MojoLife – its first year in pictures

In December 2010 we had an idea to run an unusual conference; our aim was to provide a platform for those who’d found success in their professional or personal lives to share their stories, inspiring others to follow their example. Our goal was to help those whose lives or businesses were at a cross-roads. 

Over the past 12 months it has grown from an idea to a project and, ultimately, to a company with an office based in Central Manchester. This is the story so far: 

December 2010: From Activate to MojoLife
Like millions of others around the world, we’d been greatly inspired by the TED concept (an extraordinary conference with the strapline ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’). We wanted to create something similar, but focused around stories rather than ideas. Those stories would be told by people who’d found purpose and direction in their lives and act as a catalyst for encouraging others to do the same.  

But we needed to call it something! We thought about the word Activate, but that didn’t quite work. Then, during an idle moment in a Wilmslow cafe, the name ‘mojo’ came up in conversation. We were admiring the energy and inner belief of people like Steve Jobs, Jamie Oliver, Prof Brian Cox and Mary Portas. Their sense of purpose pulled people towards them and created opportunities. They had oodles of mojo – hence the name MojoLife came into being. 

We had a chance meeting with Job Centre Plus about helping unemployed professionals and managers find their mojo (there’s very little relevant support available for people like this). As a result, a plan was hatched to run some work clubs in tandem with a prestigious Cheshire hotel. We were off! 

January 2011: Getting started in Cheshire & Manchester
Our original hotel partner pulled out but we decided to go ahead anyway with different venues in Cheshire and Central Manchester. We used the on-line platform Meetup to arrange and advertise gatherings to support people who had lost their mojo as a result of imminent redundancy and found hotels who happily agreed to offer us their lounges free of charge to host our sessions – many thanks to the Hallmark Hotel (Handforth), Stanneylands (Wilmslow) and Mint Hotel (Manchester) :-)  

February 2011: Meetups
Our weekly Meetups were attended by a diverse range of people – jobseekers, people facing redundancy, people undergoing career or other life change and small business owners. The gatherings grew and there was clearly a need for this form of support. 

March 2011: Programme Launch
Sponsored by the solicitors firm Cobbetts, we launched the first MojoLife learning scheme – a 12 week programme of learning and network support for people facing career and other forms of life change. 

April: The Tribe gathers and an encounter with Sir Ken
The Meetups continued and the MojoLife ‘tribe’ continued to grow. Our gatherings attracted people from across the North West and Yorkshire. Sara introduced the MojoLife concept to one of our heroes – a big inspiration for the MojoLife approach – Sir Ken Robinson, a world authority on creativity and educational reform. 

May: Wakefield and Westminster Beckon
Planning was underway for a Yorkshire launch of MojoLife in Wakefield. A new course (Mojo in a Day) was developed and we met with organisations interested in how we could provide outplacement (post-redundancy) support. Sara received a phone call from the Cabinet Office in London, asking whether we would be interested in speaking about MojoLife at Civil Service Live in Olympia in July. The aim was to introduce some innovative ideas about leadership and how to manage career and organisational change – of course we said ‘Yes’. 

The MojoLife approach appeared as a feature in the North West Business Insider magazine. 

June: Mojo in Wakefield and across the Atlantic
Our Yorkshire launch took place on a warm summer’s evening in the wonderful setting of The Orangery in Wakefield. With the incredible force of Sue Bearder (one of our greatest supporters) behind it, the event attracted 60 people and many signed up to our July Mojo in a Day course. 

The MojoLife concept was presented by Niki Glanz at the International Positive Psychology Association – you can see the presentation here. 

July: Delivering ‘Mojo in a Day’
We delivered our first Mojo-in-a-Day workshops, introducing the main MojoLife principles of self-leadership, pull marketing and personal branding. Events took place in Cheshire, Manchester and Yorkshire.  

In London, MojoLife was presented to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell and TV Dragon, Peter Jones. Andrew and Sara chaired a round table discussion for senior civil servants on change leadership, Ashley Boroda ran stand-up comedy sessions on the MojoLife stand and we discussed change issues with hundreds of civil servants on the MojoLife stand. Many thanks to Cassons Accountants and Andrew Wright for their generous sponsorship, and to our co-exhibitors Lesley Kay and Ameena Ahmed. 

August: Commercial and TV Launch
With further support from Cobbetts Solicitors, we organised our first meeting of MojoLife Associates for the commercial launch. Oli Randell joined the team as Non-Executive Director and our activities gathered pace. Sara and Andrew’s story – and the creation of MojoLife – was published in Civil Service World, distributed to senior civil servants nationally. 

MojoLife TV was launched as an on-line story-sharing platform – click here. 

September: Taking the MojoLife Message to Whitehall
Sara and Andrew travelled to Whitehall to chair a further round table discussion for 25 senior Civil Servants, representing a range of departments including the Home Office, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cabinet Office. 

The first Mojo Live After 5 event took place, a Live Chat format modelled on the TV show Parkinson. Our first guests were actor/film director Darren Gordon and humourist John Hotowka. 

October: A call from the BBC
The MojoLife story was unpicked by interviewer Eddie Mair and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 – listen to it here. Our first official visit to Media City was a memorable experience (read our blog post).

