The well-known online magazine Cool As Leicester has really taken off within the last few years. Our founder Romail Gulzar, spoke to the woman behind it all, Gabby Miller, who tells us everything about growing up in Leicester and how she was inspired to start this great independent business.
Leicestershire is full of fantastic publications and independents supporting one another. Local hospitality and entertainment venues have come to rely on well-connected, and knowledgeable individuals to make noise for them in an already incredibly loud social media sphere. Gabby Miller found her way into this industry of online publicity after realising her own need for it.
Gabby grew up in Leicester. A lot of people will agree that there is a certain pull that the city exerts on its citizens. Similarly to so many others before her, Gabby moved away from the city to pursue her education, studying law at Leeds University. After graduating, she moved to London to study a Master’s degree in criminology and law, all the while making good use of being in the capital. Music plays a big part in Gabby’s life and it was something she couldn’t ignore, even during her studies. I love watching concerts and gigs,” said Gabby. “I spent a lot of time writing reviews in the student newspaper too. I got my foot in the door at music venues down there and those experiences within the music industry are actually what led me back to Leicester.”
Gabby worked in Press and Publicity at De Montfort Hall, finally working within the industry that she was made for, and was pulled back to a city that she loves. “Leicester is unrecognisable from when I was a kid,” she said. “We used to go rollerskating at Zanzibar! I have also always been a big football fan so going to watch the games with my dad is a great memory too. I just think it’s amazing now and I’m really pleased to work with so many local businesses and see how the city is thriving compared to how it was 15-20 years ago.
“I think the business scene has changed a lot too, although it’s not really something I paid much attention to when I was younger! I think it’s certainly changed a lot since I started working here. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now. To see the number of people that have set up new businesses in that time, even recently with everything that’s been going on, the number of people that have used that as an opportunity to create something is fantastic to see.
“I first set up Cool As Leicester after getting frustrated whilst working in PR. You’re constantly trying to gain coverage in different publications and I was really getting frustrated by the lack of media outlets in Leicester. Back then, social media was very different to now. You now have a rise of influencers on Instagram but we didn’t have stuff like that back then. There wasn’t anything online that’s bringing everything together such as food and drink, what’s on, where to go, music—so I thought, well I’ll just set it up myself. It took off really well and was popular across different venues that I was approaching about it.”
When asked what she thought of Leicester’s music scene and how well it’s currently doing, Gabby said, “I think it’s good! There’s obviously been some changes over lockdown—for example, the comedy festival has taken over The Cookie. The Cookie was probably the city’s key small music venue really, with some of the names it was bringing through there. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that works coming out of lockdown. I think there’ll still be gigs carrying on there and the people that were promoting for The Cookie will still be arranging gigs there and elsewhere in the city. But it will be interesting to see how that change develops. The city has some amazing small venues such as The Sound House, The Shed, The Musician, the people at The Y. And we’ve got bands such as Easy Life that are really putting Leicester on the map again.”
Of course, taking the plunge into self-employment is daunting at the best of times. Turning your back on a regular paycheck and looking ahead into uncertainty and possible lack of funds seems like a huge risk. When asked if she ever regretted taking this path, Gabby said, “No, not at all. I think it was difficult at the time—those first steps when you decide to do it. But I certainly wouldn’t change anything now. I think Cool As Leicester is going to grow more and more really. I think we’ve been quite fortunate with the lockdown. I work a lot on the PR side of things as well, offering those services to local businesses. This comes under the same umbrella but is slightly different to the work I do with Cool As Leicester. A lot of that took a big hit with the lockdown so I was able to really focus down and work on Cool As Leicester and build those platforms. Over the last year we’ve seen Instagram followers double, Facebook followers are going up and up, we’ve got our weekly newsletter—building on that content has been the goal. I want it to be on a level where, if a new business is opening up, Cool As Leicester will come straight to their mind as someone they want to work and be involved with.”
Taking the risk has evidently paid off for Gabby. Cool As Leicester has become a household name in and amongst venues in the music scene. When asked what advice she’d offer to those individuals contemplating transforming their ideas into the business venture they’ve always dreamed of, Gabby said, “I would say that if it’s something you can start whilst you’re still working full-time, it can feel daunting when thinking of those extra hours you’re going to have to put in. But if you can make those first steps when you’ve still got that security of work coming in, that’s a really important thing to do, just because you can build that up and it will give you that confidence to jump straight into it. I think if you’ve got a dream and you genuinely think it’s something that could work, absolutely go for it, because you don’t want to look back and regret not doing it.”
By Sam Ellison