A leadership trainer turned entrepreneur has praised a popular business support programme that helped her realise her own potential during the pandemic.
Having spent many years working with some of the world’s biggest brands, Jane Pugh had long-held a passion for arts and crafts but had never been able to devote the time needed to turn her love for crafting into a way of earning a living.
This all changed, however, when Jane was made redundant at the start of the pandemic and – heeding the advice she’d usually have given to clients – decided to turn a negative into a positive and finally realise her ambitions.
She said: “There have been so many times in my career where I have sat and thought ‘I just want to stay at home and make pretty things’, so after being made redundant, I just thought ‘why not?’ and decided it was as good a time as any to really focus on my dream.”
Having no prior experience of running a creative business, Jane was signposted by a friend to NEN member, the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), and was introduced to business adviser Victoria Moodie, who runs the centre’s popular Creative Business Surgeries.
The surgeries support the development of artists and creative businesses by providing budding entrepreneurs with a soundboard to bounce ideas off, as well as providing advice on everything from devising a business plan to financial planning and marketing.
After attending a series of remote webinars and one-to-one meetings with Victoria, Jane finally launched her business Taffy Bear in July last year, selling a range of gifts and jewellery and has already shipped over 150 orders to customers across the UK, from Aberdeen to the Isle of Wight.
Jane added: “Starting a new business during a global pandemic can be a daunting prospect, however, the BIC gave me access to online and Zoom learning which really helped me focus on what was important, as well as helping me understand the legalities of setting up and providing a mentor who kept me on the right track and gave the encouragement I needed to keep going.
“I have only been in business since July, but I’ve already received orders from customers all over the UK through my website. I often wonder how different things would have been without Covid, however I couldn’t be happier with the decision I’ve made and the support from the BIC.
“I think the most pleasing aspect is the fact the majority of items I sell are gifts. Whether it’s a cushion with an image attached or a mug with something rude on to make someone smile, they all have a place in keeping people smiling and I think my customers have really bought into that, especially during such difficult times.”
Speaking about Jane’s journey so far, Victoria added: “Our Creative Business Surgeries were set up to help provide creatives with a platform to start and grow their own businesses and hearing stories like Taffy Bear just makes it all worthwhile.
“We were worried when the pandemic first hit that we may be forced to cancel our sessions and that it could dampen the entrepreneurial spirit of our participants, however our digital sessions have proved a huge hit so far and we’d recommend anyone thinking of starting a business to get in touch and find out more about the support on offer.”