit your entreprenerial spirit? 
"I went to Larne Grammar and UUJ - Yes it did benefit my entrepreneurial streak, as I think being in a grammar school setting, I was pushed more to go further academically which I have definitely been able to utilise while starting up my own business, and being at Art College in UUJ it was very much self-directive study and taking that lead on my own career/degree gave me the determination to start something myself. "

Previous to Studio Souk, you were a photographer to begin with, and then made a move into Sterling Silver Jewellery craft, what lead you to this move? 
"I think when I was doing photography and doing it in Uni and still in the dark room, (digital camera's had only really started to come out), after a while, the actual hands on practical bit was very small, and you spent all the time in front of the computer editing photos, taking away spots, stuff like that, and  I kind of felt I spent more time doing that than doing what I actually loved - I'm still quite hands on and practical, I like to get stuck into it, so I felt like I didn't want to sit infront of the computer all day editing photos, I wanted to do something different and thats when I began my career as a silver smith, producing hand crafted jewellery - I wanted to actually make again" 

Why elephant juice? (The Name Of Linzi's Jewellery Business) 
My mum died when I was 15, and she used to doodle this little elephant ass and thats where I got the logo from and then Elephant Juice because if you whisper it, it looks like you are saying 'I love you" 

What drives your entrepreneurial spirit?
My stubbornness. I think Im definitely determined and stubborn and I don't like anyone saying no. 

What are your hopes for Studio Souk and where do you see it going in the future?
I think really to expand and open up more Studio Souks and create this platform for other people, so in Dublin, Galway - thats really what the future goal is, to open in other places. I think that this obviously is a really needed platform for artists in Belfast so I can only assume then that the same platform is needed everywhere else in Ireland and further afield. 
I think definitely too, I want the shop to always be essentially the face of Studio Souk and then all the community work and all other work that we are putting into it in the background, creates the actual Studio Souk as a whole. 

...Is there community and bacround work the most important part or...?
Definitely yes but obviously the retail space is what keeps the money coming in and sustains the business and we can't have one without the other, and its trying to find the balance between the two. The retail space generates customers and income for the artists and their businesses and then obviously also sustains the community work and any other projects with the artist themselves - they work hand in hand. 

Now for the final and most important question, one that I will be asking everyone I meet for the blog, to get to the heart of who a person is regardless of external things. I have come up with a generic question: Who are you without all the gimmicks? (Readers - I know this sounds really cheeky, and and its not meant to be, it's a catchy question and one that you remember without a doubt, so expect answers to this from everyone I feature on the blog - it's about getting to core of who we are and embracing this - back to the interview, ha!)

Linzi, if you could choose three words to get to the heart of who you are regardless of what you do, what you wear, what products you buy etc etc - who are you... without the gimmicks. 
Ohh I don't know - Obviouly I am Creative, I am probably quite feisty and I like to have my own way so I suppose I am stubborn, I will always be that way regardless 

And do these things tend to guide you through whatever you do, are those attributes something that describe you authentically, to the core and will you always bring these things to life wherever you find yourself? 
Yes, it's everything, I'm probably softer in my personal life but Im still creative, feisty and stubborn in all areas definitely. 

I hope after that, you too can see why I've decided to feature Linzi on Clothed In Strength.
My first every 'inspirationals' post! - let me know what you think in the comments below.

I'll be back writing with the next post on Sunday
 (still deciding what it should be.. too many ideas!) 


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