You may or may not have heard about a service that I run with Rozeena, every month since December 2014. It is a very special creation to us – We called it the #MonthlyMehndiMeet: A regular, monthly meeting of henna enthusiasts (hobbyists or professionals) to come together to practice henna. It was inspired by the voluntary and community ethos of Henna Con, and the nurturing, supportive henna meet ups as organised by Victoria Welch in the US. Rozeena and I wanted to build something that would take down the competitive and secretive barriers in the local henna industry and introduce an open and communicative henna community from which everyone, artists and clients alike, would benefit.
To do this, we set up a basic code of conduct to establish a group ethos from the outset. We gave it a structure, purpose and a monthly theme for people to focus on. After that, we released it into the social media world and invited others to join us.
Fast forward to now and 17 sessions later we inevitably found ourselves at a crossroads where we have been forced to assess where we really want to take the group. We had reached our maximum capacity as a free-to-attend group within the loving surroundings of Rozeena’s home. We began looking into funding options, how to qualify and where to apply. We spoke to business advisors about how to develop our idea and we realised that it was time to get “adult” about it, making the switch to operating within a sustainable business model. Given the current working model, we would have had to accept no further growth to the group given its self-limiting capacity and resources. And to qualify for any funding and support, we needed to make the transition into a fully fledged business. It was time for Big Decisions to be made.
Next week, the 4th of May will mark a huge transition point in our #MonthlyMehndiMeet journey as we have introduced a new fee for attending. With the new fee of £10 per session, we will include lunch and refreshments, plus natural henna cones. The structure, theme and ongoing support will remain unchanged and the fee is not-for-profit, but it is necessary to demonstrate the long-term sustainability of our group as a functioning model. Going forwards, we are also implementing several new measures in the group – new membership forms, a 5-minute warm-up exercise at the beginning of each session, a dedicated beginners area/resource box with designated support worker and feedback forms. To make your advanced payment and confirm your attendance, payments are now accepted via PayPal (please send as a ‘gift’ payment).
Simultaneously, in May we are applying for support in setting the #MonthlyMehndiMeet up as a social enterprise. Currently, we are writing an 11-page application form each, which will be submitted by a deadline date for assessment. If successful, we hope to pass this stage to present our idea in person to a panel of judges. Based on our presentation, we then hope to be approved for access to a 2 day Social Venture School where we will learn, gain support and valuable advice on forming our very own social enterprise business. If this is successful, we will then, maybe, qualify for a small pot of funding to help with the running of the #MonthlyMehndiMeet. In addition to this, we are in ongoing discussions and relationship building for securing a suitable long-term venue for our future #MonthlyMehndiMeets. So there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we have not, until now, openly disclosed.
Throughout this very current, very new transition, we have been experiencing the typical ups and downs of business and management of an idea that we care passionately about. With understandably mixed reactions and feedback to the news, we have been trying to take on board all the feedback and communications while staying true to what we believe is for the long term gain of the whole group and community. I won’t lie: It has been tough on some days to handle mixed reactions and take negative feedback on board to acknowledge the areas for improvement and incorporate it to improve the group as a whole. But the one powerfully, moving aspect that has kept us going throughout this transitional phase has been the enduring patience, understanding, and APPRECIATION of the wonderful #MonthlyMehndiMeet members so far. They have been our champions and our cheerleaders and our reason to continue when things have been rough. And in that, I have learned that the purpose of the #MonthlyMehndiMeet as we originally conceived it has well and truly been realised.
This blog post is dedicated to those who support us, both near and far, and inspire us to keep working towards improvement, development and growth. Please accept my gratitude from the bottom of my heart: Thank you.