November: Our new Manchester HQ: the ‘Mojo Hub’
It seems a far cry from the dining table and local cafe, but MojoLife recently moved into its new official home in the Spinningfields district of Manchester. We created a new learning ‘hub’ at 64 Bridge Street – it’s the base from which we coach private clients, run inspirational/educational events and rent out some of the superb meeting and training space on the 3rd floor. 

December 2011: Christmas with Mojo
Clients and associates gathered at the Mojo Hub for drinks, followed by dinner at Croma – great to see our space filled with colour, laughter and, of course, stories. 

So this is our story – just the first chapter. There’s so much more to come in 2012! 

We’d like to thank ALL of you who supported us in some way during the last 12 months. Whether you’re a core member of our MojoLife Tribe, or just someone who’s spread the word or attended the odd event, we appreciate your enthusiasm and involvement. 

We wish you every success in 2012. 

With special thanks to… 

Our families
Hallmark Hotel, Handforth
Stanneylands Hotel, Wilmslow
Mint Hotel, Manchester

Cobbetts Law Firm
Sue Bearder
Ashley Boroda
Jill Murray and Les Nutter at Cassons Accountants
Lesley Kay, Parallax Consulting
Ameena Ahmed, Direct Path

Oli Randell

Mark Dicker

Dave Bradburn
Niki Glanz
Helen Varey
Paul Welch in The Cabinet Office
Darren Gordon

John Hotowka

Mark Williams
Sam Flynn
Roger Longden

Ann Bach
Sam Flynn
Stephen Ward at Clerksroom

Low budget? Lessons from Sir Ridley Scott

Listening to Radio 4 this morning, I was interested to hear the views of some experts on how business should respond to the economic crisis. Each panellist conveyed the same sentiment – it’s time to get creative. Working smarter might mean thinking the unthinkable, like collaborating with competitors or otherwise combining resources that wouldn’t normally go together. 

It reminded me of a terrific tale of creative thinking from the movie world, specifically the work of famed British director Sir Ridley Scott. In the pre-digital effects days of the 70’s and 80’s, he produced two of the most remarkable science fiction films of all time – Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) – on what would now be considered a laughably small budget ($11m and $28m respectively). 

But despite the lack of money, Scott created some spectacular special effects and an unforgettable visual experience that still influences movie makers to this day. Faced with anxious financiers, all telling him to cut costs and film faster, Sir Ridley got creative… 

Alien – Long corridors

Scott wanted to create long corridors within the spacecraft The Nostromo, but budget constraints meant it was impossible to build more than a few metres of the interior. The director used one of the oldest tricks in the book, using mirrors to replicate that single section and create the illusion of depth. 

Ship’s legs

When the astronauts land on an alien planet (when will they ever learn?), Scott wanted to create the impression of scale for the landing craft. He had a sizeable model made of the ship, but in a scene where the space-suited cast walked by the legs of the craft, the director wasn’t happy about the implied scale – the ship just seemed too small. Undaunted, he had his own children don suits and play the adult characters, thus correcting the imbalance. 

Alien Egg

The eponymous aliens emerge from leathery eggs, with which actor John Hurt has an all-too close encounter. Kneeling down to examine the curious cocoon, he sees movement inside and realises it’s a form of life. In actual fact, it was the director wriggling his hands while wearing washing up gloves! 

Alien Dissection

The crew later examine part of dead alien at close quarters and Scott creates a realistic-looking autopsy scene. In actual fact, a visit to the local fishmongers provided a shell and a range of oysters, clams and other fare to create the alien look. 

Blade Runner - Night Filming

Hampered by budget, Scott had to film on a movie lot in Los Angeles rather than real locations. But he feared this would restrict his ability to create the futuristic look he wanted, with its verticality and grimey environment. So he filmed at night, and made it rain incessantly – something star Harrison Ford wasn’t too thrilled about!


Scott was particularly drawn to two structures in LA – The Bradbury Building and Union Station. Each day, he filmed in The Bradbury but agreed to start at 6pm and clean up by 6am, when the building was ‘returned’ for normal use. This daily clean-up was a huge headache, but the crew discovered that bits of cork scattered on the ground would at once look like dirt and mud while at the same time absorb the fake rain they were using. 

Union Station (pictured left) doubled as police headquarters, and a significant saving was made on the location fee by agreeing to leave the fake Police Chief’s office for permanent use.


A little help from Stanley Kubrick

After the initial screening, some executives felt the ending was too gloomy and Scott was persuaded to add on a more optimistic conclusion, with the male and female leads driving off into the sunset. But to film an overhead sequence in dramatic scenery proved problematic, with the inevitable time and financial constraints. But the director remembered a scene at the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining. Knowing the auteur Kubrick’s obsession for perfection, Scott suspected he might have spare footage, and sure enough some outtakes from The Shining appear in this version of Blade Runner. 

Whether or not you’re a movie buff, the creative genius of Sir Ridley Scott is surely an inspiration to those of us faced with challenging times and diminishing budgets. But if the desire to produce quality work remains strong, the best thinkers will always find a way.