Archive | Craft RSS feed for this section

Interview: Made By Granny

22 Oct


We sat down with Kay Armstrong to discuss setting up her cushion business Made by Granny and her plans for the future.

How did Made By Granny get started?

I had to give up work because I was poorly and couldn’t go in every day, so I wanted something that I could do from home. I’ve always sewn and done crafts, so Made by Granny, making cushions, is what I came up with.

What research did you do?

I looked on Facebook to see what other people were selling, and I asked family and friends what they thought, and then I made a few samples and showed them to people, and they seemed to think it was a good idea.

There isn’t a theme to the cushions as such, I just tend to use the more unusual fabrics. I don’t want to be doing all the flowers and the brocade that everyone else does. I want to keep them a little bit unique.


How have you gone about marketing?

I have a blog, and a facebook page and some business cards, and I’m going to be doing some Christmas markets soon. I want to become known locally before I throw it open anywhere else.

Upcoming events:

Ladies Leisure Night at Priorswood Infants School Taunton
(in aid of St Margarets Hospice)

Friday 21st November – 7.30pm

Christmas Fayre  at Archbishop Cranmer School Taunton
Friday 28th November – 3.30pm
Christmas Fayre at Wellington Football Club
Saturday 29th November – 10am – 2pm
Christmas Fayre at Lyngford Park School Taunton
Friday 5th December – 3.30pm

What are the benefits of self-employment?

Because of my illness if I don’t feel well then I don’t have to do anything, and when I do feel well then I can work – making cushions, going out, sewing, doing anything I need, rather than letting somebody else down.


What advice would you give to somebody considering self-employment?

I’d tell them to call Opportunity Plus South West I reckon. If I hadn’t had your help I wouldn’t have known where to start, I’d have floundered, thinking that I couldn’t do it, and given up. I think it’s important to find somebody who can advise and support you.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to have a big shop like Harrods! But realistically I’d like to carry on working from home, and maybe have an internet shop.

Can your business afford not to be involved in the weddings industry?

30 Sep

Despite most of us having to cut back on our expenditure over the last few years, the weddings industry has continued to boom.  You only get one (hopefully!) chance at a wedding, so most brides are determined to get it right, and aren’t willing to make too many sacrifices for their big day.  Most weddings will use several suppliers, from florists, to bridal boutiques, caterers and cake makers, to photographers and portaloo hire.  Some of these are obvious necessities for a wedding, but with growing creativity in weddings, there are opportunities for many not-so-obvious businesses to turn their hand to weddings.  Whatever your business sells, if there is a way to make it relevant to weddings, it could be your best business move yet.

I got married back in April, and we used a venue that provided a venue, a handful of chairs, and a cake knife.  The rest was up to us.  That meant we used a whole host of suppliers to make our day.  It was a logistical nightmare, but it was worth it for such a unique day.  I wholeheartedly recommend each and every one of the suppliers that we used, and you can see a list of them here.  Do take a look if you are planning any type of event.  (And again, I’m sorry if I have missed anyone of, I’m sure I have!)

A special mention goes out to The Very Vintage Hire Company Ltd.  Started just two years ago by a young single Mum, this is a business that has gone from strength to strength.  They now have a beautiful, inspirational, wonderful shop, The Attic, in the perfect setting of Exeter Quay, and hire props out to several events every single weekend.  The majority of events are weddings, though they have also dressed wedding fayres, summer balls, and various photoshoots.

Dawlish Triathlon

25 Sep

This summer was so glorious, we were lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the beach.  There seemed to be a constant stream of people swimming in the sea (and I mean swimming, not running in and screeching “it’s too cold” and coming back out almost immediately, which is my preferred method of swimming in the sea), and running and cycling along the seafront (and beyond of course, I just don’t venture too far from the beach).

This Sunday it is the Dawlish Triathlon, a gruelling and very popular race starting with a 750m sea swim, followed by a 21.5k cycle, and a 5k run.  I feel tired just thinking about it!!  Hundreds of people have signed up and put in a lot of time and effort training for it, for their own personal goals, and also to fundraise for various charities.

Several of my friends are part of the 40 strong Helen’s Tri-Hards Team, who have trained together and are collecting sponsorship for local charity, The Helen Foundation.  The Helen Foundation support the artistic aspirations of young people aged 7-19 years who live in Teignbridge, by providing prizes in schools, arts based workshops, individual bursaries and funding for special arts projects.  The charity was set up in 2006 as a living memorial to a local actor, Helen Kirk, who tragically died aged 24 after a road accident.

If you would like to donate to the Tri-Hards team, visit their Just Giving Page here.  Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Good Luck to everyone on Sunday!


Flexi-Mum Project

22 Apr

We are delighted to announce that Flexi-Mum, a pilot project set up by Opportunity Plus South West to support Mums of all ages to develop and improve their work-life balance, has been supported by the Big Lottery and has received an Awards for All grant.  This funding will allow us to inspire Mums of all ages and backgrounds across Devon and Somerset, and beyond, to pursue their goals, and make the most of their local resources.


