Thursday, 19 July 2012

Celebration, innovation and new horizons

If there’s ever a case for an award it’s for the members of the Community Interest Company that is Fibre-East. After a downpour of biblical proportions while we were setting up our stalls last Friday evening, both organisers and visitors carried on stoically in the mud throughout the weekend, in true ‘Glastonbury’ spirit, and good fun was had by all. Although they’ve closed for this year, I think we should all get together next spring and nominate Fibre-East for ‘Contributing to the Community’ – one of the Nectar small business awards, as a reward for all their efforts.

Fibre-East is a celebration of entrepreneurship, with small businesses of all kinds, including my own, at its core. And at the core of a lot of those small businesses are creative women, stepping out with their ideas and exploring their own potential for innovation. My guests on the Outward Images stand inhabit different but equally potent areas of fibre business life. Rachel John, innovator and inventor of Extreme Knitting, continues to promote creativity and engage all ages in her vision. Juliet Bernard of Planet Handmade is turning her expertise in the knitting and promotional worlds into help for new businesses find their way to market.

On the Sunday Rachel and I were joined by Pete Mosley, creative coach and business editor of Craft & Design, giving one-to-one advice to the small business owners and creative people visiting Fibre-East. It was interesting to see that Pete’s offer of free business advice was being taken up primarily by new and emerging women entrepreneurs. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ 2011 small business report found that only 29% of the UK’s entrepreneurs are women. Perhaps their survey didn’t extend to the fibre-crafts sector, where we seem to be in the majority.

The Federation of Small Businesses are doing their bit for women under their ‘Real-Life Entrepreneurs’ campaign. If you visit their downloads page to take part, you’ll find a ready-made women entrepreneurs’ postcard to send to your MP, lobbying for more education & assistance for women in starting up in business. The FSB say that 95% of all private businesses employ less than 5 people, so we needn’t feel we’re too small if we’re chugging along by ourselves. We’re in the majority here too, so have confidence and go for it!

We’re also pretty good at networking too, and it was great to meet and greet so many people over the Fibre-East weekend. I’m also deeply grateful to the creative, innovative women wool shop owners like the ladies from Yarn on the Square, and visiting men and women knitters, who kindly gave me some much-appreciated feedback on what I’m doing and how I can take Outward Images forward. Thanks tremendously for all of your input. Here’s wishing all readers, male and female, a positive, co-operative, and inventive week, brimming with new horizons.

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