Going Solo: Bringing brave words and wild imagination to life with House of Solo’s lifestyle magazine

Abeiku Arthur is a budding entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of House of Solo; a slick and glossy lifestyle magazine that he created to give a platform to emerging artists in creative industries. In March of this year, the IOEE matched Arthur with a mentor, Anastasia Georgiou, a Manager with Lloyds Banking Group. This month we caught up with them to talk about the importance of listening, digital versus print magazines, and helping Britain prosper.

Arthur’s Story

Having launched House of Solo only last year, Arthur is in the early stages of his entrepreneurial career, yet it is clear that the ambition, drive and determination that has brought him this far will serve him and his magazine as he grows the business going forward.

Arthur originally trained as a graphic designer. His skills and talent in this field are evident in his upmarket and stylish publication, and he worked in this industry before he landed a job at a modelling agency. His role was outside of where he wanted to focus his career, but working there gave him the inspiration and confidence to carve out his own career path and launch his own magazine. Arthur says:

“I was scouting for models and securing contracts at the agency, and one day we were contacted by GQ magazine, who wanted to use one of our artists. Once it was published and I saw it online, it made me think about how most of the models on our books need that platform to raise their profile, but it’s so rare to get the opportunity. And that became my inspiration for House of Solo magazine: To promote upcoming artists who are in the early stages of their careers and need a place to showcase themselves and their work – so they could build up a portfolio that would eventually help them get those big gigs for GQ or Vogue and suchlike. That’s how it began, really, as a portfolio. But then I launched the first issue in 2016 and everything took off from there.”

Arthur describes House of Solo magazine as having a ‘unique perspective on culture, fashion and lifestyle’. Its content is crafted to start conversations and empower readers to see the beauty in the bigger picture, through giving a voice to the creative process behind art and fashion, and allowing its pages to flood with ‘bold colours, brave words and wild imagination’. In essence, House of Solo is alive with Arthur’s positive artistic vision, but being a first-time entrepreneur meant that he felt he needed support with the business side of the company to help it reach its first potential. Arthur says:

“I looked for a mentor because I knew that I needed guidance with my projects and my goals. And it’s a difficult journey setting up a business, so it’s good to kind of get someone there with you and ‘on your side’, to be on that journey with you. I got matched up with Anastasia and we started off with a phone interview, and then met up in a café a couple of weeks later and I showed her the magazine – and we clicked! She went through the prototype and was really excited, and I felt like she trusted me and believed in what I was doing. Basically, we really liked each other – she’s exactly the person I’d been looking for and is the mentor I would have chosen for myself.”

Arthur says that one of the most significant conversations that he and Anastasia have had has been discussing the merits of both digital and print publications, where they both had different ideas about what would help to propel House of Solo forward:

“Anastasia suggested I look at the benefits of ‘going digital’, but I was set on sticking to print. Digital wasn’t where my heart lay, print is my passion, and Anastasia respected that and guided me through various other aspects of the business. However, she was right! I’m now going to do both – digital is cheaper, more cost-effective, and the way a lot of people are looking for their content these days.”

Arthur says that it is this – having someone who encourages you to look at ideas from different perspectives – is the biggest the biggest benefit of having a mentor:

“It’s having someone to talk through all these ideas with, who listens to you and believes in you, just knowing that someone is out there for you when you’re working on your own. It’s hard work, but people already want to support the magazine, and I’m always looking for writers and artists to contribute. House of Solo is starting to really grow and is being distributed in shops across the UK and in other countries, and when we’re digital too, we’ll be able to reach an even bigger audience.”

Anastasia’s Story

Anastasia spent 20 years working abroad in offshore finance and the private banking industry, before returning to the UK four years ago. She now works in the Control Office of Lloyds Banking Group in the Assurance Monitoring Team, where her team offers specialist advice and contact to ensure that LBG is compliant with UK and global regulations. In 2014, one of Anastasia’s colleague gave a presentation in a team meeting, and it was through this that she initially became inspired to mentor. Anastasia says:

“I wanted the challenge and to develop and enhance skills that would be beneficial to me in day-to-day work life, such as really listening and looking at problems from different angles. We need to be able to do these things well when we’re watching a presentation or focusing in a meeting, but so often we’re distracted by how busy our day is and what we’ve got to do next etc. I wanted to professionally develop whilst also helping someone else, and it also gets you out of the office and into another element of working life too. In addition to that, you’re really expanding your professional portfolio and gaining mentoring qualifications at the same, which is fantastic.”

After meeting up with Arthur, he explained that he wanted to take House of Solo down a ‘paper’ magazine route, producing something glossy that would sit on a coffee table, but Anastasia suggested considering the digital market too:

“Working in an advisory capacity in my day job means that my instinct is to challenge him with questions. Why not online? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and safer? But that’s not always the role of a mentor. He wanted to create a physical magazine and although I can help him to look at things from a different perspective, it’s my job to guide him and support him and give him unbiased feedback. In fact, it surprised me just how much a mentee can gain from a mentor, even without delivering anything specific, just by being a sounding board and being there for them. That can be invaluable in itself.”

However, as time has gone on, Arthur has relooked at including a digital offering with House of Solo, and Anastasia feels that this will not only reach a wider audience, but will also help him to secure investors in these early stages of his business:

“Without digital in his business plan, it was difficult for Arthur to pitch his magazine to investors and secure any financial support. Now Arthur has both the print format and the plans for an online magazine, and with that online forecast and some great print content and inspiring artists in there already, he should hopefully be able to draw in strong investors.”

Anastasia now mentors several people at the time and would encourage other business people to do the same. She says:

“If anyone is thinking about becoming a mentor, I’d absolutely encourage them to go and explore it. It’s richly rewarding and you’re making a real difference – not only to the mentee’s company and your own career, but in the bigger picture too – you’re helping small businesses flourish and the economy to grow. By becoming a mentor, you’re actually helping to make Britain prosper, and that’s an incredible thing to be able to do.”