The So & So Arts Club
The So & So Arts Club was founded eight years ago with a vision to form a broad community of people from across the creative industry, to open doors and build a supportive network and platform to develop professional paid opportunities.
Founder and Artistic Director, Sarah Berger started the business after 32 years as an actress, using contacts from her career to offer support and encourage people to collaborate. The business continues to pave the way in breaking down barriers for people who might have found it hard to break into the performing arts, bringing people from across generations and ethnicities together to generate paid work.
Like many other small businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced immediate and disastrous circumstances for Sarah’s business. The business had to close down during lockdown and was unable to reopen for the foreseeable future. Financial implications led to future commitments and programmes being postponed and difficult decisions regarding staff along the way.
Initially the So & So Arts Club reached out to look for financial aid and business advice, to help pivot and restructure the business in order to survive. The business adviser Raj Tandon provided general business advice specific to the industry. Moreover, he provided avenues for seeking financial help and connected Sarah with helpful contacts such as the Hammersmith and Fulham council who could support the business. Sarah found great comfort in having a listening ear and professional guidance that wasn’t emotionally driven to help with the club’s particular set of challenges in a complex and ever-changing situation.
Sarah’s first objective was to save the venue, due to its value as a community hub. Seeking support proved to be most vital during this tough period, particularly when Sarah became ill with COVID-19 and had to go into self-isolation.
Sarah was also able to access support from City Hall, including a free webinar on applying for the Culture Recovery Fund and setting up a campaign on the Mayor of London’s Pay it Forward London programme. View ‘The So & So Arts Club’ Crowdfunder here. The campaign closed on 25 October 2020.
Due to the support and advice, she received, Sarah has made key business decisions, such as renegotiating terms with the landlord and restructuring the venue to maximise the use of space. Sarah handed over the responsibility of running the cafe part of the venue, thereby relieving some of her financial burdens.
Additionally, financial support received through the advice offered has enabled Sarah to finish building work and maintain the venue until it can return to normal service.
However, one of Sarah’s biggest benefits was a confidence boost – helping her stay motivated to steer her business through the challenges of COVID-19
“I would wholeheartedly recommend the London Business Hub as it has been an invaluable source of advice and support for both the business and me personally. At a time when the pressure seemed insurmountable and I came close to giving up, it gave me the strength and purpose to carry on.”