A Crafty Business
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Amelia Holmwood investigates Doug Richard’s ‘School for Creative Startups,‘ where ‘The Future of Creative Business is Showcased in London”
Last week I attended an exclusive press preview of Doug Richard's 'Startups Showcase.' The event follows the recent publication of his book How to Start A Creative Business, the jargon-free guide for Creative Entrepreneurs.
The event was held at the Embankment Galleries at Somerset House in London. The galleries were packed with a huge array of stalls each sporting stylish wears ranging from latex lingerie to Elizabethan chutney. Doug Richard gave me a personal tour of the showcase, introducing me to his students and explaining their stories and the evolution of their products.
The showcase was a chance for Richard's students to promote themselves on a secure, specifically designed platform. The students or exhibitors included quilters, printers, jewellers, chocolatiers and fashion designers to name but a few. As I was taken from stall to stall I wondered why this event had not been done before. What better way to encourage entrepreneurs and creatives to take the leap into business than to present them with a made to measure event such as this?
At times my questions were swept out of sight against the tide of Mr Richard's unrelenting enthusiasm for his student's products. Which was understandable as promotion and sales were clearly the driving forces behind this event
All the products were high end, couture, tailor made for the customer. The beautiful blown glass carafes made by 'Rokos' started at a mere £250. 'I have one of these on my dining room' table declared Richard ardently. Undoubtedly a thing of beauty, I wondered how many people would, like Richard (a multi-millionaire) willingly spend that much on a glass vase.
Considering that this was the school's first showcase I was impressed with the organisation and quality of the products. At most these fledgling businesses were eighteen months old yet they were established and confident in their pitches. When I asked Richard what advice he would give a budding entrepreneur he replied 'measure twice and cut once'. He proceeded to emphasise the importance of planning in business, of checking and rechecking the facts through market research before investing any money in a project.
Richard told me that annually the school took on one hundred students however; he is currently planning on opening two more schools in the UK, which presumably would mean more opportunities for creative startups. When I asked him about the process of application he told me that it was rigorous and manifold. From what I gather in order to be accepted onto the course you have to provide an idea that excites and is approved by Doug Richard and the Creative Director Medeia Cohan-Petrolini.
In response to my question regarding fees Richard told met that his school work a lot with scholarships. The afore-mentioned 'Rokos' carafe creator paid just £500 for the year long course. This deal was generous when I looked at the amount of time, money and marketing that had gone into his product. Richard also told me that the school teaches its students how to apply for and secure funding for their initiatives. So while Richard doesn't personally invest in his students, (although his attitude would indicate that he has thrown every last penny of his personal savings at them) he passes on invaluable skills regarding financial sustainability.
The showcase proved to be a real insight into the world of marketing and production as done by students of the process. Undoubtedly the drilling and information that Doug Richard's students receive on the course is extremely effective as far as presentation goes. I suppose the proof will be in years to come when we see how many of these young initiatives are still sustaining themselves as successful creative businesses. Nonetheless, the showcase was hugely inspiring and a place on the course would definitely be desirable for anyone wanting to start out in business for the first time.
As there is so much information out there I have sifted through some of the material on offer to try and find some valuable resources. I have reviewed a couple of useful books and a really interesting website, all of which I think will be of help for those seeking some guidance.
How to start a Creative Business - the Jargon-free guide for Creative Entrepreneurs
by Doug Richard
David and Charles £14.99
Doug Richard, entrepreneur and former Angel investor on Dragon's Den explains that 'creative people frequently don't build businesses around their creativity because they believe that business is something that non-creative people do.' His aim is to correct this misinterpretation.
Richard's book is a detailed account of how to set up a creative business. An easy to follow step-by-step program divided into ten questions ranging from 'What do you do that people need?' to more strategic questions regarding marketing and industry. Richard stipulates that this is not a 'skim-through-it book' but rather a ' take-a-breath-and-get-involved book' and I agree. How to Start a Creative Business is a concise and methodical guide. Useful tips include 'jargon' and 'myth' busting sections intended to dispel common misconceptions regarding business' terminology and financial requirements.
Doug Richard's book ensures an informed and confident beginning for any budding entrepreneur. The purpose of his book is to test the validity of your business idea and it does so very effectively.
Grow your Handmade Business - How to Envision, Develop and Sustain a Successful Creative Business
By Kari Chapin
Storey Publishing £11.99
'Grow your Handmade Business' is an affectionate, motivational book that guides the reader gently through the process of setting up a creative endeavour. Kari Chapin, aka 'marketing mentor' aims to assist 'creative entrepreneurs achieve their long term business goals.'
The book is divided into two sections, 'Mapping your Dream' and 'Planning for Success'. Peppered throughout are inspiring anecdotal accounts from what Chapin calls the 'Creative Collective'. This 'Collective' includes designers, business strategists and illustrators amongst many others.
Chapin is particularly concerned with the personal wellbeing of the potential entrepreneur and repeatedly encourages 'the practice of mindfulness around feelings' sufficient sleep, hydration and even 'creative retreats'. My primary observation falls on the chapters concerning licensing and legal issues such as insurance, bank loans and grants. As Chapin writes within an American context these sections will sadly not be applicable for British readers.
WIBBLE-Women in Business: Brilliant Local Enterprises
WIBBLE is a British website dedicated to supporting self-employed Women. Describing itself as a 'social business platform' it provides a place for women to talk, exchange ideas and inspirations and offer advice. It was founded by Cheryl Rickman who, inspired by a Wonder Woman mug, set up a simple Facebook group. Now the site boasts over 600 members also known as 'wiBBlers'. Membership starts at a very reasonable £7.00 per year and so provides an accessible and affordable platform for those on a budget.
As well as the fundamental social element and sense of community WIBBLE aims to offer practical toolkits, tutorials and templates for women starting out in business. The 'Learning Library' presents useful articles on achieving your goals and staying motivated. While the 'Business Directory' offers an extensive list of contacts from photographers, beauty therapists to wedding planners and more. In my opinion, WIBBLE provides an important and empowering support network for those wishing to become independent businesswomen and should be a first stop for those wishing to start any creative enterprise.
In my Q&A with Danielle Alinia aka 'A Stash Addict' she reveals how her passion for dying wool has evolved into her setting up a thriving business from home.
Danielle's is a triumphant story, her passion and skill has translated beautifully into her business, which appears to be growing from strength to strength. You can read Danielle's insights on running her own wooly venture here: