It all started in April when I got a message from Hydra inviting me for a lunchtime cuppa…oh and to bring an open mind!!!
With some trepidation (that last statement can mean all sorts of things) I went to meet her at Out of the Woods. Over a brew, she explained her ambitious plans to start Rule 56 and organise a roller derby coaching conference – a UK first.
For a year she had been my head coach with Leeds Roller Dolls’ Wrecking Brawls so I knew her credentials there: she is a brilliant and dedicated coach. And for anyone that knows her, she doesn’t do anything by half so I knew she’d be dreaming big. (Oh and she knows all the words to the songs in Mary Poppins!) So when she asked whether I’d like to be her business partner, I was excited to give it a go. I was already quitting my job so one more adventurous decision seemed fine.
One of the first things we did was get a logo designed (from the talented and generous Lee Moyer) and set up Twitter and Facebook accounts. We decided on roles and one of Hydra’s was to head up social media. So she started teasing the Twittershpere about who we were.
Armed with post-its, we then met to plan what Rule 56 was and what our website would look like. The table at the coffee shop was awash with neon as we tried to narrow it down into what we were offering: as coaches, the conference and other huge plans that we since had to put on hold as they were a little toooo ambitious.
It was my job to build the website whilst Hydra did some coaching and planned the content for Derby Stance. I had never done anything remotely similar to building a website, so there was a lot of trial and error involved, and not always a lot to show for my hours of faffing.
Sometimes we would meet for our weekly get-togethers and it would look like I’d done sod all whilst Hydra reeled off the amazing speakers who were getting involved. Or the brilliant Female Coaching Network & UKRDA coming onboard.
This changed a little when I started to search for sponsors. It was during this time that we often felt a true sense of warmth and fuzziness from local business and the derby community. There were people who jumped straight on board when we had not much more than a draft website and major plans.
Eiger Studios and New Craven Hall in Leeds gave us an amazing deal because they wanted to support us as a local start up. And Roller Derby City said yes immediately to being involved in some way. We didn’t know what form that would take but Slams and her team were really encouraging and excited from day one.
As you can see from the number of sponsors on our site, people have been amazingly generous and given what they could to the two unknowns from Yorkshire. Whether it’s The Works helping us put on a party for anyone who might want to put wheels on. Or another local non-derby gem, Northern Monk, who try and support as many community ventures as possible – especially fellow independents.
Once we had the speakers and the venue secured, it was time to announce it to the derby world. And we were bowled over by the enthusiasm and warm outpouring of support. Obviously we have had wobbles but when people have dropped us an excited message or Tweet about what we’re trying to achieve, it has kept us going.
This was all being worked around trips to Playoffs and Mayday Mayhem and milestone birthdays, so it stopped us compulsively checking ticket sales every ten minutes – although there was a bit of that. Willing the numbers to change so we knew we wouldn’t have to sell our skates and busk on the streets of Leeds – as we’d tried to keep the cost down as best we could so as many people as possible could attend.
As word spread, we were also thrilled to be featured by The Derby Apex, exploring where next for UK roller derby. And Smarty Pants not only has brilliant PR ideas (as well as being a chuffin’ superb coach, obvs) but has also done everything she can to promote the event in whatever way we’ve asked. So held an interview with Scottish Roller Derby which gave us a small taste of just how much she has to say about coaching…and the fact that all of it is interesting.
During the process, we have had weekly meetings to try and keep on top of things. It has been tricky working around jobs and life – and holidays/roller derby tournaments. But on the whole, we’ve kept to deadlines. Hydra likes to use online organisers and I like pen and paper but we’ve found a happy medium where we’re not too stressed. Although ask us that in a week when we’re running around doing last minute jobs.
This has been a huge learning experience for both of us and sometimes we have gone the long route round because we didn’t know any better. We have worked our socks off to try and make it a success. But we could not have done this without the support from so many people – friends (I’m not going to start naming as I’m bound to miss someone) and strangers who are now friends.
We know that the weekend is going to be ace because our derby community is truly special – we have a kerzillion stories from this process to prove it!