Huma and I met a few months ago when we both took a business blogging course given by the fantastic Kayte Ferris at Simple and Season. She runs Our Story Time, a beautifully curated online store where imagination and thoughtfulness are key. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the idea behind Huma's store and I knew pretty much straight away that I wanted to interview her for the heiter blog. I am very pleased I can share this interview with you now.
Hi Huma, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Can you perhaps start off by introducing yourself and talking about your background.
Sure, my name is Huma, I live with my husband and three children aged 4, 3 and nearly 1 in North London. I am, in no particular order, a writer, a curator, a mama, a wife and also a shop owner.
I have always been a story teller and worked as a writer for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers in the UK for several years. I wrote long length features, sometimes about myself, mostly about moments in other people's lives and I was approached by a publisher who had seen my work and asked if I had any book ideas. This in turn led to a book deal and I wrote my first book, In Spite of Oceans, a collection of literary short stories about family life, and the turns and twists of cultures we inherit. In Spite of Oceans ended up winning an award and being well-reviewed in the press, which was a wonderful feeling. As well as being a writer, I’ve also always been very inspired by the beauty of simple aesthetics – in my previous work, I wrote for and even occasionally styled for interiors magazines and also ran a successful interiors blog on the side for many years. So both writing and styling have come together in the creation of Our Story Time.
How did Our Story Time start and why?
While pregnant with my third child, I decided it was time for a fresh start. I had this very strong need to feel creative, in a way that combined my passions and strengths. I was supposed to be writing my second book at the time and submitting the first few chapters to my literary agent, but I was struggling with a difficult pregnancy and simply couldn't find the space I needed to write. I felt this real need to follow my heart at my own pace and not to anyone else's deadlines. I had always wanted to find a way to combine both my love of aesthetics with my writing and story-telling, and Our Story Time became the way to do this. I wanted to create a really beautiful space, albeit online for now, but a space which would make the act of shopping a creative and imaginative pursuit, a place where you can add magic and wonder to your every day. I am not a maker of things, but a writer of words, and I felt I could bring beautiful products to life through Our Story Time. Our Story Time was launched in October 2017, two months after my baby boy was born. And that’s where I am at right now.
Why is Our Story Time different to other businesses?
I almost feel strange calling Our Story Time a business - the word "business" itself strips away room for creativity, doesn't it? And I suppose that is the difference for Our Story Time. I feel it's different because rather than just being a business, I feel like I'm creating a small world of escape. It's not just a shop from which you can buy pretty things. It's a shop where you can imagine yourself into a sense of timelessness and lose yourself in imagination. This is in great part down to the talented workers and suppliers I work with, and I also take immense care and thought in the act of curation as I have a very specific mood that I want Our Story Time to capture. Again, I guess this makes me different - I try to think beyond purely the products and think about the escapism I'm offering people. So I do this through writing on my blog and telling little stories of my own life there too. It's a very personal business too in that respect.
What are the advantages of being a business owner?
I get to follow my heart, make my own choices, do whatever I want to do every single day. From a practical point, I can work around my three little boys and be there for them, and yet also balance my business on my own terms around my family life. I went freelance after I left the newspapers for a few years, and I think ever since then, I'd struggle to go back to a world in which someone else was telling me what to do.
What are your biggest challenges?
Time. My little boys are small and need me so very much; I do sometimes wish that I could just have a little more time to get through everything each week but at the same time I've also come to accept that I just work at my own pace as and when I can.
What is the best business advice anyone has ever given you?
Always remember your why - the essence of your business, the heart and soul of why you do what you do. It's not about "what" you do but "why" you do it.
What would you recommend to anyone who’s looking to start their own business?
Don't wait for the perfect time because there is no perfect time - simply get started. Until you start, you have no idea of what beautiful journey you might end up on. You can't always plan everything so go with the flow and be open to change. If you can, find a business coach to whom you can be accountable to really push yourself and make things happen. Kayte at Simple and Season is my coach, and she has lighted my path with so much clarity and guides me gently to where I need and want to be.
What’s next for you & Our Story Time?
This summer, I have a number of pop-ups planned for Our Story Time which I'm excited about as part of the magic of Our Story Time is that the products are wonderfully tactile and really need to be picked up and marvelled at to let their beauty shine through. I can't wait to meet people, talk to people, at my pop-ups too. I'm also working on something very exciting and planning ways in which to really bring my writing to the forefront of Our Story Time and help others find their creative writing voice.
How would you describe a perfect heiter (cheerful) moment?
My perfect heiter moment would be in the garden or at a beautiful park space with my husband and my boys around me; the sun shining down, an oak tree for shade, a picnic, happy children, a gorgeous afternoon. I love having that feeling of not needing to be anywhere else but in the moment with those I love.
Interview: Katharina Geissler-Evans
Images: Huma, Our Story Time