News | 4th December 2019

Do What You Love | Love What You Do: Jenna Elsby, Creative Strategist

Starting Out

I’ve always had an affinity with words and storytelling. As a child I would invent stories, write lyrics for songs and imagined scripts for my favourite shows on television. I was fortunate to go to a great school, and specialised in the arts as soon as I could make those sorts of choices. I went on to Study English Literature and Film at the University of Southampton. Adding a different medium to my love of stories opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities available to me. I went from pouring over the pages of Tennesse Williams to getting lost in the world of Hitchcock and drooling over the sepia-toned scenes of Casablanca. My dissertation was on Fashion in Film (fashion being another passion of mine) and I left with a First Class honours degree and a place at grad school to study Fashion Journalism at the London College of Fashion. I know there’s a great debate at the moment about the value of education over experience, especially in the creative space, but I wouldn’t trade my qualifications or years drinking cheap wine in dodgy bars with other arts students for anything. It was a time in my life where I could indulge and cement my love of literature with complete abandon and that experience stays with me to this day.

London / Sydney / Surrey / Cheltenham

Moving to London, having grown up in rural Wales, was an experience to say the least. I remember in my first week, meeting someone’s eyes on the tube and smiling at them. He turned to me and said, “you’re not from round here are you?” I’m not sure I ever fitted in wholly there. I was attracted to its vibrancy and buzz; the theatres, bars, restaurants and music, but it felt completely impenetrable. After my studies, and following an internship at EMAP magazines, I moved across from journalism into PR. I ended up working for an agency that represented Fashion brands on the Kings Road in Chelsea. I was exposed to some incredible brands and experiences, London Fashion Week being a stand out - but the industry didn’t suit me. “The Devil Wears Prada” was penned for a reason, and I found that out first hand. When an opportunity arose to move to Sydney I jumped at it head first. I lived and worked in Australia for eight years. I loved the Aussie mentality of rewarding attitude and embracing people that were willing to get the job done regardless of your background. I went out to a rooftop pool club in the heart of the city one night and fell in love with the place. It was like a scene from a movie, the music, the people, the decor, the food - all without the pomp or “standoffishness” of my London experiences. The next day I researched who owned the place, found a name and guessed his email address. A month later I walked into the head office as the newest member of their events team.

The company was a family-owned empire of over 50 incredible bars, restaurants and hotels sprawled across various neighbourhoods and waterfront locations in Sydney. It was my transition into hospitality and despite being thousands of miles away, it felt like coming home. I progressed in that environment and took on the position of Experiential Marketing Manager where I worked on the group’s annual Food & Wine Festival. I worked alongside world renowned chefs, industry leading visual stylists, festival sponsors, creatives, PR and media partners to create a six week program of events and experiences across all of the group’s properties. I was completely spoilt. The exposure I got in that role and the on the job skills I learnt were the making of my career. When I left that company I worked across a few contract positions before taking the plunge and establishing my own business as a creative consultant in the luxury hospitality space.

Foodie Adventures

Two years later, and with a two year old in tow, the pull for home became too much and we relocated back to the UK to make a home in Surrey. I kept one Australian client going for as long as was feasible before securing a project with Heston Blumenthal in Bray. He had just opened his first overseas restaurant in Melbourne, so my Aussie connection gave me a foot in the door. Following that I really began to cement myself in the foodie world. I took all my insights from working behind the scenes at large scale events and for high end restaurants to teach workshops on how to host next level dining experiences in your own home.  I adapted recipes I had learnt in the kitchens of Sydney and turned them into easy to execute versions for home cooks. I also showed people how to style an environment, choose the right playlight to create atmosphere and all the little touchpoints that collectively make a fantastic event. I was offered a column in the food section of Surrey Life magazine, choosing a different season or theme each issue, and was invited to do demonstrations and talks with incredible lifestyle brands such as Anthropolgie UK. I catered and styled for private events in my spare time, and provided strategic advice for various hospitality clients by day.

Soulful Suppers

The greatest joy in the work I was doing was to see the positive effect it had on the people I was working for.  No matter what pressures a person is going through, when people sit down and enjoy a fabulously prepared meal in an inspiring environment, it unites them. This gave me the inspiration to launch Soulful Suppers in support of Mind, the mental health charity. An initiative that raised money and awareness for mental health through open conversation and genuine connection over a dinner table. Wagamamas UK heard about the cause and kindly offered to sponsor it and host a launch event in their test kitchen in Soho, London. I wrote a supporting e-book  full of recipes and suggestions for people to host their own Soulful Suppers and ended up going on a little tour with Wagamama, hosting events in various destinations in the UK. I was invited onto BBC Radio London to chat with Gaby Roslin about the project, which seemed to resonate with so many people who were craving these sorts of authentic experiences with friends and loved ones.

It’s about weaving all of that information into not only the visual expression of the hotel, but also in the language they use, the decor choices they make, the experiences they offer and the way they make people feel as a result.

