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IWD 2024: “Always dare to be different”

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Published on 06 March 2024

Kylie Dixon
Kylie Dixon

From University of Sunderland graduate to successful children’s author and mentor to hundreds of north-east female business owners – Kylie Dixon shares her remarkable career journey as part of International Women’s Day. 

Kylie, from Seaham, County Durham, graduated from the University in 2015 with a degree in Fine Art.

But it was four years later in 2019, having been inspired by a walk in a forest and coming across a clearing filled with thousands of tiny mushrooms, her passion for creativity was reignited and her online art business Mushroom Marvellous was born.

Kylie found out that in old English folklore, spotting mushrooms in the wild is a symbol of positivity, new beginnings and hope, so she started adding tiny mushroom illustrations to her paintings, like a signature, and her obsession with mushrooms…mushroomed! 

Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kylie explored other ways of bringing in money while supporting others who were home-schooling, so she began hosting online art activities. It was during this time people told her she should write a children’s book. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Kylie’s stories are set in her dad’s allotment where a secret world of mushroom characters who, led by hero Inkap, embark on magical adventures helping the vegetables to survive. 

Kylie has now released three children’s books – Inkcap & the NethersInkap & the Blight of the Bonnets and Inkcap & The Agaric Circle, as well as a colouring book. 

The artwork from Kylie’s book series – The Magical World of Mushroom Marvellous – has even served as the inspiration from one of the dishes created on BBC cooking show, Great British Menu

The episode, which aired in January 2023, celebrated England’s illustrators and authors, and Michelin-star Northumberland chef Cal Byerly won over judges and fellow competitors alike with his starter, ‘The Magical World of Mushrooms’, which was inspired by the loveable mushroom characters in Kylie’s second book, Inkcap & the Blight of the Bonnets.

Kylie, who lives with her husband Gary and their 15-year-old son Jake, said: “It is absolutely incredible and to be still here succeeding as an artist and author, and inspiring others to build their dreams is mind blowing.

“You have to think all of this was created during COVID, when people’s lives were turned upside down. I used this negative energy to create something magical.” 

Kylie’s success as an author means she has also been able to go on and build her other business The Northern Lass Lounge, which she founded in 2020 after experiencing overwhelm and anxiety when trying to manage her art business on social media. 

With no one to turn to offer affordable support for new businesses, she decided to set up a Facebook group to bring northern businesswomen together who were going through the same challenges.

Fast forward four years, and The Northern Lass Lounge has become the online go-to community in the region for those looking for practical help, guidance, training and friendship. With flexible social media training modules covering everything from ideal client, Instagram, Facebook groups and much more, the Lounge is helping female business owners flourish on platforms they would have previously hidden away from.

Kylie said: “I wanted to create a safe space for local female business owners to network, keep motivated and help grow their confidence in a way which supported them to turn their idea into a viable business. 

“With it now being a community of 5,000 businesses, a limited company with a social enterprise arm – The Lounge Generation programme, which we are about to roll out in Sunderland to provide opportunities for young women to develop essential skills – a team of seven directors, a business membership and various mentor programmes, I can’t quite believe how far we have come as a community.

“From a little Facebook group I knocked up to answer a load of questions about social media marketing to THIS is just unbelievable.”

Among the businesswomen benefitting from Kylie’s expertise is County Durham-based recovery coach Sarah Jane Phelps, founder of Practically Positive in Every Way, who said: “The Northern Lass Lounge helped me set up my business. This is something I set up during COVID, it’s something I wanted to do for a very long time but never had the time or the means to do it.

“Kylie and the team – their enthusiasm, their encouragement and their training helped me set up my group in the early days and I wouldn’t have a business without them.”

Washington-based illustrator and designer Stacey Bone, founder of Funny Bones Creations, added: “They have been so supportive. You can go in and ask anything regarding your business or even if it’s something personal, there is somebody there who can give you advice. 

“There are no wrong questions, there are no silly questions – you can go in there and it’s just a comfortable environment.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week (Friday 8 March), Kylie’s message for anyone thinking of taking a leap of faith and pursuing their dream is to go for it.

Sunderland alumna Kylie said: “Having worked with over 8,000 children in 2023 in my workshops about self-belief, this message remains the same no matter what age you are.

“Believe in yourself, embrace your strengths and always dare to be different. You have the power to shape your future and you will inspire others along the way.”


For more information on Kylie’s books, visit: https://magicalworldofmushroommarvellous.com/ 

For The Northern Lass Lounge: https://thenorthernlasslounge.com/home 

For more information on the University of Sunderland’s Fine Art degree: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/study/art-design/undergraduate-fine-art/