Tag Archives: craft

My Green and Grey side hustle

I’d spent 20 years advising entrepreneurs (including those of the social variety) in the East of England on setting up and running businesses. Five years previously I’d helped create what might loosely be described as a social enterprise – the Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead.

What had I learned and where could that knowledge take me?

I learnt that I don’t like the buck stopping with me when it comes to decision-making (I like to sleep soundly at night!) It confirmed what I’d known for a while – that there’s a big difference between working on a business and working in it (you do more toilet-cleaning than deal-making). Having business start-up ideas is not enough – however good they may be, you need the energy and determination to turn them into action – it’s hard work! And maybe two heads are better (or at least more fun) than one.

Most recently I learned about the concept of the ‘side hustle’ – a new name rather than a new idea – but one that’s significant enough to command the attention of the Henley Business School that researched the growth of the phenomenon in summer 2018. Essentially a side hustle is a business venture to supplement income from regular job. Its growth has been largely born out of flexible working practices and growing insecurity in the jobs market. At its best, a side hustle is the creative low-risk development of a potentially good business idea, at its worst it’s self-indulgence at someone else’s (ie your employer) expense. Some also see it as a sign that the jobs market is in a poor state with low pay and part-time becoming the norm. For me it was something else – an opportunity to try to turn a hobby into a small business (nothing new there) alongside a new part-time job, working with someone else.

Green & Grey is the enterprise I’m developing in Royston near Cambridge with a new-found partner-in-wood; we’re exploring creative ways to cut waste – mainly by making items for homes and gardens using reclaimed materials.  After meeting at a community breakfast (full English breakfasts are a shared passion) David and I discovered another common interest – making products from pallet wood. It got us thinking…  David likes creating (he’s the arty one) and my background is in marketing, so it seemed like a good combination. We agreed to make and market our products and, as important in my opinion, tell the story behind the enterprise, to see what would happen.

Four weeks after our very soft launch, our online presence is largely our WordPress web pages and Facebook (see links below). We recently met up in a local pub – no trouble finding time for a pint in our otherwise busy weeks – to review our progress and plan our next move. These are some of our reflections:

  • We’re happy with the brand-building, but not the sales. We’ve had a commission to make kids jousting equipment for a summer pageant, but we think we need to be more direct on the sales front
  • We’re expecting that one-off commissions will make up an important part of our work, but for now we plan to push summer items (for the garden) that can be made to order quickly
  • We’ll focus us online promotion through local social media platforms, highlighting our own local connections and our personal and professional values
  • With summer and craft markets in mind, we’ll be researching the market for smaller items that we can make and transport relatively easily
  • Above all, we’re agreed that we won’t compromise on the quality of our work and will price our products accordingly

The conversation goes on – between the two of us, but also with our followers. You can keep in touch by liking our Facebook page and we’ll be updating our journey (we’re all on a journey apparently) through future blog posts. Watch this space and tell your friends – because there is no planet B.

Further information: on Green & Grey  www.facebook.com/GreenAndGreyRecreations  and   https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/green-and-grey-store

On side hustles https://assets.henley.ac.uk/defaultUploads/PDFs/news/Journalists-Regatta-Henley_Business_School_whitepaper_DIGITAL.pdf

Putting a price on hidden talent

Experts by Experience: Profiles of entrepreneurs at different stages on their journeys, identifying and sharing some universal truths along the way.    

blue_heart_in_the_making_4Many of the entrepreneurs I meet talk about the therapeutic value of creating beautiful things, some talk about the financial value of that creativity, but few suggest that the prospect of making money might help release hidden talent in unlikely people and places.

Which is what makes Teresa Crickmar and her Craftworks enterprise so interesting. Teresa is creating a series of workshops to teach craft work to groups of learners of different ages and abilities with an interest in setting up their own mini-enterprises.

Both the means and the ends are both important to Teresa. “The USP [Unique Selling Point] will be the quality of the craft work – making it different from other, comparable projects. We use glitter and glue… but the products we make are as beautiful as that made by a craftsperson rather than a primary school project.

It’s also important that the buyer doesn’t know who has made the work… it may be an 11 year old autistic boy, an adult with learning difficulties, an older person, or a young mum who wants to work from home making some money. All the craft work will be broadly the same, so you won’t know which group has made it.”

Teresa’s creation of Craftworks follows a clear path from one career stepping stone to another – even if she didn’t plan her route at the start. Degrees in silversmithing and teaching, were followed by teaching jewellery-making to adults, including learners with autism. This brought her to her current role – teaching Design and Technology to young autistic students in the 5 – 18 age range.

As a child, Teresa was inspired by the sense of achievement that came from creating beautiful art and craft works. It is the same inspiring reinforcement of self-belief that she sees in the young people she now teaches.

Crafted Pebbles“I’ve seen their disbelief that they have created something so pretty – they realise they are more than they thought they were. The creative process is broken down into really simple steps so each product is similar but, in reality, is slightly different. Each one is hand-made and I wouldn’t want them to look exactly the same.

