Our Business and Operations manager Lu-Lu Evans caught up with Leah Dennison from Stronger Stories, who until recently have been residents Upstairs at ONCA.
Stronger Stories is a storytelling organisation that helps people with good ideas get the attention they deserve and inspire action. Having now outgrown their space upstairs at ONCA, they have now flown the coop but have returned to tell us about their journey.
Lu-Lu: Can you tell us who Stronger Stories are and what you do?
Leah: We’re a story innovation business, we work with clients whose mission is to further one of the sustainable development goals. We help clients who want to change the conversation, open new opportunities and make a difference. Recent clients include Good Money, Stay Up Late, The Real Junk Food Project, Rewilding Sussex and Extinction Rebellion.
We also work with bigger organisations like Wagamama, working on a ‘buy one, give one’ system – we use the profits made from these projects to support community projects.
Lu-Lu: What’s your role and how did you come to work for Stronger Stories?
Leah: I’m head of community, looking after events, networks and people.
Lu-Lu: Why did you choose ONCA as a co-working space?
Leah: As a small start-up, there were just the two founders Guy and Will, then I came along as their first employee. When I first joined we were working out of cafes in Brighton. My first job was to find us an office space. I put a post on Facebook and someone suggested I contact ONCA. You were the first place I looked at and I loved it, the other places weren’t flexible enough for us. We needed a space where we could put stuff on the walls and have a proper home. It was also really important to us that there were shared values around sustainability. ONCA’s values really sold it to us as an ethical organisation.
Stronger Stories are now a carbon neutral agency, this wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else! We also really love the ecosystem at ONCA, meeting interesting people in the kitchen whilst making a cup of tea in the morning. Zoe worked for Stronger Stories in a freelance role, now she has her own desk at ONCA.
Lu-Lu: What’s your journey been like with us?
Leah: We joined ONCA 3 years ago as Long Run Works – during our time at ONCA we went through a huge shift in our processes. We wanted to take more risks, so changed our business model and committed to being a non profit, we went from being a traditional consultancy to a social enterprise that re-invests our profits back into community projects. We are leaving ONCA as Stronger Stories. Our team has also doubled in size, we started as 3 people, we’re leaving as a team of 6+.
We actually had our launch event for Stronger Stories on ONCA’s Barge, which was great – it was a really good event and the perfect space for it!
Lu-Lu: What’s been your fondest memory?
Leah: For Stronger Stories, probably the launch event on the Barge. For me, the additional activities like BSL (British Sign Language) were great, making new friends and learning a new skill. I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t at ONCA. And I loved yoga at ONCA. It’s been more than just a work space for me.
… And that one time I pulled a lasagna out of the microwave [laughing]… the only time I used the microwave in 3 years, when I pulled it out it was so hot it was burning my hands, I didn’t know what to do but it was really really hot, I actually have burns on my hands from it. The back door (to the garden) was open so in a panic I just threw it out of the door, it went all down the steps and in the garden. I had to get down on my hands and knees and clear it up. Good thing Lydia wasn’t coming up the stairs at that moment! That was my funniest memory at ONCA.
It’s been so good being here, and it being such a versatile space – it’s been great running HERD events in the gallery and on the Barge – that’s been really invaluable. HERD is an underground storytelling club that pops up in unusual spaces in Brighton – it’s always been really popular at ONCA.
Lu-Lu: What exciting projects are you working on at Stronger Stories?
Leah: We’re developing an online story school, so all the tools we use in our consultations – we’ve digitalised them and put them onto an e-learning platform so organisations can log on for free and access the tools we use in workshops. It’s launching in 2019… watch this space.
Lu-Lu: We’d like to thank you for being amazing residents with us for three years. We’re sad to be saying goodbye but excited to see you grow and continue doing amazing work.
Photo credit: © Stronger Stories