Jenna Elsby, Creative Strategist

Joining the Journey Family

I joined Journey in May of this year following a few fantastic conversations with Simon, the CEO. I had recently moved to the Cheltenham area and had heard great things about the company, so was curious to find out more. There was a lot of potential synergy in the work I had been doing and Simon’s vision for the sort of expertise he wanted to offer clients in the luxury hotel space.  My brief was both simple and challenging - to continue to raise and push the creative output of the agency to ensure we are delivering world-class work for our clients. So, as Creative Strategist, this is what I set out to do every day. I work in the Creative team alongside Phil, our Creative Director, and act as the conduit between our content and design teams - connecting the words and the images. I help work across brand projects, digital campaigns, brand films and marketing initiatives to make sure our ideas and the delivery of those ideas are keeping our clients at the forefront of the industry. I draw upon my international experience and exposure to the luxury market every day and combining that with the travel market feels like the perfect fit. Working with global travel brands compliments my innate “nomad-syndrome”, that curiosity about other countries and cultures which has seen me travel so much in my life. Phil and I work in a very similar way, which can drive the other team members mad at times I’m sure. We are both “big picture” thinkers and are fuelled by the desire to discover that “big idea” that has the power to transform a brand. Our approach is not linear, we are stereotypical creatives through and through, existing in a world full of illegible sketched out notes, scraps of paper and seeds of ideas that come to us in weird and wonderful ways. As a department we have a lot of fun and the energy is infectious, which we hope is tangible in the work we deliver and the results we achieve.

A Day in My Life

It’s such a cliche, but genuinely no two days are the same in my role, which I love. If we are working on a big brand project, Phil and I will immerse ourselves in that world to ensure we understand its every driving force. A lot of the work I do is research based, so I will unearth a detail about a hotel’s environment, its history or aspirations and that will become my creative hook. For example, when we recently worked on the Beaverbrook brand film project, I wanted to tell a very specific story. I wanted to extract its rich history and nod to the legends that used to stay (Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Taylor to name a few) but communicate that in a way that felt very current and of our time. The “History in the Making” concept allowed us to showcase the treasures of the estate without being “showy-offy”. It tells the story of a females discovery of Beaverbrook for the first time, through a playful sneak around the various rooms and spaces. Thorough research and understanding is essential in taking a strategic approach, which gives depth and purpose to the creative work that comes from it.  When crafting a brand that is going to resonate with people, authenticity is key. A direction that is founded on something that is real, something that is unique to a client’s story - that’s the secret to connecting people to the brand. It’s about weaving all of that information into not only the visual expression of the hotel, but also in the language they use, the decor choices they make, the experiences they offer and the way they make people feel as a result. That is my favourite part of my job, when as a team we are able to identify those threads and come up with a solution that combines solid strategy with creative thought to drive real results and make a difference to a business.

What it Means to be Creative

For me it’s all about the story. Regardless of the medium; be it visual, verbal or film - and luckily I am able to utilise all of this at Journey. We are all storytelling to a degree. In its simplest form that is what it comes down to - the inspiring and effective communication of ideas. To work in a creative space is such a subjective thing, there is no right or wrong approach. I try and surround myself with opportunity for inspiration as much as possible. This means being active in the space, so reading - LOTS, not just industry publications, but being aware of trends and movements in music, film, food, fashion, art and any world that might add a different angle or flavour to the work you are producing. As a team we all have an eye on fantastic brands, campaigns, insights and peers who are pushing boundaries in every sector. Outside of work I maintain a foot in the food space, and I am hosting a workshop at Soho Farmhouse this December to contribute to a world from which I draw so much inspiration.  My mum is an interior designer so I have always been surrounded by creative environments. I grew up with mum cutting swathes of fabric in the living room and colour swatches lying around the house. Space styling is something I love to do as well and I collect old bits of vintage furniture from flea markets, combining them with contemporary pieces in an eclectic mix of colour and texture. I’m currently “house shopping” and cannot wait to find something quirky that I can put my stamp on and make my own.

Travel Adventures

I’m all about chasing experiences. When I was growing up, my parents used to say they wanted to provide my sister and I with a basket full of memories - and that’s what I try and do for my son.  I expose him to as much variety and as many places as humanly possible - big and small. This can be weekends spent walking through the apple orchards near our home to watch the fruit change with the seasons, seeing his face light up as he tries garlic mussels for the first time or taking him away to experience other cultures.  It’s not always easy, but I know he’ll appreciate and remember these times when he’s older...or at least that’s the hope. I love travel, always have and always will. We spent a lot of time exploring the States when I was growing up, and San Francisco is one of my favourite places on the planet, as well as New York. I did a round the world trip for a few months after uni, which saw me visit the Cook Islands and other far flung places. Eight years Down Under was life-changing. I snorkelled in the Barrier Reef and watched the new year come in over the iconic Harbour Bridge, memories that I will never forget. My favorite trip was probably my visit to Mykonos this summer with Rebecca, (Journey’s Visual Content Creator on the Social Media team). We stayed at the San Giorgio, a Design Hotel and recent acquisition of the Soho House group. The experience and the aesthetic they have created, a bohemian haven overlooking the Aegean ocean, was my kind of bliss. My fantasy trip is to go to the Amangiri resort in Southern Utah. I can see myself going on a horse trek through the sun scorched wilderness or getting stuck into the Navajo culture with their storytelling sessions by an open fire...I’ll have to see what 2020 brings.