Crystal Palace has a thriving freelancer and small business community. The Freelancer Facebook group is now heading towards 1000 members, so Nicole and I decided to run a (not very scientific) poll to find out the top 3 places to remote work in and around SE19. We are lucky to have so many great independent spaces to work in and there were certainly a lot of suggestions, but the votes are in and there were 3 clear winners…
1st Place: The Paxton Centre, Anerley Hill.
2nd Place: Dalhousie – Westow Street.
3rd Place: Brown & Green – Church Road.
Over the next few days, we will run a series of mini Q & A blogs to chat with each winner to find out a little about them, what inspired their business and what motivates them to keep growing. We kick off today with our winner!
The Paxton Centre
The Paxton Centre, owned and run by Beth Mander. The Paxton Centre is a creative hub, and cafe. It provides hot desks, creative workshops and activities, evening events, venue hire and a gallery/ shop to sell local work from artists and creators. It is located on Anerley Hill just opposite Crystal Palace train station.
Beth also offers a co- working space in a bright venue. You can ‘rent’ a desk for £5 which includes a hot drink and Wifi. On the first Thursday of the month she hosts the Freelancers ‘Jelly’ meeting organised by Crystal Palace Freelancers Facebook group, which is free to attend.
“My Business ethos is to run the centre to promote the local economy, encourage skill sharing and build friendships”.
Q1. Beth tell us a little about you?
A1. I have lived in Crystal Palace for 5 years. I previously worked in catering for 20 years, however while bringing up my 3 children, I trained with City and Guilds in Pottery and also studied Enamelling and business studies, gaining a teaching qualification at the same time.
First I had a studio on the triangle making, selling and teaching Pottery. I took over the running of ‘Handmade Palace’ – a collaborative Craft stall in Crystal Palace Food Market, selling locally created art and crafts and grew this into a thriving business. During this time I have made contacts and friends with many local organisations and community groups and I love to collaborate and connect people.
Q2.When did you first come up with the idea for The Paxton Centre and how long did it take you to get it off the ground?
A2. The Paxton Centre was an idea I have been working towards for 10 years. I wanted a space combining a café and art and craft shop offering workshops and courses. The beautiful building, a historic pub ‘The Paxton Arms Hotel’ was in existence for 154 years. I had noticed it as an ideal venue and when it became available, I jumped at the chance to take over the lease and set up business here.
I opened six weeks after the opportunity became a reality! I started it with a very small amount of investment, some furniture from my house and my art and craft contacts. The Centre has evolved over the last two years, and in addition we host live music and open mic nights supporting many other creatives and offer private hire for parties plus local group meetings, clubs, forums and events.
The hot desk space housed on the mezzanine has become very popular because it offers a desk in a vibrant environment and freelancers can stay all day for a small fee.
My Business ethos is to run the centre to promote the local economy, encourage skill sharing and build friendships.
Q3. What is a typical week for you at the Centre?
A3. A typical week at The Paxton Centre would be running the café a couple of days during the week and at weekends. I teach Pottery 2 nights a week here too. The rest of the week I answer enquiries from artists / craftspeople wanting to get involved, book workshops and events, plus follow through my ideas to bring new and interesting elements to the centre. I like to think of myself as Creative Director but am also the cleaner with many roles in-between!
Q4. What was the best advice you were given when starting up?
A4. I started the business with no fear but lots of determination and energy I guess because I had visualised it for so long it seemed the natural progression I had been working towards. After 2 years the Centre has become too big for me to manage on my own and I now have a ‘steering group’ team with me who offer advice and practical solutions to problems that occur and how we can take it to the next level, which I am very grateful for!
“I would rather make a go of the business and fail then spending my life wondering if it would have worked”.
Q5. What is your top tip for motivating yourself to keep focussed and grow the business?
A5. A desire to succeed and create a community space for local people to come together. I always felt I would rather make a go of the business and fail, than spend my life wondering if it would have worked. As it is, the community has very much supported me and still do and I believe The Paxton Centre is a niche business that could be replicated in other towns. I find the future very exciting and filled with endless possibilities.
Have you been to The Paxton Centre? What is your experience of being a freelancer in SE19? We would love to hear from you!
You can find The Paxton centre here:
The Paxton Centre, 52 Anerley Hill, London SE19 2AE
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