This week I have been attending a set of workshops run by ‘BeePurple‘, which is the University of Brighton’s entrepreneurship network. The course was brilliant: fantastic value for money, great workshops, and an excellent opportunity for networking.

It was also a great way to get feeback on my business ideas. From the conversations I had with the other attendees it was evident that although most people seemed to like my polymer clay items,

polymer clay flower cane earrings

I was still just one of many artists/craftspeople, so I needed to come up with something more interesting. The idea that did get some interest was my plan to set up a business involving laser-cutting and laser-etching services. It made me realise that the laser cutter is so versatile that it can be used to create (or tailor) products for almost any other business. For example, the other artists/designers could send me their graphics files and I could cut or etch their designs onto the material of their choice. The pet-based businesses could send me photos of pets for me to etch onto metal, glass or stone. Other businesses could use my services for creating promotional items with their logo on them. Even the podiatrists on the course were interested in having (foot-shaped) business cards created for them.

As well as gaining lots of business contacts we were also able to enter a competition which had a prize of £250.  The idea was to present an ‘elevator pitch’ – i.e. a very quick sales pitch that you could present to someone if you only had a very limited amount of time to speak to them. Rose (Biela?) was the winner, with her proposed business as a ‘reminiscence facilitator’. Rose is a qualified nurse who works with patients who have (e.g.) senile dementia or brain damage, and she provides specialised therapy which uses the patients’ memories and stories. It sounds like a brilliant form of therapy – very natural and completely un-threatening for people who must often spend a lot of time feeling confused and frustrated. Well done Rose!

Part of the course also involved a charity challenge, which was to raise as much money as possible in one week for “IT Skills 4 Rural Kenya“. That really was a challenge, as we only had lunchtimes and evenings to be able to make objects for sale and then try to sell them. Fortunately that is just the sort of task where a laser cutter comes in handy! My team-mate Lucy Hart sent me some pictures of African wildlife, so based on those I was able to design some greetings cards for us to sell:

kenyan cards

(They look better individually rather than as a set, otherwise it looks like the elephants are smaller than the antelope (when of course they are just further away…))

It really has been a brilliant course. As well as having learned lots about business plans and sales tips, I have also been forced to learn more about my laser cutter just as a byproduct of the charity challenge and elevator pitch tasks. For example I have made some business cards out of wood…:

laser cut business card laser cut business card

…Created a sample dog tag with a photo of an actual dog on it…

…Made a butterfly from mirri card…

laser cut butterfly

…Made a box…

laser cut box laser cut box

…Etched some promotional samples for Beepurple…

…and learned how to turn a cracker into a business card:

So even though it has taken a massive chunk out of the time I was supposed to be spending on doing my final project for university, I think it was time well spent. Thank  you, Clare Griffiths and Brad Crescenzo from Beepurple!