Next week I take up my place on the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator programme in Leeds. Back in December I had to submit a business plan and pitch my vision to a team of professionals. It was scary, but I got through it and on February 3rd I will be on the 7.30am train to boot camp.
For the next 6 months I will have a lot of input from people with business and financial expertise. I will have an office space to work from and be part of a network of entrepreneurs with access to industry-specific mentors, growth consultants and lots more.
My aim is simple - to develop, produce and sell products that I would like to see in the world. In a nutshell they will be "Beautiful Tools for Creative People".
During the past 5 years I have been teaching sewing. In that time I have learnt that modern makers are stylish, unique and colourful people. However, a lot of the kit they buy to work with is uniform, functional and uninspiring. I hope to change that. I want my customers to be as excited when an essential sewing item from the Jenni Smith Studio arrives in the post, as they are when a new bundle of designer fabric is delivered. I want them to buy gifts for crafty friends that they know they will love, and also that they know will do the job properly. Quality notions made like in the good old days. Needles from Redditch, scissors from Sheffield and handcrafted tools made to last. Products that people are excited to work with to make their beautiful projects.
I currently have a handful at the prototype stage so watch this space!
Here are some of my lovely making friends...
My big dream is also to make enough money to fund grass roots craft projects in the UK and abroad. I would love to be able to facilitate education so that young people don't lose out on their heritage. One of the most inspiritonal women to me is Miss Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth who lived at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire in the early Twentieth century, just 40 minutes from my home.
Rachel was a maker, teacher, collector and activist. She demystified textile craft, which she believed (much ahead of her time) aided wellbeing. Her house was open to all who wanted to learn new skills and her ethos was "Cherish the past, adorn the present, create for the future".
My starting point is applying for funding to set up local clubs teaching textile art to children, but there is scope for lots more development, and this will be integral to my business plan.
So a big thank you to everyone who has helped me so far. I have been picking everybody's brains in class, and my family and friends are probably a bit fed up of my endless sewing-related ramblings. But fingers crossed you will all be testing out products in the coming year.
It turns out that the average age of an entrepreneur is 40, which is fast approaching for me, so it might be the right time to give it a go! I just have to get my head round the 6.30am alarm call and I may have to start drinking coffee!
You can read all about Entrepreneurial Spark, which is a nationwide scheme at http://www.entrepreneurial-spark.com
You can find out more about the amazing Miss Rachel at http://www.gawthorpetextiles.org.uk/about