I know I hadn’t before I started Shine ALOUD, writes Rianna

Shine ALOUD is a quarterly sexual health interactive publication that aims to educate as well as entertain young people aged 15 – 24 about sex and relationships combined with arts and culture.

My journey

As I teenager, I found myself questioning everything to do with sex; kissing, touching, relationships contraception – literally the whole topic of intimacy was a puzzle, not just for myself, but nearly all the young people I knew.

The only Sex Education we received in school was in year 10, where we were taught how to use and dispose of condoms. Topics such as pregnancy, family structure, other contraception methods or homosexuality never made the agenda, which partially explains why 1 in 27 young people become young parents in addition to 1 in 10 young people catching STI’s such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea.

We had no knowledge of the services available to us, or who to turn to for guidance or advice.

Putting my skills to use

After working for the Terrence Higgins Trust as a Sexual Health Assistant, as well delivering workshops as Peer Educator for Shine NHS, I started to notice how misinformed and uneducated young people where about sex. This worry, coupled with my passion for journalism, led me to create a magazine that would support young people, dispel myths and allow young people to feel empowered by sexuality, as well express their creativity.

In August 2011 I had nothing but the idea. Whilst on my placement at Men’s Health Magazine, I decided to make the idea a reality. I applied for O2 Think Big funding to publish the first edition.

I approached the Editor of Men’s Health Magazine, Morgan Rees who helped me to create a flat plan for the publication and organise the content. I also received substantial support from my mentor, Lawrence Gosling of Incisive Media, who gave me feedback on the articles, suggestions for future content and allowed me access to computers and staff in his office to create a mock design of first issue.

At the time I had just finished my Journalism Course at the Catch 22 Academy, the brainchild of Tokunbo Ajasa-Olwua (@ToksyTweets). During my 12 weeks on the course, I was taught the foundations of journalism, all of which I applied to the magazine. The course was inspiring and eye opening, it made me think if Toks can do it, why I can’t I?

I set up the website myself, using tips from Google and YouTube, and got a friend to design the logo for the magazine. Luckily I had a great circle of creative people around me who were all keen to develop their skills. I used this to my advantage by getting a few friends to contribute articles, artwork and adverts and from there the magazine was complete.
I began to see things differently. I made it my priority to ask questions use my network and generally teach myself things – Google became my best friend!

Since the first issue

Thankfully the first issue of the magazine launched in October 2011, 38 pages deep, accumulating 800 views and 300 Facebook likes. I couldn’t stop there! I kept receiving emails and comments from people asking when the next issue would be out and how they could contribute to the magazine.

I was in shock I didn’t expect it to be received so well, I genuinely thought it would be a small project I created during my free summer before my first year at Uni little did I know it would continue for 2 more years.

I enrolled myself on a weeklong Entrepreneurs course with CIDA in Bethnal green, there I met another handful creative people. I learnt how to create a Unique Selling Point for the magazine, how to identify my market, as well gain a better understanding of what legal structure to use. During this week, I also had the opportunity to pitch my idea to a mini dragons den panel which consisted of musician Wretch 32, Zeon Richards of Xyzee Music, Diri from Creative Nerds, Carla Marie Williams from Big Mouth Entertainment, Posty from Grime Daily and actor Jason Maza.

Although my idea didn’t win the judges votes, Zeon believed in my project and granted me £250 from his own pocket, which helped me create the 2nd edition of the magazine. Since then I have been granted £500 funding from The Alec Dickinson Trust which helped to create the new website for the magazine and further editions, as well as receiving £1200 from the Starbucks Youth in Action fund which allowed me to deliver sexual health workshops in a local youth hostel as well as create a short film with young mothers.

To date there are now 4 issues of the magazine, it has received over 18,000 views and over 1500 Facebook likes which is a demonstration of its growing audience. Earlier this year, I was granted the Business in the Community award for Newham, this opportunity has given my access to mentors who have helped to develop and direct my business, as well as a £5000 loan from the Fredrick’s Foundation. Most recently, I have now become a student at the The School for Social Entrepreneurs where I have been awarded a grant of £4000 by Lloyds Banking Group to continue my business ventures.

I have also featured in The Voice Newspaper, Arts London News, The Stratford Recorder, The Newham Magazine and NHS Trust Talk in addition to being nominated for the JLS Young Person of The Year Award by FPA and Brook.

For the future

My vision is to create a generation of young people who are empowered and confident about sexuality which allow them to make informed choices. Currently I am recruiting a team of young people to be a part of the Shine ALOUD journey, where we will educate as well as entertain youth about sex and relationships, through the use of interactive media such as workshops, events, videos, and magazine.

I believe in peer education and I feel that young people have a lot to offer in terms of creativity. Through training young people as peer educators, they can continue to develop skills all of which will allow them to become strong influential leaders in their local and global community.

Along my journey I have been able to develop my public speaking skills, organisation skill as well as partnerships skills, all of which have been a crucial part to the success of my business ventures.

My five top tips:

1.   Identify your market. Who are they? Why would they buy or use your product? You have to be aware of who your audience is. Hold a focus group to with a random selection of people to test your product or generally do research.

2.   Create a dream team. If you delegate roles you can work more efficiently. Draw on the skills of your friends or colleagues around you. Although you may want to do everything yourself, REALISTICALLY you can’t.

3.   Set targets and goals. How can you start the car if you don’t know where you’re going? Visualise where you want to be next week, next month or next year and then set goals to get there.

4.   Be resilient. You will get rejected! You will hear no! But use the NOs to your advantage to improve your product, pitch or business plan. Get feedback on whatever you do. Be positive, a YES will come!

5.   Take a break. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, the late nights, not eating, glued to your laptop editing proposals, or websites, bit if you don’t take a break then you will break. You have to allocate time to clear your head and breath as well as reap the rewards of your hard work.

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, O2 Think Big is celebrating some of the projects funded and entrepreneurial young people we have helped to take their first steps.

Rianna is the editor and founder of Shine ALOUD. She works as a Talent Agent for the Foyer Federation on a new initiative called Pop Up Talent, which aims to stimulate young people’s interests in work and education. Her background includes journalism and sexual health promotions where she has freelanced for the likes of MTV, The Voice Newspaper and Don’t Panic Online in addition to working for the NHS and Terrence Higgins Trust.

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on:
press@virginmediao2.co.uk 01753 565656
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