From Student to Small Business Owner - How my Degree Provided a Platform to Launch my Brand
As a creative, when the time came to choose an undergraduate course, all I could think about was how I'd get a job at the end of it all. This, along with doing something I enjoyed, was always my main concern - I knew the creative industries weren't necessarily the easiest to find work in, but for me there was no other option. I had to at least try.
Whilst browsing for a course, I thought back to all the degree shows we visited during college, and one in particular stood out to me - Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent. The selection of textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass and prints provided such variety, and looked so well finished, that I was intrigued to find out more. After reading the course guide, it seemed more and more perfect; not only were you given the chance to work with a myriad of different materials, but in the final year of study you were given the option to write a business plan instead of a dissertation. This is what really sold the course to me - not only was it local, but it would give me the chance to create a real-life application for my work.
From the beginning, I knew that print and textiles was my specialism, and although I enjoyed learning about new materials and processes I started the course with a clear direction of where I wanted to be at the end of it. My plan was to develop my current skills over the first two years, and use my final year to create a collection of work alongside a business plan to be launched at the degree show. The way I saw it, this show wasn't the end but rather the start of my creative career, and could be used as a platform to launch my brand.
We had countless lectures from past students, creative industries, designer makers, etc., and they all seemed to emphasize the same point - make the most of every opportunity you're given whilst studying, because once you graduate you'll miss them. I took this on board, but at the back of my mind I couldn't help but think how unlikely it was that anything would come from it. But still, any opportunities for funding or support I applied for, and tried to make the most of every service the university could offer - even if nothing came from it, where was the harm in trying?
This 'might as well try' attitude certainly paid off; as I started my final year studies, we received an e-mail telling us how the Arts Society Nottingham were looking to award one student with a £500 bursary towards their final year work as part of their Young Arts scheme. I sent off my application, presented my ideas to the society, and thought nothing of it until a few weeks later I received a letter telling me that I'd been chosen. Not only did the society provide financial support, but they kept in touch over the year just to see how I was and have taken a genuine interest in my work and brand.
I also approached the universities business support centre, The Hive, to see what help they could offer me. Despite researching and writing a business plan, I didn't feel 100% confident and went in solely with the intention of getting some advice and support. I had an appointment with an adviser, and felt much more confident in my plan and ideas. A few months down the line, I received an e-mail from my adviser saying that she'd put me forward for a small business grant and I'd been awarded £1000 from the Santander Spark fund to help cover some of the product costs. I had no idea that this fund even existed, and if it hadn't have been for my meeting at The Hive, I never would have had access to it.
Along with the financial support I received through various university opportunities, the marketing department were very interested in my brand and concepts, and were keen to interview me for a press release. This was sent out around the time of the degree show, and got my brand coverage both online and in local newspapers - this promotion really allowed me to hit the ground running with my business launch, and again, I don't know how I'd have done it without the university. Alongside this, I have also been chosen to exhibit at New Designers from the 26th-29th of June, so who knows what opportunities that may present!
I suppose what I'm trying to say is, as a student there are so many people and services willing to support you - keep an eye out for any opportunity no matter how small it may seem, and just go for it. I'm so grateful for all the help I've received and it has definitely helped give me the confidence to get to where I am now. Make the most of everything, you never know where it might lead!