The simplest questions to ask are often the most difficult to answer.
When I’m asked where the idea of A Million Stories came from its difficult to create a clear picture without giving a full life story.
Not appropriate for a first blog post so let’s start with the abridged version.
I’m Simon, an interior designer, married with 2 amazing girls, 2 cheeky dogs and a lazy cat. We live together in a small village just outside Tunbridge Wells, Kent, where we work from during the week and tend to the garden at weekends. This very much feels like our ‘forever home’ and we’re incredibly grateful for where we are.
Our miniature Daxijack Maggie is a natural in front of the camera
Since graduating from university my wife Jill and I have worked as interior designers, creating memorable and engaging environments for our wonderful clients across the UK and overseas.
Between us we have over 40 years experience in the design industry, its the one game we know and love and remains our passion.
For us to consider moving in a different direction would have seemed incomprehensible 5 years ago. So what changed?
I’ve thought about this a lot and put it down to 2 simple yet fundamental points. We changed, and so did the world around us.
So pretty much everything then.
The change within us was subtle. There seemed to be a natural maturing of our minds which allowed us to let go of some of the values we held during our 20 and 30s, so we were opening ourselves up to the notion of change.
On the other hand the transition in the world seemed palpable. A gradual revealing of the mental health crisis faced across the western world, increasing suicide rates notably among my own demographic, stories of bullying that due to social media extend way beyond the school gates, invading homes, causing life changing damage, civil war and conflict that has seen almost 80 million people forcibly displaced from their homes and communities (I’m sorry - 80 MILLION?!), a rise in political vitriol and a decline in genuine moral leadership, the stark contrast and expanding gulf between the haves and the have-nots, homelessness, racism, abuse, intolerance. The list seemed to be endless and we haven’t even mentioned the two elephants in the room of the environmental crisis and the global pandemic.
Statistics from UNHCR UK
The space that was opening up for us was at risk of being filled by world news events that left us feeling threatened and confused. This was meant to be the best time ever to be alive so why were so many people struggling?
The noise was incessant, we wanted to help but felt overwhelmed by the scale of the challenges. We didn’t know where to start but knew we had to do something.
We needed to take action.
So one afternoon around the kitchen table Jill and I started talking about where our life was at and what we thought about things. We listed everything we loved, the people we liked spending time with and the activities we enjoyed doing. We thought about what wasn't working for us and what we ought to change. As the conversation started to deepen, to make sure we didn’t lose track, we rolled out the big sheets of paper, the chunky marker pens and we started writing.
Over the next 6 hours or so we created a rudimentary audit of our lives which served as a guide to help us think about how our future could take a greener, more sustainable, more socially and ethically responsible path.
Our life audit
It was during this process that we arrived at the idea of attempting to join up the two most pressing urges we were feeling at that time. The continued urge to design and create premium products and spaces, and the newer, growing urge to help out by supporting others and protecting the planet.
We talked around this for a few weeks and fleshed out the idea by creating a loose scoping document that included assumptions, research, images and articles.
Where we landed with our thinking was ‘would it be possible to create product designs based on the experiences of amazing people. People who’ve faced tough challenges and want to get their lives back on track but maybe aren’t getting the breaks, their voice not being heard. We could invite them to share their experiences with us in a safe environment. Between us we could co-create a collection of beautiful designs which cast light on elements of their journey, giving their stories space to breathe. Let's make sure this takes a positive angle so we’re creating something hopeful, Lord knows the world could do with a lift. We’d then promote the designs over social media with the aim of highlighting their cause, starting a conversation, building support, sharing ideas and ultimately raising money through sales. And a share of the profits would go right back to them.’
That was the basic idea. Not very polished or succinct at the time but definitely the seeds of something exciting that got us very excited.
The notion didn’t land with a bolt of lighting. On the contrary we had to work at it and invest a lot of time and energy into the why and the how. Slowly our thoughts crystallised and with the help of a few trusted friends we arrived at the name and the aim of A Million Stories - to change lives through design.
We are very proud of our logo and what it stands for
All along we were adamant we wanted to put our purpose at the heart of everything we did. It had to be mission before profit.
By embarking on this journey our aim is to build upon our design knowledge by creating an outstanding collection of unique products that we can offer to like-minded people around the world who appreciate luxury and want to support change.
We’re at the start of a long trail, one we’re excited to have uncovered and feel compelled to walk.
I hope somebody reads this one day. If you do then please drop me an email and let me know your thoughts.
Until then, keep smiling.