 One little chap working on a fridge magnet design was really going for it… drawing with the pens and inks – it was really beautiful to see. He wouldn’t have done that in another situation – it was the encouragement he needed to release his creativity. He was so proud of himself.”

In producing art for sale, I wonder whether there might be a problem that the creators of the items might be reluctant to sell them. Teresa has already thought of that, suggesting they might make two sets – one to keep and one to sell – but she believes this will not be as big a stumbling block as I do.

“The making money bit is the incentive for some of the young people – using their own skills to make real money in the real world! A reward for their efforts; people buying their work not out of sympathy, but because the object is beautiful.”

The advice Teresa will be passing on to the creative entrepreneurs supported by Craftworks is deceptively clear; separate art and commerce.

“Many artists have trouble with this”, she says, “as if going commercial cheapens your work”. But if you want to make money from this, you need to make it saleable and sell it at a viable price. The designs you come up with have to be commercial if that’s what you’re in it for. If you’re a creative being who wants to create art, don’t think of it as a business proposition.”

I return to Teresa’s earlier point about not identifying the artist with the work of art (I’m a believer in telling the story behind the product). She’s adamant in her view, but I feel we’ve reached some sort of meeting of minds by the end of the interview…

Craftworks_Logo“I think it’s really important that people choose to buy a piece alongside other craft work because it’s beautiful. But there would be a label if someone wants to look into it… If the products are sold with the Craftwork logo, customers know that their money is helping both the individual artist and the organisation that supports them.” 

To find out more about Craftwork, contact Teresa at craftworks.uk@gmail.com

Tersea is in the 2013-14 cohort of learners with the School for Social Entrepreneurs on
the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme at the Eastern Enterprise Hub in
Ipswich http://bit.ly/1c6lQsj

The art of adding value

Experts by Experience: Profiles of entrepreneurs at different stages on their journeys, identifying and sharing some universal truths along the way.    

Ian and VanMy introduction to Recover in Welwyn Garden City (in Hertfordshire) was through a social entrepreneur and friend – Hugo van Kempen. Hugo is big on the environment, creativity and entrepreneurship and I respect his opinion so, when he said I should meet Ian Block, Recover’s manager, I was off to see him the following week.

I think Hugo was impressed by Ian’s vision and ambition. He (Ian) had taken on the refurbishment of a warehouse that he (Hugo) had earlier looked at and decided was too big a job for him to get it into a useful state.

A year and a day after Ian had moved into that dilapidated warehouse, I visited him in bright and warm surroundings – a transformation. And before I’d even got to the office at the back of the warehouse, I’d bought an office chair. Ian has a background in furniture sales and he had me well and truly hooked with no (obvious) sales pitch!

Like the two other Hertfordshire social enterprises in the CRI family, Recover offer training to volunteers who have difficulty getting into employment. Overcoming addictions, explains Ian, takes time – to build self-esteem and self-confidence – and Recover provides volunteers with breathing space through care and creativity.

With a view to life and employment beyond Recover’s supportive environment, training includes technical skills in high-class wood finishing and upholstery, alongside so-called ‘softer skills’ – team work, delegation, teaching others, management, as well as broader life skills.

The return on that investment is the creation of items of furniture for sale that can only be described as works of art.

The enterprise end of the venture is, says Ian “Helping the volunteers develop their creativity. We work with them to up-cycle and refurbish stuff destined for landfill. They turn donated items into interesting, one-of-a-kind, pieces – leaving evidence of the hand-craft involved. We’re not competing with high street, factory-finished, mass-produced, products from China. For our volunteers there’s no greater confidence-builder than seeing something they’ve created being bought by someone for a good price.”

This is truly adding value but how, I wonder, does Ian arrive at a ‘good price’ for their unique items of furniture – is pricing an art or a science?

“I’ve got a background in antiques and furniture sales. I’m in tune with the markets and, although each item is unique, the internet is a good way to make comparisons. Price also depends on your brand, location and the clients you’re selling to. Even though charity shop prices have crept up, we’re not competing with them or other furniture reuse schemes. We’d like to become a recognised brand which would probably double the prices we can get. For now, we’re pricing above charity shops, at about 50% of what we could sell in a shop in Islington or Greenwich.”

What’s Ian’s view of telling the story behind their products?

Holly and Crew“ The story is important – were supporting people and helping them to move on. Most customers are buying into what we’re doing. They get an original, quality item, crafted with volunteer input and we like to put names on items – ‘another product by…’ Some volunteers don’t want this, and we respect that, but the majority are happy to be identified.”

The future is looking bright for the Recover team. The first year has been about getting the premises useable and volunteers learning how to produce quality furniture. The year ahead is about selling. As well as online sales, there’s a first delivery of a few items to a shop in north London.

Always the entrepreneur but sensitive to the needs of his volunteers, Ian explains his strategy. “We’re looking at several outlets in different parts of London. We’ll be able to test different products at different prices to see what works. The volunteers are not yet ready to set up and manage a retail outlet, so we’re testing the water at no additional cost to ourselves.”

See Recover’s hand-crafted, refurbished and upcycled furniture at www.recoverteam.co.uk

For more on the three CRI Hertfordshire social enterprises, go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/quality-matters