I knew when I graduated I didn’t want to go back to working for a company. I wanted to be self employed, so during my final year studying Design Crafts at De Montfort University I tried to get involved in every opportunity possible. I entered lots of competitions, exhibitions, craft fairs and tried to market my work using social media and by attending events I also started to commercialise my designs and get my work into galleries around the UK and Europe.
My next challenge was to try and find a suitable space for a workshop. Something a little more appropriate than my parent’s garage!
During my final year I entered the DMU Business Venture Competition and won the creative award. It was incredibly beneficial as not only was I awarded £1000 to help with the set up of my studio, I also benefited from help from the Enterprise Team at DMU and Creative Leicestershire, who sponsored my award.
After lots of research and weighing up the pros and cons of being situated in a city center or rural location, I came across the Stable Yard in Cotesbach, which was definitely more cost effective! Already a blacksmith, artist and textile designer/lecturer, it was the perfect location for my new studio, CDS Gallery.
It was pretty daunting walking into this little space with holes in the roof, missing bricks and uneven floor! But thankfully I had help from family and friends and I could really see potential!
The rent in Cotesbach was much lower than city center prices and it meant it was an affordable space with little outgoings. I’d always loved art and craft and always imagined owning my own business. After lots of research and planning I decided to turn my space into my first gallery/studio and help support other artists and makers around the UK! I had 2 months to turn my space from this to this:
I had to plan a huge opening night, radio interviews, press releases and I have to say it was on of the most stressful times of my life, but so worth it!
The Enterprise Team helped me with tax questions and initial set up and also really helped to assist with advertising and marketing and still do the this day!
I would say that the biggest hurdles are funding a project. I managed to get most of my furniture from charity shops and free labour from friends and family. I also had a fellow gallery owner as a mentor who helped advise me on everything from insurance, stock, display ideas to writing press releases and marketing.
If I could offer any advice I would say to find a mentor or a support network and research your business idea and find ways to really market your business.
The most rewarding part of being self-employed has to be the freedom and independence of working for your self and creating your own salary. Its hard work and requires organisation and motivation but I hope to find another rural location soon to open Gallery2!
To find out more about CDS Gallery and Claire’s work please visit her website.