Aviation lawyer "meshing" the creative and business worlds
Kay Vasey arrived in London as a trainee in 2004 and wondered how, when you are busting a gut in the City, you could meet like-minded people interested in or active in the arts. With Jonny Emmanuel, a fellow trainee, she set up a network that enables individuals from the business and creative communities to connect and share skills, passions and knowledge with each other. The result is Mesh, and it aims to inspire our inner creativity and promote investment in the arts…
mtl: Hi Kay, please can you tell us about your legal career so far?
Kay: I trained at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert but upon qualification was disappointed to discover that the aviation litigation department was not recruiting. So, I took a role in commercial litigation and spent ten months working on the fall-out from the continuing Enron litigation. Seven months in, I decided that I should try my luck in the aviation field again and was very fortunate to land an aviation finance role at Field Fisher Waterhouse despite my lack of finance experience. I think my enthusiasm got me the job as I trained with the Bristol University Air Squadron and have a real passion for planes!
I now advise wealthy individuals, aircraft lessors, and airlines on buying, selling and leasing planes. Due to the extensive network of contacts that I have built up in the tech start-up and Web 2.0 world while working on Mesh, I have also just been invited to join the firm’s venture capital team to assist with marketing. It’s going well so far and having the support of my employer for what I do outside of work is great.
mtl: Tell us about the origins of Mesh and what it does…
Kay: When I arrived in London in 2004, I started to meet some people in City jobs who had a ‘creative second life’, for example a banker who was also a DJ and a management consultant who also made short films. It occurred to me that to get through the rigorous interview process of the City institutions, many people must have colourful CV’s rather than just strong academics, but there was no central place where creative people could share their interests and projects.
Law with European Studies, Bristol University and Barcelona University
JET programme, Saitama, Japan
LPC, Bristol Institute of Legal Practice
Training contract and commercial litigation assistant at BLG
Incorporated Mesh, set up the website and moved to do aviation finance at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP
The City is full of people who have done amazing things on the creative (and sporty) fronts but there was no creative equivalent of the lawyer’s netball league! I wondered what happened to creative skills and interests upon reaching the City, how like-minded people outside of existing friend circles could be found and how time could be managed to nurture creativity in the City, which is not easy to do with intense jobs and long hours. Out of this came the idea to build a site where the arts and business worlds could easily communicate with a view to collaborating. Mesh was incorporated in January 2007 and we had a soft launch in August 2007.
Mesh is a trusted network with the aim of promoting investment in the arts and providing creative inspiration to people and businesses. We connect like-minded people so that they can collaborate on projects and create something that will inspire others. We realise that the arts and business worlds need each other but sometimes do not understand each other. By bringing City folk and creative folk together in comfortable surroundings, online and offline, we aim to break down the stereotypes that exist and make both worlds more accessible.
Our legal members include partners, associates and trainees who are published writers, singers and film makers. We also have a wide range of business professionals from across the City who are simply interested in investing in the arts. Our successful creative professional members cover numerous disciplines and offer guidance about their own fields and also benefit themselves from the commercial advice that they can glean from other members.
One of our members works for a hedge fund and has just set up a fashion label. We connected him with an haute couture fashion designer and they were both able to share contacts and advice. We filter our members either by them being invited by existing members or by reviewing their applications, to ensure that we maintain a high standard of membership and that we don’t attract any time wasters – we want people to contribute something to the community, whether in terms of skills, advice or investment.
mtl: How do you run Mesh on top of being a finance lawyer, does it make you any money and how are you planning to develop it in the future?
Kay: I get up at 6:30am every day and work before going to the office, which is only ten minutes from my flat. So, during the time when many others are commuting, I am organising meetings with cultural organisations, considering who to showcase at upcoming events, writing press releases and balancing the books each month. I meet people at lunch time and in the evenings most Mondays-Thursdays at Shoreditch House and I use a portion of my annual leave for recommended networking conferences that are held during the day.
At the moment we are ‘pre-revenue’ (apart from making a small amount of money from the events we hold which we use to invest in further functionality on the site). In the future, we will be setting up the “Mesh Fund” which will enable business professionals to invest in showcases of talent, creative collaborations and skill share programmes. We aim to harness the ‘experience economy’ and allow relationships to be built with the people who benefit from investments.
Rather than simply investing to make more money, investors will be rewarded with limited edition prints, front row seats at fashion shows or access to exclusive private views. Fundamentally, we started the site because we wanted to meet like-minded people and invest in the arts, so we are fairly open-minded about where it will take us. What motivates us are the truly inspirational people that we have met, the stories of people connecting on Mesh and making a project happen.
Ideally, Mesh will become a successful and respected network that can be credited with increasing private investment in the arts from individuals from the business world. Since the Arts Council funding is being slashed year on year, we recognise that the arts must be better supported by people in business and companies themselves. If Mesh can be a catalyst to increasing worthwhile financial and skills-based contributions to the arts, then that would be very satisfying.
mtl: Thanks Kay. Out of interest, where do your own creative instincts lie?
Kay: My creative passions lie in photography and writing, both of which I’d love to spend more time doing! However, through Mesh, I have met a number of brilliant photographers who have given me guidance on my technique and I regularly write the Mesh blog, so all is not lost by running a business as well!
There is an upcoming event on 16 May 2008 at the Eight club near Bank which showcases a new street art talent, impromptu theatre performances and a selection of short films. Tickets are £10 for members and £15 for non-members. Click here for more information and for details of all other Mesh events.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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