We started running Flexi-Mum as part of the second phase of the main Opportunity Plus South West project.  A large proportion of our customers seeking business start up support in the first phase of the project were Mums looking to start their own business to gain more flexibility, or to top up their part time employment income, often using new skills and passions they had discovered since becoming a parent.  Flexi-Mum is designed to support Mums (with children of any age) with the specific difficulties they can face.  This includes things like:

  • Returning to employment after maternity leave
  • Starting your own business
  • Seeking new, flexible employment
  • Volunteering
  • Retraining
  • Choosing to take a career break to focus on parenting

We have been out and about meeting Mums across Devon and Somerset to discuss their needs/worries and have come across a range of inspirational stories and ways of managing work-life balance as a working parent.


With the funding we have been awarded, we will be publishing three magazines as part of this project, to inspire and motivate Mums.  If you would like to write an article for the magazine, please get in touch.  We are looking for a range of articles, and would love to hear your ideas.  This is a really exciting opportunity for anyone looking to get into any kind of journalism, or wanting to promote their business, or just share their story to inspire others.

You can find out more about Flexi-Mum by following us on Facebook, joining our Facebook group for peer support, and reading our blog.  If you would like to discuss your own situation, call our friendly advisors on 0800 043 2440.

View the Fleximum advert.

A Paper Rose

15 Apr

On getting engaged last year, I went straight onto Etsy and Folksy looking for inspiration for planning my wedding.  One of the first things I came across was Laura Gamble’s beautiful Paper Bouquets.  Laura has a Fine Art degree and started making paper flowers for her own wedding.  After everyone loved them so much at her own wedding, Laura decided to start a business making paper flowers for other people’s weddings.  She opened her shop on folksy in December 2011 – six months after her own wedding.  Laura also works as a classroom assistant.  She has just launched her own website.

For my wedding, Laura made me a bouquet, wrist corsages for my bridesmaids, windmill favours for the kids, and decorations for our cake.  I love that we can keep all of them forever, the flowers will never die and I don’t have to dry them our or press them or anything.  Everyone loved them on the day too, they really are beautiful.  (I promise that’s the last post about my wedding!)

How did you get started with A Paper Rose?

I studied Fine and Applied Art at the University of Ulster in Belfast, where I specialised in painting, but always loved craft and working with paper.  When I got engaged I decided I wanted an alternative to real flowers (I have quite bad hayfever so wasn’t loving the idea of sneezing all day!).  After a lot of experimenting, I settled on making my bouquet, the bridesmaids’ bouquets and the gents’ buttonholes from paper.  They were all roses.  I also made the table centrepieces, they were tissue paper carnations.  It was so great because on the day there was no stress about the flowers dying and I could keep my bouquet as a memory of the day.  I got so many compliments about the flowers that I decided to keep making them and see if any other brides-to-be would like them too.

What social media sites do you use, and which have you found to be the most successful for marketing your business?

At the minute I mainly use Facebook and am also on Pinterest.  I’m thinking of joining Twitter, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with them all.  Facebook has been the most successful way of marketing my work in terms of raising people’s awareness, also after having taken part in a wedding fair and giving out business cards you can see a jump in “likes” on your page.  I sell my work online through Folksy and more recently Etsy, these have been my most successful ways of getting orders.

What is the best thing about running your own business?

I love the feeling every time you make a sale, that someone has chosen your work for such an important event in their lives.  I love that I can be creative and make some money doing it.  I work in a school, but during school holidays I love the days when I get to work on the business 9 – 5.  I really enjoy doing a variety of tasks, especially the designing and making, but also the admin side of things.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Never having enough hours in the day to do everything you want to! Trying to juggle working a job, caring for family, still seeing friends and then making sure I don’t neglect the business.  It’s very important to try and get the balance right!

What advice would you give someone wanting to start a craft business?

Go for it, even if it just supplements your income it’s a really rewarding way to be creative, it does however take a lot of time and hard work.  With Etsy, Folksy and other online sales platforms, you can work from home and make some sales even if you don’t have time to sell at all the craft fairs.

How do you manage your time between employment and self employment?

It is frustrating because I feel that I could go much further with the business if I had more time to work on it, but as a classroom assistant I’m sort of spoilt with my hours, I work 8:30 – 3:30 – so can get an hour of work done each day when I get home, before it’s time to make dinner etc.  I also have the school holidays to work on the business – which is great.  I usually spend an evening or two per week working on A Paper Rose and try and do a few hours on a Saturday.  It depends how many orders there are or if a wedding fair is coming up.  In the next few weeks I am doing a couple of fairs so I will be working a lot more hours to get ready!  Lists are a really helpful way for me to focus and get things done in a tight time frame.

What are your plans for the future?

I would love to be in a position to work fewer hours in a job, maybe 2 days per week and the rest on the business.  I’m planning to set up a website in the coming months to hopefully increase my online presence.  I’d also like to increase my product range.  I currently make bouquets, buttonholes and wrist corsages, but would like to extend the range to table centrepieces, hair accessories, paper flowers for home décor – to name but a few!  I’d also like to make some new paintings.

You can find A Paper Rose on Facebook, Etsy and Folksy.

Laura on her wedding day DSCN0667