Damien Pestell, owner and founder of Be Your Business, meets four people who have started new creative businesses in Hastings.

Since I moved to Hastings I have been struck by two things: its abundance of creativity and the kindness of the people who live here. 

People here are unusually welcoming and I admit that initially I was a little suspicious, but I now see it as genuine enthusiasm for this town and a warmth towards newcomers. For example, I actually know my neighbours! That has never happened to me before, I thought it was a thing they did up north or just in the past.

This combination of kindness and creativity seems a perfect mix for new business ideas and creative projects. Creativity is a term I have not always been comfortable with as a student of logic in my early career, but I have come to appreciate that it is the fuel that drives so much that is good.

I am fascinated by the myriad ways people express themselves creatively, so I spoke to four local residents about their creative businesses to find out how and why they do what they do.

Penny Williams of Blush Beauty

Penny Williams runs blush beautyandhair.co.uk and has had a varied career. When I asked her about why she does what she does, she said, “I love making people feel good about themselves. Beauty is seen as frivolous but it gives people such confidence”.

Penny started her business after a prolonged period of stress, working 70 hours a week as a primary school teacher. She said of her decision to change, “We are so conditioned to follow a path, not listen to our hearts and what makes our soul sing, but to focus on wealth and career success, rather than internal feelings of fulfilment.”

In March 2020, Penny’s world was turned upside down as the wedding and events industry ground to a sudden halt due to the pandemic. But it was a catalyst for change: “I didn’t know what to do because I had bills to pay and all my work was gone.” 

After a short period of frustration Penny looked at other ways to create an income and started tutoring online and painting. “I hadn’t painted since I was 19 but I did some portraits of animals and they sold really well.” 

Penny said of her creative process: “I see a mark in my head, like a swoosh of hot pink and then I do it… I don’t know what I am going to do, it is almost like someone else is doing it through you.” 

Penny is exhibiting with South East Open Studios from 7th June for two weeks and her art work is available via Instagram @pennywilliamsart

Alice of 55 Prints

Alice Hull does silk screen printing and is the co-founder of 55 prints based in St Leonards. I was keen to meet Alice and explore the business, as screen printing was part of my past. As I walked into the studio I was transported back to my childhood hanging around my father’s sign business after school and helping out in the holidays, the visceral smells of ink and the sight of the old machines was familiar and personal to me.

Alice almost stumbled into screen printing when she met her co-founder, Stephen, whose dream was to create a studio. She liked the idea of the business but admitted that she didn’t really know what it was or why she decided to commit to starting it. 

Alice later found out that she also had a family link to the trade: “My grandad was a man called Tristram Hull and he set up a screen printing studio that was active in the 60s and 70s in London, and it became a real hub for local and international artists.” 

55 prints works with a range of businesses and artists making anything from purses to prints. The skill of the printer is in getting the right balance between ink and mesh to achieve a product that meets the expectations of the client; they collaborate with artists on their work and are a part of the creative process.

Alice is also intending to create her own work through the skills she has acquired helping others, which has enabled her to express herself and increase her creative capacity: “I had been wanting a creative business but I hadn’t anticipated how excited I would get by screen printing itself and how many ideas it has given me for other kinds of creativity.” For more details see @55prints on Facebook.

David Thomas of Picnic Films

Filmmaker Dave Thomas runs picnicfilms.co.uk and finds inspiration through the people he works with. He enjoys making films about how people are doing something new and redefining how to be in the world. 

Dave is currently making a film about Roff Smith, a local travel photographer who has been featured by the New York Times. Unable to travel due to you know what, Roff did something else, “he basically invented a new way to travel!”

As I walked into the studio I was transported back to my childhood hanging around my father’s sign business after school

Every morning he gets up before dawn and cycles about capturing the world in the dawn light. “I thought it was such a good story I knew I had to contact him, and we’ve been shooting for the last few weeks… I think Roff is incredible because he has created a new way to do his work.” 

Dee Haughney of Anois Art

Finally I spoke with the amazing Dee Haughney, founder of www.anoisart.co.uk. Anois is Gaelic for ‘now’, but a more accurate translation is ‘right here, right now!’, which seems the perfect name for a business that celebrates female and non-binary artists, giving them an online platform for selling their work.

Dee said the desire to create the business was born of two things: ”I wanted to make art more accessible to people, because the art world can be quite closed and, secondly, I noticed that female and non-binary artists are under-represented and I wanted to give them a platform.”

Dee is passionate about the power of art “as a way of understanding the world” and found her creative expression through bringing artists together and being part of the artist’s journey. 

From speaking to these local creatives and entrepreneurs I was able to see how creativity is represented in different ways in our local businesses. That it is something that is vitally important to our sense of self and fulfilment; even when we don’t know we are creative, we probably are.

‘Be Your Business’ works with new and existing businesses to create meaningful brands that everyone loves! Express who you really are through powerful storytelling – Express, Create, Grow! Beyourbusiness.co.uk


Very excited to announce that the first of our new HIPbiz podcasts is now available!
This new series of podcasts is all about shining a light on our fantastic local business owners and their stories of finding meaning through their work. 
The podcasts are recorded by our business writer Damien Pestell from Be Your Business and edited by Colden Drystone.


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